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In Mathew Christ says

Mathew 5:17(NKJV)

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy (καταλύω)(throw down,do away make void) the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

But the Apostle Paul says in

Ephesians 2:15(NKJV)

15 having abolished (καταργέω) (do away,cease,put away)in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace

Paul goes further in (Romans 7:6) to reinstate his position concerning the law & I have been trying to reconcile the above texts but I'm finding it hard to understand the concept

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  • καταργήσας (abolish annul, inoperate) modifies ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν the commands in ordinances; and λύσας (breaking down) modifies the wall of hostility. So it's not a contradiction. καταργήσας doesn't mean to destroy in a hostile sense as in lyo or katalyo.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 30, 2022 at 10:00

6 Answers 6

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Most modern scholarship tends to hold that Matthew was written no earlier than 60 CE, using Q as a source which is speculatively dated around 45-70 CE, and Mark which is similarly dated around 55-70 CE.

Meanwhile, Ephesians is often dated between 62-80 CE, so it really depends on your view of the authorship of these different documents. I'd personally date Ephesians early, so around 62 CE compared with Matthew which couldn't really be much earlier. Therefore you'd expect that with Matthew being such a 'new' document (if it existed at all at Ephesians' time of writing), the author would have to reference it explicitly if he was talking about it at all.

So no, I don't think Ephesians was intended to contradict Matthew here - the text doesn't state it, and dating would lead us to doubt the likelihood that Matthew was early enough or commonly known enough for the Ephesians author to reference it so casually, without naming it.

Though assuming Matthew's based on an oral tradition, that doesn't necessarily confirm that the Ephesians author wasn't attempting to disagree with that tradition - that's a possibility, though not one I personally take seriously.

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  • (+1) for pointing out the probable lack of contemporaneity.
    – user10231
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 1:17
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Consider Romans 8:4–8 (NKJV):

He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul contrasts the difference between physical and spiritual natures.

God's laws had always been followed in their physical sense, where one's physical actions are what is being controlled by those laws. Notice that "the carnal mind is enmity against God". If one is carnally minded, one sees God's laws as physical restrictions; sees them as something to be obeyed even though the physical mind would prefer to behave differently. This attitude was strengthened by the additional ordinances that the Pharisees defined to expand on God's commandments. This kind of attitude automatically makes one opposed to God (enmity).

But now God's people are required to follow those laws in a spiritual sense, where it is one's mental attitude that counts. Strictly following the rules is good (setting an example for others, including Gentiles), but to truly please God one has to have a spiritual attitude in which one enjoys living God's way, rather than having a physical attitude in which one obediently does what is required only because it is required.

This is the "enmity" that Paul refers to in Ephesians 2:14–16:

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both {Jews and Gentiles} one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh {by his death as a physical human} the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man {Christian} from the two {Jew and Gentile}, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

It is this enmity that Jesus has abolished, not the law.

Christians, whether originally Gentile or not, no longer have this enmity against God's laws (and indirectly against God). 1 John 5:2–3 makes clear this new attitude that Jesus introduced:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

By expanding his law, by making it viewed from a spiritual perspective, Jesus turned what was seen by carnally minded man as a burden of obligation into what can now be seen by spiritually minded man as a joyous sign of love.

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Both verses can be fully true when realized that fulfilling something often causes it to expire in a sense or become obsolete. For example you make an order of 1 hamburger at McDonalds. Until the burger is received the order is in full effect. Once the order is fulfilled the order is not destroyed just no longer active. It dies in a sense from the fulfillment.

So when Christ died he fulfilled not only the moral law on our behalf but all the prophets concerning him and all the ceremonies representing him. In addition by putting the laws as living commands by His Spirit into the hearts of all that receive Him, he becomes their King and the church his temple.

