We hear St Paul telling in Gal 2:21 (NRSVCE):

I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

But we see Jesus telling in Mtt 5: 17-18 :

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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.

One finds some mismatch between Mtt 5: 17-18 and Gal 2:21 in so for as the role of law in salvation is concerned. If Jesus came to fulfil the law , why does St Paul downplay its role ? Moreover, how are those who lived before Jesus's redemptive mission, but were faithful to the law, justified ? My question therefore is: How do Catholic scholars explain Gal 2: 21 against the backdrop of Mtt 5: 17-18 ?

  • There are some who accuse Paul of preaching a false gospel because of misunderstandings in this area. Good question. +1 Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


Although not strictly a Catholic Church Scholar point of view, Paul was not contradicting Jesus' statement. To understand, one has to understand the contrast, what the point of the Law was and how to achieve it.

And it [all of the Laws] shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. Deut 6:25

Righteousness could come from observing ALL of the Law, IF one can do it every second of every day. This is what Christ fulfilled, but no one else, including Paul, could do this. We are all sinners, missing the mark of righteousness.

As such, we cannot rely on our works (obeying some of the Law), we cannot rely on justification from the Law. We can, however, rely on the grace of God for our righteousness.

If we reject Christ and God's grace, to work at our righteousness, we have nullified the grace of God and rejected the work of Christ on our behalf.

Take a pick. Follow all the commandments for your righteousness, thus rejecting God's grace through Christ's passion. Accept God's grace through His Son.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph 2:8

  • 2
    These scriptures agree with the crux of the matter; "If there had been a law given that could have given life, righteousness should have been by the law Gal. 3:21. "All who believe are justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses" Acts 13:39. "The strength of sin is the law" 1 Cor.15:56 & that Christ nailed the handwritten ordinances of the law to the cross Col.2:14. No sinner can keep the law which is why it does not justify, but condemns everyone, as Heb. 7:19 states. The law is to be a tutor, leading us to Christ
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 17:22

Paul wasn't downplaying the Law. He was responding to those that were "upplaying" it.

Compare these two scriptures with getting a university degree and winning a Nobel prize in physics.

  • Matthew: if you want to win the prize, you have to earn the degree.
  • Galatians: if getting a degree could earn you the prize, then the prize would be worthless.

Both statements are logically true:

  • Matthew: the degree is necessary.
  • Galatians: the degree isn't sufficient.


  • Matthew: Salvation requires obedience to God's Law.
  • Galatians: Obedience by itself will not earn Salvation.
  • Matthew; you cannot earn the degree (fulfilled the Law). Galatians; Christ has earned the degree (fulfilled the Law). +1 Commented Jul 7, 2022 at 11:38

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