Editor’s Note: This week’s SS lesson is about Christ our Sacrifice, a topic that commands consideration of the requirements of the law. In the upcoming fall issue of Spectrum, Ivan Blazen makes the case for Christ our Law. What follows is an excerpt from that article. To read the entire article, be sure your membership/subscription to the Spectrumjournal is current. The issue will be mailed the first week of December.
When the biblical testimony to God’s grace is understood in all its fullness, it becomes clear that God’s law is not called for in order to balance grace—as if God’s grace might lead us into sin (Rom 3:8; 6:1, 15)—but God’s law is seen precisely in his grace. The will of God is revealed ultimately in Christ himself, not in a code outside of him. The error of Judaism was that it considered the law its Christ, whereas God intended Christ to be its law. Christ as the ultimate revelation of the love of God is the supreme revelation of the will of God.
In describing how he became all things to all men, in order that he might win them for God, the apostle Paul says: “To those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ (1 Cor 9:20-21, RSV).” The expression translated “under the law [ennomos] of Christ” literally means something like “in-lawed to Christ.” In other words the ultimate will of God is seen only in Christ. Christ in his redemptive deed and word was Paul’s law. It is in harmony with this that Paul says that when we help to heal the fractured lives of others and bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2). This is the law of self-giving love. Believers are called to serve one another in love (Gal 5:13).
The manifestation of this love in Christ is the fundamental principle of the rule of God. All other commandments, codes, and ethical instructions are subservient to the meaning of love revealed in Christ. These moral principles are understood properly only in connection with his love. To see Christ as the supreme exemplar of the will of God is the heightening of morality, not its diminution. Christ’s love strengthens the will of God. The claim of God in Christ allows no loopholes, as often occurs when morality centers on law. Indeed, Galatians 5:13-14 and Romans 13:8-10 make clear that the whole law, with all its commandments, is fulfilled in the command to love. It is love understood as the self-giving love of Christ, which fulfills the law, or fills it full. It is possible to keep laws, even the Ten Commandments, yet not really love. But it is impossible to love as Christ loved and not to keep the laws of God. Love is the fulfilling of the law, but law is not necessarily the fulfilling of love. We may say that the law defines love, and in part this is true. But on a deeper level, love defines the law and gives it its true meaning.
Fulfillment of the law and focus on the law are to be distinguished. The law is only truly fulfilled when the focus is on Christ. To be sure, the law is holy, just, and good (Rom 7:12). To be sure, its righteous requirement is fulfilled in the life of one who walks according to the Spirit (8:4), and in the way of love (Gal 5:13-14; Rom 13:8-10). Nevertheless, the final rule of behavior for the New Testament Christian is the character and redeeming quality of Jesus’ life and death. It is this which gives ultimate expression to the character and will of God.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5644