"Christ is the end of the law
so that there
may be righteousness for everyone
will help in understanding what it 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"
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"
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 fulfill 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
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.
Galatians 6:2 states,
"Carry each other’s burdens, and
in this way you will fulfill the
law of Christ”
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 most 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 your heart,
with all your understanding and with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself is more
important than all 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 category
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.
First 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.” First 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. “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 “spirit of the law”
is often contrasted to
the “letter of the law.”
In that context, the spirit of the law has to do with the deeper meaning or reason for the law, whereas the letter of the law refers to exact wording, literally applied, without regard for any deeper meaning. Children are good at emphasizing the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit of it. The following example may help:
A child comes home from school and is told, “Do not watch TV until you finish your homework.” A few minutes later, his mother finds him watching cartoons on his tablet, with his homework untouched. The child protests that his mom only told him not to watch TV—she never said anything about watching cartoons on a tablet. In this example, the child has kept the letter of the law, but he has violated the spirit of the law. If the mother had said, “Finish your homework before you watch cartoons,” then perhaps the child would have watched a baseball game instead—once again keeping the letter of the law. She could have been even more specific: “Do not watch any kind of show on any electronic device until you finish your homework,” but then the child might decide to go outside and play, leaving his unfinished homework inside. The frustrated mom could have said, “Don’t do anything until you finish your homework,” but the child, taking it literally, could then claim to be unable to open his book bag to get his homework. Obviously, focusing on the letter of the law can be a tactic to negate the intent or spirit of the law.
Leviticus 19:14 says, “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind.” Here the letter of the law forbids exactly two things: cursing the deaf and tripping up the blind. However, no law can explicitly cover every possible situation. The spirit of the law in Leviticus 19:14 forbids taking advantage of the disabilities of another, no matter what those disabilities are.
The letter of the law may be narrow, but the spirit of the law encompasses something far broader—and is therefore more difficult to obey. It is possible to go through life without ever cursing a deaf man or tripping a blind man, but it is far more difficult to never take advantage of someone else’s weakness.
In the Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law according to the spirit of the law,
not the letter.
The law forbade murder, but Jesus said that anger or mockery makes one guilty of murder, because the same attitudes that produce murder first produce anger and contempt (see Matthew 5:21–22). The law forbade adultery, but Jesus said a lustful look is adultery in the heart. A man who never touches a woman other than his wife but who indulges in sexual fantasies is obeying the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it (see Matthew 5:27–28). And, according to Jesus, obeying the letter of the law but not its spirit is not an option.
When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment,
He invoked the spirit of the law:
"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”
Every Old Testament law and every standard of behavior for the Christian can be summed up in these two commands because they
embody the spirit of the law; that is,
the two greatest commandments express
the ultimate point of all the other laws.
In Luke 10 a teacher of the law, “wishing to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (verse 29). It might be possible to keep the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” if neighbor is defined narrowly enough.
Jesus’ response is the story of the Good Samaritan, in which He demonstrates that your neighbor is anyone you come into contact with. In fact, the real question is not “who is my neighbor?” but “who will I be a neighbor to?”
The spirit of the law requires that we be neighborly in a proactive manner,
looking for people who need help. Ultimately, none of us are able to keep this law perfectly, in letter or in spirit, and we are therefore convicted as sinners in need of a Savior.
People who focus on the letter of the law often point to their compliance as a means to justify themselves, even as they flagrantly violate the law’s intent; however, God will judge according to the spirit of the law, not just the letter.