The Law of Christ: the Law Christians are under

Law of ChristChristians are no longer under the Mosaic Law, but we are under the Law of Christ.

“What is the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament, or Mosaic Law?”

Not only is this one of the most common questions I receive, it’s also one of the most confusing. Since we’re under the New Covenant instead of the Old, this makes some people think we’re under no law whatsoever. This practically implies license to sin.

As much as the Old Covenant contained a Law, the New Covenant contains a Law

  • Galatians 6:2 If we bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the Law of Christ.
  • In 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 Paul said he was not under the [Mosaic Law], but under the Law of Christ.

The Law of Christ is summarized in a few passages:

  • Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
  • Romans 13:8-10 He who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Galatians 5:14 All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Law of Christ is a more concise version of the Mosaic Law. Rather than try to remember 613 commands, Christians focus on loving God and loving others. In doing so we fulfill the Law of Christ.

The Law of Christ sets a higher standard than the Mosaic Law

Six times Jesus quotes the Mosaic Law saying, “You have heard that it was said…”, then adds, “But I say to you…” In each instance He sets the bar higher:

  1. Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder (Exo 20:13; Deut 5:17) But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.”
  2. Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (Exo 20:14; Deut 5:18) But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
  3. Matthew 5:31-32 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (Deut 24:1) But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery.”
  4. Matthew 5:33-34 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ (Lev 19:12; Num 30:2; Deut 23:21) But I say to you, do not swear at all.”
  5. Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ (Exo 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21) But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
  6. Matthew 5:43-44  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (Lev 19:18) and hate your enemy.’ (Deut 23:6) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

The Law of Christ looks to sin in the heart

  • What was previously sinful physically – murder and adultery – is now sinful when it takes place in our hearts.
  • What was previously allowed – divorce, oaths, and retribution – is now forbidden.
  • What was previously not commanded – loving our enemies – is now commanded.

We couldn’t keep the Mosaic Law which had the purpose of revealing our sinfulness (Rom 3:20, 5:20, 7:7). How much less can we keep the higher Law of Christ?

Thank God for His love and mercy in giving a Savior. By grace through faith we receive forgiveness and righteousness we could never obtain on our own (justification). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His grace mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).

Do you have any questions on the Mosaic Law or the Law of Christ? As a Christian did you see yourself under Law? If so, which one?

You can listen to a sermon I preached on this topic here.

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