What is the Law Written on our Hearts?

Six-hundred years before Jesus came, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant that God would make with his people:

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. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (Jer 31:33-34)

What is the law that God writes on our hearts and minds? Here are three things it is not:

  • It is not the law of Moses. If God wrote the Ten Commandments on our hearts then Jesus died for nothing.
  • It is not a new and improved version of the law. It is not the new commands of Jesus or the New Testament. We cannot please God by keeping a new law any more than we could please him by keeping an old one.
  • It is not the knowledge of right and wrong that was bestowed upon us by Adam.

So what is this law that the Lord writes on our hearts and minds and embeds in our very being?

It is himself.

Let’s look at three things the New Testament says about the new law in our hearts.

1. The law of love

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

Under the old law covenant, love was demanded from you. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But under the new covenant of grace, love is given to you – “As I have loved you” – and out of the overflow of Christ’s measureless love we are able to love others.

Sounds good, but how does it happen?

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom 5:5)

God abundantly pours his love into our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Spirit of Christ. Do you see the difference between the old and new?

  • Under the old, the law was a rule for weak men to obey. Under the new, the Law is the Spirit of Christ given to us, loving us, and loving others through us.
  • Under the old, you loved others because you feared punishment. But under the new, you love because a Lover lives in you and it is his nature to love.
  • Under the old, you had to make an effort to obey. But under the new you have to make an effort to disobey. It’s a whole new way of life.

2. The law of the Spirit of life

It’s important that you understand the difference between the old law (a written code you can’t keep) and the new Law (Christ himself, living in you). Try and live by the old laws, as Paul did, and it make you miserable:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Rom 7:24)

Paul couldn’t keep the old law no matter how hard he tried. He needed a new law and that new law is a Who:

Who will rescue me…? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 7:24-25a)

Do you see? The old law is a what; the new law is a Who. The old law ministers condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:7-9), but the new “law of the Spirit gives life” (Rom 8:2).

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:6)

Who gives life? Not a set of rules, but the Spirit of Christ within you. One more time for emphasis: the new law is a Who.

3. The perfect law of liberty

James wrote of “the perfect law that gives freedom” (Jas 1:25), which can be contrasted with the law of Moses that binds (Rom 7:6). What is the perfect law that gives freedom? Well, what is the implanted word that can save you (Jas 1:21)? It’s not the Ten Commandments or the Bible. It’s Jesus, the living Word who sets us free.

The perfect law of liberty describes what Jesus has done (perfectly fulfilled or completed the law) and the fruit he will bear in our lives (liberty) if we trust him.

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. (Jas 1:25)

Look into the mirror of Moses’ law and you will be miserable, for it exposes all your faults. But look into the perfect law which is Jesus and you will be blessed, for it reveals his righteousness.

“Don’t just listen but do what it (the perfect law of liberty) says” (Jas 1:22). In other words, allow the Spirit of Christ to convince you that in him you are righteous and holy. Don’t walk away from the perfect law and forget who you are in Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look intently with an unveiled face and be transformed into his likeness.

The Law written in our hearts is Jesus

Jeremiah said those who had the new law written on their hearts would know the Lord and would no longer need others to teach them. This is describing your union with Christ. One with the Lord you have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). His Spirit dwells in you and teaches you all things (John 14:26).

The law of the Lord written into your members is your Father’s spiritual DNA. It is the seed of God birthed in you by the Holy Spirit. It’s Jesus himself.

How do you know he’s there? Because you are a new creation with new hopes and desires. You no longer want to sin. Your desire is to love God and others and that desire has nothing to do with old rules written in stone.

Christian, you are who you are because Christ lives in you.

He is the new law written, by God, in your heart and mind.


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32 Comments on What is the Law Written on our Hearts?

  1. What then about keeping the sabbath day?

    • He who fully trusts in Jesus and his Perfect Work, has effectively fulfilled all the requirements of the law through Christ (Rom 10:4, AMP). Conversely, he who thinks he must keep the law, in whatever shape or form, insults the Spirit of Grace and treats the Son of God with contempt. Jesus is our Sabbath rest.

    • When I was studying trying to figure out if 10 commandments were to be obeyed(including the Sabbath one) by believers in Christ I discovered a few passages that quickly cleared things up. Compare Deuteronomy 4:13, 9:9 with Hebrews 8:8-13 with regards to how scripture defines each covenant.

  2. Benjamin Arazu // February 28, 2018 at 10:46 am // Reply

    “Under the old, you had to make an effort to obey. But under the new you have to make an effort to disobey. It’s a whole new way of life.” What do you mean we make an effort to disobey?

  3. Linda Giles // March 4, 2018 at 1:43 am // Reply

    So which one of the 10 vommandments can I break? You will say none. And I will say then we are supposed to keep them. And if we are supposed to keep them then all the comments in this thread arguing on both sides is pointless.

