Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

For The People Who Say, “But Jesus Didn’t Abolish The Law”

 

The Old Testament is tricky ground. It always has been.

In it, you will find something that’s often referred to as “The Law” (insert dramatic theme music).

The Law, attributed to Moses, contains 613 rules and regulations that Israel used to keep order in their society during ancient times. You’ll find some nice stuff in there– don’t kill sounds nice to me, and I love the protections afforded to immigrants, but you’ll also find plenty in the law that is morally problematic. Laws such as that which orders the stoning disobedient children, burning daughters alive for prostitution (Lev 21:9), the endorsement of human trafficking for forced labour, genocide, and all sorts of other things that we unequivocally know are totally and completely immoral– immoral in all times, and all cultures.

Since the beginning of Christianity, Christians have been fighting over whether or not to obey it (insert dramatic theme music conveying conflict and tension). Very few today believe we are required to obey all of it- if we did the ladies would be leaving town once a month, and the guys would have really long side burns. However, the idea of letting go of the Law entirely and letting it be a thing of the past is simply too much for many people.

As a result, many Christians will hold onto parts of the law they like (usually rules that are easy for them to keep) and toss away the laws that would be difficult for them to keep. This is precisely why so many will assert sexual laws still apply (happens to be easy for them) while completely discarding dietary laws (hard for them). This, of course, is the height of religious hypocrisy- the very thing that set Jesus off from time to time.

 Nonetheless, this brings us to the question of the Law once and for all. Do we obey it? If so, which parts? All of it?

There are two arguments folks will typically bring up. The first argument is that only ceremonial and dietary laws were done away with, but the “moral law” still is in force. This argument presupposes that the Law is divided into categories- mainly dietary, morality, and ceremony. Unfortunately, the Law is not sorted into categories. The Law itself does not identify different categories, neither is it written in a way where the laws are sorted into clean and separate categories.  For example, there’s not a book of food laws followed by a book of moral laws- it’s simply not written this way. Can we sort them into categories? Sure– but only for pedagogical purposes, nothing more.

Additionally, nowhere in the New Testament is there support for viewing laws in certain categories where some categories of law are still in effect and some are not. In fact, it teaches the opposite. In Galatians Paul tells a group of believers who believe they must follow the law of circumcision that if they insisted on following one law, they were obligated to follow every single one of the other 612. (Gal 5:3) As far as Paul was concerned, there were no categories of laws where some applied and some didn’t– he taught that if one felt they had to obey any of the law, they would have to obey all of it. In another place in the NT (1 Cor 8:11) Paul actually refers to those who believe OT laws still apply as being our “weaker brothers and sisters.” This seems to indicate Paul viewed those who still wanted to live under parts of the OT law as being spiritually immature, instead of morally superior.

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul directly states that he himself is not under the Law (1 Cor 9:20), in Col 2:17 he refers to the Law as but a shadow of what was to come in Jesus (Hebrews 10 calls it the same thing), and Hebrews 7 says the Law was “set aside.” Oh, and there’s always Col 2:14 that refers to the Law as “canceled.”

Finally, Paul’s most direct statement regarding the law says that the law was totally done away with:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Eph. 2:13-16

Which brings me to everyone’s favorite counter argument: “But didn’t Jesus say ‘I didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it?”

Yes, yes he did. In fact, he says that in Matthew 5. Unfortunately, this is perhaps one of the most misunderstood (or perhaps just misused) verses in the Bible. The problem is a lack of understanding of definitions– and I’m not even talking Greek yet– there’s a basic misunderstanding of the English definitions here.

To abolish means to annul, destroy, and formally do away with. To fulfill means to complete, or finish. Both words lead one to the same place (something in both cases has ended) but differ in how they caused or arrived at finality. Perhaps a better way to look at it is this: abolish means to cancel, but fulfill means to bring to it’s natural end– aka, “complete.” In the former something ended prematurely, but in the latter it ended via arriving at the proper ending point.

