Sunday, 6 May 2012

Fulfilling the Law

"Owe no one anything except to love one another; for the one loving the other has fulfilled [the] law. For ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not kill,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if [there is] any other commandment in this word, it is summed up in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilment of [the] law" (Romans 13:8-10, author’s own translation).
     If Christians are free from the Mosaic law, in what sense do they "fulfill the law"? There is a clear distinction between doing the law, on one hand (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10, 12), and fulfilling the law, on the other (Romans 8:4; 13:8, 10; Galatians 5:14). For those who desire to live under the law’s ordinances, consistency demands that they keep the whole law (Galatians 5:3), whereas in Christ the law is fulfilled by the biblical principle of love.
     The law of Moses served its designed purpose in bringing adherents to the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:19-29); thus the church of Christ is what God intended the people of Israel to become (Galatians 6:16; cf. 3:6–4:7). Accordingly, Christians are not under the law but fulfill the law by living out God’s purpose. The apostle Paul stresses love, not as a rule to be obeyed but as an overarching principle characterizing a new way of life (cf. Galatians 5:13–6:10).
     What is "the law of Christ" that disciples of Jesus are to fulfill (Galatians 6:2)? Scholarly opinions range from a loosely-defined "law of love" to a continuance of the Mosaic law (filtered through the teachings of Christ). But note the thoroughly antithetical thrust of Galatians, i.e., the true gospel vs. a false one (1:6-12; 2:5, 14), Paul’s former life as a Jew vs. his new life as a Christian (1:13-23), liberty vs. bondage (2:4; 4:1-9; 5:1), circumcision vs. uncircumcision (2:7-9; 5:2-4), works of law vs. faith of Christ (2:16, 20; 3:2, 5-27), and flesh vs. spirit (3:3; 4:21-31; 5:5-26). Within this context it is apparent that the law of Christ is separate and distinct from the law of Moses. From the very beginning of the epistle, the crucial role of the truth of the gospel is highlighted (1:1-12, 23; 2:1-9, 14-21; 3:1-14, 22-29; 4:4-7; 5:7, 13). The law of Christ is simply the practical expression of Christlike love, exemplified in the teachings and example of Christ, and revealed in and obeyed as the gospel of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:21; Romans 3:27; 8:2).
--Kevin L. Moore

Related Posts: Is the Law of Moses Still Binding?Was Paul Anti-Law?

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