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What Is the Law of Christ?

by Ruel Guerrero

In some Christian circles, it would seem that this is an oxymoron—two
contradicting words put together. “For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1.17).

If we tried to understand the biblical definition and implications, we will
find not only a definition of the “Law of Christ” but also the relationship
between that law and the Royal Law, the Summary Commandment, the
New Commandment, and the “message from the beginning.”

The Law of Christ Simply put, Paul gives a working definition of the “Law of Christ” by
showing how to fulfill it. “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you
will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.2). It is in serving one another as we
bear each other’s troubles, cares, and sorrows, that we fulfill the Law of
Christ. It would seem here that the Law of Christ has something to do
with one-anothering.

The New Commandment We will recall what our Lord said on his last night with his disciples be-
fore his crucifixion: “My command is this: Love each other as I have
loved you” (John 15.12). And, “This is my command: Love each other”
(v.17). “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved
you, so you must love one another” (13.34).

Decades later, John reiterates what the Lord gave them as his new
command: “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an
old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is
the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its
truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and
the true light is already shining” (1 John 2.7-8).

The Message from the It was Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry. Although, perhaps he
Beginning did not state it out as clearly as on the night of his passion, he lived it
out clearly in his relationship with his disciples. Towards the close of his
own life, John reminds the entire church of this. “For this is the message
you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1 John
3.11). “And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but
one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you
have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2
John 1.5).

It is the pure message that Jesus shared with his disciples—the true
Gospel that he lived in the context of community with his disciples.

The Royal Law James, who seemed to be a proponent of the Law (as opposed to
grace), on second look was a proponent, not of the old covenant law but
of the Royal Law: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture,
"Love your neighbor as yourself,"° you are doing right” (James 2.8). One
of the reasons many misunderstand the letter of James is because he
speaks of a law and of “works of the law.” But understood from the point

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of view of the Royal Law, we will find that he, along with Paul, teaches
about grace expressed in truth through love.

The Summary Com- Just as Jesus explained how we may keep the commandments, Paul
mandment himself gives the same explanation:

Jesus said: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them
do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7.12).

Paul explains: “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not
murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other command-
ment there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your
neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love
is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom13.9-10).

Conclusion The Law of Christ mentioned by Paul is the Royal Law mentioned by
James. Both writers speak one and the same message, the message
that all the original apostles heard as his “message from the beginning.”
At the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry he lived it with his disciples
in community. At the end of his ministry, he gave it clearly as his New
Commandment. John speaks of this as “the beginning.” The law and the
prophets (meaning the entire Old Testament scriptures) lead up to this
climax—the declaration of the Gospel, the life of Jesus Christ embody-
ing love. That is why all the Law spoken of in the old is summed in one
Summary Commandment in the new—“Love your neighbor.”

08 January 2005

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