Pastor John Piper answered this question posed to him in relation to “How Do You Live the Christian Life?” Is a Christian supposed to focus on something ? Or rather is a Christian suppose to focus on a person: the Lord Jesus Christ who have fulfilled the Law which is the Ten Commandment ?
What Does Life Look Like Now?
And so the great question that Paul is dealing with now in Romans 12–16 is what does life look like for people who know that by faith alone all their sins are forgiven, and all their condemnation is removed, and all of God’s righteousness in Christ has become their righteousness—what does life look like? How do you live the Christian life? What do you pursue? What do you focus on?
Two Different Answers
Do you say, “Now I am forgiven by faith alone, and now I have the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith alone, and now I have the Holy Spirit within me by faith alone, so now I will go back to the law—the ten commandments, and whatever other commandments there are (Romans 13:9)—and I will focus my new God-given ability on the these commandments and fulfill them”?
No. I don’t think that is the way Paul guides us. I think he wants to speak rather like this: “Now I am forgiven by faith alone, and now I have the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith alone, and now I have the Holy Spirit within me by faith alone, so now I will continue to make my focus Jesus Christ every day, and I will look to him for everything my soul craves. And from my union with Christ, nurtured hour by hour by focusing on Christ as my great Savior and mighty Lord and infinite Treasure, I will love people. Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit.”
Why Does Paul Want Us to Speak One Way and Not the Other?
Why do I think Paul wants us to speak that way and not the other? Lots of reasons,1 but I close with only one—the one that has been most precious and powerful in my life in the last four and a half years (since I first preached on it): Romans 7:4, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ.” That is, when Christ died to bear the law’s curse you died in him, and when he obeyed in death to fulfill the law’s demands, you obeyed in him. The law is not your focus anymore. What is? Wrong question. The question is, “Who is?” and the next part of the verse gives the stunning answer: You have died to the law through the body of Christ “so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead.”
Paul puts the risen, living Christ where the law was. Once you were alive to the law, but now you belong to Christ. In the place of law is a Person—a great Savior, a mighty Lord, an infinite Treasure. Our daily, hourly focus is now on him—his deliverance, his help, his guidance, the beauty of his love and justice and power and wisdom and truth, and all the joy of knowing him. And what comes of this union with Christ at the end of Romans 7:4?
Fruit. “. . . so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” And what fruit is that? The fruit is love (Galatians 5:22; 5:6; 1 Timothy 1:5). And, yes, that love does fulfill the law—not perfectly2 (Christ alone has done that for me), but truly, because my life now in Christ has a new spirit, a new passion, new direction.
The Short Answer
That’s a long answer to the question: Why does Paul call for love as a way to fulfill the law instead of directing our focus directly to the law? The short answer would be: because he wants Christ to be glorified as our sin-bearer and our righteousness-provider and our love-enabler through faith alone. Therefore, owe no one anything except to love them. And to that end make Christ your everything.”