Galatians 5:14. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love is the fulfillment of Christ’s life in you. And it is also the fulfillment of the law.
Now I know this can be confusing, because this whole book of Galatians has been an argument against law keeping. The law has been equated with the flesh’s self promotion. It has been placed alongside the stoichea tou kosmou (the elementary principles of the world). And as we will see in a few more verses, a life of law keeping is opposite of the Spirit life. So why does Paul seem to bring us back under the law here in Galatians 5:14?
In short, he doesn’t. Rather, he is continuing to move us beyond the law, while exalting Christ’s love as the highest motivation and ethic. By saying that our love, empowered by Christ in us (Gal. 2:20), is the fulfillment of the law, he is actually showing us precisely why we no longer need the law. The law’s purpose (love for neighbor) is completed, fulfilled, accomplished, by our love from the Spirit of Freedom (5:1,13,22). If you live by faith in the love of Christ, you will express the love of Christ, and you will also be fulfilling everything the law required. Sort of like if you were asked to make it to a destination 100 miles away in less than 4 hours. If you have to walk (the law) you won’t make it. But if I pick you up in my car (Christ) we will be there in a couple hours in luxury. Getting there in the car fulfills the demand, just like walking would. But the car actually makes it possible.
So how is living from Christ’s life, different from living by the law? THE LAW NEVER COULD OR WILL PRODUCE LOVE. Love’s demand had to be accomplished for you (Christ’s life), and then love had to be given freely to you by his grace through faith. CHRIST’S GRACIOUS LIFE IN YOU CAN AND DOES PRODUCE LOVE.
Paul is saying, “Oh, and by the way, Galatians, now the law you are trying so hard to keep is finally fulfilled in us. Not by circumcision, or festival keeping, or diet. But by love.”
“To live is Christ” means we don’t run back to law to fulfill the demand for love. We run to Christ. We trust his love for us and in us. We believe that by grace, what the law was supposed to accomplish has been accomplished in us by the Spirit. And now we can live it out by the Spirit.