Let’s use an analogy. If I were to say that my daughter’s softball game was cancelled (abolished), it would tell us two things: first and foremost, it tells us the game is over and secondly it tells us the game finished prior to the natural end.  However, if I said that my daughter’s softball game had been completed (fulfilled) it would also reveal two things: likewise it would reveal the game is in fact over, and would also reveal the game did not finish prior to the natural completion point.

Fulfilled and abolished functionally get one to the same place: the Law is over. Where the words differ is where it speaks to how the law was brought to an end. Jesus said it was completed, and brought to its natural conclusion. In fact, those were the words he spoke on the cross: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

The Law is over- it was brought to the natural ending point with Christ’s death on the cross. Thus, the Law is no more in the life of a Christian.

Now, does all this mean we’re free to live however we want?

No, not at all. At one point Paul says, “I myself am not under the Law” but then he immediately qualifies his statement and essentially says, “Well, I am under a law– I’m under the Law of Christ.” (see 1 Corinthians 9)

If you’re a Christian, you’re not under the old Law, but a new one: the teachings of Jesus found in the red words of the Bible. All this he said, could be summarized via “love God” and “love everyone else, too.”

May we have the courage to live by this new law.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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  • Mr. Corey, why od you persist in saying ‘do not kill’ twne the accurate saying is ‘do not murder’? If ppl weren’t to ‘kill’ at all there wouldhave been no way for themto carry out the penalty of death isn’t this so?

    As for the passage you mentioned at Lev 21:9 you did neglect to mention that wasn’t just any daughter that was to be burned with fire. You also gave the false impressing that these ones weren’t to be put to death by stoning before being burned in the fire. Also, did you miss the spiritual value of this law?? I’m thinking you miss the spiritual point behind many of the laws of the OT.

    Also, why do you ignore the fact that many laws such as the ‘dietary’ Laws and ones on ‘cleanliness’ and uncleanness’ are not a matter of the death penalty while ‘sexual immorality’ is most definitely a matter of the death penalty under the Mosaic Law. You did conveniently miss all the passages speaking against sin that Paul brought up in Scripture. That would include the one at Acts 15:29 where th huge lot of Christian men along wiht God’s spirit made it clear that though not under the Mosaic Law there were still certain things to not do as believers and one of those things was committing ‘sexual immorality’ wasn’t it?

    And while you were quoting from Corinthians how did you miss the matter of the man who was sleeping with ‘his father’s wife’? What did Paul say of that matter? Did he not say that the man should be put outside the congregation and ‘handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh’? but why mention that to ppl when you are looking to establish the case of ‘anything in sin goes’. No it doesn’t and you are in serious trouble before the throne of God with that attitude Mr. Corey. And you are teaching a ‘false love’ when teaching ppl basically can commit sin and ‘get away with it’ because we are not under the Law.

    Let us remember that Jesus’ fufilling the Law was sa the Lamb that was slaughtered as the sin offering for all who repent and come to him for forgivenss of their sins. It is his blood sacrifice that covers the sin. He did ‘fulfill’ the Law as the Lamb that was slaughtered. Do not forget it. And most definitely do not like a grand fool deny this truth.

    May God open you eyes to spiritual truth Mr. Corey. Because right now you are seriously lost no matter how much you think you are following ‘truth’ according to Scripture. No you aren’t. Repent.

  • And yet, love God and love your neighbor are not actually new. Both are found in the OT. Also, we need to understand the different nuances between the two Greek words for “end” (telos and eschatos). The latter means “The End” as in something has come to an end. The former, however, (used in a verbal form in Mt. 5) means “to finish” in the sense of making complete or whole, as in Jesus is the missing piece of the puzzle. Dr. Corey, your reading of the NT is old fashioned supercessionism dressed up in soft words.

  • Why are we still quibbling over legalities when Jesus clearly gave us the principal idea to follow? The mind of man wants rules and explanations. Its focus is to be “right”. Machines can be programed to make “right” actions. What was lost was the ability to live from our hearts, fully alive as a child can do. To be fully alive means letting go of being “right” all the time. Living under grace allows us to forgive when we are not “right” and to let go of being “right” when others are not.

