Skip to content
February 19, 2011 / Daniel

The Law and the Christian, Part Four

A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...

Image via Wikipedia

The phrase “law of Christ” appears twice in NT.

Gal. 6:2    Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Cor. 9:21  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

The exact meaning of this phrase is disputed.  However, I believe that it is most probable that the “law of Christ” refers to “the law of Moses as redefined by Christ” (Richard Hays).   In Christ, the law is redefined in two primary ways.

1)  The law is redefined by Jesus’ own teaching ministry.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus interprets the Torah, reminding his audience of the law’s original meaning and reshaping it in light of the changes that were about to take place in redemptive history.   In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states that he did not come to abolish the law, but he came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17).   The meaning of the word “fulfill” is illustrated in v. 19.  “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”    In this text, to fulfill the law means  “to do it” and “to teach it.”

Jesus’ interpretation of the law can be found throughout the gospels.  In the Sermon on the Mount, he expounds on the laws against murder, adultery, divorce, vows, and revenge (Matt 5:21-42; cf. Matt. 19:1-9).  He summarizes the law with the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12).    The correct interpretation of the law is often at the center of Jesus’ debates with the Pharisees.   He teaches on the sabbath (Matt 12:1-7).  And since he is the “lord of the sabbath,” he has the right to adapt the sabbath laws in light of his ministry.    He develops the food laws and reshapes these rules in light of his ministry (Matt 15:10-20; Mark 7:19).

However, the highlight of Jesus’ redefinition of the law is his teaching on the love commandment (Matt 22:34-40).   The commands, to love God (Deut 6:5) and to love your neighbor  (Lev. 19:18), are of utmost importance.   These two commands summarize the entire law and they serve as the interpretive key to understanding the rest of the law’s commands.    Jesus’ teaching on the love commandment is picked up by both James and Paul (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; James 2:9).

2)  The law is redefined by Jesus’ person.

Jesus tells the rich young ruler that you cannot truly obey the law unless you decide to follow him (Matt 19:16-22).    The law was always intended to bring us to Jesus.   Jesus tells the Pharisees that “someone greater than the temple is here” (Matt 12:6).   Jesus is the fulfillment of the law’s institutions and rituals.   He is the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7).  And his death on the cross is the final sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:14).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: