This post will only interest believing Christians, but I wanted to share something that recently occurred to me.
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus famously says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
He also explained what the two greatest commandments were in this exchange (Mt 22: 36-40):
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Now, there is definitely a sense in which Christianity frees people from bondage under the Law. Rather than being judged by your works, instead you are judged by the single criterion–have you “believed in” Jesus? This represents the greatest joy and greatest stumbling block of Christianity. How can someone get into paradise regardless of his works?
But watch this: When we push deeper and ask, “What does it mean to ‘believe in’ Jesus?” it’s more than an intellectual acknowledgement that He’s the Son of God. (After all, the demons know that.) One way of defining “belief” (in this context) is to say it means “to be in love with.” (That certainly does not hold for the demons; they know there is a God and that His Son is Jesus, but they don’t love God.)
So, if you “believe in” Jesus in the sense required for your salvation, then you are in love with Jesus. And the core “fact of reality” for Christianity is that Jesus is Himself God incarnate while being fully man. Therefore, if you believe in Jesus and you accept that He is God, then you (a) are in love with God and (b) are in love with your fellow man.
In other words, if you obey the new “updated” rule for getting into heaven, you are actually doing exactly the works that Jesus summed up as the foundation of the Mosaic Law.
Last thing: I don’t think this is ungrounded speculation on my part. Look at John 6: 28-29:
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”