Old Testament - abolished or fulfilled?

The Old Testament and the Old Covenant are not the same thing. The Old Testament contains the old covenant, but the Old Testament is not only the old covenant. The Old Testament contains the creation story, the protoevangelium, or the declaration of grace in the Garden of Eden, the story of Noah and the covenant with him, promising a common grace to all humans, the election of Abraham, the covenant of grace with him, the history of Israel and the Jews, the prophecies about Israel and the Jews, and the new covenant that would be instituted by the death of Jesus and the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament contains more than one covenant. One of them is the Mosaic Covenant, which we often call the Old Covenant.


So, when we discuss whether the Old Covenant has passed away, we are not meaning in any way that the Old Testament is cancelled. The Old Testament as well as the New Testament are the scriptures of God. All scriptures are God’s infallible and inerrant word. So, they are the final authority on all matters that concern God’s redemptive plan and purpose. All the Old Testament scriptures are progressive divine revelations, and they are pedagogical for believers in Jesus Christ.


The Old covenant


The old covenant is the covenant that God made with the Israelites at Sinai. It is also called the Mosaic Covenant. The covenant contains 613 laws concerning their moral, civil, and religious lives. We read them in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Ten of them were handwritten by God. They are called the Ten Commandments. The covenant and the laws are often referred to in Scripture as the “Law of Moses,” the “tablets of the covenant,” or just "Law.”.


God’s intention in giving laws was not to punish the Israelites for their iniquities. The Israelites were His own people, a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.


Exodus 19:5, 6 (NKJV)

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.


God gave them the laws as instructions to live according to God’s purpose for them. God intended the Mosaic Law as a blessing for His people.


Deuteronomy 10:12, 13 (NKJV)

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?


Deuteronomy 5:29, 33 (NKJV)

29  'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

33 "You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.


Psalm 119, which is the longest single chapter in the Bible, contains 176 verses. The author of this psalm is unknown, but scholars attribute it to David, Ezra, Daniel, or Jeremiah.


The persecution and affliction of a man or woman of God is a major theme in this psalm. The author reflects on the sufferings in his life. But he testifies to the profound truth that the Word of God is all-sufficient. Scriptures reveal God’s nature and that we can trust Him and His plans and purposes for us, even when we face affliction and persecution. The Word is sufficient to make us wise, train us in righteousness, and equip us for every good work. It is protection, freedom, and life. The psalmist was writing all these things about the Old Testament law. He used eight different terms to refer to the Word of God: law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgements, words, and ordinances.


The psalm starts with these words:


Psalm 119:1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! (NKJV)


Psalm 119:97 – 106 (NKJV)

97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me.

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts.

101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word.

102 I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me.

103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.



The purpose of the laws was to set the Israelites apart from other nations.


Leviticus 19:2 "Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. (NKJV)


Leviticus 20:8 'And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (NKJV)


To sanctify means to set apart for a holy purpose. Since the purpose is holy, they must be set apart from other nations. Setting them apart makes them different from others through different laws. God also had an intention to reveal Himself before other nations, through His people, as a holy and only God. The Mosaic Law was intended to reveal God to others by setting apart the Israelites.


Exodus 34:10 And He said: "Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. (NKJV)


The most important purpose of the Mosaic Law is that it reveals humanity's need for a saviour. The law sets the standard for holiness and teaches what qualifies as sin, faults, and shortcomings. Mosaic law is God’s holy standard, which humans were commanded to achieve.


Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (NKJV)


Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." (NKJV)


The law reveals the many ways humans fail to live up to God's standard. The awareness of our own sin could leave us defeated and hopeless. The good news is that God intervened in human history so that we no longer live defeated by sin. God's saving grace through Jesus helps us to achieve the holy standard of God.


Romans 8:3, 4 (NKJV)

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.


Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (NKJV)


But unfortunately, throughout Israel’s history, the laws were often misquoted and misapplied. They miserably failed to live according to the laws. By Jesus’ time, religious leaders had turned the laws into a confusing mass of rules.


So, Jesus talked about a new way to understand God’s law. He was trying to bring people back to their original purpose. Jesus did not speak against the law but against the abuses and excesses to which it had been subjected.


Are Christians under Old Covenant?


“Are Christians under the old covenant?” was the first doctrinal controversy the church dealt with in Acts 15. The epistle to Galatians was written mainly to explain this issue. The book of Hebrews addresses the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. But until today, the controversy has not ended.


To the question, Are Christians under the Old Covenant?, the answer is a definite "no." We are Christians because of the New Covenant. But the new covenant established by Jesus Christ has not cancelled the old covenant. The New is a progressive revelation and fulfilment of all the Old Testament covenants.


The Old Covenant is the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai, handed over to them through Moses. But it was not a covenant made with Moses as their federal head, it was a covenant made with the whole people of Israel. It was a national covenant. The whole people heard the covenant, said "amen,” and accepted it. (Exodus 24:1-11)


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


Galatians 3:19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. (NKJV)


The Mosaic covenant was enacted with Israel, not with the Christians. It was for the nation of Israel. It was inaugurated when they ate the Passover meal in Egypt, confirmed with all details at Sinai. The covenant contained both religious and political regulations. The laws were for the nation and God’s special people in a historic milieu.


The New Testament refers to the Mosaic Law in different ways because there are different kinds of laws. It contained laws regarding holiness, the governance of the nation, and the social life of the people. Israel was proposed to live separately from the nations around them in terms of holiness, worship, and governance. Every detail of their lives was prescribed by God. God’s original intention was a theocratic state where God would be the king of the nation, ruled by His elected representatives.

Almost all historic Christian churches, including Roman Catholic and Reformed churches, have traditionally distinguished three different components in the mosaic covenant. They are called the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil (judicial) law. The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646 and eminent theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas also agree to these three categories.


Moral laws


The Mosaic Covenant stands alone and aloof from other covenants. It has no implication for the people before or the people under the new covenant. But all that was in the Mosaic Covenant were not new stipulations. Many regulations existed in the conscience of humans as imparted to them from creation. These were God’s eternal moral laws. God regulated these laws and made them mandatory in the Mosaic Covenant. The moral laws listed in the Ten Commandments are a summary of the laws that are further explained in the Mosaic Law.


Since they began not with the Mosaic law, they do not go away with the Mosaic covenant. In other words, the Ten Commandments are God’s moral laws from creation that will remain the same for eternity.


Moral laws are revelations of God’s holiness that the people of Israel were presumed to bear. Murder, dishonouring parents, theft, fornication, covetousness, etc. were considered sins even before the Ten Commandments. The permanence of marriage has been respected. The concept of the only and true God existed against idolatry. Cain was condemned as a murderer. Noah’s son Ham was punished for dishonouring his father, which was a violation of the fifth commandment. Rachel was a thief, Abraham lied, and Lot’s wife was punished for covetousness. All these things are contrary to God’s holiness and are sin.


Moral laws were written on the hearts of all humans, created in the image of God. They were written on the consciences of every human being. This is why every human being knows that it’s wrong to murder, steal, or commit adultery. It’s an innate law for a moral life.

Romans 2:14-15 (NKJV)

for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.


According to the Westminster confessions, only the moral laws of the Mosaic Law, which include the Ten Commandments and the commands repeated in the New Testament by Jesus or the apostles, apply to Christians today. Ceremonial laws, which include regulations pertaining to ceremonial cleanliness, festivals, diet, and the Levitical priesthood, and civil (judicial) laws, have been either fulfilled or no longer valid.


The moral laws are commands of God that require strict obedience. The moral law reveals the nature and will of God and is permanent. Jesus obeyed all moral laws completely.


Ceremonial laws


Ceremonial laws are the regulations for the sacrificial system, priests, religious festivals, ritual purity, and clean and unclean foods. These laws instructed Israel on how their sins caused by the violation of moral laws would be forgiven and how they could reconcile with the holy God.


The ceremonial laws were ordained for the worship of God for a period. The sacrificial system included the offering of birds, rams, and goats through the mediation of earthly priests. Sacrifices were offered repeatedly for repeated sins.


All these laws were shadows of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross. It looked forward to the coming Messiah, who would offer Himself as the Lamb of God. Jesus, by his sacrifice, took away the sin of the world, once and for all. No more animal sacrifices are necessary now, and they must not be repeated.


Without the backing of the ceremonial laws prescribed in the Mosaic Covenant, Christ’s crucifixion loses its meaning and purpose.


So, upon the coming of Christ, the effectiveness of the ceremonial laws ceased. They are no longer binding for salvation. But the principles behind them still apply. We are exhorted in the New Testament to worship God by submitting ourselves as a living sacrifice.


Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (NKJV)


So the Apostle Paul says that the sacrificial system in the Mosaic Law was a shadow of the things to come, the substance being Christ.


Colossians 2:16, 17 (NKJV)

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.


The Book of Hebrews so wonderfully teaches us the supremacy of Jesus Christ and how He has fulfilled the sacrificial system:


Hebrews 7:26–27 (NKJV)

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.


Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice because He perfectly kept the law. He was sinless in every way, which made him qualified to be the ultimate lamb without blemish. There is no longer a need for any more sacrifices.


Christians are not saved by any rituals or animal sacrifices. Their sins are not forgiven by any ritual, but only through faith in Jesus Christ.


Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV)


Galatians 3:24–25 (NKJV)

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.


Therefore, since Christ fulfilled all the ceremonial laws, we no longer live under those laws. Christ is the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice. We don’t need to offer animal sacrifice for our sin. Christ has fulfilled these laws, granting us direct access to God through Him.


Civil laws


The civil (judicial) laws came into existence only with the Law of Moses and were only temporary. They were judicial laws applied to daily life in Israel (Deuteronomy 24:10–11). They governed Israel as a nation under God. These laws included guidelines for waging war, restrictions on land use, regulations for debt, and other judicial laws.


Christians are not the nation of Israel. They are Christ's church, gathered from all languages, races, and nations.


Revelations 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (NKJV)


Modern society and culture are so radically different from those of Old Testament Israel. The civil laws cannot be followed specifically. They are not obligatory for Christians today. The civil laws have been abrogated, though they remain useful as guidance and revelation of God's character.


Council of Jerusalem


The Council of Jerusalem in about 50 AD was the first meeting in early Christianity where the apostles and elders discussed the basic doctrine of the church. We read about it in Acts 15. They were to discuss and decide on two important doctrinal matters.

i.       Should non-Jewish Christians receive circumcision?

ii.     Should non-Jewish Christians keep the law of Moses?


Acts 15:5, 6 (NKJV)

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.


The Jews considered circumcision the "everlasting" sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. For them, no circumcision means no inheritance under the Abrahamic covenant. No part of the Abrahamic covenant means no relation to Jesus, who is the promised "seed." So the question before the council had deep implications.


It is recorded that “And when there had been much dispute” (15:7). The decision was not so easy. Then Peter stood and suggested five points for their attention:


1.     God chose to preach the gospel to the Gentiles so that they could hear and believe. (NLT)

2.     God confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to the Jewish believers.

3.     God made no distinction between Jews and gentile Christians, for He cleansed their hearts through faith. All are saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.

4.     Mosaic laws were a yoke that neither they nor their ancestors were able to bear.

5.     Burdening the Gentile believers with the mosaic laws is challenging God.


After the discussion, Apostle James announced the final decision. This is called the Apostolic Decree. James said the following things:

1.     We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

2.     We should write and tell them to abstain from:


i.      Eating food offered to idols (NLT)

ii.     Sexual immorality

iii.    Eating the meat of strangled animals

iv.    Consuming blood.

3.     For the Jews, no letter was written because the laws of Moses were preached in synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.


St. Augustine found the basis for the Apostolic Decree in the Noahide Law. Some modern scholars find the connection in Leviticus 17–18. But it was more likely that the Apostles decided to reconfirm the Jewish belief about the Noahide Law and the gentiles.


Rabbinic Jews believed that Moses brought the laws to the Jewish people. These laws do not apply to Gentiles, including gentile Christians. But the Noahide Laws are applicable to all human beings. There are seven laws in the Noahide Covenant, like the ten commandments in the Mosaic Law. According to the Babylonian Talmud, they are universal moral laws given by God as a covenant with Noah and with the "sons of Noah." “Sons of Noah” is interpreted as the whole of humanity. The Talmud explains that the seven laws were given first to Adam and subsequently to Noah. But we do not have any biblical evidence for this argument. The seven commandments in the Noahide laws are:

1.     Not to worship idols.

2.     Not to curse God.

3.     Not to commit murder.

4.     Not to commit adultery or sexual immorality.

5.     Not to steal.

6.     Not to eat flesh torn from a living animal.

7.     To establish courts of justice.


According to modern Jewish law, non-Jews (gentiles) are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah to be assured of a place in the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba), the final reward of the righteous. The non-Jews that choose to follow the Seven Laws of Noah are regarded as "righteous Gentiles" or "pious people of the world.".


