Is there a New Law in Christ?
Some try to dispose of the law or the Sabbath based on the “new” commandment of love which Christ introduced. It is certainly true that Jesus laid down two great laws of love as a summary of all the law, but did He give the idea that these were new in point of time? Loving God with all your heart, soul and might and loving your neighbour as yourself was quoted not only by Jesus in the New Testament but is also found “from the beginning” i.e. the Old Testament. Jesus was in fact quoting directly from the Old Testament scriptures as He quite frequently did when He gave those commandments. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5. “…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Leviticus 19:18. Did all the law hang on these two Commandments in the Old Testament when they were first given, and more specifically, did loving God with all thine heart include the Sabbath in this Old Testament verse? Of course! This was seventeen verses after the second reading of the Ten Commandments and Jesus says ALL the law STILL hang on these two Commandments.
When a lawyer tried to trap Jesus into saying which was the greatest Commandment in the law, he received the answer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang All the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 Note that these two Commandments of love simply summed up “all the law.” All Ten Commandments hang on these two principles of love just as they did in the Old Testament. Christ was saying that love is the fulfilling of the law as Paul said in Romans 13:10. If one loves God with all his heart, mind and soul, he will obey the first four Commandments that relate to our duty to God. He will not take God’s name in vain, worship other gods, etc. If one loves his neighbour as himself, he will obey the last six Commandments, which relate to our duty to our fellow man. He will not rob his neighbour or murder him etc. Love leads to obeying or fulfilling all the law and hence if you love God and man you are keeping all Ten Commandments. See what is the greatest Commandment for more detail.
If this was some “new” Law then Jesus and his apostles would no longer have kept the Sabbath but scripture shows again and again that they did. Matthew 5:18 says, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 19:18-19 says, “…what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?…Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And after the cross, Romans 13:9, “…You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other Commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What did Jesus mean exactly when He said a “new” commandment I give unto you? When Jesus died, He demonstrated the ultimate act of love. Did the disciples before the cross exercise the same Christ like love? We find in Luke 22:24, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” In the Greek there are two words for “NEW”, one means totally brand new and the other meaning new to us. The word Jesus used here was NOT brand new but new to us, meaning it was a type of love that would be new to them that they were not currently practising. In order for the disciples to continue the work of Christ, they had to be able to demonstrate the same Christ like example of love, so as verse 35 says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” in the same way that Jesus loved them and laid down His life. This is the new level of love that we all need to learn and walk in and what Paul expressed in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Jesus’ ultimate example of love was laying down His life for others and He knew His apostles would be confronted with the same challenge.
John said that there was nothing new about loving your neighbour as yourself and that this was a law from the beginning. John explains this in 1 John 2:7-8, “I write NO new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning” followed by the words, “Again, a new commandment I write unto you” This sounds like a contradiction to the previous verse but John is pointing out what Jesus taught in that Loving your neighbour as yourself is now magnified to the strength that we should love one another to the point of being prepared to lay down our lives for each other as Christ did for us. John furthers this in 2 John 1:5-6, “I beseech you, lady, NOT as though I wrote a new commandment unto you, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his Commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” Jesus is the perfect model of the love of God in His perfect example of loving obedience. Christ loved us so much that He sacrificed His own life for us. He Himself explained this ever so beautifully in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”