3) Did Christ Abolish the Law? The New Testament (Covenant) and The Two Gospels
The purpose of this study is to answer the following questions:
1). Did Christ say that he did not abolish the law and apostle Paul say that Christ did abolish the law? If so how can both be true?
2). Is the New Testament (Mat. 26:28 KJV) for the Jews or Gentiles or both?
3). Did the 12 apostles teach the same gospel as the apostle Paul?
These questions are presented together because the answer to each is shared with the others.
What Did Christ And Apostle Paul Say About The Law?
Christ stated “(17) Think not that I have come to destroy (2647) the law (3551 Old Testament scriptures containing prophecy and the Mosaic Law), or the prophets, I am not come to destroy (2647), but to fulfil (4137). (18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass (3928 go away), one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass (3928) from the law (3551 Mosaic Law here with definite article), till all be fulfiled (1096). (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments (1785 injunction, authoritative prescription), and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven:…” Many people feel when Christ said he came to fulfil the law he means he abolished the law. If that were the case then this would read I have not come to destroy the law, but to abolish (fulfil) the law. Destroy and abolish have an entirely different meaning than to fulfil. When this scripture (Mat. 5:17-19) is compared with, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law (3551) of commandments (1785) contained in ordinances;” (Ephesians 2:15) written by Apostle Paul, they appear to disagree.
Destroy, Abolish, Fulfil, What Do They Mean?
The word destroy in Mat. 5:17 is Strong's number 2647 which means to overthrow completely, come to nought, dissolve. The word abolished in Ephesian 2:15 is Strong's number 2673 which means to destroy, entirely idle, come to nought, reduce to inactivity. It is easy to see how these words can be used interchangeably. The word fulfil in Mat. 5:17 is Strongs number 4137 which means to satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), to fill, or complete. The word fulfilled in Mat. 5:18 is Strong's number 1096 which means to become, cause to be, be done taking place after. Destroy or abolish means to remove the need for completing a task without completing it, fulfil or fulfilled means to complete a task. Christ said during his earthly ministry to the Jews that he did not come to destroy (or abolish) the law, apostle Paul said by, “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12) after the cross that Christ abolished the law in his flesh (Ephesians 2:15). The reason for this is the difference between the covenant promise God made to the Jews (the circumcision) regarding the Kingdom (Acts 1:6), and the mysteries Christ revealed to the apostle Paul regarding the Uncircumcision.
What Does It Mean To Fulfil The Law?
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44) What things that are “written in the law” must be fulfilled? “(31) Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. (32) For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated and spitted on: (33) and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again (Luke 18:31-33). To fulfil the law Christ fulfilled the “promises made unto the fathers” (Romans 15:8, Luke 1:72-73) that is the Jews. He offered himself as the King of the Jews (Luke 23:3) as promised in the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16) on “this thy day” (Luke 19:42) the day he approached Jerusalem riding on a colt. The Jews refused his offer “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:44), and the King sent their enemies the Romans to destroy them (Luke 19:43-44, Mat. 22:1-7). He also fulfilled the law by making a New Testament, “this is my blood of the New Testament” (Mat. 26:28), which prepared the way for the New Covenant He will make with Israel at his second coming, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Christ fulfilled all the prophesies written about his birth, life, death, and resurrection, in the Old Testament including his death on the cross (Isaiah 53). Christ fulfilled the law by fulfilling all the prophesies written in the law of Moses and in the prophets about him, by living in sinless obedience to the law (1 Peter 2:22), and he became a perfect sacrifice as required by the law (Hebrews 9:26). None of these things indicated that he abolished the law or confirmed the New Covenant with the Jewish nation at the time of the cross. Christ stated when the law would pass away, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Mat. 5:18) In about 68 A.D the writer of Hebrews wrote, “(13) In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13) Christ indicated that for the Jewish Nation the law would not pass, “Till heaven and earth pass” which is at the end of the 1000 year Millennium. (Revelation 21:1) The New Covenant will be made with Israel and Judah only (Isaiah 42:6) as foretold in Jeremiah 31 when “they shall all know me” at the time of Christ’s second coming. (Zechariah 12:10-14, Revelation 1:7).
Are The Sabbath And Circumcision Everlasting Covenants?
