Friday, December 3, 2010

The Law of Love, Part 1 of 2

During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told His listeners, “Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill,” Matthew 5:17. The law, of course, was the Jewish Law, the Mosaic Law given by God through Moses to Israel. Both the Law and prophets foretold of Christ, and in Him was their fulfillment found.

Christ’s life fulfilled the perfect moral standard the law demanded; His atoning death provided a perfect sacrificial offering that satisfied God’s justice. This was why, when Jesus was dying on Calvary He could exclaim in triumph, “It is finished!” John 19:30. The temple veil was torn by the hand of God to demonstrate that the new and living way to the Father was now open. The obligation of the law was satisfied in our Lord’s life and death; for those who are born again through faith in Jesus Christ we are both dead to sin, and dead to the law, Romans 6:2; 7:4. Our Lord spoke in the next verse of Matthew that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,” 5:18. Yet as we just read in the prior verse (17) that it was Christ’s prerogative to fulfill the law; which He did on the cross. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4.

The point of the law was summed up by Paul, when he informed us that it was merely a school master to lead us to Christ, and that by directing us to Him, we might be justified by faith, Galatians 3:24. He goes on to tell us that once faith has come, that is once we are “under faith”, we are no longer under a school master (the law), verse 25. The old law (that is the Mosaic Law and its legal demands upon us) was nailed to the cross and it was taken out of the way because it was contrary to us; it was hopeless to attempt to keep the law, Colossians 2:14. The law led to both bondage and death, Galatians 4:24-25; 1st Corinthians 15:56.

There was a new commandment instated, a new law given by our Lord that not only summarized the Mosaic Law, but was fueled by an entirely different motivation: the law of love. Jesus told us without reservation, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets,” Matthew 22:37-40. To reiterate, Jesus put it another way during the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another,” John 13:34. Jesus repeats Himself to the apostles shortly before His arrest, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you,” John 15:12. James refers to this command as the royal law: “If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well,” James 2:8.

John, toward the end of his ministry and his life, wrote a brief and touching epistle of encouragement and reminder about the law established during the earthly ministry of our Lord, and how it should be the touchstone and guiding principle by which a Christian ought to conduct himself. He writes, “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it,” 2nd John 1:5-6. So there was no confusion as to what the apostle meant by “commandment” he clarified the issue. The commandment received “from the beginning” was that Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourself, and that Christians ought to love one another. We ought to walk in love, for all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, Galatians 5:14.

Interestingly, in John’s first epistle he alludes to one more clear commandment issued by our Lord during His earthly ministry. “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment,” 1st John 2:23. In John’s gospel, the Jews asked Jesus what work they should work to do the works of God, and our Lord replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,” John 6:29. We are to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves; by doing so we fulfill the law of God, the law of love. It is no longer a question of whether someone unfaithful to Christ will forfeit their salvation, for this is a legal motivation bred by keeping God’s laws. Yet John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect (mature) love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment (punishment). He that feareth is not made perfect in love,” 1st John 4:18. From Paul’s writings we know that the law was not made for a righteous man, but for the unsaved, 1st Timothy 1:9. From previous verses we have seen that we are dead to both the law and sin, but alive to Christ. Let this blessed assurance comfort those who serve the Lord in rigid duty for fear of losing what God generously gave as a free gift to us. Let us take in love the rest our Lord offers: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.

It is the love of Christ that compels a Christian; not obedience to the law, 2nd Corinthians 5:14. When John writes in the Revelation “blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city,” (22:14) we know from his previous epistles that this “apostle of love” is referring to the two-fold commandment: love God above all, and love one’s neighbor as oneself. Walking in such light we shall bear fruit, be a powerful witness for Jesus Christ, and please our Father in Heaven. Walking in love will keep us in fellowship with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and every good work done in such regard, with the motivation of godly love, will garner reward at the judgment seat of Christ; Romans 14:10-12. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2nd Corinthians 5:10.


  1. Hi Ian,

    Thank you brother for illuminating the scriptures on the law of love. Through Christ, we have been liberated to love; both God and our neighbor.

    There is no need to ask, who is my neighbor? The Spirit of love has given us the answer.

    Blessings and peace.


  2. I appreciate your point that love compels us to do what pleases God, rather than an effort to earn his approval. We do not do these things so he will love us, but because we know he does.



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