Do we have excess baggage in our lives? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The obvious question from this verse is… What is the law of Christ?
First, law is instituted when common sense is uncommon and self is only self-centered. Law is enacted when guidelines do not or no longer serve their intended purpose. Law is specific and there is no gray area. A speed limit posted for 45 mile per hour is a specific maximum. Traveling 46 MPH is just as much a violation of this speed law as is 66 MPH. Both speeds violate the same law; just as scripture tell us that we if violate one of its laws we violate all of the laws. There is none perfect; no not one; Romans 3:10.
Jesus assured us, “For the law was given through Moses; [but] grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Paul told disciples, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing [i.e. fulfilling the law], it is the gift of God – not because of works[living within or following the law of Moses], lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8). The grace of God appeared, teaching us (Titus 2:11). The gospel is the message of grace to be believed for salvation (Mark 16:15). We are saved by grace; however, under Moses’ law men had also or included justification by law. There is a tendency for *disciples to seek righteousness through keeping of a supposed system of law also. They seemed, as many of us still do today, to forget that keeping the law still required a sacrifice for forgiveness.
Disciples: Mathetes (a learner), Matheteuo (a pupil, scholar), Mathetria (female learner).
1. CAN ONE BE SAVED BY WORKS OF THE LAW?
Paul gave a definite negative answer to this question. “For no human being will be justified in his (God’s) sight by works of the law, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 2:20). “By works of the law shall no one be justified” (Gal. 2:16). “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:21). “Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law” (Gal. 3:11).
The law had a weakness: it required a penalty or cost for any violation; i.e. Click it or Ticket. It [the law] made nothing perfect (Heb 7:18). A person was/is required to keep all the law or be cursed (Gal. 3:10), and none could keep it all, so all had the sentence of death. We continue to deal out a “personal death penalty” when we continue to try ourselves for past sins for which we have sought forgiveness. This is Satan at work in our lives; telling us we are not truly forgiven.
Author’s note: When Satan tries to remind me of my past sins, I remind him of his future. When we violate a law, it remains on our book of life on earth. When God forgives us, it is no more held accountable to us as it would be under the law [see Hebrews 10:17]
Law has no power to save, only to judge, fine and punish. John assures us that all of us sin (1 John 1:8). James 2:10 adds, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it”. If we keep 99% of the law but fail in the remaining one percent, what happens? We are back to zero! EXAMPLE: If we make 59 months worth of car payments out of 60 in the repayment coupon book we do not own the car, truck, motorcycle, or RV; the bank does. They are the ones who made the law and agreement to which we are obligated.
So if keeping most of the law won’t do it, what will? It is all by grace! If one is to be saved, it must be totally by grace. One cannot be saved partly by law keeping and partly by grace. If grace saves only to the extent that one is able to keep law, then none can be saved. If one could keep all the law, he would need no grace. Our traditional challenge to others who fail to keep all the law, our perception of right and wrong, is “Try harder!” While giving lip-service to grace, we frustrate disciples [learners] by urging that they must attain it by keeping all the law – or earning a passing score, whatever that may be. The claim of justification by law keeping was “some other gospel” according to verse 6 in Galatians 1:6-9. Any effort to be justified by legal means is a falling away from grace (Gal 5:4). Grace is not a quality of law. They are at opposite ends of the continuum or spectrum.
Huge Caution: Don’t confuse God’s grace with an all loving God that will simply overlook everyone’s sins at the final judgment of mankind. Believing in God and accepting Jesus Christ as our master is not the same as believing that there is a God; .i.e. Yes, I believe that there is a God.
A New Testament legal system did not replace the one given in the Old Testament. The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus. Grace and truth were not a system of law to replace the old one. God did not send another law, but He sent His Son in whom we may be justified. To those who are saved persons, Paul explained, “For *sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).
*Law of sin is judgment.
Justification apart from law is by grace, as is a free gift, to those who believe. Righteousness is not attained by rule keeping, but it is a free gift (Rom. 5:17). Galatians 3:23 through 4:7, shows us that faith has come, the law is no longer in charge and that God sent His Son instead of another legal step. Ours is a personal relationship in Him instead of a legal relationship. Christ fulfilled the law as in “completed” it. He didn’t add to it, rather he completed it; replaced it; finished it… a new covenant; a new commandment.
2. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD?
Proverbs 17:3 Fire (the law) tests the purity of silver and gold, but God (love) tests the intent of the heart.” The Spirit [not our personal efforts] makes us new creatures in Christ. “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom 7:6). This new relationship is accomplished through the new birth (John 3:3), by which we are all sons [children] of God through faith (Gal 3:26), and in which our life becomes hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). It is not a legal relationship, but a spiritual one. What Christ provided for us is not letter-of-the-law, but the spirit-of-the-law of relationship (Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron as one man does the countenance off another”).
We enter into a covenant relationship. God made a covenant with Abraham and sealed it by circumcision (Gen. 17:9; a practice expressly intended for the Israelite sons and descendants of Jacob). Later the law was given to guide the covenant people (Deut. 4:4).
The new covenant is sealed in us by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). This is done when we receive the Spirit at the time of our obedience to the gospel; the other teachings are given to guide those in covenant relationship. God’s covenant with the people of Israel through Abraham is not always applicable to the Gentile (Greek) born again believer of New Testament times.
The new covenant is not a written code of conduct. Paul wrote that God “has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code judges, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Hebrews 8:7-8 further emphasizes that the new covenant would not be like the old one. His law [The Law of Christ] is to be written on our hearts.
