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We hear that we are no longer under the law. It even says so in Galations:

Galations 3:23-25
Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

It seems 1 Corinthians 10:23 also supports this.

But yet, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law:

Matthew 5:17-18
“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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

What did Jesus mean that he did not come to abolish the law, but fulfill it, especially since it seems from later in the Bible that he did abolish the law.

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Hi Richard, I've answered a similar question over on BH.SE. Let me know if you'd like me to adapt it for your question here? –  Jack Douglas Dec 26 '13 at 17:17
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7 Answers

I think part of the difficulty comes as a bit of confusion as to what is meant by the law and its application.

When the law was introduced, it was never intended to be the instrument by which man would save himself, but it was the instrument through which man was to be saved. In a very real sense, man is saved through the fulfilment (keeping) of the law. When Christ fulfilled the law, he earned the privilege of life. Those who are in Christ, likewise, share in his righteousness and are delcared righteous right along side him. In that sense, the law has always stood and and will continue to stand.

That being said, though, it's important to realize that we basically choose whether the law applies to us individually or not -- through grace, we can choose to be in Christ, or we can choose to stand on our own merits when we're judged. In that sense, too, the law still stands.

Paul talks a good deal about this in the book of Romans, and the whole book gives a much more complete (and competent :) ) version of an explanation that I'm about to...

I think it's important to realize the role of the law. I'm going to jump arount a bit, but if we start with Romans 7:7-12, I think we can make a little more sense of this (emphasis mine):

Romans 7:7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

There's a certain bit of irony when the law is introduced to human nature. Being rebellious and sinful that we are, we latch on to the specifics as a means to found outlet for our repressed frustrated rebellions. The law was never meant to save man, but rather was a contrast between the holiness of God and the depravity of man. The law offered life through its fulfilment and death through its violation. This is a subtle but significant key, I think we somehow overlook when discussing grace, as this seems to be exactly how Jesus came to be our savior offering us hope for life...He earned that right by fulfiling the law.

That being said, there's still hope for us wretched sinners:

Romans 7:4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Looking at the block starting with v.7 we see that the law is not bad (in fact it's good) just because we use it as a springboard for badness. The law is good, and it's been fulfilled by Christ. He was the one who fulfilled it; not us.

When we look on the Romams 8, Paul clarifies a bit more (Emphasis mine):

Romans 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

The righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled in us (those who are in Christ Jesus) by virutue of us being in Christ. The law has been fulfilled, there is, therefore no condemnation for those who are clothed with Christ's righteousness, but we should remember that those who live according to the spirit set their minds on spiritual things and will see to live in accordance with God's moral law. Romans 6:15 reminds us of this, but note, (Paul does suggest again that we're not under the law, per se):

Romans 6:15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

With his blood, Jesus purchased us from death. Jesus was the fulfilment of the law; not us. Because of that, we are bound as slaves of righteousness. We're not going to fulfill the law in our own lives, and we're not expected to; but lest we use this as an excuse to sin without rein, we are supposed to set our sights on righteousness out of gratitude and duty to our Savior. Those who understand the Gospel (the goodness of God, the wickedness of sin, the graciousness of God to provide a savior) will, naturally seek to please the God who save them and whom they serve, and the best way we can know what this is it to look to the law He's given us.


When Jesus came to fulfil the law (i.e. obedience leads to life; disobedience leads to death) he did just that. Notice He didn't say, that old law's no good, don't worry about it (i.e. abolish it); what he did, instead, was to come saying the law is good, and he is the fulfulment of it.

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+1 Good answer, I also like the summary at the end. –  dcreight Jul 10 '13 at 22:38
+1 God's standard hasn't changed: "we basically choose whether the law applies to us individually or not -- through grace, we can choose to be in Christ, or we can choose to stand on our own merits when we're judged. In that sense, too, the law still stands." –  Xeoncross Mar 18 at 19:43
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It means that while the gospel state supersedes and makes the Mosaic Covenant obsolete, it does not do it by opposing it but by becoming the perfection and fulfillment of it.

The ceremonial law was made obsolete by Christ as he was what all the sacrifices pointed to. The civil law was made obsolete as the kingdom was no longer a physical Israel but an invisible one.The moral law was made obsolete in that the Mosaic Law was a renewal of the covenant of works and not based on faith in Messiah therefore it was written on stone, but now the law is written as a principle of life through a new birth.

