I want to share with you this revelation about how we approach scripture and what it says about our relationship with God.
The other day I was reading in “Our Daily Bread”, Ephesians 2:14-15
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”
When I read this , Matthew 5:17 came immediately to mind:
“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.”
On the face of it this appears to be a contradiction. On the one hand Paul says Jesus abolished the law, on the other hand Jesus himself say he does not. As with all careful reading of scripture, you must be sure to not take the item out of context; so I went back through each section and carefully read the surrounding text as far as possible to get all the material that was related to those sections. The more I read the more clearly each position seemed to hold.
I want to stop here for a moment to remind each of us who became Christians as adults, of the sensation of finding yet another piece of evidence that the Bible must be false. When I first came to read scripture, I approached it in hostility, with a plan to “prove” it wrong and thus be free of its demands. And I found plenty of ammunition to support that view. Unfortunately I was falling against Gods very plan to make the Gospel a stumbling block to the wise and a trap for the proud (look to 1 Cor. 18-25, & Prov. 3:34). This is the very condition that permits a contradiction like I have laid out above, to exist in our hearts and prevent us from finding the truth.
Because I believe that only God can give proper revelation of scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit, I took the contradiction and in faith gave it to God to point out. I filled my mind with the two passages and the surrounding text, and just before bed prayed that God might reveal it to me. As I slept, He did the work in my mind.
The next morning I had an opportunity to pray and think through the issue. Our local fellowship group at work has been dwindling to just two faithful attendees and on this morning number two could not make it. As I contemplated the issue in the meeting room that I had booked for our fellowship, it became clear that I was seeing two facets of the same truth, just as people talk of two sides of a coin or several faces on a diamond.
In Paul’s abolishment we are dealing with the letter of the Law and works as a means of righteousness and salvation. We know from Romans 3:23 ” all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This indeed Jesus did abolish – the Law is no longer a dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles – those who can try to approach keeping the law because of their circumcision, and their deep training in attempting righteousness through works versus those who have no chance for they are steeped in sin at birth. There is a parallel here to the no-spirit approach to scripture: Jesus abolished the approach of working out what scripture says through works – the clever use of my mind alone to understand what God is saying. Instead He fills me with His spirit and in faith I trust Him to reveal the truth.
In Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law, we are dealing with God’s promise through the everlasting covenant to guide and shepherd men. The Law was given to provide a guide towards righteousness, and as proof of our inability to attain it through works (lots in Romans on this point). Jesus fulfilled this covenant by providing the perfect righteousness in Himself – He is our righteousness. And so in the fulfillment of His plan to guide and shepherd men, He provides the way Himself. The parallel for our spirit filled approach to scripture is Jesus himself provides the way that belief in Him allows the Holy Spirit to reside in us and provide the truth behind scripture so that we can see the multifaceted nature of the truth.
Thus we can see that the truth is in fact that Jesus abolishes the Law (no more salvation by works and the separation of classes that entails) and does not abolish the Law (fulfills the ultimate purpose of the Law to guide and shepherd men towards righteousness and relationship with God). We also must let Jesus abolish the proud and wise approach to scripture (which would separate us from those who are less adept at interpretation) and allow Him to fulfill via the Holy Spirit, His covenant to reveal the truth through faith in Him.
I pray that we will all trust God to reveal truth in the face of error, and that we will face each such event as a chance to build faith, which is the glory of the new covenant.