Law of Christ—What is It?
The Bible shows that New Testament believers are not under the Mosaic law, but rather under the law of Christ:
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:19-21
As you can see, the apostle Paul was “under Christ’s law,” not under the Mosaic law. He only became “like one under the law” on certain occasions in order to “win those under the law,” meaning win Jews over to the superior New Covenant. We’ll look at what makes the New Covenant “superior” momentarily.
Other passages clearly show that Christians are not under the Mosaic law, such as:
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
…we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
So believers are not under the Old Testament law, but rather “under Christ’s law.” Here’s another passage that verifies this:
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
But what is the law of Christ? Neither of these verses that mention the law of Christ define what it is. Scripture interprets Scripture and the rest of the New Testament shows us what the law of Christ is. Notice how Jesus answers an expert in the law who sought to test him:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“The law and the prophets” is a reference to Old Testament Scriptures; and, more specifically, to the moral law since the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were foreshadows of Christ and were fulfilled in Christ:
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
The passage is addressing the dietary and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament: “what you eat or drink” refers to dietary laws and the others refer to ceremonial laws. We are not to allow legalists to judge us negatively by these things. In fact, all of them—dietary laws, the Jewish festivals, the New Moon celebration and the Sabbath day—were mere shadows of what was to come, meaning Jesus Christ, the Anointed One. “A shadow” means a foreshadow, testifying to the reality to come. The real thing, however, is not the shadow. “The reality is found in Christ” and if you’re a believer YOU are “in Christ.” Are you following?
Everything in the law and prophets from Genesis to Malachi were types and shadows of the true reality, which is Christ and the spiritual rebirth that comes through his seed (which is “sperm” in the Greek) and the power of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:9 & 1 Peter 1:23). More than 600 laws were given to the Hebrews in the Old Testament and Jesus fulfilled every one of them; he completed or stopped every one of them, including the Sabbath.
Upholding (Fulfilling) the Moral Law
So the dietary and ceremonial laws were fulfilled in Christ and thus we are “released from” them (Romans 7:6). Of course, we are released from the moral law as well since the Messiah also fulfilled the moral law. As such, we’re not under the moral law. Now, some dubious believers might think that this gives them a license to sin, but Paul faced this same question in the first century and notice his response:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
So, while believers are not under the moral law, we uphold it:
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
How exactly do uphold the moral law; that is, establish it and fulfill it?
so that the righteous standard of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The “righteous standard of the Law” refers to the moral law, which is fulfilled in believers “who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.” This means learning to live out of our new spiritual nature as led of the Holy Spirit:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
You see? Walking in the spirit is the key to fulfilling the moral law for the New Testament believer, which is one-in-the-same as “participating in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). It means being spirit-controlled rather than flesh ruled and is the automatic result of loving God, which is the primary part of the law of Christ and includes “coming near to God” (James 4:8). If you’re “near to God” that obviously means you have a close relationship with your Creator. You can read more about how to do this here.
The Law of Christ is the Law of Love
Let’s get back to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
All the Old Testament moral laws can be condensed into two basic rules with three applications: LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE as you LOVE YOURSELF. When you do this you automatically fulfill all the moral law of the Old Testament, which is verified by several passages:
“In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets.”
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The law of Christ or law of love is also referred to as “the royal law” in Scripture:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
Christ’s law — the law of love — is conveyed in various ways throughout the New Testament. For example:
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
By the way, loving others means walking in tough love when necessary just as much as it means walking in gentle love. See this article for details.
The Superiority of the New Covenant, which is Based on “Faith Working Through Love”
As noted earlier, the New Covenant that believers have with God is superior to the Old Covenant that the Israelites had:
5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises…
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
The New Covenant is “superior” because we’ve been released from the law—the Torah—as shown in Romans 7:6. We serve in the new way of the Spirit wherein we receive spiritual regeneration (Ephesians 4:22-24), not in the Old Covenant way of the written code, i.e. the law. This is great because “the letter [the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Repentance and faith are the conditions for entering into the New Covenant (Acts 20:21 & Hebrews 6:1) and the terms are “faith working through love,” which means faith is activated by love (Galatians 5:6 Amplified). When we walk out of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) we walk out of faith and thus negate it, which isn’t good because faith is the foundation of our covenant. Why is love “faith working through love” so important? Because love is the fulfillment of the moral law. It’s the law of Christ, the law of love.
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