In all these ways the obsolescence of the Mosaic Law in its entirety and undivided unity is satisfied and fulfilled. By no means is this a destruction, rather it authenticates and establishes it. This establishment and fulfillment is what makes the Old Covenant obsolete and the New Covenant in effect.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. Heb 8:13 NIV

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Yet even in 1 Samuel 2:9 it is written: He will guard the feet of His godly ones (those who believe in Him, ie have fsith) , and the wicked shall be silenced and perish in darkness, for by strength ( flesh) shall no man prevail. So in my opinion, this clearly tells us that we will not be saved by the deeds of our flesh, ie obedience to the Law, but certainly by our faith in Him Who is able to keep us from harm.

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    @MSafronvitz. Does saving faith tells a faithful to not obey the law? Do those believing in Him not do what is lawful because their faith in Him keep them from harm? Commented Apr 13 at 7:20
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    Commented Apr 13 at 14:14
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When Ephesians 2:15 and Matthew 5:17 are taken in context, they do not contradict one another. In Mt 5:17, Jesus is not teaching strict adherence to the letter of the law but to the spirit or intent of the law. In Eph 2:15, and this is a major theme of all his letters, Paul is not trying to subvert the law but to show Christ as the only means by which the spirit of the law can be satisfied. Consider the order presented in Eph 2:8-10:

Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

There are works of which men boast but that cannot save us. These are works that may satisfy the letter of the law but cannot safeguard anyone from sin (Eph 2:1-3). Then there are the good works of those who are created in Christ. Without Christ, the law serves only to condemn. Only in and through Christ can we walk in the way that satisfies the righteous requirement of the law.

Romans 8:3-4 (emphasis added)

3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

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There is a clear contradiction between Matt 5:15 and Ephesians 2:15. Only one can be right or both wrong, not both passages can be right. Hard to confirm if Paul intended to contradict, but which one is right? And why? The simple answer is that it has to be Matt as he is recording what Jesus said – which takes obvious precedence then any one else’s words. It is clear from the evidence that Paul contradicts Jesus often.

Jesus Jesus came to teach what came before not to invent a new law, he never stated that the old / previous laws should not be followed.
Matt 15:24 - He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus was a Jew and always obeyed the law, for example he was Circumcised and did not eat Pork. If he came to abolish the law he had ample opportunity to clearly indicate this. Examples Leviticus 12:3 - On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Luke 2:21 - And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. John 7:23 - If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Deuteronomy 14:8 - The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. Matthew 8:32 Mark 5:13 - He gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the water.

Matt is recording what Jesus said – which takes obvious precedence then any one else’s words. Jesus is very clear and can see no ambiguity; Matthew 5:17-19 - 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. 18 For 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. [note: not until Jesus goes away, but when all is accomplished] 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Paul was preaching his own Gospel after Jesus;

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10

“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:” 2 Timothy 2:8

2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

1 Corinthians 9:22 - 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (basically he will say whatever he needs to gain favour – right or wrong doesn’t matter)

Examples of difference in teaching between Jesus & Paul.

Matthew 28:20 - 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Genesis 17:10-12 - 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, including a slave who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.

John 7:19-22 - “Did Moses not give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why are you seeking to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all are astonished. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and even on a Sabbath you circumcise a man.

James 2:20-24 - 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

JAMES 2:26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works

James 2:8-11 - If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Revelation 2:14-16 - 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. [what need is there to Repent if you do nto need to keep the law. Jesus will fight against those who do nto keep the law]

Revelation 2:20 - 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. [Jesus will be against you if you do not keep the law]

Acts 21:21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.

Acts 21:25-26 - 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

Luke 16:17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

Deuteronomy 13:5 - 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

Paul – far from an exhaustive list

Eph 2:8-10 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life

Romans 10:9-12 - 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Galatians 3:19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.

Romans 4:5 "To the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness".

Gal. 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace".

Romans 7:6 “But now we are released from the Law.. we serve not under the old written code but under the new life of the Spirit”.

Gal. 2:16 - A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

Yet Jesus says:

only 1 teacher - Matthew 23:8–12 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:15 - 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

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