  • Context would help. Funny how all his arguments are lost when one reads the full extent of what Jesus said : “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. 19 Therefore 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. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

  • “Rom 13:8 ‘Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law’. So, according to your interpretation, now that
    I loved my brother, I fulfilled it and now it is done away with! I don’t have
    to love him anymore!”

    In Mt. 5:17-19, it not only says abolish/fulfill, it says anyone who practices the least of the commands (until heaven and earth disappear) will be called great in the Kingdom.

    What do you do with Zech. 14, where there are clean and unclean pots? What do you do with the discussion between James and Paul just before Paul is arrested?

    I agree that this is a new covenant, and we’re saved by faith and by living by the Spirit, but I don’t agree that means that God’s morality is immoral. God don’t never change. (Heb. 13:8)

    I could go on, but this is sufficient for now.

  • i
    If the NT abolished the OT
    law of Moses – Tell me how long will
    society last if it removes the law “Do not steal,” “Do not murder,” and “Do not give false testimony.” The answer is
    not long. The further a nation moves away for the laws of God the more corrupt
    it becomes. America removed the law “Do not commit adultery” and now there is
    60% divorce rate, much due to adultery. America removed the law against homosexuality,
    now Christians face human rights court with massive fines leading to
    bankruptcy, and the moral corruption of children in public education. Jesus did
    not abrogate the law, but those who are enemies of Christ did.

    • Paul isn’t talking about a nation or people in general when he says the law has been abolished. He’s talking about those baptized into Christ who have been transformed by the renewing of their minds and hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He never says Christians are not obligated to obey the laws of a nation. On the contrary, they are to be law-abiding citizens (Romans 13:1), unless those laws were to require a person to do something that is contrary to the love of God and neighbour.

    • LOL! Please provide sources. Opinions do not equal facts.

      The only ‘enemies of Christ’ are those who promote anti-Christ ideas like violence and disregard for the poor. The Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start.

      • And besides, how does “do not steal” or “do not murder” not fall under “Love God and love others?” Can you love someone and murder them? Take their things? Ridiculous argument.

  • Good read. Thank you!
    Have you seen The Bible Project’s video on The Law? It helps explain what you have said so well here and more importantly, ends on the same point.

  • This post demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the Greek. First, the verb in Mt 5.17 means fulfill in the sense of “to make full”. Jesus came to make the Law complete (whole), not to complete (finish) it. Second, Jesus says in v. 18 that not one iota or tittle will pass away until the law is come into being (using the verb ginomai, to be or become). Seeing as justice is the core of Torah, I think the world has a way to go.

    Further, in this post, Corey seems to demonstrate absolutely no awareness Pauline scholarship of the last 30 years, esp. the New Perspectives on Paul.

    This post is just superscessionism dressed up all fancy like, which makes it seem reasonable, tolerable, and not anti-Jewish.

  • How funny to see people tell a biblical scholar how bad his Greek is or how poor his understanding of Paul is. It’s one thing to disagree, it’s another to be rude and use the Bible to justify it.

  • There are many statements in the New Testament that proof that Jesus didn’t abolish the law. Jesus was a Jew and he also behaved like that. He said himself that he didn’t come to abolish the law. But also Paul didn’t say anything against the law. He even kept the law himself.

    While he answered for himself, Neither against the Law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. (Acts 25:8)

    If you are looking for more biblical proofs: https://www.faithcatcher.com/jesus-didnt-abolish-the-law/

    • Wrong!
      Its amazing this is still going on after the conflict in the first cenntury church over this very issue.

      Jesus quite plainly did disagree with the law and like Jews in the first century CE like Hillel maintained that the spirit of the law – love peace, compassion and mercy – were more important than literally following exclusive rules which excluded the sick, the poor, women and gentiles.