    • Not pointless at all. Phrasing the question in law terms, leads to a law answer and a law mindset. You will try to keep the commandments, as Paul does in Romans 7, and find that you have empowered sin. (The strength of sin is the law.) You may keep most of them, but there will be one that you cannot keep. (For Paul it was coveting.) That one will do you in, and then it will be as though you had broken them all. You will have become a lawbreaker, guilty of breaking all (James 2:10).

      Here’s a better question: are you trying or trusting? If you are trying to keep the law, you are walking in the flesh and you will invariably fail. If you are trusting Jesus, you are walking in the new way of the Spirit. More here.

      • Paul, you are indeed correct about the law. “Supposed to keep them” has become in the new covenant “want to keep them” and “can keep them,” as we now understand “them” to be the teachings of Christ. Let me elaborate.

        As the expression of God’s holy character, the law is “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). But sin subverts the law so that it cannot replicate God’s holy character in the unredeemed person. Verse 8 shows that law—“the commandment”—uses sin to produce covetousness. To quote myself on verse 13 (from my Romans exposition at reckonyourself.com), “Sin seems to know that putting the standards of the law in front of man’s sinful nature is like waving a red cape in front of a bull. Sin’s utter sinfulness is to want man mortally gored.”

        By the Spirit Christians are able to fulfill “the law of Christ” by loving others (Galatians 6:2). This new covenant law refers to the standard of conduct Christ taught us about the will of God. This law we can obey. The Spirit renews our minds so that we know how to please God in any circumstance. In this sense the renewed mind has replaced the OT law.

        We are set free from the dominion of sin. Sin no longer has control over us. We have authority over sin. We are indeed dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11)!

  4. Here’s an entertaining illustration that works for me. Back in the old days there were lots of indoor shopping malls. There are still some now, but fewer. They all had 2 long floors lined with stores and the only way to get to that second floor was the escalators at the ends of the long layouts. So, picture an Old Covenant first floor and a New Covenant second floor. Things are different on each floor. You can’t mix the two, they are separated in a manner that is out of your control. On the first floor is the law and your flesh and a sacrificial system to relive the guilt of sin. The currency to make your purchases with is law abiding. Everything is better on the second floor but none of the things on the 1st floor are present there. The only way they can be is for you to bring them with you. But rest assure, they have no business there and will only get in the way. The cross is the escalator and at the top you are dressed in the righteousness of Jesus. You are given a new spirit, a well of living water to make your purchases with. The 1st floor currency is not valid here. We can go on with analogies and have some fun with describing the differences of the 2 floors, but what is important is that Christians learn to see the grand difference between being in Christ and being under the law. My recommendation would be to read Paul’s articles and comments and take solitary walks in the woods or someplace natural and talk it over with God. On the first floor it’s all about you. On the 2nd floor it’s all about Jesus.

  5. Miebaike Osas Yerins // May 9, 2018 at 8:44 pm // Reply

    Does Christ want us to tithe or give cheerfully to please Him?

  6. Stephen Sponsler // June 12, 2018 at 8:53 pm // Reply

    Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    ***2 For ” in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life” ***

    has set you free from The Law of Sin and Death.

    3 For what the Law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh,
    God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, as an offering for Sin.
    He thus condemned Sin in the flesh,

  7. Burgula Benjamin // June 19, 2018 at 1:11 pm // Reply

    This message is very much needed to understand the difference of old testments and new and how holy Spirit poured into our hearts as lord himself and also lives in Union with us to love others with Christ mind we feel liberty from sin and curses boldly live as holy righteous way to please the Lord for glory of father name . thanks brother.

  8. Thank you so Much Sir.i have been so much enlightened and received answers to questions I have had for a longtime but couldn’t quite get.thank you

  9. The law of God. What law does Good live by? Love. God is love. Jesus is the only man who fulfilled the law to love God with all His heart, soul and might and love His neighbor as Himself. He proved it when He died on that cross. And now He lives in us. We are married to Him. We have a new nature a new law to live by. “Love one another as I have loved you.” We have the mind of Christ that says though I am equal, I have no problem humbling myself to serve you.

  10. Hi Paul, I could really do with your help in this whole area of teaching and obeying commandments – especially in the New Testament. I’ve read your article on New Testament commands too but I’m still left with this nagging question. You quoted Jeremiah who said the law would be written on our hearts and we would not need anyone to teach us. And we have our Father’s spiritual DNA so want to love Him and others. My question in the light of these two realities is why then are we given so many commands/instructions /rules in the NT letters? I’m thinking especially of James as I’m preparing a Grace based teaching on it for a group. The writers of these letters don’t seem at all confident that the love of the Father and the spirit of Christ within us are enough to cause us to live like Him. Hence they dispense rules rules and more rules. I’m confused and to be honest pretty fed up with how difficult it can be to read scripture without a headache trying to figure out how these commands aren’t really commands. I don’t want to exchange one set of law yokes for another. What’s going on???!!! Thanks for your insights.

