Christians, we have a problem! We are confused by something fundamental to our faith—Law and Love. When we talk about God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, the covenant of law, a new commandment, and the covenant of love—we often lump each of these separate entities, into one big law versus love debate! We don’t take the time to define the differences between these very unique subjects! Then, we wonder why we disagree, or why we don’t understand each other’s perspectives. The result? We live with a plate full of scrambled eggs!
I am naturally concerned about thousands of posts, tweets, blogs, and comments that encourage a law versus love mindset. I believe Jesus’s organizational vision, for the church universal, is the vision of a net, which is based on both Law and Love—not Law versus Love!
In a nutshell, I suppose that is what concerns me most. The Christian faith must be based on a healthy balance of law and love. Yet, so many Christians recoil in horror when someone suggests that God’s Law is important and necessary to Christianity. It is true that we cannot live by law alone. Jesus never suggested that we could. In fact, he fulfilled the law with a rightful spirit of love.
So, I’m saddened that some of the most confusing comments about God’s Law come from well-educated Christian leaders. If leaders of the faith are confused, it’s no wonder confusion exists in the body of Christ. The problem is one of language, definition of terms, misunderstanding of Scripture, and false teachings that have been handed down, from generation to generation without question.
In an effort to create a simplistic way to discuss the subject, let’s consider the following separations:
- The Old Covenant of Law = The Ten Commandments, and the Law of Moses.
- The Law of Moses = The 600+ laws added to the Ten Commandments, largely contained within the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
- The New Covenant of Love = The Ten Commandments, and the two summations of the commandments: Love the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 6:5, and Love Neighbor as Self, Leviticus 19:18.
Notice that the Ten Commandments, are at the core of both old and new covenants. Yet many people think that all laws were made obsolete, by a new covenant of love. Is this true? No! This is where we must parse and separate our terminology, to figure out the difference between the old and new covenants.
The First Clarification:
One clarification, essential to our understanding, involves the word, “covenant.” The new covenant made an old covenant obsolete. This is true! But the Ten Commandments were not made obsolete, just the covenant. Therefore, the Ten Commandments remain at the core of both old and new covenants!
The new covenant, “Love God, Love Neighbor,” sums up all Ten Commandments.
Deuteronomy 6:5 is a summation of the first five commandments. Leviticus 19:18 is a summation of the second five commandments. “Love God, Love Neighbor” provides a rightful spirit, by which all Ten Commandments should ideally be upheld. These two laws of love form the new commandment. But, again, these two laws embody a rightful spirit, by which the Ten Commandments are to be honored. Jesus never abolished or discarded the Ten Commandments. He sealed them inside of the two commands to Love God and neighbor. Therefore, the original commandments, are integral to both old and new covenants.
Jesus’s new commandment fulfilled the original ten by inverting them, then pumping the old law up with the new spirit of Gods’ love. In other words, the command, “Do not kill”, is inverted to become a new command to nurture, support, and uplift life. The former law is retained, but it is inverted, or turned inside out, to become a new commandment that is inflated, or fulfilled by a rightful spirit of love. In the same way, “Do not lie” becomes “Be truthful”, “Do not steal” becomes “Be honest” and “Remember the Sabbath” become “Be restorative”, etc.
A Second Clarification:
That said, the second clarification, essential to our understanding, involves the 600+ laws of Moses. The old covenant was made obsolete, because it included the laws of Moses. The new covenant called the law of Moses into question, because the 600+ laws created a wrongful, legalistic spirit. The law of Moses challenged, tested, and pushed the boundaries of the Ten Commandments, rendering them nearly impossible to follow or honor. Hence, the only laws that didn’t transfer completely, from old to new covenant, were the 600+ laws of Moses. Again, Jesus did pick up two of the laws—Love God and Love Neighbor—as a summation of all Ten Commandments. And these two laws formed the basis of a new commandment.
The two laws of love taken from Deuteronomy 6:5, and Leviticus 19:18 became a new commandment.
The Ten Commandments, form the core of both old and new covenants.
The 600+ laws of Moses became obsolete by the new covenant.
Most importantly, the foundation of the Christian faith must be built upon a healthy balance of Law and Love. Our foundation must never become a contest of Law versus Love! See the difference?