The Law of Christ

This is an edited version of chapter ten of Mauro’s book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, first published in 1927. It shows that salvation by grace brings us under the Law of Christ – God’s law for the kingdom age – which is willingly obeyed by every believer.

THE character of every Kingdom is expressed in its law. Next in importance to the person of the king, and in what we call a ‘limited monarchy’ or ‘constitutional Kingdom’ above the king himself, is the law. In every case the keeping of the law involves first of all the honour of the king, and after that the peace of his realm and the welfare of his subjects. If therefore, the Kingdom of God had no law, it would not be a kingdom. Where then are we, whom God has ‘translated into the kingdom of His dear Son’ (Col 1:13), to look for the law of this Kingdom? No inquiry could be of greater importance for those who are saved by grace.

Every revelation of God’s will for man is law; and His will is always ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’ ‘His commandments are not grievous’ (1 John 5:3). That is true always and everywhere. Man does not regard it so; but that is because man’s state by nature, as a consequence of the fall of Adam, is a state of disobedience and lawlessness, and hence of enmity against God. ‘Because the mind of the flesh,’ that which all of us alike have by nature, ‘is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Rom 8:7).

Now the divine work of Redemption is, among other things, a process of recovering man from his natural state of lawlessness to a state of perfect submission to the will of God, which is a state of perfect contentment, unending bliss, joy unspeakable. It is a long process. In the course of its accomplishment God chose a particular people, the offspring of a particular man conspicuous for ‘the obedience of faith,’ which is gospel obedience (Rom 1:5; 16:26), and He gave them His law in systematized form (a thing He had never done before, and has not done since; for ‘He hath not dealt so with any nation’). That gift of the law of God was a mark of special favour to that people; and the possession of it, notwithstanding their failure to keep it, or even to respect the Giver of it, has been nevertheless a source to them of unspeakable blessing.

This I feel constrained to insist upon and with all possible emphasis; for the reason that a special object of the teaching of today is apparently to inspire in the people of God a feeling of aversion toward His law. Indeed the subject is sometimes presented in such a way as to give the impression that to be ‘under the law’ is the closest thing to being in the lake of fire.

One of the purposes of man’s trial under the law was to make evident the hopeless corruption of his heart, and to convince him of the absolute necessity for a special work of God, whereby he might obtain the forgiveness of all his sins, and also gain a new life and nature. That is what Jesus Christ came to accomplish by His sacrificial death and by His resurrection from the dead; and that is why ‘the fullness of the time’ for God to send forth His Son could not come until after the trial of man under the law of Moses had made evident the necessity for it.

Hence the trial of man under the law was by no means a failure. On the contrary, it accomplished just what God purposed by it; and it was a most necessary stage of the long process of man’s recovery from the dominion of sin. To be sure, it showed what a failure man himself is; and it made evident that because of the hopelessly corrupt state of his being he cannot obey a righteous and holy law, even though he recognizes it as such (Rom 7:12, 14 – 16), and even though he understands that his prosperity now and his welfare in eternity depend on it. Those individuals who learned this while they were under the law, realized the futility of all self-efforts at salvation, that they could only cast themselves for that upon the mercy of God. All such, and the total number was doubtless great, discovered, as did David, the blessedness of the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Rom 4:6-7; Ps. 32:1-2).

Now, when the purpose of the law of Sinai was fulfilled, and the era of the old covenant was completed; when the ‘fullness of the time’ was come, and God sent forth His Son to accomplish ‘what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’ – that is, to bring man back into a state of obedience through the gift of the Spirit – there would also be a restatement of the law. For manifestly the law of God as given to a carnal people, not regenerated as a whole (though there were many regenerated persons scattered through the mass of that nation) would not be suited to a people born of God, His own children, ‘begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Pet 1:3).

