Q. I’ve been having this debate with some local church friends. One of them argues that Ephesians was written AFTER Matthew and that the scripture in Ephesians 2:15 says that Christ died on the cross to “abolish the old law.” I revert back to Matthew 5:17 which says that Christ did not come to abolish the old law. If He did, why would we still be reading the Old Testament? Can you help clarify?
A. Although it was written by several people, all of the Bible is the word of God. Therefore there can’t be any differences of opinion. What Jesus and Paul said have to be in harmony, and they are. Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the Law and that’s true, because in effect Romans 3:20 says where there is no Law there is no sin (sin being a violation of God’s law) The Church is admonished not to sin, and unbelievers will be judged for their sins. So the Law must still be in force.
So what did Paul really say in Ephesians 2:15? He said that Jesus abolished in His flesh the law with it’s commandments and regulations, which is not the same as abolishing the Law. His similar statement in Colossians 2:13-14 helps clarify this.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
What that means is the Law still stands, but by dying in our place, Jesus took away the penalty due us for breaking the Law, giving us immunity from prosecution. So Jesus didn’t abolish the Law. In effect Paul was saying say He abolished the consequences for breaking the Law. But Paul also argued passionately that we should adopt behavioral standards that in fact are consistent with God’s Law. Not because we’re accountable for doing so, but because it’s the best way to expresses our gratitude for the fact that we aren’t.