I have seen two views about the laws of the old testament in the bible. One view is where Jesus himself says "keep the Law" while in the other Paul says that "the Law has been nailed to the cross"

This is odd, but both these teachings are in contradiction. I was hoping to get a clarification if the Law should be kept or nailed to the cross??

Please provide some verse of the bible and not personal opinions.

Quotes from the bible are below....

In the gospel, Jesus says....

Matthew 5:18

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 5:19

Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

But Paul says...

Colossians 2:14

having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

  • 1
    I would not translate the Greek word χειρόγραφον as "Law." It literally means "handwriting." The same Greek word is in the apocrypha in reference to a bill of debt or promissory note. It is equivalent to the Hebrew phrase כתב יד (ktav yad), also meaning "handwriting." The Hebrew phrase כתב יד is used frequently in the Talmud to refer to a bill of debt or promissory note. Could Paulos have used the word χειρόγραφον (meaning "bill-of-debt") as a euphemism for the Law? Quite possibly indeed.
    – user900
    Nov 15, 2012 at 20:44
  • "keeping the Law" and "nailing the Law to the cross" does not contradict .. when somebody "takes his own cross", as God taught us, "the keeping Law" becomes easy, as a consequence of wearing cross .. because the heart is modeled by love of God, and the heart is place where sins can born; the big difference (which you see as contradiction) stand on spirit of the "law keeper" vs spirit of the "God lover"
    – Iulian
    Nov 17, 2012 at 9:38

7 Answers 7


There are three types of the law in the Bible:

  • moral (part of which are also 10 commandments),
  • ceremonial (for example Hebrew ceremonial holidays and activities),
  • civil (Hebrew "country laws" and punishments)

Most christians agree, that ceremonial and civil laws are not binding anymore (ceremonial laws pointed to Christ and ended with the cross).

The most interesting question is if the 10 commandments are binding for a christian. Does Jesus want you to "have other gods" or "commit adultery" or steal?

I think he doesn't want us to do that...

Colossians 2:14 is speaking about ceremonial laws (the regulations which were nailed to the cross were Hebrew ceremonial laws), Matthew 5:18.19 is speaking about moral law (10 commandments) and both teachings are in harmony.

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    I think he doesn't want us to do that isn't really a suitable answer... do you have something firmer than your own opinion to offer?
    – Flimzy
    Apr 8, 2014 at 19:19
  • @Flimzy What is your PROOF that this is the case? The stakes are high for Jews not to follow the Law of Moses and for Gentiles not to follow Noahide Laws. Paul never met Jesus in real life and he himself at times wondered whether his personal revelations were interpreted correctly and whether he was "running his race in vain." He went to Antioch 14 years later to reveal "his" gospel and wound up disputing it with the Church set up by Jesus. So are you sure that the moral/ceremonial/civil distinction trumps what God Himself said was everlasting laws? e.g. not sleeping with a menstruating woman. May 8, 2014 at 14:42
  • @GregoryMagarshak: My proof is in that this community requires well sourced answers, not personal opinions.
    – Flimzy
    May 8, 2014 at 15:19
  • Sorry Flimzy I meant @Marko Krajnc where is your proof? :) May 8, 2014 at 15:31

The Sun does not destroy the Moon but when it rises the Moon passes away. 

I will answer this question from a Covenant Theology standpoint.

The law is commonly divided into ceremonial, moral and civil.

In Christianity it is agreed by most that Christ fulfilled the meaning of all that was ceremonial and that therefore when the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom these laws became 'obsolete'. From this standpoint all ceremonial laws, of which the High Priest offering sacrifices in the temple were probably the most sacred, are no longer application by obsolescence.

In the same manner most Christians believe that the civil laws that were used to govern Israel, such as the many capital punishments by stoning, burning, or strangulation ceased. These are also viewed as being symbolic of man's need for salvation under the 'curse of the Law'. Also as the invisible church of Christ replaced the literal outward church of the Jews, God no longer directly governs the Jewish people. There are some Christians who still think that God in some way governs the Jews. (I think dispensationalists still hold some ideas about this but am not sure of the details, as I am not that familiar with this unique view).