The idea that the redeemed and regenerated people of Christ were not to be ‘subject to the law of God’ is about as far from the truth of Scripture as is possible to get. For the main object of the course of God’s dealings with mankind has been that He might have a people for His name, who would obey His law from the heart. This had been made evident by certain prophecies of the Old Testament, as for example, that of Jeremiah 31:31-34, where the new covenant was distinctly foretold; and where, concerning the people that were to be embraced by that covenant, God said, ‘I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.’ The Epistle to the Hebrews declares that Jesus Christ is the Mediator of this new covenant (Heb 8:6; 12:24); and that the ‘many sons’ whom God is ‘bringing unto glory,’ through Jesus Christ, ‘the captain of their salvation,’ who is ‘not ashamed to call them brethren’ (Heb 2:10-11; 12:7-9), are the new covenant people, in whose hearts God purposed to write His law. These ‘many sons’ constitute the Kingdom of God, according to the word, ‘Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved (shaken), let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear’ (Heb 12:28).

And likewise Isaiah, in one of his prophecies concerning this era of gospel blessing for ‘all nations,’ spoke of it as the time in which ‘out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isa 2:2-4). That ‘law’ which was to ‘go forth’ into all the world was ‘the law of Christ’ (Gal 6:2), and that ‘word’ was the gospel of Christ. And the time of the fulfilment of this and other like prophecies is clearly fixed in the New Testament Scriptures, as where Paul spoke concerning his gospel, and the preaching of the Jesus Christ, which ‘now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the PROPHETS, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith’ (Rom 16:25-26).

Therefore there were two great parts to the work that lay before the Son of God when He came into the world: First, He was to deliver the ‘many sons’ from the dominion of sin and death; and this He did when ‘through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil’ (Heb 2:14); and second, He was to give the law of God to those whom He should bring into the family of God through the door of the new birth; and this He did in His several discourses to His disciples, and chiefly in the Sermon on the Mount. And, like as Moses and the prophets added from time to time to the main body of the law originally given at Sinai, so Christ and the apostles added special revelations of the will of God for His new covenant people to the main body of the law of the Kingdom delivered by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Remembering that Moses was a type of Christ, it is instructive to note how this two-part work of Christ was pre-figured by that of Moses. For he not only brought a people out from the dominion of Pharaoh, crossing the Red Sea (typical of Christ’s death and resurrection which makes a way for His people through the waters of death), but also delivered to them the law of God, which was to be for their life and welfare.


Therefore, it is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5 to 7) that we find the formal statement of the Law of Christ, answering to the Law of Moses, given at Mount Sinai.

The contrast between the two mountains and between the attendant circumstances of these two givings of God’s law to a people on earth, is wonderfully expressive of the difference between the two Covenants to which they respectively belong. At the one were awesome sights and sounds; the mountain burning with fire and quaking at the presence of God, the pealing of the trumpet long and loud, and above all that terrifying ‘Voice of words,’ which caused the people to shrink back in fright and to entreat that the word should not be spoken to them any more; ‘and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.’ Whereas at the other mountain the same Divine Lawgiver, now in lowly human guise, sits quietly down, and the multitudes gather willingly to His feet to drink in His words; and they being thus voluntarily gathered around Him, then ‘He opened His mouth and taught them, saying … .’

And are those ‘sayings,’ law? Undoubtedly they are. When was there ever any question as to that? But they are the law of the New Covenant. Christ Himself said at the close of the incomparable discourse concerning these commandments which He twice designated these sayings of Mine: ‘Everyone whosoever’ – for so Matthew 7:24 reads in the original text – who hears these sayings of His, and does them, is likened unto a wise man who built his house on a rock; and everyone who hears them and does them not, is likened unto a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. Thus, the question we are now considering has to do (we have Christ’s own word for it) with the foundation upon which a man builds his life structure. The rule by which he lives.

We who are “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26) must go to find the fullest statement of what our Father in heaven has spoken specially to us, which has the greater claim to our willing and affectionate obedience because spoken by the lips of His own Son. For ‘God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us BY HIS SON’ (Heb 1: 1-2). And here is where we find our Lord’s commandments concerning which He said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15). And so it has always been held by the followers of Christ, real and nominal.