How can law be written on our hearts if we are not under law? To say that we are not under law is not to say that we are not under the lordship of Christ and the sovereignty of God. Law has a range of meanings. Law may be a legal system which demands perfect obedience. Law also can be a principle of action. We are justified through the principle of grace through faith (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:27; 8:1). That grace activates our love. Jesus Christ came to fulfill; i.e. complete the law therefore the law of Christ (fulfilled) is to love HIM with all your heart, might, mind and living moments. The second is like unto the first, love your neighbor as yourself. THIS IS THE LAW OF CHRIST.
3. WHAT IS THE NEW COVENANT RULE OF ACTION?
It is love which God in His grace infuses into our hearts. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God initiates the principle of loving action, writing His law, the Law of Christ, upon our hearts. This however does not negate tough love. Fact being it demonstrates true love.
The love which He has created in us is the master key to unlock the chain of any other law. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Any other commandment is summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the *law” (Rom. 13:8). *Law of Jesus Christ.
Paul emphasizes this again in Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but, through love, be you servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one short phrase: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” What greater and more comprehensive law – principle of action – could we want?
How would a listing of authoritative demands help a person show love? In America we have a law forbidding discrimination and prejudice. Does this law therefore supersede our personal feelings? Do we now have no personal prejudices or discriminatory senses or urges? The answer is obviously NO! A law cannot change my heart, feelings, or intensity.
In tennis is is “the accepted practice” to sit on the sidelines as an observer but one is not supposed to jump up and down as one might at a football game. However, when my granddaughter plays tennis, the thrill of a good serve or counter-serve is too much for me to contain and it simply GETS OUT as an emotion. My celebration outburst is the intent of my heart (kavanah in Hebrew). God looks at the intent of our heart. Not if we can sit quietly on the sidelines only clapping when appropriate. Think about this in our worship services too. We often restrict outbursts of CELEBRATION and mumble an occasional amen. Why do we do that?
God’s law directs us into a right relationship with Him and man through His son Jesus Christ. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37). This is the Law of Christ; the one He came to fulfill. A law can set up standards within we must operate but they cannot CONVINCE us or the correctness of that law. It is external to us; not written on our heart.
All through the ages, God was trying to help us simply to love Him and one another. Man has tried consistently to include lawful requirements, but God sent Christ to fulfill it; complete it; finish its requirement. Men argue, fight, and divide over lawful interpretations and thereby defeat the love into which God was directing. “For in Christ Jesus [the doctrine of] neither circumcision nor un-circumcision (legal hair-splitting) is of any avail, but faith working through love” (Gal 5:6).
As [New Testament] covenant people, we are guided by principle, not justified by them. When we sin; i.e. step outside of love, as Christians, we depend upon God’s grace for our forgiveness rather than obeying more laws (1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-6). This is often the divider within denominations. One can’t associate with the other because they don’t fit the [laws] doctrines of a particular denomination/religion. Tell me how this lines up with the Law of Christ?
“How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1). Paul warns against abuse of our freedom, then cautions, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify [center on] the desires [lusts] of the flesh” (Gal. 5:13-16).
4. WHAT IS THE LAW OF CHRIST?
Some would contend that the entirety of the New Testament writing is the law of Christ. The law of Christ is not a book, a listing, or a code of laws. Where is such a catalog of laws to be found? The Jews had/have 613 laws in their legal code; Halakha served many Jewish communities as an enforceable avenue of civil and religious law. How many laws has Christ given us? Since we are to keep the law of Christ, surely someone has counted and listed those laws so we should have a check-list, right? Where is it?
Christ’s law is love; yet He gives us commands, examples, exhortations, warnings, and principles as guidelines for the expression of love… Galatians 5:6
Christ’s law is love. His laws (plural) are (1) love God and (2) love man. Love is the new commandment (John 13:34) which John’s readers had heard from the beginning of their discipleship (1 John 2:7). “And now I beg you not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have heard from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love” (2 John 5).
This takes us back to Galatians 6:2 “And this commandment we have heard from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:21) is a re-emphasis of the first and second commandments. Love is the royal, kingly law (James 2:8).
JIV: Works demonstrates our love of Christ and fellow brothers and sisters. We take responsibility and demonstrate it by our “works.” Might it be bold to suggest that these works also mean that we as born again believers demonstrate or work via the use of our Spiritual Gifts within the local church, albeit, the Kingdom of God? [JIV: DrJ’s Introspective View]
Expressed love fulfills the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Love is the perfect law, the law of liberty (James 1:25, 2:12) – liberty from a judgmental legal code and efforts for legal justification or even litigation. It is the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12), that ageless law which conveys the intent and message of the law and the prophets.
How beautiful this is! God initiates the response of love: “We [know how to] love, because he first [showed us how he] loved us.” He begins the working of His law by writing them in our hearts. He wants us to express it. His directives guide us in expressing it: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). So, our expressions of love becomes God’s expressions of love through us (Ephesians 5: us being the reflected light), “For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). No burden! “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
We are justified by grace through faith in obeying the gospel. Efforts to be justified by law would nullify the grace of Christ. Our response to God’s grace is the love which God initiates in us. The New Testament writings guide our love into proper expression. This includes how we forgive ourselves once we take a burden or violation of his commandments to him. If we continue to hang ourselves for a sin forgiven, we are followers of the *law, not grace; i.e. we dupe ourselves into believing that the violation is written on a book somewhere so though forgiven, it can and will not be es-ponged from our record.
*”Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10).