Were some parts of the law cancelled or the whole law in its completeness should continue untill the heaven and the earth disappear?

Some parts of the New Testament clearly state that some portions of the law have been abolished with the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ (see examples in the end of this question). How does it go along with the following words of the Savior:

I tell you the truth, 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 (Matthew 5:18 AKJV)

Examples of some portions of the law that are pronounced as cancelled in the New Testament:

  1. Circumcision:

    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature (Gal. 6:15 AKJV)

  2. Sacrifices:

    7:11"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need [was there then] that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?


    15[yet] there arises another Priest,

    16who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life


    18For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for its weakness and unprofitableness.

    19For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by which we draw nigh unto God


    28For the law makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, [makes] the Son, who is consecrated for ever


    8:6[He] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

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

    8For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah


    13In that he saith, A new [covenant], he hath made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old [is] ready to vanish away


    10:1For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

    2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

    3But in those [sacrifices there is] a remembrance again [made] of sins every year.

    4For [it is] not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins


    14by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 7:11, 15-16, 18-19, 28, 8:6-8, 13, 10:1-4, 14 AKJV)

  • @David Stratton - David, these two are absolutely different questions! Please, read their contents
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 17:26
  • @David The OP sets the same stage here but the questions are different. Brilliant you should always try to keep your main question as close to the top as you can so it shows on the summary page clips and doesn't confuse people with background. You can go on to explain the setting after you ask the summary version.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 18:31
  • @Caleb - What is the "summary page clips"?
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 18:35
  • @Caleb That's a good point. I think it's also wise to have it at the bottom (especially for long questions) for the people who scan the questions.
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 18:37
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    brilliant: Which translation(s) are you using here? I tried to add translation notes for you, but, especially your verses from Hebrews, don't all seem to match a single translation I have access to... American King James was the closest I found...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 21:21

4 Answers 4


Many Christians agree that there are three distinct kinds of laws in the old testament, and that one of them is eternal.

  • The moral law that declares how man should live.
  • The civil law that was the legal structures for the ancient nation of Israel.
  • The ceremonial law that declared how ancient Israel was to worship.

The moral law is believed to be eternal. While it's not perfectly clear what's in the moral law and what is in the other two categories the Ten Commandments as well as passages like Deuteronomy 6:5 are in the moral law.

Both the examples in your question would fall into the ceremonial law. Many Christians believe that the ceremonial law was either abolished at the death of Christ or completely fulfilled at the death of Christ. Obviously Christ was and is the eternal sacrifice. The specific sacrifices of the Old Testament are no longer needed. As for circumcision it too is fulfilled in a different way.

Philippians 3:3 (ESV)

3For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

As for the civil law which would include the punishments specified for crimes and the like, it obviously ended when ancient Israel as a nation-state ended.

That said, while some of the laws in the Old Testament don't hold direct sway over our lives any more, remember:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

  • 2
    (1) Thanks for your answer, but, honestly, whenever I hear about the law consisting of these three parts I am always stopped by the thought that when the Savior pronounced those words (that no one iota pass away from the law until the heaven and earth pass away – Matt. 5:18) there was hardly any such subdivision of the law existent in those days (we know that this subdivision of the law into moral, civil and ceremonial was brought in by Christians much later as part of their theology). The only
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 15:05
  • (2) instance that perhaps could be interpreted as a kind of subdivision of the law is what the Savior said about two commandments: “Love your Lord God” and another one, similar to the first one, is “love your neighbor”. Jesus said that on these two commandments hang on all the Law (Matt. 22:40), so, based on the words of the Savior, we can fetch these two out as the most important part of the law, while all the rest of the law would be considered as a secondary part. However, even this subdivision most likely was not in the Jewish people’s mind at that time, as we know that they
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 15:06
  • 2
    (4) Another thing that bothers me is that the Lord for some reason linked the end of the Law with passing of the heaven and earth. If we say that the moral law is eternal, which is quite logical, why then it should stop with the disappearance of the heaven and earth?
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 15:07
  • 2
    (5) There is also a kind of “problem” in your answer: you say that Ten Commandments fall into the moral law and the moral law is eternal. But what about the commandment about keeping the Sabbath? Was it not already fulfilled in Christ? Has it not ended with the coming of Christ? If not then among Christians, perhaps, only the Seventh Day Adventists are moral and all the rest of them are immoral as they don't observe one of the commandments of the eternal moral law.
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 15:07
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    @brilliant: Please refrain from long series of comments with content like this. Comments are disposable meant to bring attention to issues or improvements with a post: once the OP has considered them are often deleted. If you have so much to say on an issue, please add a complete answer of your own. It's ok to answer even if you were the asker, just make sure your answer stands on it's own merit and isn't just a reference to other posts. Thanks.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 13:40

