The “Law” Depends on the “law”

Matthew 22:35-40
“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.””

Romans 13:10
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Both of the above references are from the NASB (New American Standard Bible). The bold and the italics are my additions, however the use of the uppercase and lowercase for the words “Law” and “law” is from the NASB. (I added the bold and the italics as to better enhance the NASB’s distinctions for the purpose of this blog.)

The NASB’s distinctions are extremely important because they help to clarify an essential difference, which is lacking in other Bible versions, when it comes to describing LAW. When the NASB uses a capital “L”, it seems to be referencing the whole of the Mosaic contract exclusively. When the NASB uses a lowercase “l” it can either mean statutes (a formally prescribed morality), or it can be a singular term for describing the overall concept of “right and wrong”; which man gained in the garden when Adam transgressed God’s command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16, 3:1-7).

Here’s an example from the NASB which shows its use of upper and lower case in adjoining verses:

Galatians 3:17-18
“What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.”

Law” in this passage refers to what “came four hundred and thirty years later.” That’s the Mosaic contract. However, “law” in this passage is used to point to something different… prescribed statutes. The second is not the Mosaic contract, therefore it is not capitalized as was the first.

Let’s take a look at how the NASB clarifies the distinction between “Law” and “law” in these adjoining verses as well, by capitalizing and not capitalizing the word LAW:

1 Corinthians 9:20-21
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.”

In some other places, again, the NASB uses capitalization in order to distinguish between the “Law of Moses” (Mosaic contract) in the Book of Hebrews, and again, the “law of Christ” (right and wrong) in the Book of Galatians:

Hebrews 10:28
“Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Galatians 6:2
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

There is a distinction between the Mosaic contract (which is appropriate for a specific group of people at a specific time in history), and the concept of right and wrong (which is appropriate for all people at all times in history). The NASB simplifies what can be a very confusing endeavor (trying to figure out what is meant by LAW in any given verse), by simply using upper and lower case letters in order to make the distinction.

Again, here below are some more NASB examples of capitalization, and how the usage of capitalization again points to either the Mosaic contract or “Law”, and where the non-capitalization or “law” either points to statutes or it points to the concept of “right and wrong” (as with the phrases “law of Christ” and “law of God”):

1 Corinthians 9:19-21
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law [Mosaic contract], as under the Law [Mosaic contract] though not being myself under the Law [Mosaic contract], so that I might win those who are under the Law [Mosaic contract]; to those who are without law [statutes] as without law [statutes], though not being without the law of God [right and wrong] but under the law of Christ [right and wrong], so that I might win those who are without law [statutes].”

It is interesting that even the ESV Study Bible commentary notes, regarding 1 Corinthians 9:21, agrees with the same distinctions as the NASB, even though the distinction is not made within the ESV version itself (because the ESV leaves the word in lowercase). The ESV just writes “law” in all instances. However, the ESV Study Bible commentary notes also make the same delineation in describing how to read the same passage. (Note that when reading the commentary below: The ESV reads “those outside the law” where the NASB renders it “those who are without law“):

“9:21 those outside the law. Outside the Mosaic law, which defined the Jewish way of life. not . . . outside the law of God . . . the law of Christ. Paul seems to distinguish between the Jewish law and something he calls alternately “the commandments of God” (cf. 7:19) and “the law of Christ,” which is of continuing validity for Christians, whatever their ethnicity. This second law appears to include the ethical teaching of Jesus as well as absorbing both the theological structure and many of the moral precepts of the Mosaic law. (See, e.g., Rom. 7:7, 12, 22; 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Eph. 6:2; see also the articles on Biblical Ethics.) This “law of Christ” today would also include the moral commands of the NT epistles, since in them the apostles interpreted and applied Christ’s life and teachings to the NT churches.”

Now, let’s take a passage from Romans in the NASB, and replace Law and law with [Mosaic contract] and [right and wrong], and see how the NASB helps to clarify what’s going on in the passage. First the NASB, and then second the replacement example:

Romans 2:12-16
“For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

Romans 2:12-16
“For all who have sinned without the [Mosaic contract] will also perish without the [Mosaic contract], and all who have sinned under the [Mosaic contract]; will be judged by the [Mosaic contract]; for it is not the hearers of the [Mosaic contract] who are just before God, but the doers of the [Mosaic contract] will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the [Mosaic contract] do instinctively the things of the [Mosaic contract], these, not having the [Mosaic contract], are a [right and wrong] to themselves, in that they show the work of the [Mosaic contract] written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

A close friend of mine recently shared with me the following quote, which he had come across regarding this same passage in Romans. It backs the upper and lower case distinctions made by the NASB. Not directly, but indirectly, because it agrees with the notion that the word LAW in scripture can mean different things:

“In his Modern Exposition of the 1689 LBCF, Dr. Sam Waldron notes regarding Romans 2:12-15:

‘Though [the Gentiles] have not received it as a written revelation, they none the less are confronted with [the law]. It speaks of the means of their confrontation with the law of God. The Gentiles are to (or for) themselves the law. It is theirs ‘by nature’ (v. 14), ‘written in their hearts’ (v. 15).”

So, what do I mean by: The “Law Depends on the “law“? 

Assuming that the NASB, the ESV Study Bible commentary notes, and Sam Waldron are all representing the text properly, we can then go back to the passages I referenced at the beginning (Matthew 22:35-40) and summarize it by saying that, ‘The “Law Depends on the “law“‘. 

Why?

Because, as Jesus teaches, the Law and the prophets depend on the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving our neighbor. The Law [Mosaic contract] is dependent upon the two greatest laws, which… in their essence… is love. In other words, the Law [Mosaic contract] depends on something which transcends the Mosaic contract itself. Such is the law (right and wrong, the law written on our hearts as Sam Waldron pointed out, or more simply… love). Such is what all people are obliged to demonstrate before God:

James 2:8-12
“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO not commit adultery,” also said, “DO not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.”

EVERYONE is required to keep that which transcends the Law.

Paul clearly makes the point here:

Galatians 5:14
“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

Love is that which transcends the Law. Love is that which EVERYONE is required to keep.

Paul hammers home the point to the Romans:

Romans 13:8-10
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

The “Law” depends on the “law” because:

1) the “law” transcends the “Law
2) the “law” is the essence of the “Law
3) the “law” is the basis of the “Law
4) the “law” is higher than the “Law

In other words:

The “Lesser” (Law) Depends on the “greater” (law)

Romans 8:2-17
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

I’ll leave you with these sobering words of John:

1 John 3:10
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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