Crucial for one’s understanding of the relation of the Mosaic Covenant to the New Covenant is an account of what Paul’s concept of the “Law of Christ”(Gal. 6:2) entails. The phrase occurs in Paul only once, but is paralleld by his referencen to being in-lawed to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). Moo articulates three primary views regarding the concept’s meaning:
1) It refers to the Mosaic Law as interpreted through Christ.
2) it refers merely to the fact that Christ’s commands are the sole standard of conduct for the Christian.
3) It refers to the New Covenant code of conduct in general.
Moo notes that some understand this last meaning in terms of the “love command”(Gal. 5:14). Others see it as referring to Jesus’ teachings, and perhaps those of the apostles. Moo notes that, in order for us to properly approach this problem, we must understand what it means for love to fulfill the Law, as Gal. 5:14 says it does. Furthermore, we must understand what it means for Christians to no longer be under the law, as Gal. 5:18 says we are not.
What does it mean for love to fulfill the Law? In order to understand Gal. 5:14, one must understand the broader context of Paul’s letter to the Galatians in general, as Moo notes. First, Paul affirms his equality to the Apostles of Christ (Gal. 1:1-2:14). Next, Paul articulates “the place of the law in njustification and in salvation histoy as his central theological response to the Judaizers in 2:15-5:12″(Moo). Finally, Gal. 5:12-6:10, as the final literary unit of Galatians, is understood, according to Moo, as “Paul’s response to the possible objection against his “law-free” emphasis in the second section, the objection being in effect that Christians would be left without ethical motivation or guidance”(Moo). In other words, it serves a similar polemical and literary function as Romans 6-8, particularly chapter 6, does, in relation to its antecedent statements about the sole sufficiency of justification by virtue of our union with Christ as articulated in chapters 4-5 of Romans.
If lack of circumcision means lack of law-keeping, does not this issue in antinomianism? No, since “love” is the fulfillment of the law, as Lev. 19:18 states. Gal. 5:13 says “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.” It ought to be noted that the Greek word Paul uses for “fulfill” here is the same word used in Matt. 5:17 that was explored in the previous article on this subject.
One cannot merely say that Paul wants to add love as a motive for obeying the precepts of the Law, as Moo says, since Paul affirms the obsolescence of the precepts of the Mosaic Law in Galatians. Furthermore, this would be redundant since the Mosaic Law has always insisted on the importance of love as an underlying motive for obedience. If this were all Paul were talking about, he would not be teaching anything new. Moo ultimately concludes that one ought to understand the use of the verb
“to fulfill” in Galatians as teaching that “one who obeys the love command has automatically done what the law requires…This fits perfectly the situation in Galatia, where Paul must show how Christians who are not bound to the law can and must nevertheless live according to the divine standard”(Moo).
Moo goes on:
“”Fulfilling” the law in Paul is attached not to the obedience of precepts, but to the attitude of love and the work of the Spirit. For even in Rom. 8:4 the meaning is not that the Spirit enables us to do the law, but that because we are indwelt by the Spirit, the law has been fulfilled in us. Thus, the continuity in God’s demand (the law must be fulfilled) is met by a discontinuity in method (not in “doing,” but in love and by the Spirit)”(Moo).
Next, Moo deals with the controversial prepositional phrase “under the Law.” Moo notes that this phrase is used 9 times in Paul. Three are in Galatians (3:23; 4:4, 5, 21), three in 1 Cor. 9:21 and twice in Rom. 6:14-15. In Rom. 6:14, Moo notes that Paul affirms that sin is no longer our master because we are no longer under law but grace. Moo notes that Calvinists have typically understood being under the law as referring to freedom from the penalty of the condemnation of the law, as well as freedom from the perversion of the Law as taught by the Judaizers. However, Moo is unconvinced by this interpretation.
Death to the law is not merely a new revelation of the Law’s true meaning. Instead, it is something objective in relation to the law, in the words of Moo, regardless of anyone’s subjective attitude towards it. Moo emphasizes that Paul’s point in Romans 6 is not to speak of the believer’s freedom from condemnation alone, but also the believer’s freedom from the power of sin on the existential plane. Moo reminds us that Paul’s point in Romans 6 is to defend his Gospel from the criticism that it leads to antinomianism. He wants to point out that those who are justified are not only freed from the Law’s penalty, but necessarily freed from sin’s power, such that lacking the latter means lacking the former. He points out the relation of 6:14 to 5:20a, the latter verse noting that those under the penalty of sin were instigated by the Law to sin, whereas those now free from the sin’s penalty are freed from its power.
