The Law of Christ
Paul’s great revelation is that Gentiles (non-Jews) could become a part of the family of God without passing through the Law of the Mosaic covenant. But that revelation meant something much different in the first century than it does today.
Paul does not by any means exclude the need for obedience on the part of believers in the New Covenant. He believes that righteousness is not some passive quietist relationship with God, but it involves active obedience from the heart. Paul holds that every act of obedience or disobedience in the New Covenant is a moral choice that should reflect your commitment to Messiah Jesus. And by doing so you renew and realize that commitment afresh.
We are saved by grace through faith in God's faithfulness; it is only grace that has the power to break the mastery of the law of sin.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14.
In the first century, a proselyte to Judaism was directed to keep the Law of Moses. Yet Paul does not say to those Gentiles who are converting to Christianity (to use our language) to keep the Law of Moses. Instead, he directs them to keep the Law of Messiah, the Torah of Jesus.
This is a different norm and model of obedience because Jesus’ life embodied the will and the grace of God found in the Torah. He lives and teaches Torah in a pattern that we are commanded to emulate. We have an unceasing obligation to live according to the pattern that Jesus taught and lived. In doing so, by the grace of his Spirit, we embody God’s will revealed in Torah which is love, purity, righteousness, and holiness.
Paul’s critique is not against the Torah, per se, because the Law is spiritual, holy, righteous, and good. Paul’s critique is against any abuse of the law—against the pride and presumption of some of his own people who took the works of the law, such as circumcision, Sabbath, and keeping kosher to be a source of ethnic identity and nationalistic pride.
A proper response to the Law engenders humility and dependence on God. We are under the Torah in this sense. The apostles teach that we are under the Law of the Spirit, under the Law of Christ.
And the love of Messiah compels us and commands us to love as He loved. It is a radical love that encompasses far more than 613 commandments. It includes every one of those as they relate to interpersonal relationships rather than ritual or ceremonial activity. God’s will is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore his Torah and teaching, embodied and modeled by his Son are invaluable to you and me.
Our attitude towards the Torah must be the same as Jesus. And the Torah of Jesus, His teaching and his commandments, is to be treasured because they renew us and bring us into life.
My friends if you are not compelled by the Spirit you will be commanded by sin. And that is why you must recognize that the love of Christ does compel us; we are under His Law. The aim of the Torah and the aim of Jesus are exactly the same—to give us life.
My prayer is that you grasp the inseparable and precious link between the two.
So what is our relationship to the Law, to Torah? It is part of our great, biblical heritage. We are to embody its wisdom, guidance, and direction as we are conformed to the image of Jesus. Or said another way, to be truly conformed to God's Torah means to become Christ-like. The true Torah for us is not written on tablets of stone but is to be inscribed upon our hearts.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
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