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Does “Love” REPLACE God’s Law?

     Many people today believe that “love” has somehow replaced God’s spiritual law.   They base this idea on a misunderstanding of Paul’s words in Romans chapter 13.   Paul said, “he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (verse 8)---and that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (verse 10).

     Yet, people misinterpret what Paul was saying here, and they fail to realize that Paul wrote many plain scriptures in support of obedience to God’s spiritual law!

     In the scriptures above, Paul was merely saying that the spiritual law of God is synonymous with love!   God’s spiritual law--- the Ten Commandments ---is a law of love.  It tells us the basics of what true love is.  The first four of the Ten Commandments instructs us in the basics of how to love God, and the last six instruct us in the basics of how to love fellowman. 

     So, if a person engages in some activity that’s contrary to God’s spiritual law---contrary to the Ten Commandments---then such activity is not an expression of true, Godly love.  If the person says, “I love my neighbor’s wife,” then that is not Godly love!

     Rather, Godly love---the love imparted to a Christian by the Holy Spirit---is expressed within the bounds of God’s law.   Godly love flows down the channel (or riverbed) of the Ten Commandments!

     Years after everything “that was nailed to the crosswas nailed to the cross, Paul stated that “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom.3:20).   He said, “I would not have known sin [i.e., he wouldn’t have known what sin was] except through the law.  For I would not have known covetousness [he wouldn’t have known it was sinful to covet] unless the law [the Ten Commandments] had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Rom.7:7).

     Paul wrote these two scriptures despite the fact that he had God’s Holy Spirit---he had God’s love---powerfully guiding him.  Yet, even with God’s Spirit in him and guiding him, Paul still needed the letter of the law as a general guide!   A guide as to how to avoid sin---how to express true Godly love.

     Yes, a Christian needs the guidance of BOTH the Holy Spirit and God’s written word!   Christ Himself said that we are to live “BY every word of God” Luke 4:4).

     The Holy Spirit---and the agape love provided to a Christian by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5)---first became available to members of the Church on the day of Pentecost that occurred about 7 weeks after Christ’s resurrection.  Now, if it is true that since that time, we no longer need the letter of the law---that we need only the agape love supplied by the Holy Spirit---then why is it that the New Testament writers continued to repeatedly endorse the keeping of God’s law after that time?!   Why didn’t they, from that point on, cease all positive mention of God’s law, and speak only of "love"?!   [see point "(3)" of this hyperlinked article]

     Plainly, Paul was not saying that love replaces the law.  In fact, Paul said that the law is “holy,” “just,” and “good” (Rom.7:12, 14).

     No, Paul was not saying that love does away with the law.  We can see one proof of that by comparing what Paul said about “love and law” to what Christ said about “love and law”---and we’ll see that they said the same thing!

     What did Christ say?   He was asked, “which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:36).   Christ replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”   So, here, Christ said the same thing Paul said---that God’s law, the Ten Commandments, can be summarized as “love to God” and “love to fellowman.”

     Was Christ saying that love replaces the law?   No!   When asked, “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” how did Christ reply?   He said, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt.19:16-17).    And He then proceeded to show He was speaking of the Ten Commandments, by quoting some of them (verses 18-19). 

     So, even though Christ explained in Matt. 22 that the Ten Commandments are expressions of love, He continued to plainly state the vital necessity of our keeping the specific Commandments!

     Furthermore, in Matthew chapter 5, Christ said---magnifying the law in its spirit and intent (Isa. 42:21, KJV)---that if you even hate your brother, then you are a murderer!   Does that sound like Christ was doing away with the law?   No!   Rather than being done away with, we find the influence of the law extended---to also include our intent, thoughts and attitudes!

     Yes, love is expressed through keeping the Ten Commandments, not only in the letter, but also according to the spirit and intent.

     Again, many people think that love does away with the Ten Commandments---that love does away with God’s law.  The Apostle John would certainly know whether that was true, as John wrote a great deal about love, and is even sometimes referred to as “the Apostle of love.”   For instance, John wrote, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).   So, John obviously placed a great deal of importance on love! 

     Yet, John did not say (nor does any other writer of the scriptures say) that love replaces, supersedes, or does away with God’s law!   In fact, this apostle who talked so much about love, said this:  “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments”! (I John 5:3).   He also said this:  “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (II John 6).

     John wrote these two scriptures about 60 years after the Holy Spirit---and agape love---had already become available to the Church. 

     Yes, John---like Christ and Paul, and all the other writers of the New Testament---upheld the keeping of God’s spiritual law!