The controversy is mostly about how God’s moral law in the Old Testament should be applied today, or if there is any change to it at all. Most Christians who propose the idea that 'nothing changed' to God’s moral Law at all in Christ’s death, commonly refer to this verse where Jesus said:

"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. (NIV Mathew 5:17)

A common verse referred to by those that believe the entire Law (moral, ceremonial, civil) was 'nailed to the cross', so that even its moral nature was modified in Christ, commonly refer to the verse:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (NIV John 1:17).

Even among traditional reformed theologians many are divided over this question about the moral law. I am of the camp that you can’t divide the Law at all, so that all aspects were fulfilled in Christ and so nothing remains exactly as it was. For example, the Law said we should love our neighbor as ourselves, however it did not provide any ability to do so but condemned to hell any offence. In Christ however, under the liberty of grace, a stony heart has been replaced by a soft one, and an uncircumcised heart has been circumcised, therefore, Christians have love in the heart and can follow the command. Therefore, even the moral law has not gone un-crucified as it was formerly written on stone but now in a 'Spirit of liberty' it is written in a believer’s heart. In this way, Christ abolished even the moral law in the sense that he fulfilled all its requirements and then imputed that righteousness to believers, which in turn, infused the holiness required by the law as a basic 'principle of life and liberty' into Christians. In this sense the Bible say’s we are ‘no longer under law' (that is the moral law).

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14).

This last verse I quote is at the heart of the debate for depending on which theologian you consult the moral law is intended, or not intended, by this and similar verses. As for me I am absolutely convinced the moral law is chiefly intended as described above. Here are some reformed theologians who share my view. There are other theologians who do not but I am not bothering to represent them, as I find their position unscriptural:

Charles Hodge-

The law of Moses was, in the first place, a re-enactment of the covenant of works. A covenant is simply a promise suspended upon a condition. The covenant of works, therefore, is nothing more than the promise of life suspended on the condition of perfect obedience. The phrase is used as a concise and convenient expression of the eternal principles of justice on which God deals with rational creatures, and which underlie all dispensations, the Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Christian. Our Lord said to the lawyer who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, “What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right, this do and thou shalt live,” Luke 10:26-28. This is the covenant of works. It is an immutable principle that where there is no sin there is no condemnation, and where there is sin there is death. This is all that those who reject the gospel have to fall back upon. It is this principle which is rendered so prominent in the Mosaic economy as to give it its character of law. Viewed under this aspect it is the ministration of condemnation and death. ( Hodge 2 Cor P75)

Jonathan Edwards –

Jonathan Edwards also sees the Mosaic covenant as being different from the gospel as it includes the renewal of the covenant of works that has the ministry of death and cursing, leading sinners to Christ as a harsh schoolmaster.

As the law was given at Mount Sinai, so Christ delivered his evangelical doctrine, (full of blessings, and not curses,) to a multitude on a mountain. Matt. v.— (Jonathan Edwards History of Redemption, P302)

I think really that the covenant that God made with the children of Israel was the covenant of works. He still held them under that covenant; that is, what is required in that covenant is to them particularly deciphered, and many additional positive commands which answer to the precept concerning the forbidden fruits and God proposes this covenant to them as the condition of his favor, and gives them to understand that none of those promises he had made could be challenged without perfect obedience: but yet gives them to understand so much of his merciful nature and his inclination to pity them and to accept of a propitiation for them, that they, finding that they could not challenge anything from those promises [on the ground] of obedience, trusted only to the mere undeserved mercy of God and were saved by grace, and expected life only of mere mercy.