To some the doctrine of Christ as given chiefly in the Sermon on the Mount, presents a difficulty in that it does not expressly declare that a man’s salvation depends upon his faith, not upon his works; according as it was subsequently written by the apostle Paul, ‘For by grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2: 8-9).

But there is no real difficulty here; for the Sermon on the Mount was not spoken to explain how a man gets the new birth and enters into the Kingdom of God, but to teach those who enter into that Kingdom how to act in a manner that becomes those who are saved by grace through faith and have the knowledge of God the Father through the Son.

Christ had previously explained to Nicodemus, a teacher of the Jews, that entrance into the Kingdom of God was only by the narrow way of the new birth – a thing possible to God alone – and that for man, the only condition of salvation was to believe in Him whom God had sent into the world, His Son (John 3:5, 14-18). And this vital truth is stated also in the Sermon on the Mount; for there we read:

‘Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life; and few there be that find it’ (Matthew 7:12-13).

And this, in the Lord’s wisdom, was deemed enough on that subject for the purpose of that discourse and for the permanent record of it that was to become a part of the New Testament Scriptures which were not written and collected for nearly a generation later. For, in order to be saved, a man needs not to understand the conditions of salvation, or to know anything about the new birth. The one condition he must fulfil is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And these words on the Mount were spoken to His disciples, those who ‘came unto Him,’ and who thus manifested their faith in Him; though doubtless there were among them some who were moved by motives other than faith, and to these the warning given in the above quoted words was needful.

The Sermon on the Mount therefore presupposes that the hearers are already the people of God having entered the Kingdom of God in the only way it can be entered. For here we have another point of resemblance between Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, and Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new, of whom Moses spoke when he said:

‘The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him shall ye hearken, according unto all that you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb, . . . saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command thee.’ (Deut. 18:14-18).

Christ was a Prophet like unto Moses in that (among other points of resemblance) He spoke the words of God to a people whom God had set apart for Himself. And just as the law of Mount Sinai was given to, and intended to be obeyed by, a people whom God had delivered out of Egypt, from under the yoke of Pharaoh, and brought through the waters of the Red Sea; even so, the law of that other Mount is given for the obedience of a people delivered out of this present evil world, from under the yoke of its prince, and brought through the waters of death and judgment by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Sermon on the Mount was not spoken to the promiscuous multitudes on the plain below, the ‘sick people,’ those ‘taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy’; whom He healed; and because of which ‘there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee,’ and from other regions, some quite remote (Mat 4:24, 25). Those great multitudes saw His miracles and received temporal benefits; but they did not hear the Sermon on the Mount. To enjoy that unspeakable privilege they must have the heart of a disciple, and must undergo the exertion of climbing the mountain. For ‘Seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set His disciples came unto Him; and He opened His mouth, and taught them.’ And then proceeded from His gracious lips (Ps. 45:2) those matchless ‘words of grace,’ which God had promised through Moses when He said, ‘And I will put My words IN HIS MOUTH.’

The Word of God records for our instruction the two great and wonderful occasions in the history of the world when men heard the voice of God Himself uttering the commandments which they were to keep.

We see the character of the era of grace in the fact that the disciples’ coming to Him was voluntary. It was their own heart that prompted them to ascend that mountain and listen to His Words. The Lord met the needs of “the multitudes” on the low levels of the plain; but those only who were drawn to His own Person up to the mountain-top, received of His words. To those who respond to the gospel He gives “rest” from the burden and penalty of sin; and to them He also says: “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me”; but He does not force His yoke upon any, nor compel even His own people to learn of Him.

As we think on these things and meditate upon the great work of grace which has been going on for nineteen centuries with so little outward show, we can see with the mind’s eye the ‘many children’ newly born into the Kingdom of heaven hastening, in response to a heaven-sent impulse, up the mountain, away from the distracting sights and sounds of the earth, to that quiet place where Christ’s own voice may be heard speaking the words His Father gave Him to speak (John 7:16; 17:8).