This does not mean any aspect of the Law is opposed, or destroyed by Christ. On the contrary by his blood we enter God's Kingdom and obey his laws.

7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. (2 Corinthians 3:7-10, NIV)

Notice what was glorious, the Ten Commands, the sacrifices, etc. now has no glory, but just as the Sun does not destroy the Moon when it appears in its blaze of glory, so,the gospel does not destroy the Law. The Moon has no light of its own but only promises that a Sun exists and will come for it reflects its glory. In the same way the Law was not built on faith but pointed to faith, once faith arrived the Law was fulfilled and made obsolete.

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Galatians 3:12, NIV)

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

Another way of looking at it is high school does not destroy kindergarten, but when you come of age adult things make you put away childish things. Under the Law we were God's people are like little children taught by a tutor, only later becoming adults in the gospel. Adulthood does not oppose and destroy childhood:

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:23-25, NIV)

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From what I've been able to discern as a High School student in a good Christian school, the Law of Moses is now and always has been relevant only to rewards in heaven, given when you obey the Spirit.

Think of it like the relation between dog and trainer, when the dog does something that the trainer wants him to, the dog gets a reward. The Spirit is our trainer and we are the dog. When we follow the law under the Spirits direction, we get rewards in heaven.*

As far as the relation between Matt. 5:17-19 and Galatians goes, Paul had always meant that the Galatians church members were not under the law for salvation like others were telling them, but that they were saved by God's grace. The first commentator also had a good point in saying that Romans explains it better.

I think I may have just written a modern parable there!

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Welcome to the site! I look forward to hearing more from you. As a new visitor, I'd invite you to read the FAQ. These posts are recommended reading as well, as they give guidelines for giving better answers: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 5:09
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There is salvation through Christ Jesus, and the law is the measure by which we are able to gauge our human existence reborn in Christ. Paul was an instrament of God. But Paul announces "my gospel" often. Jesus cited His Father's will, design, power, or design. First Peter instructs us that the gospel of Jesus is our salvation. The key being that if we are reborn through Christ with the Holy Spirit within us the law also lives within us to Allow us to know through measure our life vs the life of Christ. God tells us that He loves our laws. To know the 613 Jewish laws offeres insight to the base of the Christian life and the life of Jesus who preached to the "Jewish" followers. Even Paul tells us to follow the order of the Pharisees but to live the rules laws and commandments and not be hypocrites like the Pharisees. What Christ Jesus does for me is bless me and guide me to see how far my life is from His, and how far abridged God's law is because I am deceived and mislead by the world. There is no "G" in me, my or I. So where is God.

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Welcome to C.SE, and I'd invite you to read our faq, as this site isn't a 'forum' in the traditional sense. This answer doesn't really answer the question, unfortunately. –  Affable Geek May 10 '13 at 14:24
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Here is my answer to a similar question What does it mean for Jesus to fulfill the law? on BH.SE.

Firstly, what is the law, and what is its purpose?

The law is a manifestation of the perfect holiness of God, and was given to us (humanity) to show how utterly unable we are to meet God's standard by our own means, strength or works (Romans 7:7). It shows us our sinfulness as a contrast to God's holiness. Old Testament saints who were called righteous relied upon the grace of God for their right standing with God, not their success at keeping the law.

When Jesus is said to have fulfilled the law, it means that He perfectly kept the law of God, and never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). This was therefore a manifestation of and testimony to His deity. Obviously something no other man could possibly do.

He didn't come to abolish the law means that the law remains the law and is (still) perfect (Romans 7:12). Even after we enter the New Pact in Jesus' blood (Mark 14:24), which places believers under grace not under law (Romans 6:15), therefore in a sense abolishing the law for believers, the law remains as a testament of God's holiness and our inability to meet His standard. Something that remains true even after conversion (Romans 7:19).

So, to answer your question: It meant that He never sinned, and therefore that He is God. As a result of that, it also means His sacrifice was a full (infinite) payment for sin, and therefore that the just punishment for transgression of the law (of all believers) was fulfilled too. He fulfilled the law for us, because we couldn't. He didn't come to abolish the law, because He didn't just say "the law no longer applies", He came to pay the penalty for the breaking of the law.