Forgive me for using almost the same answer to both of your recent questions. This one is slightly different than the answer there.

The way I understand these passages, they do not mean that the OT law was canceled. Rather they refer to the fact that keeping the law cannot save us from Hell. We are saved by Grace alone through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)

Circumcision was a sign that God gave to the people of Israel to signify that they were His. It did nothing to save them, but rather it was a physical, external sign that they belonged to Him.

Animal sacrifices, likewise, were a temporary atonement for sins, but they never could save fully until Jesus became the perfect sacrifice. As the verses you cited state, "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Animal sacrifices were rendered unnecessary by the perfect sacrifice of the sinless Christ. His sacrifice fulfilled the law more completely than an animal sacrifice ever could, so it's not abolishing that law, it's performing the ultimate fulfillment Himself.

Other OT laws had to do with cleanliness and hygiene, and were clearly given to protect the people. (These would be the laws about what to do with an "unclean" person, and include measures such as quarantine.)

As you already quoted, Jesus stated, "not one jot nor tittle of the Law should pass away" (Matthew 5:15).

The major point of Christianity, compared to Judaism, is this: Judaism is still "under the law". In other words, they are trying to earn their salvation by keeping the Law. Christianity states that we cannot keep the law. Everyone has failed, and none of us are righteous. (Romans 3:10, 23).

The law still stands, but it cannot save us. We cannot be saved by obedience to the law or "works of righteousness". Therefore, none of the law was cancelled. What is good is still good. What is wrong is still wrong.

The law, as it applies to us now exists to show us what sin is (Romans 7:7), so that we can see that we are lost and cannot save ourselves.

It also serves to stop sinners from justifying themselves. How many people believe that they're really not a bad person and can get to heaven simply by being "good." If we look at even the Ten commandments, we can see that we've all broken at least one. As the Bible states in James 2:10 (KJV)

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Therefore, as we look at the perfect Law of God, the law shows us that we're not really "good" at all. It stops the mouth of those who claim that they are good, and shows them that they are guilty by showing them what sin is. (Romans 3:19-20)

To answer your question directly, the laws have never been abolished. They also never had the power to save anyone by obedience to them. The laws still exists, but through the redeeming blood of Christ, we are no longer held guilty of breaking it.

Reading on in Romans, Paul continues in verse 31:

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

He goes on to explain this in more detail, but by Romans 6, we get back to the fact that just because we are free from the guilt of the law, doesn't mean that we should not obey the law.

Rather than doing so to try to earn our salvation, we are doing so because we are grateful to have been freed from it, and if we've truly repented, we should see our own sin as God sees it - disgusting, and an abomination. To go back and sin willingly is a slap in the face of God. We do it because we also should now hate sin, especially our own.

In Romans 7, Paul goes on to talk about the difference between living in the Flesh and in the Spirit - the only two choices we really have. If we walk in the Flesh, we are obeying our sinful nature. Walking in the Spirit, we are walking in agreement with God, and that means obeying the Law.


This statement used to confuse me, and I think the root of my confusion was in the expected contrasts. When Jesus says (paraphrasing) that he "didn't come to abolish the law, but instead..." my mind filled in the gap with something like "uphold" or "maintain," and I tried to read and understand His statement through that expectation. It's significant that he's saying that he's fulfilling the law, though. A major theme of Christianity is that Jesus is the perfect savior and representative for his people, and by being the one that fulfills the law, he does the very thing that the prophets and the law had been looking forward to. He does the thing that no one else could do; all the preceding types fell short of being complete fulfillments.