      People need to understand Judaism in the first century to understand Jesus and the Law.

      Btw even modern Jews don’t kill people as prescribed in the torah…..

      Neither are christians under dietary regulations, need to be circumcised nor women excluded….once again all first century arguments of first century christianity.

      So yes the torah has been abolished…

      Just that people want to follow some of it.

      • No sir, you’re the one who doesn’t understand hebrew. Yahshua did not end the law he fulfilled it.

        He never disagreed with it. The people who claim that do not know Hebrew or the culture. They know western christiantity. What Yahshua condemned was how the pharisees were using the law to oppress people.

        • Rubbish!

          The whole point of the story of the bleeding woman was to show how horrendous and ridiculous the Law was with regards to women. A woman who had been bleeding for that long would have been a societal outcast.

          Why?

          Because of ignorant superstitions of a patriarchal culture.

          Not only did Jesus disagree with it

          He subverted it.

          See also the healing of the lepers who had to be cleansed by a priest according to the Law. So did Jesus.

          Jesus did not undergo any purification as demanded by the Law for touching menstruating women, lepers and dead bodies.

          Then you have Jesus failing to even condemn the woman caught in adultery when the Law required death.

          The shammaites were pharisees who totally followed the Law.

          Seems you need to do some study on first century Judaism.

          And it was the Law which oppressed women and the sick and the poor.

          If you don’t think the Law is oppressive, try following it.

  • So if the law has been done away with, their is no need for a savoir. Jesus went to the cross to fullfill the righteous requirements of the law and took the punishment due to those sinners that had repented and put there trust in Him and had relationship with Him. Jesus states that if you say you know Him and do not keep HIS commandments, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. Jesus also stated this referring to judgement day. In that day many will come to me and say ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. How it states Lord, Lord, and the things they did, these are people who really thought they knew the LORD. It is not a few, but many. We think the Jewish people are so stubborn not to accept this Messiah we show them, one that has done away with the eternal commands of GOD, and the Sabbath and His feast days, they are right to reject this false Messiah your peddling. I like how he left out Matt. 5:19, “Whoever therefore breaks

  • Anyone who claims we arent under law is a hypocrite because they’ll be the first to call 911 if someone robs them.

    The reason for what you assume to be extreme measures of the Torah is due to your lack of understanding the macro view. Yahovah is establishing a morally sound world. If you refuse to accept that and are allowed to pervert it willingly, then you will eventually corrupt the entire thing. If you let one weed grow it will multiply. Even if you believe in plato’s heaven, what would happen to you if you decided to hurt people when you’re there? Youd be booted out. Simple logic.

    • That’s the stupidest load of shit ever posted.

      Laws regarding civil obedience predate the Torah and the Torah is built on other Laws such as the Babylonians.

      Do you think Australian aborigines knew theft was wrong?

      What a moron.

        • Bahahaha you’ve got nothing retard.

          No wonder Jesus gave morons like you the finger.

          Boo hoo the Law is so good and wonderful..where can I kill some gay people.

          Jesus says you’re f***ed in the head.

        • Lol…look whose been shown to be a complete cockhead.

          Good luck avoiding menstruating women and killing gays f***head.

  • ” there’s a basic misunderstanding of the English definitions here.” Indeed ……..

    “fulfil” (defn.) : carry out (a duty or role) as required, promised, or expected. (eg. Cambridge Dictionary)

    synonyms:carry out, accomplish, achieve, execute, perform, discharge, implement, effect, effectuate, conduct;

    More:
    complete, bring to completion, finish, conclude, perfect;
    honour, be true to, keep faith with, make good, observe;

    So, “fulfil” the Law, anyone ?

  • Paul also said: 1 Corinthians 6:9 HCB

    Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality,

    God, the Alpha and the Omega, speaking from His throne :

    Revelation 21:8 HCB

    But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars–their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    Revelation 14:12 HCB

    This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”

    Sounds like the true believer is the one who would do his best to keep the moral law as a result of his love for God and for Jesus, knowing that in this way he can best fulfill Jesus’ commands to ‘Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, and also knowing that when ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’, he can rely on Jesus to be his advocate.