There is no indication those close to Christ believed the Sabbath, which is one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:8) and therefore part of the law, would be abolished immediately after He died on the cross (Luke 23:56, Mark 16:1). Christ indicated the Jews would be under the law during the tribulation when he told them, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day.” (Mat. 24:20) On the Sabbath under the law the Jews are not allowed to travel more than the distance from “unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey.” (Acts 1:12), that is about “two thousand cubits” (Joshua 3:4), or three fifths of a mile. Note this statement in Acts is made by Luke as the writer of Acts after Christ’s resurrection. The requirement of keeping the Sabbath as part of the law will continue in the future 1000 year Millennium for the Jews (Isaiah 66:23, Ezekiel 45:17), and others saved by the gospel of the uncircumcision under the New Covenant. This is because, “(16) the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath through their generations, for a perpetual covenant. (17) It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever:” (Exodus 31:16-17). In regards to circumcision it is stated in the Old Testament, “He that is born in the house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:13) The covenant of circumcision, “in your flesh” will continue in the 1000 year Millennium for the Jews (Ezekiel 44:7-9), and was necessary for them after the cross as part of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 15:5), which is closely related to the Gospel of the Circumcision (Galatians 2:7).
Does The New Covenant Abolish The Law?
“(16) For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. “(Hebrews 9:14-18) To fulfill the law and offer the New Testament Christ offered his sinless blood (Hebrews 4:15) as proof of his death (Hebrews 9:23-26). Christ stated during his earthly ministry to the Jews that he did not come to abolish the law, and the New Testament in His blood (Luke 22:20) for all believers, or the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) made specifically with Israel and Judah (the circumcision Jews), will abolish the Mosaic law, it will “put the law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts”. This explains why the Old and New Testament of the Bible indicate the law continuing in the future for Israel including the feasts, sacrifices, and the requirement of circumcision and keeping of the Sabbath which are everlasting covenants (Ezekiel 45:13-25, Isaiah 2:3, Zechariah 14:16-19). But the Kingdom will not be established until Christ makes the New Covenant with Israel, and the Mosaic or Kingdom law will be reestablished at that time. Christ offered the Kingdom to the Jews (Luke 19:41-44), and then again through the Holy Spirit after his death and resurrection (Acts 3:17-26), and they continued to refuse it as a nation (Act 18:5-6, 28:25-28).
Did Believing Jews Teach They Had To Keep The Law?
The believing Jews taught by the 12 apostles, “believed saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5), because this was what was foretold in the Old Testament for the Jews and Gentile proselytes that would be saved by the Jews Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Circumcision. (Galatians 2:7) When the “(5) certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed” rose up and “(7) there had been much disputing” when the “(6) apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (Acts 15:5-7), they were not disputing about what the 12 apostles and the other Jews believed who had been together in Jerusalem for 22 years after the resurrection at this time in 51 A.D. They all knew the Old Testament stated the law would continue for them as indicated in Acts 21:20, and we see “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” The disputing was about whether the Gentiles that had been saved by Paul’s ministry and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision should be required to obey the law and be circumcised. After James announced the decision of the Counsel in Jerusalem to approve Paul’s teaching the Gospel of the Uncircumcision to the Gentiles without the requirement for the Gentiles to, “Keep the law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5,9), James then stated, “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.” (Acts 15:21), assuring the Jews that the law would be taught for them, “every Sabbath day.” There are several scriptures that indicate Peter believed he was still under the law (Acts 10:14,28, Galatians 2:11-14) many years after Christ’s resurrection. The fact that James still believed he was under the law was shown when he instructed apostle Paul to take a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6) to convince the believing Jews that Paul, “keepest the law” (Acts 21:24). Apostle Paul honored the authority of the 12 apostles and James to teach the Gospel of the Kingdom (and Circumcision) to the Jews in Jerusalem, and “unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law” (1 Corinthian 9:20) and so Paul participated in the vow.
The Jews Acknowledged Paul’s Special Mission To The Gentiles
The Old Testament told of a time when the Jews would be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6, Isa. 61:6) to the whole world and that all nations would come to them (Zechariah 14:16-19, Isaiah 66:19-21) under all the requirements of the law and the Kingdom. But the believing Jews also understood through Peters experience in Acts 10 at the house of Cornelius that God was doing something different than they expected from the Old Testament. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was fulfilling a prophecy separate from the ministry foretold for the Jewish nation to the Gentiles “But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith. I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.” (Romans 10:19, Deuteronomy 32:21). Through Peters testimony about his experience at the house of Cornelius and the testimony of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:6-12), the twelve apostles and James recognized that Paul had a special ministry as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). They agreed that the, “gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me (Paul)” and the, “gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; and that we (Paul and Barnabus) should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision (Jews)” (Galatians 2:7-9). Peter and the other believing Jews still did not fully understand the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (2 Peter 3:15-16), so even after the council at the Jerusalem in 51 A.D “(11) when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (Galatians 2:11-21) because Peter was trying to, “(14) compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” after “(12) certain came from James” from the Church in Jerusalem.
