This is the 14th 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.
In our last installment in this series, we noted that love is a God-given, Spirit-provided quality that impels actions in the believer and that it is that same Spirit-provided love that forms the outworking of the New Covenant ethic.
We’ll continue and wrap up our look at love with a rather long quotation from D. A. Carson, in which he summarizes Paul’s view on love as it relates to those two loves – God and neighbor – which have their exposition in the two tables of the Old Covenant:
Similarly, Paul insists that what is fulfilled in one word, viz. , the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is the entire second table of the Decalogue: love is the fulfillment of the law (). Despite arguments to the contrary, the double command to love is not some sort of deep principle from which all the other commandments of Scripture can be deduced; nor is it a hermeneutical grid to weed out the laws of the old covenant that no longer have to be obeyed while blessing those that are still operative; nor is it offered as a kind of reductionistic substitute for all the Old Testament laws. In some ways, the twin laws of love, love for God and love for neighbor, integrate all the other laws. They establish the proper motives for all the other imperatives, viz. loving God and loving one’s neighbor.
But the “fulfillment” language suggests something more. All the laws of the old revelation, indeed all the old covenant Scriptures, conspire to anticipate something more, to point to something beyond themselves. They point to the coming of the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom; they point to a time when life properly lived in God’s universe can be summed up by obedience to the commandment to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and by the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
Carson goes on to describe the prophetic and predictive elements in ceremonial laws – the types and shadows, the pictures and promises fulfilled in Christ – that most Christians will recognize in the Savior: the Passover lamb, the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate high priest. But Carson also reminds us of the predictive nature of all of the Old Testament:
The argument here is that something similar can be said, in general terms, of all the law and the prophets. For example, in the consummated kingdom we will no longer need a command to prohibit murder. This is not because murder will be tolerated, but because murder will be unthinkable (quite apart from the challenge of murdering someone with a resurrection body!); hate will be unthinkable; instead, we will love one another. Thus it is not as if the consummated kingdom abolishes the command to murder; rather, it fulfills it. The kingdom brings to pass the true direction in which the prohibition of murder points.
This is a key point, and one we will return to. The fully-glorified believer – the one in whom sanctification is complete – will, like our God, not require laws, rules and statutes to externally determine his ethic. We will be like Christ: intrinsically, ontologically and eternally made spotless. Our new nature, still clothed in the old body, has that now. It is the cultivation of our new nature that Paul seeks in his exhortations to the churches and to us, as we will see. As noted above, and by Carson, there is an already/not yet tension in the interim:
Moreover, although the consummated kingdom has not yet arrived, there is a sense in which the kingdom is already inaugurated; it has already begun; it is already partly realized. That leaves us with some terrible tensions, of course. The kingdom has come, but it is still coming; we have been transformed by the new birth, but we do not yet have resurrection bodies; we have been regenerated, but we have not yet experienced that perfect transformation that means we no longer sin; we hear the kingdom imperatives, but we recognize that this is still a cruel and broken world where the conflict between good and evil staggers on. That is the very stuff of New Testament eschatology, of New Testament ethics.
It is indeed “the very stuff” also of Paul’s eschatology and ethics. We have been given the love of Christ by His Spirit, but we are not yet what we shall be as we strain toward the goal of glory.
 Ibid, 29–30.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (ESV)
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. (ESV)