Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether Jesus abolished the law. The argument is that Matthew 5:17 says that Jesus did not abolish the law, but Ephesians 2:14-15 says that Jesus did abolish the law. However, the solution to this alleged contradiction in the Bible is simple.
Scriptures – Did Jesus Abolish the Law?
Matthew 5:17 – Jesus Did Not Abolish the Law
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.Matthew 5:17
Ephesians 2:14-15 – Jesus Did Abolish the Law
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,Ephesians 2:14-15
The Answer – Did Jesus Abolish the Law?
Jesus Abolished the Law “Expressed in Ordinances”
The solution to this alleged contradiction is simply the immediate context of Ephesians 2:14-15, which says that Jesus abolished the law of commandments ”expressed in ordinances.” In other words, Jesus abolished part of the law, namely, the part of that law that consisted of “ordinances,” but he did not abolish all of the law.
More specifically, theologians have divided the Old Testament law into three different parts:
- Moral laws
- Ceremonial laws
- Judicial laws
Ephesians 2:14-15 is saying that Jesus came to “abolish” (or, fulfill in the sense that these laws were shadows and meant to point towards Jesus) the ceremonial laws and judicial laws of the Old Testament, but not the moral laws. In other words, the ceremonial and judicial laws are no longer binding upon believers because Jesus has fulfilled, or “abolished” them.
Matthew 5:17 is saying that Jesus “fulfilled” the law in the sense that the law pointed towards his coming.
Matthew and Paul are using the words “fulfill” and “abolish” in slightly different ways. The ceremonial and judicial laws are no longer binding upon believers, so, in this sense, these laws are “abolished” (according to Paul) and “fulfilled” (according to Jesus).
The moral laws are still binding upon believers, so, in this sense, Jesus did not come to abolish the law.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: