This is the second installment. Part one can be read here.
The Old Testament Law had been set in place to guide the Israelites in how to live in God’s will. Yet they had failed to do so. This continued the historical pattern from Adam down through the ages; mankind is sinful. This point is addressed in Romans 2:12-15, where St. Paul states:
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
As Fr. Tarazi points out, though the Jews had the Law, they continued to fall short of God’s expectations. The Gentiles could live righteously, according to their consciences, but in reality that never happens. Mankind, universally, fails. Therefore, God determined that “the same law would be written this time indelibly on men’s hearts (Jer 31:31-34), with the Isaianic proviso that it would be shared with the nations”. His statements in Romans, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians all highlight this reality. The Jews have the Old Testament Law, yet fall short. The Gentiles may well have a “law toward Christ,” but also fall short.
So we see a shift in the understanding of what the Law is, in the writing of St. Paul. What was originally equated with the written words of the Law of Moses, contained in the Old Testament, would now be understood to be the Law of Christ, written on the hearts of God’s people. To make this clear, rather than having two Laws, physical for Jews and spiritual for Gentiles, St. Paul teaches that the same spiritual understanding is valid for both groups. They are united into one people-group, “bound by the law of the new covenant written on their hearts. This is consistent with the words of Christ: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). So we see that St. Paul is not being inconsistent, but is truly focusing upon the fact that the Law is one based upon love for God and man, in agreement with the very words and teachings of Christ.
Therein lies the basis of St. Paul’s teaching. In Galatians 6:2, we see the exhortation to bear one another’s burdens, in order to “fulfill the Law of Christ.” The connection with his teachings concerning the internal Law, written on hearts and minds, is evident. Even those who do not know the minutia of the Law of Moses can recognize what loving a neighbor is in any given situation. Furthermore, the commandment to love one another (evidenced by bearing burdens in this passage), is “the only law governing the Messiah’s community. Fr. Tarazi goes on to say that St. Paul most likely created the term “Law of Christ” specifically for the situation he was addressing in this letter. However, that does not mean that it was “new” in any real sense. We have already seen that the Old Testament prophets, and Christ himself, had stated that this internal, spiritual law was what the Mosaic Law “hung on.”
St. Paul elaborates on this further in Romans 8:2, where he shows that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” The Law of the Old Testament is spiritual, but it is given to carnal men. St. Paul points out that humanity falls victim to its carnal nature. The new manner of writing the law on hearts and minds creates a “new man” via baptism, allowing man the ability to actually keep the law. It is this Law of Christ that truly gives freedom and the opportunity to be in union with God. The Old Testament Law had merely served to show how far one had fallen short. In Galatians 4:3-5, we read: “… we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” In that case, the Law “was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).
Christ is the focus here. Therein lies the seeming contradiction, as well as the actual resolution of that potential problem. The Old Testament Law is holy and good, though mankind is sinful. The Law’s purpose was to guide God’s people to Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of that Law. St. Paul exclaims, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). This statement is in reaction to the question of who can free him (and anyone) from sin and death, the consequence of relying upon perfect adherence to the Old Testament Law. Trying to rely upon the proper keeping of the OT Law will only result in failure, as history has proven. But to rely upon the fulfillment of the OT Law, Jesus Christ, is to know freedom and life. The physical law of the Old Testament is transformed into “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [which] has made [mankind] free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).