The Apostolic Decree was a major act of differentiation for the Christian Church from its Jewish roots.

Food laws


The Mosaic laws were in effect while Jesus lived and ministered. Jesus started his ministry by declaring the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Thereafter, Jesus lived and ministered according to the values of the kingdom. So, Jesus was often accused by the pharisees of violating the ceremonial law. Jesus’ response always defended his speeches and actions.


Mark 7:5, 14, 15, 17-23 (NKJV)

5    Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"


14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.


17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."


The food laws that set Israel apart from the nations were abrogated by Christ.


Fulfilled or abolished the law?


Many scholars believe that the Sermon on the Mount is a commentary on the Ten Commandments. In the expounding of the law, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. This does not mean that all the Old Testament laws and rituals must still be observed today. Jesus and his disciples did not observe many of them.


Jesus came to fulfil God's law, not to abolish it. Jesus gave us a new understanding of the law, not as the scribes had interpreted it but as God had intended it. The true essence of the law is the holiness of God.


In Matthew 5:17–19, Jesus pointed out six characteristics of the Old Testament scripture.


Matthew 5:17–19 (NKJV)

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


1.     The scripture was written with an intent - meaning to be fulfilled.

2.     Even the smallest letter of it is established with heavenly authority - everything it says will be fulfilled.

3.     He came to fulfil the law and the prophets—something he did.

4.     He came not to abolish the law and prophets—something he did not do.

5.     The scripture is eternal – it will outlast the natural world.

6.     Laws were meant to be taught and obeyed.


There are things that Jesus did and things He did not do. He did not come to abolish the law, regardless of what the Pharisees accused him of. Jesus’ purpose was not to abrogate the Word, dissolve it, or render it invalid. The law will accomplish its purpose, and the prophecies will be fulfilled.


Jesus emphasised the eternal nature and the authority of the Law of God. Jesus condemned those who did not obey the law and acclaimed those who taught the law accurately and held it in reverence.


Matthew 5:19 "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NKJV)


The whole sermon on the Mount reveals His deep commitment to the Scriptures.


Not one jot shall pass away.


Matthew 5:18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (NKJV)


Jesus stated that not one “jot or tittle” would pass away until all was fulfilled. The jot and tittle were the smallest markings of the Hebrew script. Consequently, Jesus meant that nothing of the law was to fail until it had completely accomplished its purpose.




Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (NKJV)


Jesus said that He came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets. His purpose was to establish the Word, to embody it, and to fully accomplish all that was written. The law and prophets were about Him, even where it was not explicit. He accomplished what the law required.


The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all the penalties demanded by the law were fully paid. Therefore, the law is not the path to righteousness. Righteousness belongs to Christ, which is imputed on all who believe in Him.


Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV)


Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in two ways:

·       As a teacher, he taught people to obey the law.(Matthew 22:35–40; Mark 1:44)

·       As a doer, he obeyed the law himself.(John 8:46; 1 Peter 2:22)


The word rendered “destroy” is “kataluo” in Greek (kat-al-oo'-o). It literally means to “loose down." It also means to disintegrate, to demolish, destroy, dissolve, and come to naught. The term carries the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” “to render vain, and “deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used for invalidating institutions and laws.


This word is seen seventeen times in the New Testament. During the trial of Jesus Christ by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin at the High Priest’s residence, two false witnesses came forward. One of them said,


Matthew 26:61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'" (NKJV)


The Greek word used in this verse for “destroy” is “kataluo.” Later, as Jesus prophesied in Mark 13:2, the Jerusalem temple was destroyed without a stone upon another. It is total disintegration.


Mark 13:2 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down (kataluo)." (NKJV)


In 2 Corinthians 5:1, the apostle Paul uses this Greek work to describe what would happen to our physical body at death. He said that the body will “loose down” like a tent that will be loosened to transport it from one place to another.


2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed (kataluo), we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (NKJV)


So the Greek word “kataluo” means to loosen down so that it will become naught.. 


Jesus came not to destroy, loosen down, disintegrate, overthrow, deprive of success, or invalidate the laws of the Mosaic Covenant.


