17

St Paul, speaking in the context of Jew and Gentile being brought together, declares that the "law of commandments" were abolished.

"For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two." (Ephesians 2:15)

Exactly what law (or part of law) is that which is 'expressed in ordinances', and abolished? Is he referring to the Mosaic system in its entirety, or does it only refer to the ceremonial aspects pertaining to feasts and temple sacrifices?

  • All the answers are based on the translation given in this question, a translation that might be wrong. Some versions do translate it that way, but the more literal versions, those that try to stick to the original Greek rather than paraphrasing what they think is the meaning. NKJV for example translates verses 15 and 16 as "by abolishing in his flesh the enmity … thereby putting to death the enmity. Notice that it is "the enmity" that was abolished and put to death, not the commandments. Less literal translations lose this truth. With a literal translation, this question becomes moot. – Ray Butterworth Dec 4 '20 at 22:43
3

The law given to Moses at Sinai was abrogated with the advent of the new covenant. To put it a better way: The entirety of the Mosaic Covenant was fulfilled in Christ. The law of Moses no longer serves as direct and immediate judge over the lives and conduct of God's people. God's children today obey the Law of Christ [Gal 6.2, 1 Cor 9:21].

Jesus, who is better than Moses, in his sermon on the mount served as the new law giver establishing his new commandments [Matt 5:19]. In that sermon he expounded on the law that Jer 31 said would be written in the believer's inward parts. The law written on man's heart is vastly different than the ministration of death written on tablets of stone [2 Cor 4:7]. The former comes as a result of God's gracious gift of faith which results in the new birth. The latter was a non-gracious covenant with terms that were "obey or perish" [Gal 3:12].

Significant passages related to distinction and supremacy of new covenant over old.

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. Hebrews 7:12

The writer of Hebrews had the word "better" in mind when he wrote his epistle. Christ is better than angels, Joshua, Moses, and Aaron. The change in the law came as a result of a better law giver. One whose laws would be obeyed because of a changed heart. The old covenant had absolutely no power over the flesh.

Rom 8:3 For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh;

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. Hebrews 8:7

Again, the supremacy of the second, or new covenant. The fault laid in man's inability to obey God, not in God's law which was a reflection of His character.

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13 (KJV)

The writer of Hebrews warns those who considered abandoning Christ and going back to following the law by pointing out that it was about to disappear.

Lastly, I need to be clear on the entirety of the law's fulfillment in Christ. I mention that because some traditions divide the Mosaic law into three general categories: civil, moral, and ceremonial laws, as if some laws may still apply while others were abrogated. In God's word you'll find no such divisions.

Hos 6:6 For it is love that I seek, and not sacrifice; knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

  • 2
    Jack: Both of those are correct. It is the same to what Jesus commanded in John 13:34:35 [34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also love one another. Joh 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another – wilberteric Aug 4 '15 at 18:46
  • OT ref to new covenant "new heart": Deu 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. – wilberteric Aug 4 '15 at 23:45
  • This is an excellent answer Wiberteric and hard to improve upon. wilberteric – Richard Aug 6 '15 at 5:53
  • Is there a passage from Christ -not from Paul or others- saying that He did away with the law? – Daisy Apr 17 '16 at 18:08
8

Although Paul does not use the same word for 'abolish' as Jesus in Matthew 5:17, I think it helpful to bear that verse in mind, as Paul did not intend to contradict what Jesus says:

17“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. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV

So apart from asking 'which part' of the law is abolished, it is also necessary to decide exactly what sense that 'abolition' is meant in both contexts.

  1. 'not abolish' in Matthew 5 and 'abolish' in Ephesians have the same outcome; namely, to bring about heart-obedience and a genuine love for God:

  2. 'not abolish' in Matthew 5 and 'abolish' in Ephesians have the same enemy; that is, those who treat the law as commands to 'obey' (i.e. appear to obey), rather than an opportunity to please God:

With these things in mind, I suggest Paul's strong language, when speaking of the abolition of '...the law of commandments expressed in ordinances...', refers to exposing and sweeping away of the legalistic interpretation of the law, which Jesus also condemned. Paul encourages this interpretation with the words '...commandments expressed in ordinances...' This is the understanding of the law as '...precept upon precept, line upon line...' that has always been wrong, and has always been the source of hostility between Jew and Gentile4.

Exactly what law (or part of law) is that which is 'expressed in ordinances', and abolished? Is he referring to the Mosaic system in its entirety, or does it only refer to the ceremonial aspects pertaining to feasts and temple sacrifices?

Paul is referring to the legalistic interpretation of the Mosaic law in its entirety. He is not referring specifically to 'ceremonial aspects'. These are the parts of the law which may be the easiest to pay lip-service to, but the same is done to the rest, with hearts far from God.


