The Law will Disappear when “It is finished!”

In the debate over the Law, people get caught in a back-and-forth between Jesus and Paul. Jesus is quoted on behalf of the Law, and Paul on behalf of its cancellation. As the argument continues, various issues are brought up: the unity of Scripture, the superiority of Christ’s words over Paul’s, and a host of other Biblical and theological issues.

Until Everything is Accomplished 

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. For truly I tell you, 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, 17-18).

I believe that Jesus did fulfill the Law, in its entirety. Jesus said not one jot or tittle would disappear from the Law until everything was accomplished, and at a key moment in Jesus’ ministry, he announced that everything was finished — at that moment.

It is Finished! 

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!‘ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

When we consider Christ’s death on the cross, we can talk about what it accomplished theologically, historically, personally, and probably many other ways. It is important to note that differing understandings are not necessarily mutually exclusively.  One person’s understanding does not automatically cancel or negate someone else’s.

Now if this is all we had on the relationship between Christ’s death on the cross and the cancellation of the Law, there could be a protracted debate, including a discussion of the fact that two different words are used,  τετέλεσται (tetelestai) from the cross (John 19:30) and γένηται (genētai) (Matt. 5:18) in his teaching. Fortunately this is not all we have.

He Canceled the Written Code, Nailing it to the Cross 

According to Paul, the Law was also nailed to the cross, and was thereby cancelled. “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 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” (Colossians 2: 13-14).

Yes, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He said that the law would not pass away until everything was accomplished.

And, true to his word, he did fulfill the law–perfectly. And the law did not pass away until everything was accomplished–the accomplishment of which he announced just as he died.

Please, don’t jump in with, “Oh yeah? So now we can do whatever we want? So incest is okay? Beastiality and murder are okay? We’re free to run wild and do whatever feels good?”

In Galatians and Romans Paul announced the cancellation of the Law in no uncertain terms. But he had been thinking about this for a long time. He didn’t leave us bereft of guidance. I’ll be getting to that soon.

[For a list of posts on the Cessation of the Law, go here.]

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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4 Responses to The Law will Disappear when “It is finished!”

  1. Lauren says:

    It’s so refreshing to hear someone else talk about this topic! So many people cling to the law as a way to measure themselves because they can’t seem to rest in the fact that their sins have been paid for. ALL of them! They miss the fact that there’s a new covenant now! It’s not entirely their fault sometimes, because so many preachers preach legalism. But, I wish everyone could know the peace and joy that comes when the burden of sin is truly lifted from their hearts when they realize that “it is finished”! Thank you for your posts :o)


  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I just found your site through a friend. I want to say first off that I am not a Christian, I’m tied most closely to the Jewish faith, so please excuse any ignorance that I might have when dealing with Christian Scriptures. I enjoy studying the Scriptures of other religions. My question is this: Doesn’t Jesus also say in Luke that not one stroke will pass from the law until heaven and earth pass away?

    Luke 16:16-17: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

    According to this declaration, wouldn’t the law still be alive because heaven and earth have certainly not disappeared? He says the law is proclaimed until John, but also says the least stroke of a pen is not being dropped out. It seems to me that he is somehow affirming an eternal aspect to it. Again, Jesus’ final verdict on the issue doesn’t affect my life personally, but I wanted to ask out of curiosity because of his statement in Luke. Thank you for your time.


  3. Steve Sherman says:

    What’s fascinating to me is that tetelestai has an accounting aspect. As in, the SUM of the DEBT of humanity’s sin has been PAID IN FULL ! This was paid by our Kinsman Redeemer who paid the purchase price to get us out of the slavery of sin. And now we are His slave !


    • Ron Goetz says:

      And depending on where one is in one’s walk with God,what an individual’s personal trajectory is, that redemption can be experienced as being a bondslave, or as an incredible freedom.

      “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.”

      “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.”


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