    • Hi Gilly. I don’t see the many NT exhortations to the church as commandments, but they can certainly come across that way. Have you seen my article, “How to read the commands of the New Testament“? I have written extensively on James. I think he is one of the most misunderstood apostles. Recall that James is not speaking to the church exclusively, but to the “twelve tribes,” meaning the Jewish people (see Jas. 1:1). He writes in a language his listeners understand so they may come to recognize their need for grace. I hope this helps.

  11. A lot of confusion will be cleared if one sees the difference between the 10 commandments and the law of Moses.

    Sabbath of the Lord Ceremonial Sabbaths
    Spoken by God personally – (Exodus 20:1, 8-11) Spoken by Moses – (Exodus 24:3)
    Written in stone by God Himself – (Exodus 31:18) Written by Moses hand on paper – (Exodus 24:4)
    Placed inside the Ark of the covenant – (Deu 10:5 Stored on the outside of the Ark – (Deu 31:26)
    10 commandments under the Mercy Seat says a lot of things about it. (This would be a good topic to discuss about)

    When the Bible talks about the law, one has to ask which law is being referred to. The 10 commandments or the Book of Moses? This would clarify a lot of things.

    Although the Law of Moses was based on the 10 commandments it is still totally apart from the 10. Hence the differentiating between the 2 as mentioned above. Just ask the Jews and you will have their testimony.

    There is a list of theologians and Churches that made statements referring to the 10 as a moral law. A lot, including me, agrees with them. And yet at the same time, it is being promoted, knowingly or unknowingly, to disregard them as if they are contrary to love, spirit, and liberty,
    How can that happen when those who truly have faith in Jesus promote the law? Rom_3:31 ” Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

    Faith precedes law keeping. Law keeping before faith is legalism. The first leads to life. The second leads to death.

    • When Galatians speaks of the Law it clearly says that it is speaking of what was handed down at Mt. Sinai. It does not give exception for the 10 as a separate set of commands. The new testament does not differentiate between the 10 and the rest of the Law. The separation of which you speak is of human manufacture.

  12. So amazing ! Thank You Lord for the freedom! 1000x amen to this words!

  13. In any theological discussion, I place the most weight on Jesus’ words. What does Jesus say about the need to obey his commands? For example, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” After he had risen from the dead, he commissioned his disciples to,”Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” I don’t see him advocating a doctrinal belief system of grace by faith, and then allowing his disciples to ignore everything he taught because they were now saved.
    I would suggest that Jesus’ teachings show us how to live out our salvation, not earn it. I don’t think you can even obey Jesus’ commands without being born again. A good example is Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. How many Christians tolerate unforgiveness in their lives, assuming that because they have voiced the Sinner’s Prayer, all is good. What if it is really true that we will be forgiven the way we forgive, and if we do not forgive, neither will our Heavenly Father forgive us? If that is really true, it might also explain the high divorce rate among Christians. We have to actually do this stuff and not just look for fire insurance.

    • So then are you fully Torah observant? I only ask because Jesus taught the Laws of Moses as well as the new covenant. Trying to stick with what Jesus said is excellent but even that can go off the rails without a full understanding of all of scripture. Without a full picture view of all of God’s words in their proper context even those red letters can lead people into bondage with more reliance upon the flesh’s behavior than upon the one who spoke the red letters. Grace by faith isn’t about chanting a prayer and then going out and playing sin party. Grace by faith is acknowledging that no amount of attempted command following by us is good enough for the perfect, flawless God unless we too are 100% perfectly flawless. A day in our own shoes proves that none of us are. Grace by Faith is a conviction that while we are never going to hit the mark flawlessly as God requires that Jesus hot the mark for us and took the punishment for when we miss. It isn’t be lazy and act naughty but rest in the fact that you can be the most bumbling sinner-saint out there and God still sees you as His son and will never close His door to you as long as your trust is in Jesus and what He did.

  14. I’m not fully Torah observant, nor do I think it is even possible. I’m not Jewish either, so I’m not even really concerned about it. I am concerned about Jesus sending out his disciples to all nations and telling them to teach those nations to obey everything he had commanded them. I think that does apply to me. That said, I also realize that “Apart from me you can do nothing”. He is the source, not our human ability to appear outwardly to be following his commands. If there is not good fruit, I question if it is a good tree. He said,”If you love me, you will obey my commands”. It is a natural outgrowth of our relationship with him.

