Volume 19, Issue 24 (June 11, 2017)
What Is the “Law of Christ”?
The phrase “Law of Christ” is found in Galatians 6:2e when Paul declares, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In the context, Paul is describing the willingness disciples must have to restore one who is overtaken by sin (6:1). To do so and “bear” such a burden for a brother or sister fulfills or obeys the command (or law) given by Christ. Throughout the New Testament this new body of law is shown to be the universally binding standard for men and women in this age.
All the way back in the book of Genesis, it was prophesied that a descendent of Judah would be a “Lawgiver” (Gen. 49:10). This did not refer to Moses—he was from the tribe of Levi (1 Chron. 23:14). This was rather, a messianic prophecy. The Christ, would bring a new law. The New Testament makes it clear that in the coming of Jesus, He brought with Him a new standard to which mankind is now held accountable. This is referred to in a number of different ways. It is...
1. The New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 prophesied the coming of a “new covenant,” which would bring forgiveness (31:34b), in which all under the covenant would “know the Lord” (31:34a). This would involve “law” within the hearts and minds of those considered His people (31:33), but would not be like the covenant given to Israel (31:32). On the night of Jesus’ betrayal He instituted the Lord’s Supper as the “new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). Paul described those who taught the message of Jesus as “ministers of the new covenant” contrasting the Mosaic Law (which he called the “letter”) which kills as opposed to the revelation of the Spirit in the new covenant (which he said) “gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). The Hebrew writer calls Jesus “the Mediator of the new covenant” (Heb. 9:15; 12:24). He even quotes the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31 (Heb. 8:8) going on to compare the Mosaic Law and the covenant of Christ, declaring, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). This makes it clear that the New Covenant is to serve as a new body of law for this age that supplants and replaces the Mosaic Law.
2. The Gospel. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Scripture records that Jesus began teaching “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35). After Jesus’ death, He commanded His disciples “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The word gospel means “good news.” Paul declared that the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16) and that in it “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). The message of salvation in Jesus brings to all mankind the way that human beings may be right with God and the standard by which God now determines what is right before Him. Paul taught Timothy that now in Christ law must be used “lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8) in accordance with “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11) which now constitutes “sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10). This makes it clear that the “good news” about salvation in Jesus Christ now constitutes the standard of law and practice by which man’s standing with God is determined.
3. The Doctrine of Christ. John declared, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). The word “doctrine” means teaching. The doctrine of Christ is the teaching of Christ. John says that the one who follows this doctrine has a relationship with God in Christ, the one who does not, does not have a relationship with Christ or with God the Father. This is not just some vague philosophy that one accepts. Jesus taught His disciples to make disciples “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). This is the same thing Mark records as Jesus’ command to teach “the gospel” to all the world (Mark 16:15). Paul told the Romans that they were delivered from slavery to sin when they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Rom. 6:17-18). Christians were to avoid all that was contrary to this doctrine (Rom. 16:17) and to teach “no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). It is “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1), “good doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6), the “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) but also “the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). It is comprised of “wholesome words” which are “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” and constitutes “the doctrine which accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). It is the same thing as the law of Christ, the covenant of Christ, or the gospel of Christ, and the rule of conduct in this age.
The Law of Moses had promised that God would send a new prophet like Moses that the people were to hear (Deut. 18:15-19). At the transfiguration God the Father identified Jesus as this prophet declaring of Jesus “Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus taught in John 12:48 that His words will judge men on the last day. This does not mean only words directly spoken by Jesus, but includes what He taught (and revealed to) His disciples. Paul claimed, “the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). The books of the New Testament preserve for us the doctrine of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the new covenant of Christ, and “the law of Christ.” It is the divine revelation of God’s will for man in this age. It must be accepted, followed, and practiced for man to be acceptable to God in Christ.