Why does Paul contradict himself when it comes to keeping the law?

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Is there a contradiction

Some get confused by some of Paul’s verses about keeping the law of God or not. Superficially, these verses may appear to the shallow reader contradictory to each other. But once they are understood in their full context, all misunderstanding is cleared. The following are some of such verses:

“By abolishing … the Law of commandments contained in ordinances…” (Ephesians 2:14–15).
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).

To clear the confusion, we need to first understand that the Bible clearly teaches that there are two different and distinct laws – God’s law and Moses law.

Close examination

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul was simply referring to the ceremonial law of Moses which was “a shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:14-16). This law came to an end by Christ at the cross.

However, in Romans 3:31, Paul was referring to God’s moral law or the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). In this passage, Paul asserts that God’s law is a revelation of the holy will of God and of the eternal standard of morality.

Jesus came to this earth to magnify God’s moral law (Isaiah 42:21). And He proclaimed, “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 [b]jot or one [c]tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” ( Matthew 5:17,18).

By fulfilling the law Christ simply “filled” it “full” of meaning—by giving men an example of perfect obedience to the will of God, in order that the same law “might be fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:3, 4). And He showed by His life of perfect obedience that His followers can, through the enabling grace of God, be obedient to His law.

Grace and the law

The plan of justification by faith reveals God’s regard for His law in demanding and providing the redemption. If justification by faith abolishes law, then there was no need for the redeeming sacrifice of God’s Son to free the sinner from his guilt, and thus give him to peace with His Maker. Grace and the law go hand in hand.

True faith means clear willingness to fulfill the will of God in an obedient life to His law (Romans 3:28). Genuine faith, built on love for the Lord, can lead only to obedience. The fact that the Son of God bore such pain because of our sin to God’s law is the greatest incentive for our obedience (1 John 3:1). One of the main glories of the plan of redemption is that while it makes possible the sinner’s salvation through faith, it also offers strong motives for obedience (Philippians 4:13).

The plan of salvation by faith puts God’s law in its proper place. The purpose of law is to convict of sin (Romans 3:20) and to show the high standard of morality. The sinner who is faced with the law views his wickedness. The law thus, leads him to Jesus (Galatians 3:24). Then, faith and love will produce in him a new desire and willingness to obey God’s law. This obedience comes from faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26). And it is motivated by love (Romans 13:8, 10).

End time controversy

The question of the authority of God’s law will become a controversial issue at the end of time. It will be claimed that Christians no longer need to give whole obedience to God’s law. This will be Satan’s last deception upon the world. “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). But the Bible declares that the true saints will be “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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