Paul And The 12 Apostles Gospel - Similarities And Differences
This Gospel of the Uncircumcision taught by Paul included several mysteries revealed only in his epistles like the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9), the blindness of Israel (Romans 11:25), and the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). One of the most important differences in the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and the Gospel of the Circumcision is in the law. In Paul’s epistles he repeatedly states, “we are not under the law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15, 3:20,28) and “whosever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4). Paul also states, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 10:4). In statements made by Peter, John, and Paul there is some similarity. For example Peter states the Jews killed Christ and he was raised on the third day (Acts 10:39-40) as Christ stated (Luke 24:46). Peter states Christ was “put to death” for our sins (1 Peter 3:18), of Jews and Gentiles “purifying their hearts by faith”, “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (Acts 15:9,11), and John states Christ, “laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). These statements taken together are similar to Paul’s gospel statement that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day (Corinthians 15:1-4). About 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 George Williams comments in his Complete Bible Commentary page 891 “I or they (v.11) i.e., the Apostle Paul and the Twelve Apostles. They all preached the one Gospel of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” He is commenting that “they” and “we” of verse 11 is referring to the Twelve Apostles in verses 7 through 10. The NIV translation reads, “Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preached, and this is what you believed.” With “this” referring to the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 verses 3 and 4, and “they” referring to the other 12 apostles. The statements made by Peter and John are not inconsistent with the Gospel of the Kingdom (and Circumcision), the four gospels of the New Testament, and many scriptures in the Old Testament that indicated Christ would die and be raised and take away sins (John 1:29, Mat. 1:21, Psalm 16:8-10, 22:14-18, 68:18, Zechariah 12:10). The 12 apostles did not understand these prophecies before Christ’s death (Luke 18:31-34, 1 Corinthians 2:6-8) but they understood them after Christ “opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45-46). The apostle Paul made some statements that appear legalistic like his statements about repentance and deeds (Acts 20:21, 26:20). It is unclear what degree of revelation Paul had received at the time of the statement in Acts, or what degree of revelation God wanted him to reveal at certain points in this time. However two of the clear differences in all of his epistles and the other books of the New Testament are the mysteries revealed by him alone, and that we are not under the law.
The Gospel of the Uncircumcision Compared To The Gospel Of The Kingdom Circumcision
Even though there is some indication that the 12 apostles may have taught the same message about the cross in relation to Atonement and Resurrection as Paul, it was clear that they understood the death of Christ on the cross to have an entirely different meaning to the nation of Israel than Paul taught his death meant to the Uncircumcision. The Jews believed in the Gospel of the Kingdom: (A) Christ would be sent back (Acts 3:19-20), (B) he would make a New Covenant with their nation (Jeremiah 31:31), (C ) Christ would restore the Kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6), (D) that they would rule all other nations (Isaiah 60:12), and (E) that they would experience a great tribulation before these things would happen (Isaiah 61:2). Paul taught for the Gospel of Uncircumcision, (A) That we would be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), (B) We are brought near through the blood of Christ by faith alone and not a covenant (Ephesians 2:13), (C ) Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), (D) there is no difference in Jew or Gentile (Colossians 3:11) because Christ has made one new man of both and made us fellow citizens (Ephesians 2:15,19), and (E) that we shall not all sleep (die) but that the Uncircumcision would be raptured (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
At the present time God is primarily dealing with the Gentiles under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7-9) in the dispensation of Grace (Uncircumcison) committed to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:16-18, Colossian 1:25). It is revealed only in Paul’s epistles (Romans through Philemon) that we are not under law “ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14) because Christ abolished the National Mosaic law given to Israel (Ephesians 2:15) during this dispensation. Everyone “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek” (Romans 10:12) is now saved “made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13) by faith in the gospel plus nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul also wrote for those saved during this dispensation “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit,” (Romans 2:29) and “Circumcision is nothing,” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Paul wrote "(16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holy day, or of Sabbath days: (17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) Paul wrote that those saved during the dispensation of grace whether Jew or Gentile, are not under the law, circumcision in the flesh is not required, and we are not required to keep the Sabbath.
The law is a covenant made with Israel (Deuteronomy 4:13, 29:9-15), Christ was “made under the law” (Galatians 4:4), and Christ did not abolish the law for the Jews as a nation. The Jews were under the law starting from the time they understood and accepted the covenant “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” (Exodus 24:7) The Jews saved by the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mat. 24:14), that is repent and be baptized (Mark 1:4, Acts 2:38), and believe Christ is the Messiah (Mark 8:29) and King (Luke 19:38) that died for their sins and was resurrected (Acts 2:23-36, 3:13-20, Zechariah 12:10), were under the law after Christ died on the Cross, and will continue proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (and Circumcision) during the tribulation. The Jews will continue under the law until heaven and earth pass away, and this includes the everlasting requirement of circumcision and keeping the Sabbath (No work or travel allowed from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown). At the time of Christ’s second coming (Revelation 19:11-16) at the end of the tribulation he will confirm the New Covenant with Israel and Judah (the Jews), and he will give them a new heart, put his Spirit within them, and cause them to “walk in my statutes,” (Ezekiel 36:24-27). They will continue in the law under the requirements of the Kingdom (Mat.5:21-48, 22:37-40) throughout the 1000 year Millennium under the New Covenant. Finally during the Millennium the Jews will fulfill the mission God intended for them in the Old Testament, and they will be an example to all nations of life lived for God. They will take that message to the whole world, (Isaiah 66:19-21), and they will perform all the duties of the priesthood including the sacrifice (Ezekiel 45:13-25) which will be in remembrance of the sacrifices of Christ instead of anticipation of it like the Old Testament.
Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles writes the requirements for the church today, saved by the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, by the revelation he was given directly from Christ after his resurrection (Galatians 1:11-12). If we try to mix the requirements given during Christ’s earthly ministry to the Jews when he stated “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mat. 15:24), or the requirements in the writings of 12 apostles who taught “the gospel of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:7) and agreed they would go “unto the circumcision (Jews)” (Galatians 2:9), with the writings of Paul we risk the danger that we could “wrest” (distort) the scriptures to our “own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16) “(2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4)
Comments by Others
C.R. Stam - Things that Differ- page 171
There is no indication of any revelation to them (the 12 apostles) that the death of Christ had freed them from observance of Mosaic Law. They continued daily with one accord in the temple (Acts 2:46) and took part in its worship (Acts 3:1), careful not to start a new sect separate from Judaism, for they, who had accepted the Messiah, were the true Israel.
The person who baptized Saul of Tarsus was “a devout man according to the law” (Acts 22:12) and as late as Acts 21:20 we find James pointing out “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; AND THEY ARE ALL ZEALOUS OF THE LAW.”
Not until the great council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) did the Jewish believers even agree that the Gentiles were not to be under the law. Whether or not the Jewish church at Jerusalem was to remain under the law did not even come up for discussion. It was clearly assumed they were so to remain. This is because the twelve had been commissioned to teach the law observance, as we have seen.
Indeed, in the Millennium, of which Pentecost was a foretaste, the law will be taught at Jerusalem and Israel will be zealous to hear and obey.
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary - Covenant - page 209
Obedience to the stipulations of the Sinai Covenant was perceived by the prophets as necessary for the continued existence of Israel on its land. The covenant, in its strict sense of a suzerain - vassel treaty, did not, however, totally define the relationship between God and Israel. It only served as a prevalent image of that relationship. When Israel broke the covenant, therefore, the relationship was not destroyed. According to the prophets, the relationship was permanent and breaking of the covenant once it had taken place was viewed only as a momentary setback. Thus Jeremiah 31:27-37 (building upon Hosea 2) predicts the people’s return, growth, and prosperity followed by God’s establishing a new covenant with Israel. The uniqueness of this covenant lies not in its content, which is identical to the Sinai; Covenant (the Torah v. 33), but in its form - it will be given internally. The covenant will become part of the nature of each individual, so that obedience is guaranteed (v. 34). Thus, it is unbreakable, and its eternality is assured (vv. 35-37; cf. Jer. 32:36-44). Thereby, Jeremiah was able to depict a future in which by an act of God’s mercy, sin, the lack of acceptance, and the consequent catastrophic punishment would no longer exist.
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary - Grace - page 387
While Paul forbade no Jewish Christian to observe the Law, Christ revalued the Law. Although he (Paul) disassociated grace and Law observance for Gentiles (Galatians), Paul, like the Qumraners, expected obedience to accompany the life of grace.
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary - Law - page 595
His (Christ) target was not the law, but rather any style of interpretation of the law that removed immediacy as teaching to the people. There is no hint of an antithesis (opposition) between law and grace in the teachings of Jesus. In some of the Pauline writings, the matter stands differently. But Pauline antinomianism (salvation by faith alone) was not an opposition to law per se (e.g., Romans 7:12), rather an opposition to observance of the law as the route to divine redemption (e.g., Galatians 5:4).
L. S. Chafer - Grace - pages 239-240
When Christ said, "I came not to destroy, but to fulfil," and that nothing should pass from the law until all was fulfilled (Mat. 5:17,18), He was dealing with Israel while Judaism was still in force, and anticipating the Messianic Kingdom which, it is revealed, will be purely legal in its character.
NIV Scofield Study System 2004 Edition - page 1255 Note
5:3 The Sermon on the Mount: Having announced the kingdom of heaven as "near," the King now, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), declares to His disciples (5:1) the principles of that kingdom.
1. In this sermon our Lord reaffirmes the Mosiac law of the O.T. theocratic kingdom as the governing code in His coming kingdom on earth (5:17), and declares that the attitude of men toward this law will determine their place in the kingdom (5:19).