There are many references to “the law” in Scripture; most of these are references to Torah, the Law of Moses. But Scripture also speaks of the law of Christ. (Ga 6:2) What is this law of Christ? How is it different from Torah?
It seems reasonable to define the law of Christ as the set of commands Christ gave throughout His ministry, yet most all of these don’t appear to be new or unique, merely inferences from Torah, what we should understand from meditating on God’s Law and fleshing out what it means to obey it. In this sense, Christ’s Law would be identical to Torah, unless He added something which can’t be found in Torah. Did He?
Yes. Christ did, in fact, at the end of His earthly ministry, introduce a command He explicitly identified as new, a law which isn’t found in Torah: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (Jn 13:34)
Now, the command to love each other certainly isn’t new; it’s embedded in the very foundation of Torah. (Mt 22:40-41) What is evidently new here is: as I have loved you; Christ has given us the perfect, timeless example of what it means to love one another, which we didn’t have before.
Christ is evidently not so much telling us to love here, but how to love; He is modeling what real agape love looks like. He loved us all during His earthly life, and His example is certainly new and unique, different from all who came before … or after. (Jn 15:24) Christ Himself has Personally demonstrated what He is commanding us to do, and He is telling us to follow His example. (1Pe 2:21)
So, is this command new or not? Well, when John comments on this, he first says it isn’t new at all, but an old commandment we’ve always had. (1Jn 2:7), However, he then in the same breath admits it evidently is new. (8-9) So, in one sense, we have always had the law of love, so it isn’t new; yet in another sense we’ve not understood the implications of this command in light of Christ’s perfect example, which essentially enlightens us to it’s true meaning, which isn’t actually a new meaning, just new to most of us.
In fact, before Christ, it was common for Torah teachers to actually encourage us to hate our enemies (Mt 5:43), but Christ dismisses this as darkness: it flatly contradicts the obvious nature of God. (44-45) Darkness claims malicious hatred is consistent with love, but the Light, which makes this lie obsolete (Jn 8:12), is even now shining. (1Jn 4:8b)
So, in light of Christ’s new command, if someone thinks they’re in the light, united with Christ, yet they still hate someone else, anyone else, we know they’re deceived, still in the dark: this isn’t Christ. (1Jn 4:9,11) If we claim to love God and hate another, Christ’s new command exposes us as liars (4:20); we can’t love God while failing to love who He loves, in the same way He loves.
And as we carefully ponder Christ’s new command, we find there’s nothing in it which actually contradicts or dismisses any part of Torah. This is to be expected, for Torah itself is the perfect Law of Liberty (Ja 1:25), the definition of love (Ro 13:10), just as Christ is. One can’t add to or take away from perfection and make it any better.
In fact, the Law of Christ itself commands us all to not think He has abolished Torah (Mt 5:17); we should be both keeping it, and also teaching others to do so. (19)
It appears then that the Law of Christ actually is Torah itself, understood and applied in light of God’s heart … nothing more, and nothing less.