I think it's helpful to look at the broader context of this conversation. Jesus is giving his famous "Sermon on the Mount" and after turning certain preconceptions a bit topsy-turvy with the Beatitudes, he's about to proclaim some new standards that up the ante on the law by prescribing attitudes and thoughts more than just behavior (e.g. it's not sufficient to not murder people; we're also not supposed to hate them). In the midst of this, which seems like (and I would contend is...at least a bit) a revision of the law, Jesus says the following:

Matthew 5:17 (ESV)
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.

I think a common misunderstanding comes from something that's not altogether wrong: I think people often tend to look at the law as the standard by which man is expected to live in order to earn eternal life...from there the tendency might be to measure oneself in relation to how well one keeps the law. That premise is true in that the reward for the keeping the law is life and the punishment is death, but the thing I think is often missed is that Jesus is the one who fulfilled the law: He earned the right to life, and those who trust in him as their savior share in that reward by grace through faith. As others have pointed out (and as Jesus's sermon would seem to clearly indicate), that doesn't give us free reign to live wanton lives, but it does free us up so that we don't have to feel despair over our lack of ability to keep the law. He tells us that He fulfills the law, and then proceeds to instruct us to love God and each other wholeheartedly.

This passage, I think, explains it well:

Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)
For 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, in 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.

Christians aren't expected to directly fulfill the law (otherwise, we wouldn't need a Savior), but, rather, Jesus himself is the one who fulfilled the law so that those who believe on Him are credited with his righteous obedience rather than their own behavior and merit.


To those who would mistakenly argue that certain Mosaic laws such as the tithing, dietary, festival, and Saturday Sabbath laws have been abolished, I ask them: how do you explain Galatians 5:18 which says: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”? If you interpret this verse as further proof that many Old Testament laws no longer need to be obeyed, doesn’t that idea conflict massively with many other major verses, especially two “gold standard” verses: Acts 2:38: “Repent, and ….. be baptized ….. for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive ….. the Holy Spirit” and 1 John 3:4: “…… sin is the violation of the law.”? To get the vital Holy Spirit in the first place you need to repent of sinning, which 1 John 3:4 clearly defines as breaking the law or torah. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN STOP BREAKING THE LAW IS TO OBEY THE LAW!! Therefore the only interpretation possible of Galatians 5:18’s “not under the law” and similar verses such as “released from the law” and “freed from the law” is that Holy Spirit led Christians are no longer under the penalty (automatic death penalty for many sins) part of the law, but still are under the obedience part of the law, excluding primarily circumcision and the various sacrifices the apostles “went out of their way” to explain as abolished. Romans 8:2: “….. Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” shows that death, the penalty part of the law, no longer applies to obedient, law (torah) abiding Christians.

Galatians 5:18 when turned around also reveals that all non-Christians ARE under the law, showing that the law was never really abolished.

Visit http://TithingHelps.us to become more knowledgeable about Galatians 5:18 and other pro-law verses that mathematically seem to outnumber by more than 2 to 1 the supposedly, at first glance anti-law verses in the English translations of the New Testament.

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    Welcome to Christianity SE. I disagree with your answer; my reading of the whole of Galatians implies that we are no longer under the Law. See especially Galatians 3:1-14, e.g. verse 2: "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 20:45
  • @Wikis - His perspective, as I may guess, is that as if Christians taught that even if you observe the law to the uttermost - that is like Jesus did - even then you would not be saved as the law has been completely scraped off. However, that's not what the Christians teach. What they teach is that yes, if you observe the law to the fullest, you WILL get saved, however, no one besides Jesus is able to observe the law to the fullest extend, thus, humans need the grace from God, not the law, in order to be saved.
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:02
  • @brilliant: maybe. I've read it through several times and to be honest I'm not sure. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 17:19

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