Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Law Written on our Hearts

In the days of Jeremiah, a prophecy was given in which God declared that He would make a New Covenant. In this declaration, Jeremiah recorded that the law of God would be written on our hearts and in our minds.

Jer 31:31-33 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. (32) It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. (33) "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

What does it mean to have the law written on our hearts and minds? What form does this take? Was this a new concept, with the time prior to the New Covenant being a time when the law was written in ink and stone rather than in hearts and minds, and read and obeyed rather than internalized and obeyed?

Jesus Discusses Anger and Lust

In this famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount, it would appear that Jesus is expanding the scope of the 10 Commandments to include thoughts within the scope of all of the law. He calls out anger as an example and places thoughts within the scope of the command, "You shall not murder".

Mat 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' (22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Notice the words "and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment". What had happened to the people is they had been trying to obey the "letter" of the law, lest in their disobedience they would be judged and punished for breaking it; "anyone who murders will be subject to judgment". They were following the law through rote action to avoid judgment, but forgetting the intent of the law was to be obeyed through a heart change. The passage "anyone who murders will be subject to judgment" was not part of the law, but had been added by "people long ago".

Is Jesus expanding the scope of the law, or is He reminding the people of what the commands of that law had been all along? Notice this passage from Leviticus:

Lev 19:17-18 "'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. (18) "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

In this passage we can see that according to the law from the beginning, anger, revenge and grudges were always considered a part of the command "You shall not murder". Obedience should have come from a godly heart, not a fear of judgment. The ordinance governing the heart had been in place all along, and is here written as "love your neighbor as yourself".

We see the same thing in Jesus' discourse on lust. The command was never about just avoiding adultery, it was always about the change of heart as a part of loving your neighbor as yourself.

Pro 6:25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.

Jesus was not expanding, upping, or making the law harder to keep. He was reminding the people that all of the law had always governed the heart.

The Law was Always For Our Hearts and Minds

Consider these passages that qualify all of the law under the Old Covenant. Clearly from the very beginning, all of the law was to be written on our hearts.

Deu 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deu 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Deu 11:18-20 "And you shall put these, my words, on your heart and on your inner self, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be as an emblem between your eyes. (19) And you shall teach them to your children by talking about them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. (20) And you shall write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates,

Pro 3:1-3 My child, do not forget my instruction, and may your heart guard my commands. (2) For length of days, years of life, and peace they shall add to you. (3) May loyal love and truth not forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them upon your heart.

Pro 7:1-3 My child, guard my sayings; store my commandments with you. (2) Keep my commands and live, and my teaching like the apple of your eye. (3) Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

From these passages we can see the evidence that Jesus was not changing the law to include thoughts, the thoughts of our hearts were always a part of all of the law from the time it was first given. What Jesus was reminding them of was that the fulfillment of the law was to be found in the heart, and that fulfillment was drawing near.

Who is the Writer

Jeremiah declared that under the New Covenant: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.". In light of the fact that the law was to have been written on our hearts from the beginning, as shown above, what was the new revelation that the New Covenant was bringing to pass?

In the passages above, notice who the writer is. God is instructing the PEOPLE to write the laws on their own hearts. Consider these instructions given to the people in just these five verses:

Don't let them fade from your heart
Impress them on your children
Talk about them
Tie them as symbols on your hands
Bind them on your foreheads
Write them on the doorframes
Put them on your hearts and inner self
Bind them as a sign on your hand
Teach them to your children
Write them on your doorframes (again)
May your heart guard them
Bind them around your neck
Write them on your heart
Store my commandments with you
Bind them on your fingers
Write them on the tablet of your heart

It is quite clear that the writer of the law under the Old Covenant is the individual PERSON. God is commanding each individual person to do the writing, binding and tying to their own hearts. Clearly the efforts of writing falls on the individual under the Old Covenant.

Now reread Jeremiah 31:33

Jer 31:33 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

How then do we reconcile God telling us that under the New Covenant that the law would be written on our hearts and minds, something that should have been done from the beginning? What is this passage actually saying?

The glory of the New Covenant can be found not only in what is being written on the hearts and minds, but in WHO is doing the writing. Under the New Covenant, God tells us that HE will write the law on our hearts and in our minds. It will no longer be left to the individual to do the writing, but Jesus through the Holy Spirit Himself will do the writing. Note this collaborating passage from Ezekiel:

Eze 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Notice again in this passage from Ezekiel speaking of the coming New Covenant. It says that HE will give us a new heart, HE will put a new Spirit in us, HE will give us a heart of flesh, HE will put His Spirit in us, and HE will move us.

The writer to Hebrews collaborates this when he quotes the declaration of the Lord when He says "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts".

Heb 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Heb 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."

The great change in the covenants between the Old and the New is that the writing of the law on our hearts and minds will no longer be left to us, but Jesus through the Holy Spirit will do the writing.

The connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the declaration that God will now do the writing is unmistakably clear. The Holy Spirit is the writer now, and it is no longer left to our own strength and power.

What is Being Written

All of this begs the question, what did God mean when He said He would write His law on our hearts and minds. Did He mean that the complete Mosaic Law would be transcribed into our hearts and minds somehow and that we would still need to keep the ordinances? Is the fulfilled state of the law different than the unfulfilled state? How can we know if the law is being written on our hearts and minds?

The evidence of what is written in our hearts and minds is easier to see then the actual writing taking place. Let's look at the evidence of the law written on our hearts and minds first.