We are indeed now under the covenant of works so, that if we are perfectly righteous we can challenge salvation. But herein is the difference betwixt us and them: to us God has plainly declared the impossibility of obtaining life by that covenant, and lets us know that no mortal can be saved but only of mere grace, and lets us know clearly how we are made partakers of that grace. All ever since the fall were equally under the covenant of grace so far, that they were saved by it all alike, but the difference is in the revelation: the covenant of works was most clearly revealed to the Israelites, to us the covenant of grace. The church, which was then in its infant [state], could not bear a revelation of the covenant of grace in plain terms; and so with them the best way to bring them off from their own righteousness was to propose the covenant of works to them, and to renew the promise of life upon those conditions. God did with them as Christ did with the young man that asked what he should do for eternal life: Christ bids him keep the commandments. And in that sense they were under the covenant of works, that it was proposed to them as the condition of life, that they might try. To us it is not so. The covenant of grace was indeed insinuated to them and proposed under covert, but 'twas to that they were all forced to fly. The promises seem to be so contrived as to give them to see that they can't challenge anything except they perform a perfect obedience, if God will be strict, but yet that he will of his mere mercy accept them into his favor if they perform a sincere obedience proceeding from the true love and fear of him; so that the fruits of faith are proposed instead of faith itself. But by this, none but such as had faith could hope for life; and by God's contrivance of that dispensation they were led not to depend on these as works, but as a disposition to receive, as so many manifestations of repentance and submission; and they depended on them as such only, for life. (Jonathan Edwards. The "Miscellanies". Page P363-363)

With reference to what has been before spoken of the covenant [No. 2]. Covenant is taken very variously in Scripture, sometimes for a divine promise, sometimes for a divine promise on conditions. But if we speak of the covenant God has made with man stating the condition of eternal life, God never made but one with man to wit, the covenant of works; which never yet was abrogated, but is a covenant stands in full force to all eternity without the failing of one tittle. The covenant of grace is not another covenant made with man upon the abrogation of this, but a covenant made with Christ to fulfill it. And for this end came Christ into the world, to fulfill the law, or covenant of works, for all that receive him....

To say that the covenant of works did admit of a mediator, is something improper. The covenant of works mentioned nothing about it; (Jonathan Edwards. The "Miscellanies". Page P217)

John Owen –

As usual John Owen teaches with the utmost clarity on the subject:

By the sanction of the law, we intend the promises and penalties wherewith by God the observation of it and obedience unto it was enforced. This the apostle hath respect unto in sundry places of this Epistle; the principal whereof are reported in the following dissertation.

To represent this distinctly, we may observe that the law falls under threefold consideration; — first, As it was a repetition and expression of the law of nature, and the covenant of works established thereon; secondly, As it had a new end and design put upon the administration of it, to direct the church unto the use and benefit of the promise given of old to Adam, and renewed unto Abraham four hundred and thirty years before; thirdly, As it was the instrument of the rule and government of the church and people of Israel with respect unto the covenant made with them in and about the land of Canaan. And in this threefold respect it had a threefold sanction. (Owens Works, Volume 17, P654)

Martin Luther –

Martin Luther never prances about with constant distinctions around words, pretending to believe something he does not, he just lays it all out there:

Who would ever believe that these things could be mixed up so easily? There is no one so stupid that he does not recognize how definite this distinction between Law and grace is. Both the facts and the words require this distinction, for everyone understands that these words “Law” and “grace” are different as to both denotation and connotation.62 Therefore it is a monstrosity, when this distinction stands there so clearly, for the papists and the fanatics to fall into the satanic perversity of confusing the Law and grace and of changing Christ into Moses. This is why I often say that so far as the words are concerned, this doctrine of faith is very easy, and everyone can easily understand the distinction between the Law and grace; but so far as practice, life, and application are concerned, it is the most difficult thing there is. (Luther's Works Vol 26, P143-144)

