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Fulfill the Law of Christ

There is a common and incorrect belief among many who profess to be Christians that works are incompatible with Christ’s gospel of grace.  This belief, which is a main tenet in the doctrine of Calvinism, stems from false interpretations of New Testament passages that pertain mostly to the Law of Moses.  According to this belief, there is no condition that man must satisfy in order to obtain the salvation of his soul, for salvation is completely the arbitrary choice of God (so-called “unconditional election”).  Variations on this belief exist in many denominations, but the core belief is the same.

However, every book of the New Testament clearly presents the expectations of Christ for Christians to perform certain works that conform to His gospel.  Calvinists will say that the works prescribed in the New Testament are only to give evidence of one’s salvation, but the Scriptures make it clear that these works are conditions (not meritorious acts) by which Christians receive (not earn) salvation.  If a person refuses to perform theses works of faith, then he cannot rightly expect to be saved by the Lord who has commanded them.

In particular, let us notice Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  This letter (along with parts of Romans) is considered by Calvinists to be the most explicit proof of their doctrine in the Scriptures.  However, a closer look reveals that the only works denounced in this Scripture are works of the Law of Moses (as they relate to salvation) and works of the flesh (sinful indulgence).  In fact, works of faith, or the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25), are specifically enjoined upon Christians as a necessary part of their walk with Christ.  Paul presented two choices – to perform works of the flesh or to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25).  Those who sow to the flesh (perform works of the flesh) will reap from the flesh corruption, but those who sow to the Spirit (bear the fruit of the Spirit) will reap from the Spirit eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8).  Clearly, this is a cause-and-effect situation, for the eternal principle of sowing (cause) and reaping (effect) is invoked for our understanding.

Let us understand some of the differences between works of the Law of Moses and works of the law of Christ.  First, notice that the works of the Law of Moses were never intended to be conditions for salvation.  Instead, the Law of Moses was added because of transgressions (to define, account for, and control them) until Christ came (Gal. 3:19-25).  On the other hand, the works of the law of Christ were intended to be conditions for salvation (2Thess. 1:5-10).  Another difference is that the Law of Moses came after the promises to Abraham and was not a part of those promises, whereas the law of Christ is in fact a fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:8, 15-18).

There are also similarities between the law of Christ and the Law of Moses.  Certainly, the book of Hebrews documents many heavenly things under Christ’s law that are foreshadowed in the Law of Moses.  However, let us give special attention to Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  This statement of the law of Christ sounds remarkably similar to the summary given for the Law of Moses in Galatians 5:14 – “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  The similarity is in the result of keeping these laws, which is that those who were under these laws were to serve others and not only to serve themselves.

Therefore, let us understand that fulfilling the law of Christ is a matter of bearing the fruit of the Spirit in service to others.  This requires works, for it cannot be accomplished in any other way.  The traits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are manifested only when we work on behalf of the Lord.  These are all traits that were in Christ, who demonstrated them through His works when He gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of others (Phil. 2:3-8).  In His image, we are to work and “do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).  Thus, we can see how bearing the fruit of the Spirit through good works fulfills Christ’s law, for He commanded His disciples to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35).  We manifest this love when we work and bear the fruit of the Spirit by bearing one another’s burdens and thus fulfilling the law of Christ.

Stacey E. Durham



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