Galatians 6:2 – Fulfilling the Law of Christ

“Bear one another’s burdens and you will fulfill the law of Christ”
Galatians 6:2

Continuing our discussion from the previous post, here are a few more questions:

1. Should the future tense of the verb be understood as a simple indicative (as the translation above reflects) or as an imperative?

2. What is the relationship between the law of Christ and the Mosaic Law?

3. How is it that bearing one another’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ?

To your keyboards, scholars, theologians, and otherwise opinionated folks!

5 thoughts on “Galatians 6:2 – Fulfilling the Law of Christ”

  1. Nothing like joining the conversation toward the end!

    As for the invitation to scholars and theologians, I dare say at best I’m only a wannbe. And I’m not usually very opinionated, either. I usually have more questions than answers, but I’ll take a stab at this anyhow.

    1. First, are you assuming the future form as the correct one and asking if it has imperatival force? Or are you asking if the aorist impv. variant should be preferred? I’m certainly not a TC scholar, so I will assume Metzger is correct when he sais that “Although the aorist imperative…is strongly supported…the future tense appeared to the Committee to be slightly preferable.” I guess that’s good enough for me. For now.

    As for the imperatival future, that would seem to make two separate commands: Bear…AND fulfill. But I find it difficult to translate it that way, especially with the presense of houtws.

    Wallace says “The future indicative is sometimes used for a command, almost always in OT quotations (due to a literal translation of the Hebrew). However, it was used in this manner even in classical Greek, though sparingly. Outside of Matthew, this usage is not common.”

    So, I’m going to go for indicative on this one. But is the application any different regardless of the conclusion?

    2. Could it be that “the law of Christ” is the essence of “God’s Law” and the Mosaic Law is it’s application to the nation of Israel. Both reflect the “unwritten law” of eternal principles. So we need to apply the law Christ in our culture.

    3. I think a pretty good case can be made that on the commandments Love God, and Love your Neighbor, all the law and the prophets (and Christ!) depend. By participating in the life of another in this way, we are doing both! (Ala 1 John).

  2. Gary,

    Yes, I am assuming that the original text is in fact a future indicative. But as you note from Wallace, the future indicative can have an imperatival force. As reflected in my translation of the verse at the top of the post, I think the future indicative here has a logical force.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  3. 1. It seems that “fulfill” is a continuation of “bear”; i.e., a sure result or promise. That is, by bearing you fulfill. If indeed the correct reading is future indicative, there would still be an imperative idea through its connection with the imperative to bear.

    2. Assuming that the law of Christ is the law love on which depends the law and the prophets. Christ came to fulfill the law, the law came to lead us go Christ. This seems to be the essence of the relationship.

    3. Once again, the law of Christ is the law of love. Bearing another’s burden is an act of love; willing taking a burden that is not my own for the benefit of another. This is supremely illustrated by Christ bearing the burden of our sins on the cross; willingly, in love.

    some thoughts.

  4. While patently and neglecting the exegetical fine points which you have raised, Matt, I love the following 2 more general statements on fulfilling the law, the first of which is unsurprising and the second of which (to me) is quite surprising.

    “Are we then doing away with free choice through grace? Heaven forbid! Rather, we make free choice stronger. . . . through faith we obtain grace to struggle against sin; through grace the soul is healed from the wound of sin; through the good health of the soul we have freedom of choice; through free choice we have the love of righteousness; through the love of righteousness we fulfill the law. The law is not done away with, but strengthened by faith, because faith obtains the grace by which we fulfill the law. In the same way, free choice is not done away with by grace, but strengthened, because grace heals the will by which we freely love righteousness.”

    –“The Spirit and the Letter,” in The Works of Saint Augustine, Vol. 23: Answer to the Pelagians, trans. Roland J. Teske, ed. John E. Rotelle (New York: New City, 1997), 185.

    “How can a man prepare himself for good by means of works, if he does no good works without displeasure and unwillingness of heart? How shall a work please God, if it proceeds from a reluctant and resisting heart? To fulfill the law, however, is to do its works with pleasure and love, and to live a godly and good life of one’s own accord, without the compulsion of the law. This pleasure and love for the law is put into the heart by the Holy Ghost.”

    –Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1954), xiv-xv.

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