“… a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” ~ Galatians 2:16
Yes, I am fully aware of Paul’s words to the believers in Galatia – and am in full agreement. Believers in Christ are not under the law – the law given to Moses – but we are still under law.
What law is that?
Paul, writing to Rome, within a very few verses describes the law to which he is still bound as both “God’s law” and “the law of the Spirit”:
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” ~ Romans 7:25
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” ~ Romans 8:1-2“
When he writes to Corinth, he calls it both “God’s law” and “Christ’s law”:
“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 9:21
Obviously, Christ’s law is different from the law given to Moses; the “law of sin and death.”
So what is the law of Christ?
It is a law written on our hearts, for that is the way Jeremiah reveals it to be under the reign of the Messiah:
” ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ” ~ Jeremiah 31:33
What kind of law is written on the heart?
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Jesus, Matthew 7:12
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:37 (See also Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:26-28)
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 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.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” ~ Paul, Romans 13:8-10
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” ~ Galatians 5:14
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2
The law which is written on the heart – the law of Christ, under which all of His followers are slaves – is a law of love. This love is three-fold: It loves God. It loves others. It is active.
Does the law of love mean that we are not to obey any of the commandments in the law given to Moses? Of course not. All of the ten commandments, save the one regarding the Sabbath, are affirmed in the New Testament. For the believer, every day should be regarded as a Sabbath to the Lord, in which we rest in reflection on His grace toward us (Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Acts 2:42-47 – but in which we also work to care for His creatures (Luke 13:15) and rescue His lost children from the pit (Luke 14:5). And many other commandments given through Moses are specifically repealed in the new covenant: kosher laws, sacrifice, required feasts.
Some have concluded that any commandment given through Moses but not specifically affirmed in New Testament scripture should not – indeed, must not – be obeyed by the believer. They have concluded that, in view of God’s cancellation of the whole law, His silence on a given matter in the New Testament must be interpreted as prohibition – especially with regard to gathered worship.
I strongly disagree with this “law of silence” or “regulative principle”, and I do so on several grounds:
- It is nowhere explicitly expressed in scripture as a commandment to be obeyed as a guiding principle of interpretation. (And the scriptures cited to support it as examples rely on leaps of imagination and bounds of assumption that go far beyond the logical limitations of a necessary inference.)
- Other exceptional rules must be appended to it in order for it to justify practices which are already in place that are not specifically “authorized” in scripture, usually under a “law of expediency” which is also not explicitly expressed in scripture and whose citations are torturously manufactured.
- A “law of silence” speaks where God has not spoken. Instead of letting His silence express that He does not desire to express a preference – or does not have one – it assumes that He forbids.
- A “law of silence” is absurd on its face. If that which is commanded under the old covenant – instrumental accompaniment for worship in song, for example – is forbidden under the new covenant unless specifically affirmed, then:
- It is forbidden to make an offer of peace nor to accept surrender from enemies in war. (Deuteronomy 20:10-15)
- Women would have to wear men’s clothing, and vice-versa. (Deuteronomy 22:5)
- Latrines would be forbidden. (Deuteronomy 23:12-13)
That’s why those who are adamant about their “law of silence” are so careful to limit it to gathered worship; they can sense the absurdity of it if applied to life generally – even if they are blind to the absurdity of it with regard to worship as well. For scripture makes no distinction between behavior/obedience in gathered worship and in living one’s daily life. Trying to ferret out such a distinction in scripture is impossible; un-Christlike behavior in gathered worship is unacceptable; un-Christlike behavior in life is unacceptable. You do not have to read 1 Corinthians more than once to discern that.
Paul shares with the believers at Corinth – and us – a snapshot of love so that we will know how to obey the law of Christ and behave with one another before God in Jesus, our Savior:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Just in case we’ve forgotten – like they had.
Love is the mindset that led Christ to empty Himself, take the form of a servant, and be obedient even unto death on a cross (Philippians 2).
You won’t find just five acts of worship in the law of Christ; instead, you will find this teaching:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:1-2
Love transforms us to lead a life of worship. And did you see? It leads us to discernment of God’s will.
Love for God goes hand-in-hand with obedience:
But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. ~ 1 John 2:5a
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. ~ John 14:23-24
Love is not one-sided; it is wholly reciprocal. And that shouldn’t surprise us; it was God who loved us first.
We love because he first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19
If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. ~ Deuteronomy 7:12
The law of love is the law God obeys, too; it is His very nature, character, and being:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8
Oh, there’s lots more to be shared on the subject, but that’s the short version of why I believe Christians are still under law. Not Moses’ law. The law … of love.