According to Galatians, the Law of Christ replaced the Law of Moses.



According to Galatians and the Acts 15 Church Council, the Law of Christ has been nullified and replaced by “the Law of Christ.” However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments … shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”

The purpose of this article series is to explain this apparent contradiction. 

All quotes are from the NASB.


This section provides the historical context of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.


At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell only on Jews. For some years, the church consisted only of Jews and the church was a sect of Judaism. (See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.)  Like all other Jews, these Jewish Christians believed that uncircumcised people are unclean (Acts 10:8-9, 28; 11:3) and that Jews will be contaminated if they have social contact with such people. It is for that reason that Peter said:

You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him” (Acts 10:28; cf. 10:14-15; 11:34-35).


But, some years after Christ died—after Israel forfeited its final opportunity to accept Christ (See Seven Last Years.)—God gave the Holy Spirit also to uncircumcised people just like to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 10:44-45; 11:17). At the same time, God gave Peter the dream of unclean animals (Acts 10). God did this to indicate to the Jewish Christians that non-Jews are not unclean (Acts 11:9) and must be accepted into the church (Acts 11:12). For example, Peter interpreted his dream as follows:

God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

And, later, Peter explained the events of Acts 10 that God “made no distinction between us and them” (Acts 15:9), referring to the uncircumcised people as “them.” 

Non-Jews were always allowed to convert to Judaism, but on condition that they allow circumcision and comply with the requirements of the Law of Moses.  The events of Acts 10 meant that non-Jews must be accepted as Christians without circumcision and without conversion to Judaism. 


However, this caused the Jewish Christians to be persecuted.  Almost all Christians at the time were Jews and their Jewish relatives and friends persecuted them; firstly, because they believe in Christ as the Messiah, but they also regarded these Christian Jews as ‘contaminated’ through their association with uncircumcised people:

Those … try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Gal 6:12).


For that reason, some Jewish Christians put pressure on the Gentiles Christians to accept circumcision.  One technique was to avoid the Gentiles, even by shutting uncircumcised Gentiles out from their worship meetings:

They wish to shut you out so that you will seek them” (Gal 4:17; cf. 2:12).

To justify their demand that the Gentiles be circumcised, particularly some Jewish Pharisees, who have become Christians (Acts 15:6) claimed that Gentile Christians cannot be saved unless they comply with the Law. This means that they had to convert to Judaism through circumcision (Acts 15:5). 


In Galatians, Paul explicitly wrote against circumcision (Gal 6:12) but also warned that “every man who receives circumcision … he is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (Gal 5:3). The battle was fought on the circumcision front, but circumcision functioned as a sign that a person has converted to Judaism (effectively, has become a Jew).  Circumcision, therefore, was a sign, but what these Christian Pharisees demanded was that the Gentiles Christians become as “zealous for the (whole) Law” as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were (Acts 21:20).


Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to resist this pressure on the Gentiles to be circumcised, arguing that “man is not justified by the works of the Law” (Gal 2:16).  Given this early church context, Galatians is possibly the earliest of Paul’s letters in the New Testament. 


Paul wrote that God’s people (both Jews and non-Jews) are now no longer under (subject to) the Law of Moses. For example, he stated, “I died to the Law” (Gal 2:19) and “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal 3:24-25).  

The allegory in Galatians 4 is painfully clear on this matter. It describes the Law of Moses (symbolized by Mount Sinai) as “slavery” (Gal 4:24, 25) and concludes:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1)

Since the Law of Moses was added more than 400 years after God made the covenant with Abraham (Gal 3:17), Paul argues that that covenant is permanent while the Law of Moses was a temporary addition “until the seed would come” (Gal 3:19). The “seed” (of Abraham) is Christ (Gal 3:16):

For this reason, Paul based his theology on God’s covenant with Abraham, which he interpreted as justification by faith.


Why did God give a perfect law to Israel; only to abolish it later?  Paul explains:

Why the Law then?
It was added because of transgressions
” (Gal 3:19).

The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal 3:24)

In other words, due to their “transgressions” (v19), Israel needed a “tutor” (v24).

The Law of Moses “was added” to the covenant with Abraham.  God made the covenant with Abraham before his grandson Israel moved to Egypt. During the long years as slaves in Egypt, Israel had forgotten the God of Abraham and has grown accustomed to idol worship. Therefore, after God brought them out of Egypt, He gave them His law in a form that was ‘perfect’ for their weakened spiritual condition of the time, given God’s purpose with Israel, for that nation was to be the conduit of God’s word to the world and to serve as a cradle to receive the Son of God.


In Galatians 4:1-3, Paul compares the Israelites to children; “held in bondage under the elemental things of the world” (Gal 4:3).  In his letter to the Colossians, Paul described these “elemental things” as “decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’” (Col 2:20-21). In other words, the “elemental things” are a list of things that must be done and not be done. Due to their weak spiritual condition, this is what Israel needed and this is what God gave them in the form of the Law of Moses.

Since the Law was added to the covenant thousands of years after Adam and hundreds of years after Abraham, the Law of Moses was not the form in which God gave His ‘law’ to Abraham or Adam. Nor was it the form in which God gives His eternal law to angels, for their desires are different.

Galatians is therefore quite clear that the Law of Moses is no longer applicable to God’s people.


Consequently, Christian Jews such as Peter and Paul no longer lived like Jews:

Before the party of the circumcision arrived, Peter lived “like the Gentiles and not like the Jews” (Gal 2:14; cf. v12).

Paul referred to his opponents as, “those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves” (Gal 6:13).

Paul begged to Galatians, “become as I am, for I also have become as you are” (Gal 4:12). In other words, Paul already lived like a non-Jew.


The Church Council in Acts 15 was called to bring resolution in the Galatian controversy (See When was Galatians written?).  It agreed with Paul that Gentile Christians do not have to be circumcised (Acts 15:1, 5), which also means that they are not subject to the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5, 10). For further discussions of this, see also Comments on Matthew 5:17-18.

Acts 21:17-26 shows the consequences of that decision. It tells how Paul went into the lion’s den (Jerusalem), where thousands of Jews have become Christians, “and they are all zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20). They were concerned that Paul was teaching “the Jews” “to forsake Moses” (Acts 21:21). They were quite happy that Paul taught the non-Jews not to observe the Mosaic Law because that was what the Acts 15 Church Council decided (Acts 21:25; cf. Acts 15:28). As explained in the article on the Acts 15 Church Council, the council made an unfortunate distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians concerning the Law of Moses.  Jewish Christians continued to live according to the Law of Moses.


While the earlier chapters of Galatians argue against the Law of Moses, the later chapters introduce the concept of “the Law of Christ.”

In chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul emphasizes that, although the Law of Moses has been nullified, that does not mean we are free to sin.  There still are norms of good and bad. He lists “deeds of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:13-26) and said:

You were called to freedom (from the Law of Moses – see Gal 4:24) … only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).

He concludes:

Bear one another’s burdens,
and thereby fulfill the law of Christ
” (Gal 6:2).

Given the nature of the controversy which Galatians deals with, the mention of “the law of Christ” implies that it comes in the place of the frequently mentioned “Law” (of Moses). See the article Law of Christ for further information.


1 Corinthians 14:37 refers to the Law of Christ as “the Lord’s commandment.” Paul wrote:

The things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.”

The Lord” does not refer to God, the Father.  First Corinthians consistently makes a distinction between “God” and “the Lord” (1 Cor 1:3-4, 9; 6:14; and 8:6). These verses identify the Father alone is as “God” while they refer to Christ as “Lord.”  In several verses, that letter identifies “the Lord” specifically as Jesus Christ, for example, “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:2; cf. 7, 8, 10; 5:4, 5; 9:1; 11:23; 12:3; 15:31, 57). In other instances, the context identifies “the Lord” as Christ, for example, “they … crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8; cf. 4:5; 7:10; 11:20, 26, 27). These examples show that “the Lord,” in First Corinthians, consistently refers to Jesus Christ. “The Lord’s commandment,” therefore, are Christ’s teachings; also described as “the law of Christ.” 


1 Corinthians 9 confirms that “the law of Christ” came in the place of the “law of Moses.” This is the only place, apart from Galatians, where Paul explicitly mentions the “Law of Christ.”


First, 1 Cor 9:20 contrasts Paul with the Jews. The Jews are “under the Law” but Paul Himself is not “under the Law” (of Moses):

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew,
so that I might win Jews; 
to those who are under the Law,
as under the Law
though not being myself under the Law,
so that I might win those who are under the Law;

In other words, when he was with Jews, he behaved like a Jew; as if he was subject to the Law of Moses. But the important point is that Paul explicitly states that he is not under the Law of Moses.


The next verse contrasts Paul with the non-Jews.
They are “without law” (the law of Moses):

1 Cor 9:21 to those who are without law,
(I became) as without law,
though not being without the law of God but
under the law of Christ,
so that I might win those who are without law.

This means that, when he was with non-Jews, he lived like a non-Jew.  As stated above, Paul wrote to the Galatian Gentiles, “I also have become as you are” (Gal 4:12).

According to verse 21, Paul is under “the Law of Christ” but not without “the Law of God.” That means that “the Law of Christ” is “the Law of God.” The Law of Moses is also the Law of God, but, as argued above, it is an adaption of God’s law to fit the needs of one specific nation at one specific point in history.


Paul wrote that he (and, therefore, all Christians) is NOTunder (subject to) the Law” but “under the law of Christ.” This sets a clear contrast between these two laws and implies that the Law of Christ replaced the Law of Moses. This also applies to Jews, for Paul himself was a Jew, and even he was not “under the Law.


The roles of God and Christ in the letter to the Colossians

This is an article in the series on the question: Is Jesus the Most High God? What view does the letter to the Colossians present of Christ Jesus? 

    • Is He God?
    • Are we saved by Christ Jesus, or by God?
    • Who created all things?
    • Who reconciled all things to God; God or Christ Jesus?


This article is a study of the letter to the Colossians. The purpose is to understand who Christ Jesus is. The next article addresses that question more specifically. The current article lays the foundation.

The letter to the Colossians is important for this study because, of all the New Testament letters, Colossians has perhaps the highest view of Christ Jesus, apparently because Christ’s supremacy was challenged (Col 2:4) by the “deception” (Col 2:8) in ancient Colossae.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).


This article comes to the following eight conclusions:

Jews questioning Jesus1) Colossians never refers to Jesus Christ as God. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly DISTINCT from God. For example, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), “is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), and was raised from the dead by “God” (Col 2:12; cf. 1:1).

2) In this consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus, Colossians uses “Father” as another title for God (e.g. Col 1:1-3, 17).

3) The letter uses the title “the Lord” ONLY for Jesus (e.g. Col 1:6, 17; 4:24); never for God. Thayer’s dictionary mentions that, in the view of some, except for certain verses where it is not entirely clear to whom the title “Lord” (kurios) refers, Paul NEVER refers to the Father as “Lord.” 

4) We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior. For example, the Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13), qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12), and canceled out the certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

5) In fact, this letter does not mention ANYTHING THAT Jesus do or did. The Father did EVERYTHING (cf. John 4:34; 5:19). Apart from salvation, God is also the active Force in creation (Col 1:16). Christ has a passive role. 

Worship Jesus6) However, everything that God does, He does THROUGH His Son. God created all things “through” Jesus (Col 1:16), saved us “through” his blood (Col 1:14), and reconciled all things to Himself “through” the Cross (Col 1:20; cf. 2:15). Therefore, we also thank God “through” His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23). In all things, Christ is the Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5).

7) God not only reconciled humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled THE THINGS IN HEAVEN to Himself (Col 1:19-20). Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15; cf. Heb 2:14). These statements confirm that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16).  

8) Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as IN UNITY WITH HIM. For example, believers have died with Christ, were made alive with Him (e.g., Col 2:20, 13; 3:1), are Christ’s body (e.g. Col 1:13, 18), subjects of His Kingdom (Col 1:12-13), and are “in Him” (e.g. Col 1:13, 14; 2:11).

– End of Summary- 

God and Jesus are Distinct.

The title “God” appears 21 times in the letter, but never refers to Jesus. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God. For instance:

image of the invisible GodHe (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) Some other translations read, “exactly like God, who cannot be seen” (Contemporary English Version), or as “the visible likeness of the invisible God” (Good News Translation).

God” raised Jesus from the dead (Col 2:12).
Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Col 1:1)

The letter, therefore, maintains a consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus.

Father is another name for God.

The letter refers five times to the “Father.” Two of these instances simply make a distinction between the Father and the Son:

Joyously giving thanks to the Father
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
(Col 1:11-13)

It was the Father’s good pleasure
for all the fullness to dwell in Him

Him” refers to “His beloved Son
in verse 13 (Col 1:19; cf. 1:13).

But the other instances confirm the distinction between “Jesus Christ” and “God” and show that “Father” is another name for God:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ
by the will of God …
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We give thanks to God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (Col 1:1-3).

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father
(Col 3:17)

Our Father who is in heavenGod is also “our Father” (Col 1:2) because we are sons of God (e.g. Rom 8:14). We pray to “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:9). He is our Father because He loves us and cares for us.

In Colossians, the word “son” is only found in Colossians 1:13, where Jesus is “His beloved Son.” This is not mentioned in Colossians, but Jesus is the Son of God in a different way: He is “the only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14).

According to Colossians 1:19, it was God’s will for “all the fullness” to dwell in Jesus. In the first place, this means that “in Him (Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). In the second place, it means that the Son received “the fullness of Deity” from the Father: It is not His own. This concept is further discussed in God is the Head of Christ.

Christ Jesus is called Lord.

The title “Christ is found 26 times in this letter. The name Jesus is used 6 times, but never alone, always as Jesus Christ or as Christ Jesus. Jesus was a common name at the time. The addition of “Christ” was necessary to identify Him. In this letter, Paul actually mentions somebody else by the name of Jesus (Col 4:11).

The title “the Lord” appears 11 times; most often simply as “the Lord”, but also as:

      • Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 1:6),
      • The Lord Jesus” (Col 1:17), and
      • The Lord Christ” (Col 4:24).

The title “Lord,” therefore, is not used for God; only for Jesus.

The Father is the Savior.

We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior:

Grace is from “God (Col 1:6).

He selects His messengers. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (Col 1:1). He was made a minister of the church according to the stewardship from God bestowed on him (Col 1:25).

God is the Savior: The Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13) and qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12). God canceled out the Certificate of Debtcertificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:14; cf. 2:12-13). God raised the believers from death when He raised Jesus from death (Col 2:12-13; 3:1). We must thank “God the Father” through Christ (Col 3:16-17; cf. 1:3, 12).

God gives growth to the church (Col 2:19). He chose the believers (Col 3:12) and will open up a door for the word (Col 4:2). It was God’s will to make known to His saints what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles (Col 1:27-28).

God brought peace to the Universe.

Not only did God reconcile humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ:

It was the Father’s good pleasure …
through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace through the blood of His cross;
through Him, I say,
whether things on earth or things in heaven
” (Col 1:19-20).

This implies that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16). As I understand it, the Father knew what will happen if His Son comes as a human being to this world, filled with violence. God did not determine what would happen; it is simply the natural result of a clash between the forces of good and evil.

These verses also indicate that the Cross did not reconcile God to us: It reconciled us to God. Christ died to change us: His death did not change God.

Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15). Hebrews 2:14 similarly states: “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “The rulers and authorities,” therefore, refer to “the devil” and his angels (Rev 12:7, 9).

For a further discussion, see:

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in salvation.

God is the Creator.

By Him (Jesus) all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth …
all things have been created through Him and for Him

(Col 1:16).

