God’s law is, first of all, the spiritual law that we have in the New Testament. Second, it is the covenant between God and Israel. Third, it is the law God gave to mankind at the very beginning of human life on earth.
The law we have today can be summed up in a few words: We are to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength, and we’re to love one another, even as Christ loved us. The apostle Paul said, “He who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
There are two objects, then, of our love. First, we love God with every bit of our being. Second, we must love our fellow man as much as we love ourselves. That encompasses all the law. In Jesus’ words, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
In the law given at Sinai, on the other hand, there were specific rules and regulations, beginning with the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments have to do with devotion to God. The fifth commandment has to do with obedience to someone who stands in the role of God, namely our parents. The remaining five have to do with the way we treat our fellow man. Don’t steal his wife. Don’t steal his possessions. Don’t lie about him. Don’t murder him. Don’t hurt him. If you do to him as you do to yourself, if you love him the way you love yourself, you have followed those commandments.
So in the final analysis, God’s law is that we should put God first in our lives. He wants us to function under Him as loving, obedient sons and daughters. We must listen to Him, obey Him, and be prepared to do His bidding, whatever it is. That is the ultimate in God’s law, and it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:2).
The written law, which was given by God at Mount Sinai, had many dietary rules and continued other provisions, but this law was given essentially to Israel. The Bible says that this law was a shadow of good things that were to come (see Colossians 2:16-17). The fulfillment of the law is in Christ. Christ enters into us, and we live out in our lives the righteous commandments of the written law. The Spirit of Christ within us helps us to do naturally what the law attempted to force us to do.
Law, when you see it in today’s world, is essentially a restraint on people who do not live in love toward others. There are traffic lights, pollution controls, laws against murder, kidnapping, theft, fraud, and a host of other things. All these laws seek to prevent conduct that will hurt someone else. But for those who walk in love, law doesn’t really need to exist–no law to burden or bind them, because they naturally and voluntarily fulfill through the spirit all the righteous demands of the written law.
Since the law is based on loving God and our fellow man, we break God’s law whenever we fail to love Him or whenever we harm our fellow man. Since harm to another–be it theft, adultery, murder, or false witness–usually begins in our inner being, God added to the law a prohibition against coveting–a mental sin. Jesus expanded the concept by saying that lustful thoughts are the equivalent of the act of adultery, and that anger, along with demeaning insults, is the equivalent of murder (see Matthew 5:21-28).