As Moo notes, the only reason Paul asks rhetorically whether or not we can sin without being punished is because we are no longer under obligation to obey it. The context and response is thus similar to what Paul replies to those who might level a similar objection in Galatians. If believers are free from the precepts (and not just the condemnation) of the Law, does this not mean that they no longer have any standard by which they can live? Paul articulates the respect in which although they are free from the precepts of the law (chapters 4-5) they are not free to live in any respect they want (6-8). Thus, for Moo, Paul is not merely talking about free from the condemnation of the moral Law, but being free from the precepts of the Mosaic Law. This, for Moo, is Paul’s burden in Romans 6-8.
It must be noted that being “under the Law” is used in Gal. 3:23, in a context that involves the giving of the Mosaic Law as a specific historical codification of the Law, rather than an abstract principle. Moo notes that Paul says that the Mosaic Law was given because of transgressions, in order to instigate sin. The giving of the Law does not contradict the promise. Justification was always by faith alone, and the purpose of the Law is to point to our requirement of justification by faith alone apart from the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses points to Christ, not to itself.
Moo’s position is simlar to that advocated by Lee Irons. The Jews were under the Mosaic Law as a kind of recapitulation of the original Adamic Covenant of Works (although ti is not necessary, for our present purpose, to accept the existence of an actual Covenant of Works). Moo notes that in one sense, the Gentiles are not under thte Law since they were not given the Mosaic Law (Rom. 2:12) but in another sense, they are under the Law insofar as they are required to fulfill its commandments (Rom. 2:14-15). Neither Jew nor Gentile are capable of doing this since both are under sin, however. The Gentiles are under the moral law (Rom. 2:14-15) of which the Mosaic Law is a historically particular codification. The Jews are placed under the Mosaic Law, typologically representing all of humanity, and they are required to fulfill its statutes in order to stay in the land of Palestine, which they are never able to do, since the purpose of the Mosaic Law is to instigate the sin that gets them habitually expelled from it.
“While…the Gentiles would not be “under the law” in the same sense as Israel, they would be responsible for those moral standards that God had laid upon them. The OT prophets can condemn the “nations” because o this standard. And in addition, the nations would be under the condemnation brought by their failure to live up to those standards for which God made them responsible. Paul’s warning in Gal. 4:21 and 5:4 to the effect that Gentile Christians who place themsleves “under the law” are “alienated” from Christ suggests the continuing relevance of this function of the law. Thus, the fulfillment of the law brought by Christ is applicable only to those who becom ejoined to him by faith; for those outside of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, God’s “law” continues to condemn”(Moo).
Those, those who place themselves under the Mosaic Law in such a way that they believe they are to obey in order to earn justification, are held responsible for perfectly fulfilling God’s perfect moral law, since the Jews’ being under the administration of the Mosaic Law, and being required to obey it in order to remain in Palestine was emblematic of all humans being responsible to perfectly obey God’s moral law.
Douglas Moo argues that thet image of the Law as a tutor in Galatians 3 reflects the idea of “a servant who closely supevises, monitors and watches over a young child.” He argues that this interpretation of the significance of a pedagogue is confirmed “from the contrast of “minor/child” with “full rights” that dominates 4:1-5.”
Moo goes on to argue that Paul’s point is that the purpose of the Law was both to act as an instructor for Israel and to stimulate Israel’s sin in preparation for the revelation of God’s redemptive-historical purpose in Christ. It was only during this period of tutelage and bondage that Israel was under the law as a supervisor, but the Church is the people of God brought to maturity, and it no longer needs to be under the tutelage of the Law. It has been fulfilled in the person of Christ.
In 1 Cor. 9:20-21, Paul speaks of himself as having voluntarily behaved as one under the Law in order to win to Christ the Jews, whom he describes as also being under the Law. He cautions with a parenthetical note that he is not really himself under the Law. Here, as elsewhere, he is referring to the law as an indivisible covenant, not merely ceremonial elements. As Moo points out, nothing about the context supports any reference to merely ceremonial elements of the law.
Returning to Gal. 5-6, Moo reminds us that being “under law” refers to being under the Law’s condemnation, whereas being under grace refers to being a believer who is led by the Spirit. For Paul, Moo argues, walking in the Spirit constitutes the ontological ground of Christian ethics and is opposed to living life “under the law.” For Paul, then, according to Moo, life under the Law of Christ simply involves living under Christ’s post-Mosaic law demands, which includes, but is not limited to, the demand of love, as well as walking in the Spirit.
Moo, Douglas. “The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ.” Retrieved from: http://djmoo.com/articles/lawofmoses.pdf