The Law of Christ (OT Interpretation #6)

20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 

– 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 NKJV

25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 

– James 1:25 NKJV

12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

– James 2:12-13 NKJV

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

– Galatians 6:2 NKJV

In the fourth post in this series we noted that there are many commands in the Bible. There is one set of commands in the Old Covenant called the Law of Moses, and there is another set of commands in the New Covenant called the Law of Christ. The New Testament teaches that we are not under the Law of Moses, but we are under the Law of Christ (i.e. the law of liberty). We have been considering the Old Covenant Law, but now we must turn our attention to the New Covenant Law so that we can understand which commands we are obligated by God to obey. A failure to distinguish between these two sets of commandments leads either to Judaizing (i.e. extreme versions of the Hebraic Roots movement) or lawlessness (i.e. “hyper-grace”), both of these are deadly errors which we must avoid for the sake of our souls.

Jesus’ Commandments

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. 

– Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV

46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say

– Luke 6:46 NKJV

What commands are included in the Law of Christ. To put it simply, the Law of Christ is made up of the commands of Jesus Christ. He commissioned His apostles to go make disciples teaching them to obey all that He had commanded. Anything written in red letters is the law that we are obligated to live by. Jesus is the King Who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and we are not only commanded to confess Him as Lord, but to submit to HIm as Lord.

The Law of Christ Fulfills the Law of Moses

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 

– Matthew 5:17 NKJV

12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets

– Matthew 7:12 NKJV

8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law

– Romans 13:8-10 NKJV

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 

– Luke 10:25-28 NKJV

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of Moses. His teaching is not the opposite of that national law which was given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. Jesus did not come to create a lawless people, but a people that is zealous for good works. But neither is His law identical to the Old Covenant law. He came to fulfill that law, not teach it. That is, His law fulfills the righteousness that the Law of Moses only pointed to. The Law of Moses was a type, and the Law of Christ is the fulfillment. 

Under Moses’ Law there were sacrifices. But those sacrifices were only a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant Law also had commands that directed the people of Israel how to organize their society; these civil laws were for a national people. But the commands of Jesus Christ teach the church how to relate with one another and under what circumstances to bring about church discipline. In the old law the adulterer was stoned, in the new the adulterer is put out of fellowship until he repents. And there were aspects of that civil law which were of a moral nature. Men were forbidden to commit adultery, though there was no prohibition on polygamy or divorce. In the New Covenant law God’s holy people are forbidden not only adultery, but also divorce, polygamy and even lust. The Old Covenant law was a shadow of the righteousness God desires of His people, but the Law of Christ fulfills that righteous standard. The Law of Christ fulfills the imperfect and incomplete Old Testament type. 

This New Covenant Law includes all the commands of Christ, but is summed up in two commands, namely to love the Lord God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When the lawyer answered well as to what the heart of God’s law is, Jesus commended Him and told him to walk according to that law. But then the lawyer sought to justify his hatred for his enemies by asking “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus made it abundantly clear that God expects us to love everyone, even the despised Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). The Old Covenant commanded loving Israelites, but allowed the Israelites to hate and kill their enemies. But the Law of Christ commands us to love all men, even our enemies. We are to love God, and this includes loving all who are created in His image. 

If we walk in these two commands we will not commit adultery, because we will not even walk in lust. We will not steal because we will not even covet what belongs to another. We will not murder because we will count all men as our neighbors, and none as our enemies, loving all, forgiving all, praying for all, doing good to all and blessing all (Luke 6:27-28). In this way the commands of Christ, summed up in the two great commandments (i.e. Love God, love others), fulfill the Law of Moses.

The Type & The Fulfillment Overlap

6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; … 12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. 

– Romans 2:6-9, 12-16 NKJV

25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God

– Romans 2:25-29 NKJV

It can be confusing when we read the New Testament because it often seems to blur the lines between the type and the fulfillment, between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ. Consider Romans chapter 2 as an example of this. It speaks of those who are Gentiles keeping “the righteous requirements of the law.” But these individuals are not circumcised as the law demands. And those unbelieving Jews who obey the command to be circumcised but “who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” will be condemned for their rebellion (Romans 2:8). So here we see one law spoken of, but with a twist. A command from the Old Law is not included in the law which is spoken of in this passage. The law, according to Paul, does not include physical circumcision, thus he is speaking of the new law. But at other points in the passage he is clearly referring to the law as known by the Jews. It is this blending of the type and the fulfillment that has often tripped up many saints. 

