This is the 12th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Love graffiti on red garage doorIf an exter­nal code is the antithe­sis of a life in the Spirit (as we noted in our last install­ment), what is the expres­sion of a life in the Spirit? Love. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” ().

That love, that love from God via the Holy Spirit given to dwell in us is, as Paul tells us, the ful­fill­ing of the law:

[8] Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. [9] For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. ()

There are those, espe­cially from the camp that Graeme Goldswor­thy char­ac­ter­izes as “evan­gel­i­cal Judaism,”[1] who will turn on its head and say that Paul is telling us that the way we achieve love is through obe­di­ence to the law.

For exam­ple, Vin­cent Che­ung writes, “The real bib­li­cal def­i­n­i­tion of love, that is, the love that the Bible com­mands us to have, is defined by obe­di­ence to the law in all of our rela­tion­ships () – and this includes the com­mands that it makes to both the mind and the body.”[2] Fur­ther­more, Che­ung makes the auda­cious state­ment that God’s love is demon­strated by “prac­ti­cal benev­o­lence” and that the love of the Chris­t­ian should be one of  “accu­rate obe­di­ence.”[3] “In other words,” Che­ung oddly asserts, “you walk in love by obey­ing all these com­mand­ments.”[4]

That sort of legal­ism, Goldswor­thy tells us, has at its base “an asser­tion of our con­trol over our rela­tion­ship with God. It is a soft-pedaling of the great­ness of God’s grace to sin­ners. On the sur­face it may appear to be an exalt­ing of the law, how­ever the law is under­stood. Yet when we under­stand the nature of legal­ism, we find that the oppo­site is true.”[5]

If we are to be like Christ – if we indeed are to have the love poured out by Him, and if as Paul promises we will be rid of sin – then to sug­gest that love is obtained by fol­low­ing an exter­nal code, rather than it being some­thing intrin­sic to our onto­log­i­cal state, is absurd.

Next: Com­pleted by the Spirit Part 13: Love Poured Into Us


[1] Graeme Goldswor­thy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneu­tics (Down­ers Grove, IL: Inter­Var­sity Press, 2006), 171.

[2] Vin­cent Che­ung, The Ser­mon on the Mount (Boston: self-published, 2004), 159. In an over-the-top style, Che­ung also crit­i­cizes D. A. Car­son in this sec­tion, writ­ing that Carson’s state­ment that love requires more than actions (cf. ) is “a sur­pris­ingly ama­teur­ish inference. …”

[3] Ibid., 160–1. Che­ung also advo­cates hat­ing non-believers as God hated Esau.

[4] Ibid., 90. Che­ung makes the state­ment: “Imme­di­ately after my con­ver­sion, I stopped lying alto­gether.” This con­tra­dic­tion of ff nec­es­sar­ily brings the author’s verac­ity into question.

[5] Goldswor­thy, 171.

 


and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)


10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)


For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (ESV)


If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain noth­ing. (ESV)


10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (ESV)