The NASB reads, “by Him all things were created,” but later adds that “all things have been created through Him.” This means that God is the Creator, but God created through His Son. The basic meaning of the Greek word translated as “by” in this verse is “in.” This is made clear by other translations of this verse:

For in him all things were created …
all things have been created
through him and for him
” (NIV).

Through him God created everything
in heaven and on earth” (Good News Translation).

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in creation. For a further discussion, see God created all things through His Son.

Christ has a passive role.


The letter refers to “Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24), which reminds me of Gethsemane, where “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), indicating His severe emotional suffering. All evil forces gathered their focus on Him to make Him use His power to act against God’s will (Luke 22:42). But apart from these “afflictions,” this letter does not mention anything which Jesus does or did. The Father did everything. This principle, namely that God is the active Force, as opposed to Jesus, is consistent with what Jesus said, as recorded in John:

My food is to do the will of him
who sent me and to accomplish his work

(John 4:34).

The Son can do nothing of Himself,
unless it is something He sees the Father doing

(John 5:19).

I can do nothing on My own initiative.
As I hear, I judge … I do not seek My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me
” (John 5:30).

The words that I say to you
I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me does His works

(John 14:10).

Colossians presents God as the active force both in creation and in salvation, but He does everything through His Son. Therefore, we also thank God through His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23).

Redeemed through unity with Christ Jesus

Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as in unity with Him:

Christ and the believers form a Single Body.

His beloved Son … is also head of the body,
the churc
h” (Col 1:13, 18, cf. v24).

“The head, from whom the entire body … 
grows with a growth which is from God
” (Col 2:17-19; cf. 3:15).

The believers form the body and Christ is the head.

Believers are the subjects of His Kingdom.

The Father … transferred us to
the kingdom of His beloved Son
” (Col 1:12-13).

When we are “rescued” (Col 1:12), we become the subjects of a spiritual kingdom of which His Beloved Son is King.

Believers are “in Him.”

The redemption of believers through unity with Jesus is also presented with phrases such as “in Him” or “with Him”:

In Whom (In His beloved Son) …
we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins
” (Col 1:13, 14).

In Him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision made without hands
” (Col 2:11).

In Him you have been made complete
(Col 2:10; cf. 1:28, 2; 2:6-7).

Believers died with Christ and were made alive with Him.

The letter describes believers as united with Christ in His death and resurrection:

You have died with Christ” (Col 2:20).
He made you alive together with Him” (Col 2:13).
You have been raised up with Christ” (Col 3:1).

Having been buried with Him in baptism,
in which you were also raised up with Him
through faith in the working of God,
who raised Him from the dead
” (Col 2:12).

Believers did not literally die with Christ. Nor have they been literally made alive with Christ. But they are rescued through His death and His resurrection.

The Meaning of Christ’s Death

It is not Christ’s death that was important; it was His life. His entire life was a test, and the last days and hours of His life were the highest possible test. He lived a sinless life, even to death, and His resurrection was confirmation there-of. His “afflictions” (Col 1:24) were physical but mostly spiritual. Jesus said:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father,
and He will at once put at My disposal
more than twelve legions of angels
” (Matt 26:53)?

But He “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15) by never sinning by going against God’s will. Even when God withdrew His presence from Jesus, leaving the disoriented Jesus to cry, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me” (Matt 27:46), He did not sin or use His power for His own benefit. For a further discussion, see – The Seven Seals of Revelation.


God reconciled all things—things on earth and things in heaven—to Himself through the death of His Son. Therefore, Paul presents believers as united with Christ.  They are united with Him in His death, they are united with Him in His resurrection, and “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28 – from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill).  This seems to be more than a symbol: it is a mysterious reality.

Final Conclusions

The letter to the Colossians:

      • Has the highest view of Christ Jesus of all of the New Testament letters.
      • Never refers to Jesus Christ as God.
      • Presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God.
      • Uses “Father” as another title for God.
      • Uses the title “the Lord” only for Jesus.
      • Presents God the Father as the Savior.

According to Colossians:

      • God reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ.  
      • God is the active Force in creation. Christ has a passive role.
      • Everything that God does, He does through His Son. 
      • Describe believers as in unity with Christ.

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