1 cf Romans 2:29, 2 Corinthians 3:6

2 see also 3:16-17

3 see Psalm 51, Joel 2:28, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 11:19 & 36:26

4 for example, this attitude is evident in Mark 2:23-28

  • Good answer, but what to do until children are grown up to understand it ? I think deut 6 still applies – user8377 Aug 3 '15 at 13:48
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    Fine job, Jack! I took the liberty of tidying things up a bit, but your observations are spot on, in my opinion. Don – rhetorician Aug 4 '15 at 1:22
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    (-1) How does a proper interpretation of the law get deemed an abolishment? – user10231 May 13 '16 at 18:47
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Jack Douglas May 14 '16 at 18:57
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    @crazyTech yes I think so, or to put it another way, abolishing the primacy of external obedience over obedience that originates from the heart and thus has a different nature (even if sometimes apparently similar expression). This is neatly expressed in the imagery of the commandments engraved on tablets of stone versus "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" – Jack Douglas Apr 11 '20 at 7:52
2

Exactly what part of the Law has been abolished?

All the animal sacrifices, the literal understanding or Dead Letter and all ritualistic applications of the Mosaic Law have all been abolished.

Jesus-Christ, the sinless Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, the red heifer, has replaced all animal sacrifices with the shedding of his blood.

Hebrew 10:4 Berean Literal Bible

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins.

The moral, spiritual, and prophetic aspects of the Mosaic Law still stand and were never abolished by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus took the Mosaic Law from the literal understanding to a higher dimension, which is the spiritual or kingdom realm. We now offer spiritual sacrifices through the blood of Jesus.

Matthew 5:17 Berean Study Bible

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them.

1 Peter 2:4-7 (NKJV) - The Chosen Stone and His Chosen People

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) - Living Sacrifices to God

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Faith and praise are considered to be spiritual sacrifices

Hebrew 13:15 Berean Study Bible

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.

Hebrews 11:4 Berean Literal Bible

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he was testified to be righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts; and through it, having died, he still speaks.

1

The law of sin and death the law of Moses we do not follow any more. We now follow after a new law, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Which will make a man free from sin and death. Jesus came with life so we can sin no more. We walk in the spirit now under Christ's law of spirit and life. We are now washed in the blood of Jesus by his words. In the old law which was a shadow of things to come they where just covered. Blood doesn't cover nothing today after the Son of God Jesus Christ was slain on the cross, it washes. Silly perverted and bewitched proud knowing nothing preachers for not consenting to the wholesome words of Jesus Christ the Son of God our Lord, are all covered and dammed to hell fire and brimstone for not receiving the love of the truth which is Christ in you the hope of glory. We now have it inside us the word, in Moses' day it was on stone an outward appearance. Today it starts from the inside out. In Moses' day they observed days, times, months, and years. Today Christ fulfilled everything, now he did his end we have to do ours.

See Romans 8:1-4; John 1:17-18; Luke 22:36-37; Luke 24:44; Hebrews 9:1-28; 10:1-22; 7:11-24; II Corinthians 3:1-18.

0

I think we have to read "abolish" as having a very particular meaning in Paul's writings when it comes to the law.

For Paul, because his ministry so heavily focused on the Gentiles (those not born as Jews), the dominant theological question of his writing is "what does it mean for Gentiles to be saved?"

There were a lot of very prominent voices in the early church who demanded that Gentiles first submit to all the Jewish laws, in other words convert to Judaism, before they could be welcomed into the church. This meant things like males being circumcised (something Greeks and Romans almost never did) and Gentile converts keeping Kosher diets. The logic of their position was that God had a particular relationship with Israel, so to be saved Gentiles had to join the Jewish community first and enter into that relationship.

Paul takes a different view: he believes that God has always meant to use Israel to establish a new covenant with all of humanity. Jesus establishes that covenant, and since it is for everyone, Gentile believers don't have to convert to Judaism first. So for example, Paul compares Jesus to a new "Adam" in Romans 5, arguing that the relationship with God that Jesus establishes is for all people, not a particular nation. And he argues very explicitly in Galatians against forcing Gentile converts to follow Jewish dietary laws or to be circumcised.

In the text that you cited, I think what Paul means is that Jesus has removed the barrier to entry for Gentiles seeking a relationship with God. Because of the new covenant, they don't have to adhere to the law in order to enter that relationship: the law as the "gate-keeper" of who is in the covenant and who is out has been "abolished."

So it's a very specific meaning of "abolish" that Paul has in mind, I think.

  • +1 ignore the DV - this is a well argued answer and useful. – Jack Douglas Aug 4 '15 at 9:09
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    (-1) The new covenant was only with "the house of Israel and Judah" so does not solve the problem. – user10231 May 13 '16 at 18:48
  • The new covenant was not made with gentiles to free them from being required to fulfill the law because the gentiles never were under the law! It was made with the Jews because they had transgressed the law. – Ruminator Sep 9 '17 at 22:38
0

Given the context, the word translated "abolished" should be translated "deactivated" or "obviated". Paul's point is that in the new regime the law is not relevant and righteousness is on the basis of faith. What changed is not the law but the believing Jew who "died to the law" and thus is no longer beholden to it:

BSB Romans 7: 3So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law and is not an adulteress, even if she marries another man. 4Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

The gentiles however were never "under" (beholden to) the law so they didn't need to die to the law.

So now the law is not a barrier in the new regime.