The Lord Jesus Christ, as first-born over the entire family of God, shares everything He has with the beloved children. And among the choicest of those family possessions are the Father’s ‘commandments.’ Speaking of these He said: ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10); and again, ‘That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do’ (John 14:31). By these, and by many other Scriptures, we learn that the Kingdom of heaven calls upon those who are in it to keep the commandments of God willingly, and through love alone. But, according to a modern teaching, the doing of the Father’s commandments is ‘legality.’ If therefore our hearts respond at all to the grace of God manifested to us in bringing us into His household on the footing of children, then we shall not be looking for excuses to justify ourselves in not keeping His commandments, but on the contrary we shall be rather eager to keep them; we shall count it a privilege to have them; they will be our joy, our treasure, our chief delight; and the law of His mouth will be better to us than thousands of gold and silver.


But we have digressed from our subject; so we come back to the great truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith. And let it be noted that this is true not in this era only, but in every other as well. But God demands that the faith shall be real; and the proof of real faith is obedience, loyal loving submission to the revealed will of God. Therefore, that the members of the church at Corinth were saved was manifested by their “professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor. 9:13). And therefore the doctrine of Christ contained in Matthew 7, while it affirms the foundation truth that salvation is only by faith in Himself, puts the strongest emphasis upon the fact that true faith manifests itself as such, and also builds for its possessor an enduring structure, in the doing of the will of God as revealed in those ‘sayings’ of His Son.

Therefore what is most needful for us to understand, whom God has delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son, is that the obedience upon which the Lord so strongly insists in that great utterance, is – not the effort of the natural man to keep the law of God (a thing which God plainly says is impossible – Rom 8:7), but – the spontaneous desire and purpose of the renewed heart to do the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For in this is the essence of Christ-likeness; and hence it is the nature of the ‘new man’ and the outcome of the new birth.

It is not, of course, demanded as a condition of final salvation that the child of God shall be manifesting in all his acts and words the character of the Obedient One; for none other could say, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart’ (Psalm 40:8). For it is a truth of Scripture, and of the humbling experience also of every child of God, that the ‘old man’ remains still in those who have been born of God, and his hateful ways are all too frequently seen in their behaviour. But on the other hand, if the ‘obedience of Christ’ is never seen in one who professes the faith of Christ, it is proof that there has never been a work of God in his heart. For when the disciples came to Jesus asking, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child unto Him, and setting him before them as an object lesson, He said: ‘Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted’ (a work of God) ‘and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:1-3).


Furthermore, in the verses of the Sermon on the Mount immediately following those in which Christ speaks of entering in at the straight gate, He uses another illustration which serves to make His meaning clearer. In those verses (Mat 7:15-20), He points out that fruit is the product of life (and hence the evidence of it); and that the character of the fruit depends entirely upon the character of the tree. This goes to the very root of the matter. It declares in the strongest way that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It is an impossibility! What then? Seeing that every man is by nature utterly corrupt, how can anyone bring forth the fruits of good deeds? The Lord Himself has given the answer, saying, ‘Make the tree good, and his fruit good’ (Mat 12:33); and the context shows (v. 35) that he is speaking of the heart of man. In other words, one must be born again, and receive the Holy Spirit, ere he can produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 3:26; 4:6; 5:22, 23).

We find then that the doctrine of Christ, as given in the concluding portion of the Sermon on the Mount, so far from being in conflict with the truth of the gospel, sets forth that truth in the clearest light. The gospel demands obedience; and it is preached for the express purpose of producing obedience among all nations, even ‘the obedience of faith’ (Rom 1:5; 6:17; 15:18; 16:19, 26). Indeed ‘eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord’ is to be the portion of all who ‘obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thes 1:7-9).

Hence the first question of one who has been saved by grace is that which Saul of Tarsus asked: ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ One who sincerely asks this question has been already saved by grace through faith; and such a one will find a full, though concise, answer to his question in the Sermon on the Mount. And to ‘these sayings’ he will go, not to gain salvation by the keeping of them; but, knowing that his salvation is already secured by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, making him a child of God, he will go to them in order that, in the doing of them, he may let his light so shine before men that they may see his good works and glorify his Father who is in heaven.