    My father was a Baptist minister and I can remember being drilled with “Don’t smoke, drink, dance, go to movies, or play cards.” – None of which Jesus actually taught. It didn’t produce anything but a condescending view of others and the bondage of legalism. Love for others – especially the least and even your enemy, forgiveness, faithfulness to your spouse, giving to the needy without anyone knowing about it, spending time alone with Him in prayer to nurture your relationship – things he taught in the Sermon on the Mount – these produce life. The doctrines of the Nicene Creed may provide guardrails to keep us on the highway, but they will never power the vehicle. Only He can do that.

  15. There is something wrong with the idea that God demands love as stated earlier in this article. It almost sounds like the author is saying love is forced from God’s Old Testament people.

  16. Endar Malkovich // May 29, 2019 at 2:29 am // Reply

    Why are so many of you guys opposed to the 10 commandments? Do you even know what they are and can someone actually tell me which one of them is bad?

    Don’t steal? How many here think it’s okay to steal?

    Don’t cheat on your spouse? How many here feel it’s okay to cheat or be cheated on?

    Don’t lie and don’t murder? How many here think those two are bad?

    Each of you live by the 10 commandments because they are objectively true.

    • Hi Endar, I’m not sure who you are speaking to, but I speak on behalf of all grace preachers when I say I am NOT opposed to the Ten Commandments. Like the Apostle Paul, I think they are righteous, holy, and good. They just have not power to make you righteous, holy, and good. Indeed, that is not their purpose.

    • Hi Endar, “do NOT steal” is very important, you do not have to believe in God to keep this commandment, but it’s important; “do NOT kill” is also important, you do not have to believe in God to keep this one, etc, etc . . . so my point is that you can keep the Law without any faith in God because the Law is NOT of Faith, however, when you receive God’s love you do NOT steal, you do NOT kill, you do NOT lie, you do NOT commit adultery . . . NOT because we have a commandment, but because we love people as we have been loved . . . I know this is not easy to believe, yet it is true !!! God’s love does wonders!!!
      Grace and Peace!

    • Endar, my friend. Often, when Grace takes the stage of a human heart, the Law looses it’s luster and we start talking differently about it. The 10 commandments that used to be such a prominent part of our understanding of things doesn’t fit anymore and becomes more and more irrelevant to daily living. Jesus has “taken over” and Jesus is not the Law. But that doesn’t mean that good behavior is irrelevant or that bad behavior is now encouraged. That would just be silly. It just means that a relationship functioning and flowing in the bosom of fellowship and love doesn’t need fear, condemnation, guilt, shame, or a religious façade any longer. The New Covenant is all about not relating to God on those terms anymore. We can finally start to live from the inside out instead of using our outside performance to try and keep covered what is on the inside. We are meant to live naked, open, and bare lives with God, something the Law never allows. There are many articles on this site to bring all this out concerning the Law and nobody does it better than Paul Ellis. Take an afternoon and serf the archives and I think you’ll start to see what John was getting at when he said “the Law was given through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.” And the apostle Paul went to great lengths in his writings to help us see that our relationship with God established in Christ is “apart from the Law.” The Law addresses behavior, but Jesus came to deal with the much deeper issue, our blindness – our inability to know his Father! The Father, Son and Spirit would not just stand by and let that be the case, so the Word became flesh. He came to where we were to find us in our darkness, something the Law can never do!

  17. Marjorie Keenan // October 11, 2019 at 8:25 am // Reply

    The laws that are written on our hearts are Spiritual Laws, not the Mosaic Law which includes the Ten Commandments. The Bible very clearly says that the covenant of law was sin and death and caused sin to abound. It also says that the Ten Commandments were a ministry of death as they too were of the Mosaic Law. (2 Cor. 3: 4 – 18} The Covenant of Law ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus and a New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace was established. Throughout the Old Testament, the Covenant of Grace was prophesied and Jesus fulfilled that prophecy. The laws that are written on our hearts are Love, Life and Faith. Knowing God’s unconditional love, and the fullness of His Grace, causes sin to diminish. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law. ” For until law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13)

    The two commands that Jesus gave, love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself are not even achievable in our own strength, but are made possible through the Godhead which dwells in us now and empowers us to love unconditionally. It is Christ, who is the Spirit of Life and Grace, that enables us to love, because He first loved us. Apart from revelation of the fullness of Grace, most people cannot even understand unconditional love and the unconditional love God has for them personally. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance– (To change our mind and go another way—the way of Love, Life and Faith!

  18. Eshete Wondwossen // December 25, 2019 at 6:34 am // Reply

    I live in Ethiopia and am crazy about Grace teachings but its not available here as we want.I am highly in the need of Grace based teachings and materials.How can I get please?wondunet@gmail.com

  19. Amen! I love this. Christ in you is the Law of God. The Spirit of Truth came to show us that of Christ as recorded in John 16. That of Christ He is showing us is the Living Word written in our hearts by the Spirit of God, Jesus Christ Himself. This is beautiful !

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