2 Cor 3:3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Paul was telling the Corinthian believers that they were showing that they were a "letter from Christ" based on what was written "on tablets of human hearts" by the "Spirit of the living God". So here we have evidence that the New Covenant was in place at this time, since the person who was doing the writing had changed from the individual person, to the living God.

What is it that the Corinthians were "showing" that lead Paul to say that they were "letters from Christ"?

Love expressed is clearly the end goal of all of the law. Regardless of who does the writing, whether the people were under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant, the intent of the law was to bring change to the heart and mind with the end goal of making expressed love the preeminent and godly characteristic of mankind.

The law from the beginning was to love God and love your neighbor. Matthew recorded that all of the law contained within these two commands. The 10 Commandments bear this out, as the first 4 command us to love God, and the last 6 command us to love our neighbor:

Mat 22:37-40 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Jesus was quoting two passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus:

Deu 6:5-6 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Lev 19:18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

It seems clear that what Jesus is saying is that the evidence of "law keeping" is completely revealed in love for God, and love for neighbor.

Rom 10:4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The word translated "culmination" in the NIV is "tello", it means "the point aimed at as a limit, or the conclusion of an act or state". Compare "culmination" with the word translated "instruction" from the Hebrew word "yarah" in Exodus 24:12:

Exo 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction."

"yarah" means to teach, instruct, inform "figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger)". Interestingly, the word "Torah" has a very similar meaning. The law, indeed the entire Torah was pointing to something else, and that something else was ultimately Christ, through whom the the law in it's fulfilled state would finally be written on our hearts.

The result of the law being written in our heart, it's fulfillment, what it was pointing at, that in which the culmination was Christ, was love of God and love of neighbor. This love was by Christ through the Holy Spirit as declared in the New Covenant by HIM doing the writing on our hearts.

In this way, we can see that through Christ's "culmination" of the law, all of the commands of the New Covenant are to keep the law in it's FULFILLED state of agape love poured out on our hearts.

Under the Old Covenant, love was to be expressed through our efforts at internalizing the law into our own hearts, and by it being changed into a person who accurately reflected God's loving nature. Under the New Covenant, love is "agape", love planted in our heart by divine revelation and poured out in action towards God and neighbor.

Rom 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The fulfillment of the law is agape love. Agape love is that love which is planted within us by divine revelation, and which then flows outwards to God and our neighbors by it's very nature. The divine revelation of agape love is the fulfilled law, written into our hearts.

When love is expressed with actions and truth, it has a specific nature, primarily, it is a love felt by the recipients, the recipients being reasonable people. This love in truth and action is described for us in several passages:

1 Jn 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 Cor 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (13) Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Therefore, keeping the law and the commands of God under the New Covenant are specifically understood to be the law in it's fulfilled state of agape love which is poured into our hearts. If Christ had not fulfilled the law, then we would still be trying to internalize the law under our own strength and power as was the case under the Old Covenant. That is the context for the following passages:

Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Rom 13:10 Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gal 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

How is it Being Written

In the following verses we read that we become Christ like as the Holy Spirit makes us new, transforms us, and regenerates us through washing and renewal by His cleansing interaction with our mind and heart. This transformation and regeneration is the process of writing happening on our hearts.

Under the Old Covenant, change was commanded by God through the instruction to obey the law written in ink. Under the New Covenant, Christ brings regeneration and we change, that is the process of the fulfilled law being written on our heart by the Spirit.

2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Tit 3:4-6 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Thus, that which is doing the writing under the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit. The "pen" is rebirth, renewal, transformation, all of which lead to the presence of agape love in our hearts.


One of the primary factors distinguishing between the Old and New Covenants is who the writer of our hearts and minds is. Under the Old, we are commanded to be the writer, and under the New, the Holy Spirit is the writer.

Both the Old and the New Covenant law commands us to love God and love our neighbor. The Old Covenant Mosaic Law commanded us as individuals to do that, the New Covenant commands us to allow the Holy Spirit to do that through us.

While the Mosaic Law pointed at love, the Holy Spirit IS love. The writing in our hearts is not of the letter of the law which pointed at love, but of the Spirit who IS love.

When the writers of the New Testament speak of keeping the "commands" of God, they are speaking not of the law written in ink, but the fulfilled law. If Jesus fulfilled all of the law, then the commands we are told to keep under the New Covenant are those of the law in it's fulfilled state, that which the law pointed at, agape love.

Remember that "Torah", and "instruction" are both translated from Hebrew words meaning "to point towards, as if by pointing the finger" at a greater thing, such as godly character from the heart. The law was unable to produce godly character from the heart even though that is what the Israelites were commanded to do. Jesus however, was able to be a man of perfect godly character, thus fulfilling the law, and has subsequently come to live in us and by His work in us produce godly character in us Himself. Through Christ in us, we are able to realize the fulfillment of the law in us through agape love.

So there should be no confusion about what law is being written on our hearts and minds, and what we are to keep. It is the law in it's fulfilled nature, agape love, poured into us. Consider just a few of the passages that make this perfectly clear, from the perspective that "love" in the verses below is that agape love which God pours into and writes onto our hearts:

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

2 Jn 1:5-6 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (6) And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
Note: The command was not new in that we have always had the command to love God and one another. But it IS new in respect to it's fulfilled nature and source, agape, love given by divine revelation.

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.

Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Eph 5:1-2 Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children (2) and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Pe 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (9) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Jn 3:22-23 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 Jn 4:21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

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