Five Reasons Why I Object to Classic NCT’s Definition of the Law of Christ

[box] CMC endorses Todd Braye’s viewpoint as expressed in this article.[/box]

Handout Theology: The Law of Christ Defined
Todd Braye

Classic NCT defines the Law of Christ in terms of the commandments of Christ & His apostles found in the NT, written on the pages of Scripture, written in ink.[1] It’s defined, therefore, as something external, outside the believer.

  • The attraction of this view stems from its objective nature – it is external and outside of us!
  • However, the attractiveness of a view is not the proper ground or basis for acceptance; one’s theology must be shaped and grounded in exegesis of actual Scripture texts.
  • This is not intended to be exhaustive, but only an outline driving at, and demonstrating the evidence for, a specific conclusion. This handout presupposes some knowledge of NCT.

1. Christ is the Old Covenant Law’s fulfillment.
Matthew 5:17. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

  • The work the Father gave the Son to do, the Son did without fail and completely (cf. John 17:4; 19:30).

2. Christ is the Old Covenant Law’s Antitype.
Col. 2:16,17. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow [‘skia,’ a faint prototype, or representation] of the things to come, but the substance [‘soma,’ lit. ‘the thing itself’] belongs to Christ.”

  • Christ IS the true Law, the substance, the thing itself!
  • This is not to say the essence of the Law is Christ. One’s shadow is a mere resemblance, not his actual essence. God’s righteousness is fully revealed in Christ (the Son), not the Law (the shadow). Cf. Col 2:9.

3. Christ is the Incarnation of The Old Covenant Law.
John 1:1, 14. “In the beginning was the Word [λόγος]…and the λόγος became flesh.”

  • There is a connection between the Gk. λόγος and the Hebrew תֹּורָה , or torah, which refers to law, the first 5 books of the Bible.[2] The ‘logos’ refers to what the Jews called torah. Jesus is therefore the incarnation of the torah/law, an important consideration in this entire debate. Jesus is the eternal ‘torah’ who dwelt among men as a man.

4. The New Covenant Law is Christ Himself.
Galatians 6:2. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  • Note immediate context (Gal. 5:16ff.) out of which this verse should not be snatched. Fulfilling the Law of Christ, while burden bearing is indeed a manifestation, can be seen as walking by, and keeping in step with (5:25), the Spirit. See below.
  • “fulfill” – Can mean simply ‘to carry out an obligation, obey’
  • “the law of Christ”- the grammar allows this to be translated ‘the law which/who is Christ’
  • So, “…and so carry out the obligation of /obey Christ.”
  • The Law of Christ is Christ!
  • See below on Isaiah 42:1-6

5. The New Covenant Law of Christ, As Christ Himself, Dwells Within, Not Without
1 Corinthians 9:19-21. “19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law [ὑπὸ νόμον] I became as one under the law [ὑπὸ νόμον] (though not being myself under the law) [ὑπὸ νόμον] that I might win those under the law. [ὑπὸ νόμον] 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) [ἀλλʼ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ,] that I might win those outside the law.”

  • Paul does not write “ὑπὸ νόμον Χριστοῦ (under the law of Christ), but ‘ἔννομος Χριστοῦ’ which means ‘in-lawed to Christ’ or even ‘in the law of Christ.’ It may even be translated ‘in the law which is Christ.’ Whichever translation is adopted, ‘under’ is not correct. The idea conveyed here is in-ness, not ‘under.’

Jeremiah 31: 33. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

  • “Within” not ‘without’
  • “on their hearts” not, ‘on paper with ink’

Notice also the word “covenant.” Isaiah defines this covenant that God writes “on their hearts” in Isaiah 42:1-6.
42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations”

  • Both Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of a future, that is, new, covenant. Isaiah defines that covenant as Christ Himself!
  • So, the law written on the heart, or the covenant ‘not like the one God gave the fathers’ = Christ Himself. Not a list of commands, but a Person.

Ezek. 36:25-27. “25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

  • Significant & Noteworthy: Where Jeremiah says God will put His law within, Ezekiel says God will put His Spirit within. So, law written on the heart, or the covenant not like the one given to the fathers, the Person of Christ Himself = “My Spirit within you.”

Galatians 4:6. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

  • IN believers’ hearts
  • Hear the echoes of the Prophet Ezekiel! (“I will put My Spirit within you.”)
  • Cf. Gal.2. 20. “ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

Conclusion: The Law of Christ is the indwelling Christ, written upon the hearts of believers in His Spirit. It is not external, but internal, not in the form of code, but a Person. New Covenant members are conformed to a Person, not to an external code, or list of imperatives. See Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:9-10. In no way is it intended to diminish the importance of the commands of Christ and His apostles. They have a vital role to play. The issue here is only one of defining the Law of Christ as the Bible defines it.

[1] I am aware various viewpoints regarding the Law of Christ exist within what has been labeled classic NCT. For a sampling, I recommend Blake White’s The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal, or New Covenant Theology (Wells/Zaspel). However, it seems to me that the common aspect shared, whether that Law is defined in terms of the command to love or the commands of Christ & the apostle’s, is exteriority.
[2] Cf. G.R. Beasley-Murray, John, p. 8.

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