Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Galatians about the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2)?
For starters he was contrasting it with the Law of Moses, which because of the New Covenant, was no longer binding (Gal 3:15–29; 1 Cor 9:20). We never were saved by the Law (as many Jews had confused) but anticipating the Messiah, just as today one is justified through retroactive faith in Him. Was he or the Christian without a moral compass then if the Law of Moses had been fulfilled—certainly not (i.e. Gal 5:18 is not saying we can do whatever we’d like). Because the Mosaic Covenant is no more, how then shall we live?
In the Bible “law” can mean a number of things (which can make it confusing). It can mean: The Bible, God’s commands, the Mosaic Covenant or Law of Moses or the moral law.
Some have suggested antinomianism (there is no law) while others have opted for the other extreme of legalism (try to be saved by keeping the law). In the middle there are those who no longer see the Law of Moses as binding (Calvin- it is useful for wisdom) and those who see only those laws reinforced in the New Testament as binding (but some obviously sinful practices found in the OT are not found in the NT, like necromancy). Others see the moral law found in the Law of Moses still binding.
Enter the Law of Christ, or the royal law (Ja 2:8).
In 1 Cor 9:21b Paul said, “not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ.” Though the Law of Moses is no more that does not mean the New Covenant believer (Jew or Gentile) is left without a guide to pleasing God through obedient and right living.
Christ is the King (or Lord). The King has a law. His law is binding on His citizens and non-citizens, though only His citizens fully seek to keep it with the help of the Holy Spirit. There are some elements to this law that are unique to this Covenant (e.g. baptism), however, most of it is an encapsulation of the moral law.
Classically, Christians have understood the tri-partite (threefold) division of the Law of Moses: ceremonial (pointed to and fulfilled in Christ and useful in understanding the Gospel), legal (again, fulfilled in Christ, useful for wisdom and principles for civil governments—like Western society) and the moral law, which is universally binding on all people in all times. Christ fulfilled the whole law, ceremonially, legally and morally, and yet the moral law remains.
We get a sense of this before and after the Law of Moses. In Gen 26:5 it says, “Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws”—in other words the moral law. In Galatians Paul upholds the second half of the Great Commandment (Gal 5:14a), itself a summation of the 10 Commandments, which the New Testament cites in its entirety.
The Law of Christ are those commands unique to the New Covenant + the moral law.
May we seek to be obedient to the Law of Christ for our good and Christ’s glory.
To read more about the moral law see the 1689 Baptist Confession ch.19 and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession 1833.12.
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