In Matthew 5:17, the word “destroy” is set in opposition to the word “fulfil.” Christ came "not to destroy, but to fulfil.


Jesus did not come to this earth as an adversary of the law. Rather, he revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding himself.(Luke. 24:44).


Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (NKJV)


Jesus accomplished what he came to accomplish; the law was fulfilled. It is not a binding legal regime today.


In the first century, “fulfil” was the technical term for interpreting the scripture so it would be obeyed correctly and fulfilled. Fulfilling the Torah was the task of a first-century rabbi. To interpret Scripture incorrectly so it would not be obeyed as God intended was to "destroy" the Torah.


Ephesians 2:14–15 also must be read along with the statement of Jesus. Here, the apostle Paul argues that the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” was “abolished” by the death of Jesus on the cross.


Ephesians 2:14-15 (NKJV)

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,


The Greek term for “abolished” in the above verse is “katargeo” (kat-arg-eh'-o). The word means to be entirely idle, abolish, cease, destroy, do away, become ineffective, bring to naught, vanish, or make void. Literally, the word suggests the idea of reducing something to a state of inactivity.


The meaning of the verse is clearer in the New Living Translation and the New International Version.


Ephesians 2:14-15 (NLT)

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.


Ephesians 2:14-15 (NIV)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,


Paul uses the Greek word “katargeo” (kat-arg-eh'-o) twice in Romans 7:2 and 6. There, he was talking about the wife, who was freed from her husband by his death.


Romans 7:2, 6 (NKJV)

2    For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released (katargeo) from the law of her husband.

6    But now we have been delivered (katargeo) from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (NKJV)


Just as a wife is “released” from the law of her husband when he dies, we are delivered” from the obligations of the Mosaic Law, having died to them.


So we may summarise Matthew 5:17–18 and Ephesians 2:15 as follows: The purpose of the law of Moses was never to come to naught. It would be perpetual. But as a legal code, it was abolished by the Saviour’s sacrificial death.


Matthew 5:17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (NLT)


Fulfilled the prophets.


Matthew 5: 17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (NKJV)


Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophets. In His first coming alone, He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies concerning Himself.


All Scriptures bear witness to Christ, even where there is no explicit prediction. Moses wrote about Christ.


John 5:39, 46 (NKJV)

39 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.


Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (NKJV)


All the promises of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have Christ himself and all that God promised through Him.


2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (NKJV)


Ceremonies and sacrifices


The ceremonies, sacrifices, and other elements of the Old Covenant were “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things.” (Hebrews 10:1).


Hebrews 10:1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. (NKJV)


The tabernacle was “holy places made with hands,” but they were never meant to be permanent. They were “copies of the true” (Hebrews 9:24).


Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; (NKJV)


The law had a built-in expiration date, being filled with “fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:10).


Hebrews 9:10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. (NKJV)


In His fulfilment of the law and prophets, Jesus obtained our eternal salvation. No more priests are required to offer sacrifices and enter the holy place (Hebrews 10:8–14). Jesus has done that for us, once and for all. By grace through faith, we are made right with God.


Colossians 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (NKJV)


The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ fulfilled them all. They were pointing towards him. He was the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sin.


Hebrews 9:12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (NKJV)


The priesthood that stood between worshippers and God has ceased.


Hebrews 7:23, 24 (NKJV)

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.


The physical temple has ceased to be the geographic centre of worship. Now, Christ himself is the centre of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the “temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no geographic centre—no Mecca, no Jerusalem.


John 4:21, 23 (NKJV)

21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.

23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.


John 2:19, 21 (NKJV)

19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.


Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (NKJV)


Coram Deo


Fulfilment means that Christ has completed the old and brought it to its full expression in the new. The revelations received at Mount Sinai are complete. Through his death and resurrection, he established the New Covenant. The infilling of the Holy Spirit embossed God’s moral character in His elect.


The establishment of civil law based on ethnicity has ceased. The people of God are no longer a unified political body, an ethnic group, or a nation-state but are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all states. The predictions of the prophets concerning the Messiah are realised in Jesus. The holy standard of the law was perfectly upheld by Christ. The ceremonial observances were finally and fully satisfied. In His perfect life, Jesus fulfilled the moral laws. In his sacrificial death, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws. Christ came not to destroy the law given to His people by God but to fulfil it. Thus Jesus has made them inoperative upon the New Covenant people.



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