    • Paul is not Jesus, and Revelations is allegory. As already explained in the article, laws aren’t separated into categories. Probably a good thing, since that mindset leads people to impose suffering on others. No thanks.

      • wullaj No one is saying Paul is Jesus, and Revelations is prophecy- as you will soon find out. Paul was commissioned by Jesus and His Father to convey their message, just as God sent Isaiah and the other prophets. As for the article, it has already been aptly described as ‘crap’.

        • Revelation is allegory about something that he wanted to happen, and kinda did.

          Paul (or Isaiah, Moses, Ezekial, etc) is no better or holy than anyone else.

          Your response is crap. See what I did, there?

  • You are making a FALSE ARGUMENT here because you don’t understand what Paul was talking about when he said, “I am not UNDER the Law.” He was saying that none of us, since Christ has FULFILLED THE LAW, are saved or condemned by the LAW anymore. We are now saved through a NEW COVENANT- the one made through Christ. That was his point. We aren’t BOUND by the Law means we are no longer judged as ‘saved’ or ‘unsaved’ by the Law. Anyone who tries to measure their salvation through the Law will be condemned by it. This is because no one can live by the Law. That is EXACTLY why God, in his infinite mercy, sent Jesus to save us from the CONSEQUENCES of that law. However, that doesn’t mean that the law is evil or bad. Indeed, Paul said that he LOVES the law. The Law STILL UPHOLDS God’s standard of morality! That is Why Jesus said that he did not come to ABOLISH it! All the morality held in the law STILL STANDS today. Murder is STILL wrong, adultery is still wrong, homosexuality is still an abomination to the Lord, pride is still wrong, stealing is still wrong, etc. But avoiding or doing all those things has NOTHING to do with going to heaven or hell. THAT is the point of Christ and Paul. You clearly don’t understand the Bible and shouldn’t be writing about it. Certainly not under the tag, ‘theology’.

    • Good point. I did want to mention, however, your statement of “But avoiding or doing all those things has NOTHING to do with going to heaven or hell.” is not all together correct. Jesus is quite clear when He says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. Yes, He’s talking about “obedience”. He also mentions several times “a Good tree bears good fruit.”. so we are saved by the New covenant and then our new desire is to continue to obey God by keeping His commandments. Those people who claim they are saved through Christ but do not keep His commandments are the opposite, “A Bad tree bears bad fruit”… so you really do have do His commandments and if you do not it will impact where you go. But the rest of what you said is spot on, and thanks

  • DISAGREE!!
    as we are all in titled to our own opinions..i’m only writing in hopes that someone will read this and understand..

    that we must use line upon line, precept upon precept, and RIGHTLY divide the word. explaining the Gospel in truth giving scriptures to back it up. MATTHEW 5:17-19 Christ explains CLEARLY that until HEAVEN AND EARTH pass, One jot or tittle shall in NO WISE pass from the LAW, till –>ALL<-- be fulfilled. it can be taken as "until HE accomplishes his mission and gives his life on the cross"..Okay... explain " UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS?? ALL IS STILL PRESENT. its almost (well of course..) as if He knew it would be taken out of context hence the detailed verse just in case someone picked one line over the other.So he didn't just stop at MATTHEW 5:17 "THINK NOT THAT I COME TO DESTROY THE LAW, OR THE PROPHETS: I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY , BUT TO FULFILL... He further more explained what he meant. we all must be careful and mindful.. picking and choosing and leading others in the wrong direction MATTHEW 5:19-20. I DID NOT write any of this to be bigger or better than anyone else. Only to share May the Most HIGH God Bless you all

  • I do not agree…. If Jesus Abolished the law then he wouldn’t have added this passage of Scripture. Matthew 5:18-19 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
    ..It seems that Paul took it upon himself to do it His way.
    19. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

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