Category: Law

Galatians 6:2 states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (emphasis added). What exactly is the law of Christ, and how is it fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens? While the law of Christ is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:21, the Bible nowhere specifically defines what precisely is the law of Christ. However, most Bible teachers understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated were the greatest commandments in Mark 12:28-31, “… ’Which commandment is the more important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

The law of Christ, then, is to love God with all of our being, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In Mark 12:32-33, the scribe who asked Jesus the question responds with “…to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this, Jesus and the scribe agreed that those two commands are the core of the entire Old Testament Law. All of the Old Testament Law can be placed in the categories of “loving God” or “loving your neighbor.”

Various New Testament scriptures state that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law, bringing it to completion and conclusion (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). In place of the Old Testament Law, Christians are to obey the law of Christ. Rather than trying to remember the over 600 individual commandments in the Old Testament Law, Christians are simply to focus on loving God and loving others. If Christians would truly and wholeheartedly obey those two commands, we would be fulfilling everything that God requires of us.

Christ freed us from the bondage of the hundreds of commands in the Old Testament Law and instead calls on us to love. 1 John 4:7-8 declares, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 5:3 continues, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”

Some use the fact that we are not under the Old Testament Law as an excuse to sin. The Apostle Paul addresses this very issue in Romans chapter 5. “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). For the follower of Christ, the avoidance of sin is to be accomplished out of love for God and love for others. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others. Our motivation for overcoming sin should be love, not a desire to legalistically obey a series of commandments. We are to obey the law of Christ because we love Him, not so that we can check off a list of commands that we successfully obeyed.

The key to understanding this issue is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law is binding on us today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.” The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect. The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies. If Christ fulfilled some of it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.

An exposition of Romans 10:4,  which says: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for  everyone who believes,” will help in understanding what is means that Christians  are not under the law. The apostle Paul clarifies the effects of original sin in  Romans 2:12, stating “All  who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under  the law will be judged by the law.” All men stand condemned before God, whether  they are Jews or not, or to put it another way, whether they have the Law of God  or not. Paul also states “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of  God” (Romans  3:23).

If we are without Christ, we are justly condemned in God’s  sight by the Law that was given to His servant Moses. However, we might argue  that those who are not Jewish and therefore do not benefit from the knowledge of  the Mosaic Law (including the moral and ceremonial laws), should not be  condemned in the same way. This is dealt with by the Apostle in Romans 2:14-15, where he  states that the Gentiles have the essence of God’s legal requirements already  ingrained and so are just as much without excuse.

The Law is the issue  that has to be dealt with in order to bring us into a right relationship with  God. “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in  Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be  justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing  the law no one will be justified” (Galatians  2:16). This passage reveals that the Law cannot justify or make righteous  any man in God’s sight, which is why God sent His Son to completely fulfil the  requirements of the Law for all those who would ever believe in Him.

Christ Jesus redeemed us from the curse that has been brought through the law  by becoming a curse for us (Galatians  3:13). He substituted Himself in our place and upon the cross took the  punishment that is justly ours so that we are no longer under the curse of the  Law. In doing so, He fulfilled and upheld the requirements of the Law. This does  not mean that Christians are to be lawless, as some advocate today—a teaching  called antinomianism. Rather, it means that we  are free from the Mosaic Law and instead under the law of Christ, which is to  love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love  ourselves.

Christ became the end of the Law by virtue of what He did on  earth through His sinless life and His sacrifice on the cross. So, the Law no  longer has any bearing over us because its demands have been fully met in the  Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ who satisfied the righteous demands of the  Law restores us into a pleasing relationship with God and keeps us there. No  longer under the penalty of the Law, we now live under the law of grace in the  love of God.