Now the first sermon, and doctrine, is the law of God. The second is the gospel. These two sermons are not the same. Therefore we must have a good grasp of the matter in order to know how to differentiate between them. We must know what the law is, and what the gospel is. The law commands and requires us to do certain things. The law is thus directed solely to our behaviour and consists in making requirements. For God speaks through the law, saying, “Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you.” The gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the law, does the very opposite, and says, “This is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.” (Luther's Works Vol 35, P162-164)

Conclusion: The Law can't be divided, therefore when the Law was nailed to the cross all aspects of its were made obsolete not by being destroyed but by being fulfilled in Christ. Christ fulfilled all the ceremonial laws that prefigured him. Christ fulfilled all the civil laws that symbolized the punishments due to sin for which he suffered and was hung on a tree being cursed. Christ fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the moral law becoming sin for us that we would become the righteousness of God by faith apart from any works of our own. This righteousness imputed to us reconciles us to God that we may live holy and obey all the precepts of the Law wich is to love God and your neighbour in many good works. In this sense Christ fulfilled all the Law and there is no reason to split the law where the Bible does not.

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    My knowledge is weak, but you have divided the law into into ceremonial, moral and civil. Where does this division occur in the bible? I am really not interested in Calvinism or any recently developed theology, that would be away from Christ rather the teachings of Christ.
    – abcd
    Sep 3, 2012 at 15:19
  • @abcd - No worries, you are just agreeing with me. Yes, that is what I am arguing. One can't really divide the law into moral, civil, ceremonial therefore we must consider all the law to be superseded through fulfillment, not just parts. Biblically the Law is the first five books of the Bible. We should still sacrifices animals in the temple if the law was not nailed to the cross. The origin of the actual grouping that is iften used to argue against the whole law being crucified, here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/154/…
    – Mike
    Sep 3, 2012 at 23:56
  • 1
    I am aware that the first 5 books are the law, BUT here I am asking should Jesus be followed or Paul? If you say nail the law to the cross, wouldnt that be disobeying Jesus?
    – abcd
    Sep 4, 2012 at 0:02
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    Not at all. Following Paul is following Jesus, in that Paul best understood and taught Jess. When Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law, it means he did not come to oppose it or break its meaning. Its meaning was fullfilled in him, not opposed by him. Fulfillment 'brings an end' to something as its climax not as a destruction. Therefore, Christ makes Moses obsolete through fulfillment not opposition. Moses only serves and prepares for simething much greater, as a shadow. When the power of the Sun arises the light of the Moon is not required anymore. But the moon just reflects the Sun.
    – Mike
    Sep 4, 2012 at 0:24
  • @abcd: Again, something happened between the time Jesus and Paul spoke their words. What was it? Jesus' death. That changed everything. It is probably the greatest, most significant event in all of human history. One of the things his death changed was the Jews' relationship to the Torah. Before his death, the Jews (whether they believed in Yeshu'a or not) were "under the Law." After his death, believing Jews are no longer "under the Law." Why? Because a believing Jew who identifies with the Messiah by dying with him is "dead to the Law" and the Law is no longer his master. Read Romans 7.
    – user900
    Nov 15, 2012 at 20:32

Consider this, if a man commited a murder and then died before he came to trial, would they pass judgement on his corpse? If he was alive at the time of the trial he would be judged by the law, however since he died he cannot be subject to the law.

Romans 7:4

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

The thing you might have missed in your question is that Jesus was talking to the Jews, they were under the law at that time because Jesus had not yet fulfilled his purpose. Likewise Paul is speaking of the law after Jesus had died for our sins.

Romans goes on to say:

5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.

6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

We are dead to the law and can no longer be bound by it. So in this instance you need to listen to Paul, as he is instructing Christians. This is not to say that what Jesus said was wrong or a contradiction, just that what he said was correct at that time.