But we need not be tripped up. We learn that the Gentiles in view in this passage are circumcised in the Spirit and have the law written on their hearts. This is the New Covenant promise for all who believe in Jesus. These people fulfill “the righteousness of the law” because they “exceed the righteousness” of the Old Testament law by obeying the Law of Christ (Matthew 5:20). Those who live in obedience to Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit “fulfill the law.”

By The Spirit

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

– Romans 8:1-4 NKJV

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 

– Romans 8:12-14 NKJV

6 “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live

– Deuteronomy 30:6 NKJV

31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– 32 “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 

– Jeremiah 31:31-33 NKJV

26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them

– Ezekiel 36:26-27 NKJV

In the Old Covenant the people were promised that after the exile in Babylon God would bring them to their land and circumcise their hearts with the Holy Spirit. This happened on the day of Pentecost, the day on which the Jews celebrated the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. But it was also the day that they commemorated the giving of the Law of Moses. It was on this day that the promise of heart circumcision was fulfilled, and the law of God began to be written on the hearts of God’s chosen people when the Holy Spirit was poured out.

The Spirit comes in the heart of Jesus’ disciples to guide them into the ways of God and empower them to fulfill Jesus’ commands in their lives. This is the grace of God. Being under grace is not opposed to being under law, it is the means by which we are able to fulfill the Law of God in Jesus Christ.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. 

– Psalm 119:14-16 NKJV

28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

– Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith

– 1 John 5:2-4 NKJV

Psalm 119 is basically a love song about God’s Law. In its original context we know that it was written by Israelites about the Law of Moses. But they longed for the righteousness of which they saw glimpses in that Old Covenant law. As members of Jesus’ New Covenant people this psalm was written for us to express our love not only for God, but for His righteousness which is expressed in the Law of Christ.

What wonderful statues we see come out of the lips of Christ! How can a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit not stand in awe of such perfect moral and spiritual truth?! The scribe that heard the gracious words come from Christ expressed the delight of a disciple well, “To love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). Truly we are not a lawless people, but a people indwelt by God’s Spirit so that we can love righteousness and rejoice in truth. The Law of Christ is not a burden, but a delight to the born again soul. Psalm 119 belongs to the disciple of Christ!

2 thoughts on “The Law of Christ (OT Interpretation #6)

  1. Does the terminology “no longer under the law” mean that the law as given through Moses no longer has any jurisdiction over an individual and therefore no longer needs to be obeyed or does it mean that the redeemed individual is no longer under the law as far as its force or capacity to condemn the sinner?

    Secondly, how is it that the law of Moses (old covenant) and the law of Christ (New covenant) differ as far as content is concerned when both Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel (36:25-27) describe the new covenant with the exact same terminology of that of the “old covenant”. Terms such as My law ( תֹּֽורָתִי), statutes ( בְּחֻקַּי), ordinances ( וּמִשְׁפָּטַי)? So who did Moses get the law from?
    The difference between the ” the law of Moses” and the “law of Christ” is the manner in which they are administered.

    1. Gary,

      Sorry, I just saw your comment.

      Not being under the law of moses means we are no longer under obligation to obey (1 cor 9:20-21). We have died to the law of moses, and been joined to the risen Christ (Rom 7:1-6).

      The Old Law and the New Law do use the same terminology in the Old Testament because the Old Law was a type of the Law that Christ brought. Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets as He teaches in Matthew 5. The fulfillment of the type is the commands of Christ. As Hebrews says, there is a change in the law (Heb 7:12). The fulfillment is always greater than the type. But there is also a continuation of from the type to the law. as I mentioned in the post we see this in rom 2. one can fulfill the law without circumcision which was commanded in the law. so law means both the old and the new. the type and fulfillment blend in some ways.

      God gave Moses the Law. It was God’s law. But it was a law for a national people under certain circumstances. it had a shadow of the true law of God that came in Christ, but was compromised. for example divorce was allowed for the sake of the hardness of Israel’s heart, but that was not God’s will. So in the fulfilled law, divorce is not permitted. same with swearing oaths etc. If it is the same law but only administered differently, then the laws would not be different. But the law has a different content altogehter.

      The key is to understand that Jesus did not come to abolish or teach the law of moses and the prophets, but to fulfill them. there are many things that overlap from the imperfect type of Israel’s comprehensive national law, but it is a different law. depending on the context of each passage, sometimes the type is used to represent the reality, some the law is said to be entirely different, sometimes the old law is “changed”. it is a subtle distinction. the key is to understand what Jesus said, He fulfilled the law, nothing will pass away until all is fulfilled. the first post in this series touches on this issue a bit.

      God bless

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