0

The law was given because of all the trespasses 430 years after the promise to Abraham. The law was a school master and a guardian only until Messiah. Messiah fulfilled the law and was the seed of promise to Abraham. Those under law are the children of Abraham through Ishmael those who live by faith are the children of Abraham through Isaac the promised child. Yeshua is the promised seed, singular not plural. The righteous shall live by faith. Yeshua gave us new ToraH IN TWO COMMANDMENTS lOVE GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. There s no need for any other Torah, no reason to be circumcised, no reason to keep the law of commandments contained in ordinances; no flesh will be justified through keeping of the OLD Torah. We have a better law giver and a better covenant in Yeshua. Gal 3:10  For all who rely on the deeds of Torah are under a curse—for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep doing everything written in the scroll of the Torah.Gal 3:26  For you are all sons of God through trusting in Messiah Yeshua.Gal 5:18  But if you are led by the Ruach, you are not under law.Gal 3:29  And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed—heirs according to the promise. The old torah disappeared Gal 3:25  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.Blessed be God the Father of our Lord and Yeshua our Messiah.

  • Welcome! First, all answers need to address focussing on the question. Second, the text in question, Eph. 2:15 refers, in view of v 14, to "sacrificial laws, but NOT "TORAH" altogether. Third, the law of "love" by Jesus does NOT negate the "TORAH", rather, He was saying: all the laws and prophets hang on these TWO commandments. I would recommend "Biblehub.com" for a Biblical research for a start. – Sam Jun 17 '20 at 21:05
  • @Sam The new user has expressed (adequately) an answer. If you differ, you are free to offer your own answer. What the user expresses is quite correct in that the Law as such is abolished in Christ, as states Paul. (Again, if you differ, kindly state your own answer.) – Nigel J Jun 17 '20 at 21:57
  • Welcome to BH. May I suggest that you do not use capitals for emphasis. Many feel it is akin to 'shouting' in text. Better to use italics for emphasis, I find. And please consider paragraphs as an aid to your reader. One point of your argument, then a paragraph break avoids presenting a 'wall of text' to your reader. Please take the Tour and see the Help (below). – Nigel J Jun 17 '20 at 21:59
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The law was abolished through the fulfillment of it by the death of Christ. The righteousness of fulfilling it is by grace imputed to the elect. Therefore to him unto whom it is thus imputed, that man is not under the law, but under grace. By His death Judaism was abolished. There is no such thing as Judaism today, as evidenced by the fact that there is no religion today in which a high priest, an altar, and a sacrifice typifying a yet to come Messiah exists, nor ever again shall be. For the shadow and type passed away upon the manifestation of the substance and reality that the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, who by himself hath made certain complete and permanent propitiation for all of the saints (the Israel of God) both old testament and new ,at Calvary hath now prevailed.

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. Are you able to provide any Bible or other references to support your assertions? – Dottard Dec 4 '20 at 19:46
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    I am intrigued by your first sentence, "The law was abolished through the fulfillment of it by the death of Christ." when Matt 5:17-19 specifically says that Jesus did not come to abolish the law? – Dottard Dec 4 '20 at 19:48
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"Law of commandments expressed in ordinances" is not referring to written Torah. He is referring to "the traditions of man" found in the Oral Traditions. The Oral Traditions which are recorded in the Mishnah (and commented on in the Talmud) are Pharisaic laws. In other words, there are Two Torahs to distinguish from in the Gospels and the Letters. The common mistake many make when trying to determine what this verse means is not distinguishing what Torah is being dealt with (Written vs Oral Tradition). This obviously makes all the difference when a final understanding of the content is rendered.

Jesus set the Jews (and Gentiles alike of course) free from man-made religious law. Written Torah is NOT man made!

See also:

Roth, Andrew Gabriel. "Ephesians Chapter 2." Aramaic English New Testament: Mari : A Compilation, Annotation and Translation of the Eastern Original Aramaic New Testament Peshitta Text. 5th Ed., Peshitta English Aramaic Critical ed. Bellingham, Wash.: Netzari, 2009. 580. Print. footnote #22 Roth's translation from Aramaic distinguishes Written Torah from Oral Tradition through out the Gospels and Letters.

  • (-1) Paul is never concerned with oral law. – user10231 May 13 '16 at 18:49
  • @WoundedEgo Here is a pericope from the 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia: The earliest name for the oral teachings was "miẓwat zeḳenim" (Suk. 46a). In the New Testament it is called παραδόσεις τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, and by Josephus and Philo παράδοσις ἄγραφος τῶν πατέρων διαδοχή. ------ So as you can see Paul did indeed talk about the Oral Torah and at the end of the day his refusal to follow it is why the Pharisees and other sects went after him and falsely accused him of not following Jewish law. It wasn't written torah he was ignoring, it most certainly was the Oral Torah. – user6053 Aug 5 '16 at 1:55
  • So when did Paul speak of παράδοσις ἄγραφος τῶν πατέρων διαδοχή? – Ruminator Sep 9 '17 at 22:13
  • aka wounded ego. – user6053 Sep 11 '17 at 2:02

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