 It's helpful if you can compare it to a situation of living in a foreign country. Let's say the country you are born in requires you to pay tax if you stay home more than six months a year. Let's say you have been taken by your job to another country where there is no tax, but you visit home for a total of 170 days. If your family calls you home and you spend more than 10 days, you are liable to pay tax. Just imagine, spending those ten days in the foreign location and spending the same time at home makes all the difference between being a defaulter and not. You haven't DONE anything. You just happen to be somewhere.

How can you be free of this obstacle to going home? If someone changed the law, that should work. Well that's what Christ did. He made home a tax free region.

Home is your body, the tax you pay is for the shenanigans of the body: 

Romans 7:20-25 NET Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

 Colossians 2:14 NET He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

Now I engage my energy sharing in Christ's work of removing the debt of others:

Colossians 1:24 NET Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my physical body – for the sake of his body, the church – what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.

John 15:13 NET No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.


Notice Paul never says "the law" was nailed to the cross, but the "ordinances" (Col 2:14) which is the ceremonial side of the Law. The Law itself speaks of itself being in two parts (Leviticus 18:4): judgements (mishpatim, moral laws) and ordinances or statutes (hukkim, ceremonial laws). It is the latter that was nailed to the cross.

Col 2:14 KJV Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Lev 18:4 KJV Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.


From the way Paul writes about our baptism, 'going down into the water with Jesus into His death', and dying, then 'coming back up out of the water with Jesus into His resurrection in our new life,' Paul writes "we died with Jesus, and because of this became free from our old husband, Mr. Law." "Paul writes further, we are then free to marry another, and we do, we marry Jesus Christ, becoming,...Mrs. Jesus Christ!"

Because we have died, our old marriage was ended,...because we resurrected, we were free to marry Jesus, and we did.

What then can Mr. Law do about it? Can he have any access to us at all? Can he go to court and demand that he get his old wife back again?

No, he can't.

He can no longer access us at all.

NB Important point.




I'm following up on my answer above. You asked for references to what I wrote, and it is from the picture Paul painted about what our baptism is, and how we relate to the law, as Christians.

Romans 7:1-6

1Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

4So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

  • 3
    Welcome to the site. Thank you for sharing, but the site strives to be academic, using sources and citations to support answers. The site is not a discussion forum. Once you reach 20 rep you can chat about whatever you want. Please see Guidelines for writing effective answers and What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer? After that, please edit this post or delete it. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Sep 15, 2014 at 21:17
  • In the future, please edit your answer to add more. Also, please follow fredsbend's advice and read those Meta posts he linked to. If you don't improve the current issues with this answer, it may be deleted. Sep 17, 2014 at 23:57
  • Who will delete my post and why? I have answered the query posted "Keep the Law OR the law nailed to the Cross".
    – Hello
    Sep 19, 2014 at 2:22
  • I referenced with Romans 7:1-6, Gal3:13, 2Cor5:21, explaining(I thought it was clear)- Paul writes because we marry Jesus, the law has no more power over us. (The Church marrying Jesus is a biblical concept (see Rev. for the Bride of Jesus) I believe I answered in an academic way, with references.)
    – Hello
    Sep 19, 2014 at 2:26

The Law could only EVER be fulfilled in Jesus. The Old Testament Saints, were believing in Jesus, even when they sacrificed a bull. The Bull was only a symbol of Jesus. The act of believing also consisted of living. If we believe, we will live. God is not mocked. Be sure and know your sin will find you out.

The Old Testament is just as active, and living as the New. Sharper than any two-edged sword.

The Sword of the Spirit is not split in half.

Ps. 119 All of it.

Why would God take something, He made PERFECT, and do away with it?

6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

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    I'm having trouble following the train of thought in your answer. Perhaps you could add some more linking material or explanation to make it clear how your assertions and quotations relate to one another, and to the original question.
    – James T
    Apr 9, 2014 at 1:32
  • What you say is good, and I happen to agree, bit it doesn't fit with the purpose of this site. This isn't a discussion forum, it's a Q&A site with a very specific purpose and set of guidelines. Please see the links above and the help page Apr 14, 2014 at 4:10

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