Having read the Bible for years, today I read with an eye for things I’ve missed, words I may have previously taken for granted. We are covering the conclusion of Ephesians 2:11-22 in our Bible study. What caught my eye this week is Eph 2:14-15
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace…
Abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances?
If that is the case then what do we do with the words of Jesus in Mathew 5:17-18.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 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.
As always the law of noncontradiction applies. Scripture does not contradict scripture. Only our misunderstanding contradicts scripture. I wondered. As was the case with words like “judgment” and “power”; perhaps there were multiple Greek words for the English word “Law”.
There were not.
“Law” in Eph 2:15 is the same “Law” in Mat 5:17-18 and everywhere else it is used in the New Testament.
Law- nómos: anything established, a custom, a command, of any law whatsoever, a law or rule producing a state approved of God, a precept or injunction – the rule of action prescribed by reason – of the Mosaic law – the Christian religion: the law demanding faith, the moral instruction given by Christ, esp. the precept concerning love – the entire collection of the sacred books of the OT.
“To be (abolished) or not to be (abolished)? That is the question.”
I dug deeper.
Turns out – Eph 2:15 is a proof text for one of the worst heresies in church history.
Marcion (Markeeon) of Sinope 85 –160 AD was a nontrinitarian, gnostic theologian who preached that the God of the Old Testament was an angry vengeful God of Israel who had created the world from whom Jesus came to save us. Gnostics called this OT God the “Demiurge”. Marcion’s interpretation of Ephesians 2:15 was that “If Christ destroyed the Law by his teachings, the Law could not be good. Paul called the Law “good”, but for Marcion, the creator’s justice was only a cover for his savagery. From Marcion’s perspective, the Law revealed sin and thus enslaved people to the creator (The father). Christ came to abolish the entirety of this Law to free humanity from slavery to the creator. Since Christ came as the destroyer of the creator’s Law, he proved that the Law was evil, yet if the Law was evil, so was the divine Lawgiver.” Destroyer of the Law – Oxford Academic
Logical, but dead wrong.
Interestingly, Marcion-esque thinking continues to impact the body of Christ today. One recent example is Andy Stanley’s declaration that the church needs to “Unhitch from the Old Testament”. Think about it. Have you ever heard things like “That was just the Old Testament.” “The law was for the Jews” “We are not Jewish.” and “We aren’t under the law. We are under grace”? Martin Luther wrote, “love God and sin boldly…”
Maybe you were taught that the law does not apply to us today.
“We aren’t under the law. We are under grace” is true in the proper Hebrews 4:16 throne of grace context. However, a commonly mistaken implication is that the Old Testament is nothing more than a history book with a few good life application stories. The law is for Judizers and Pharisees. Errors like this are the unintended consequences of poor discipleship and a lopsided gospel that is itself rooted in a need to please people. Ouch! So often “Daddy God loves you and has a plan for your life.” supplants rather than compliments the message that apart from Christ we are “dead in our trespasses and by nature children appointed to wrath…” Eph 2:1-3
The root of Marcion’s error and ours is dualism.
Let’s face it. We are immersed in a culture of opposites, left vs right, good versus evil, this or that”. Ask most anyone “what is the opposite of light?” and they will say, “darkness”. The New Age which is just an old age conglomeration of Babylonian occultism and Gnostic dualism teaches that light and darkness, good and evil, etc., are interdependent. Like opposite sides of a coin, one can not exist without the other. Interestingly, dualism is also the root of dialectical materialism, the foundational teaching of Karl Marx. An estimated 110 million people died as a direct result of his teachings in the 20th century alone.
But I digress…
Darkness is not a thing. Darkness is the absence of light. As Roland Baker says,
“Our God is not the God of this or that. He’s the God of this and that.”
As we learned in Ephesians chapter one God’s will and plan existed before the foundations of the world. It is a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph 1:10 In the end there are but two categories in creation.
“In Christ who gives us light” and “darkness”.
Hence Jesus did not come to destroy but to fulfill…” Mathew 5:17-18 “Fulfill” is the same word Jesus repeatedly used throughout the Gospels. Plēróō- to fulfill, to cause God‘s will as made known in the law to be obeyed as it should be, and God‘s promises given through the prophets to receive fulfillment.
The abolishing of the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two… has been accomplished in the sense that the war was won before it even started. However, we will only realize its complete fulfillment in the fullness of time. We will know the fullness of time has arrived when Heaven and earth pass away Mathew 5:17-18. Until then the Law is the standard by which He conforms us to the image of His Son. Rom 8:29 The law informs us that we need to come boldly to the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 It defines our needs and inspires our gratitude for His grace. The Law is not bad because it kills 2 Cor 3:6 The Law is good because it kills. It binds our flesh, our pride, our selfishness, and self-centeredness that “is the root of all our troubles” to the proverbial altar and slays it as a living sacrifice so that we may be transformed by the renewing of our minds Rom 12:1-2. Only then can the spirit give life.
Our God is the God of this AND that. Among other things, He is a forgiving, wrathful, patient, jealous, consuming fire Heb 12:18-29. His thoughts and ways are not like ours. They are higher than ours. Isa 55 He alone defines Love. He alone is Love. Everything He did, does, and will ever do is love, in spite of how it might offend our natural, dualistic, and yes – Marcion sensibilities.
In the meantime, we can rest in the fact that as believers we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph 1:13-14