A good way to understand this is to compare it to the difference between cancelling ("forgiving") a debt, and paying the debt. In one, payment is made which fulfills the obligations of the debt, and in the other payment is withheld and the obligations of the debt are not met. This is an important point because it shows that God's justice is not violated in dispensing mercy and forgiveness to believers. God remains just while at the same time able to show mercy to sinners. Something that is present in no other belief system outside of biblical christianity.

Jesus fulfilled the law, He didn't simply abolish it.

Hope that helps.

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It's more dangerous to be practicing the Law or to be under the Law, because cursed is anyone who is still under the Law. We are saved by grace.

I want to advise Christians practicing the laws by observing them (such as the yearly feast, and those who tithe), you are still under the Law, and if you fail to keep one, you are guilty of all. So, be very careful and come in and dwell under grace.

God bless you.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE. Please note that we have pretty high content quality standards around here. You have used so much text-speak that it is difficult for me to even read what you have written, must less evaluate whether it is a good answer to the question or not. Please consider this site as an upper level academic or professional zone and write your posts with full and proper English spelling and punctuation accordingly. Thank you. Note: Some other community member has taken the time to fix this one for you, but you can also edit for further improvements. –  Caleb Jan 19 '13 at 20:06
@Evangelist ken: Please, please, consider making your posts professional by not typing in a text-type mode (e.g., using "d" for "the"; "n" for "and"). I have taken the liberty to edit your post to make it appear more professional and readable. Furthermore, citing scripture is highly recommended so that others may further research your answer. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 19 '13 at 20:08
As Caleb said, welcome to the site! I hope to see more from you. Please don't be put off by the comments. We don't mean to be nit-picky. We've just had a real problem in the past with everyone putting their own opinion in, and a lot of garbage being passed off as "truth". As a result, there are a ton of standards for participation, and it's often hard for newcomers to "fit in". I apologize for that. It might be helpful to check the FAQ and these META questions: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/faq I hope to see more of your answers! –  David Stratton Jan 19 '13 at 20:32
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Re "the OT laws are still in effect"? Well they have not been abolished have they? However the religious ceremonies associate to the OT laws do not resolve the offenses committed under this code. Sacrificing an animal in your place fails to produce a residual issue, but the sacrifice of a man in your place who just happens to be the only begotten son of the living God results in an entire different matter. For the OT code of laws do not allow any possibility of resolving that sin. What is Jesus illustrating regarding the wineskins? The new wine goes into a new wineskin, i.e. law, which does allow for the resolution of the sin of only one a man's murder. However it is only past sins that are forgivable. NOT having the faith to repent of the one sin of Jesus' crucifixion is in and of itself a sin by law and is the sin which is not forgivable. The grace of God is that by Jesus' crucifixion it was justifiable to make a change of the law in regard to what God had promised to his son.

"And for Your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man."

And Pal you ain't outside of the box this term of God, 'each man,too,' he has put your tail in, are you?

The law was fulfilled by making an addition to it.

See Isa. 2:3, Isa. 51:4b, Acts 7:53, Gal.3:19, Rom. 2:13, Rom. 5:20, Heb. 7:12 The OT law or written code was delivered at Sinai. The new law was delivered in Jerusalem.

Those who have the faith to obey it will be declared righteous by God. Those who refuse cut themselves off from obtaining the right to eternal life.

"For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." — Rom. 2:13

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This wouldn't be so bad an answer if it didn't have an argumentative, completely non-constructive tone. "And pal" and all. Try to keep the hostility/condescension to a minimum. See What kind of behavior is expected of users?. We highly value professionalism at all StackExchange sites, which is one of the reasons they're less likely to degenerate into arguments such as those you'd find at typical discussion forums. –  David Stratton Aug 31 '13 at 15:56
Please also see Guidelines toward a polite, academic tone –  fredsbend Sep 1 '13 at 14:38
@David a bit of a nit-pick, but I'd replace 'arguments' with 'fights'. By definition, here on Stack Exchange, we welcome arguments (in the Plato sense, not the throwing-plates-at-eachother sense) where we can make our case and support it with facts and references and then methodically determine the most relevant, useful, and sturdy arguments via voting and comments. –  corsiKa Oct 4 '13 at 20:13
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protected by David Stratton Aug 30 '13 at 18:41

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