Did Paul contradict Jesus?

I had an interesting discussion with Zach Nix tonight.

This happens from time to time. Zach's brilliant and wise and also a Colts fan (so he's had a rough week). He led Small Group this week in one of my favorite passages: the second half of Ephesians 2.

Now I've read Ephesians a lot. I focused on it for almost three years between undergrad, grad school, and coming on Staff. I used to have it memorized. I've read commentaries on Ephesians. But Zach raised a new question for me, one I'd never considered.

In Ephesians 2:14-16 we see this:
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

So, Jesus abolished the law. Cool. Thanks, Paul. That makes a lot of sense. The law provided a barrier between Jews and Gentiles and, in doing so, kept Gentiles from accessing God. No law, no barrier, nor problem.

But Zach pushed this one.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
17"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. 18I tell you the truth, 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. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

So, did Paul contradict Jesus? I'm going to have to think about this one.

Thanks, Zach.


  1. Since Christ fullfilled the law it is abolished vis a vis the believer. That is, in Christ we are free from the law insofar as it is something that separates us from God, or something that we have to by our own merit or effort fulfill. Christ abolished the law for us precisely by fullfilling it.

  2. "Our righteousness," the righteousness that is demanded of us in the passage Zack cites, is Christ's righteousness, given to us. It is not our own.