Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

8.1 Ethics as the Fruit of the Spirit: the new “tertius usus legis”:

8.1.1 Introduction

Christ is the End of the Law. This also represents the end of the Torah as a way to salvation: Christ is the end of the “curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13)

The law is fulfilled in Love – Gal 5:14 as well as Mt 5:17

The end of the law as a path to salvation in Christ does not mean that Christians no longer have to keep any laws. 

A wide-spread misconception is that the Torah except for the cultic laws applied to Christians. But what applies to them and what doesn’t? This question is answered in Christian ethics under the keywords tertius usus legis. 

Primus usus legis: literal meaning (direct validity for the Jews for instance)

Secundus usus legis: usus elenchticus (Romans 7: the law for attorneys)

Tertius usus legis: the validity of moral commandments of the Torah even after Christ

The validity of the tertius usus legis for concrete laws was hotly debated from the beginning, not least because of the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount. 

Foundational is the fact that Paul did not ground Christian ethics in the Torah or in the doctrine of justification as one might expect as a Protestant. Rather he supports it:

I. Christologically: 

    1. Galatians 5:1 τη ελευτερια ημασ Χ ελευτερωσεν. It is for freedom that you have been set free
    2. Romans 6: we were united with him in a death….new life.
    3. Galatians 2:20 ζη δε εν εμοι Χ. Christ is alive in me.

II. Pneumatologically: 

    1. Romans 8:1-:ο γαρ νομοσ του πνευματοσ τησ ζωησ εν Χ…. Literally: the law of the spirit of life in Christ
    2. Galatians 5:25: ει ζωμεν πνευματι, πνευματι και στοιχωμεν. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
    3. Ephesians 4 – 6: Be worthy of your calling


Christian ethics did not emerge from moral teachings but from 

  1. The unity with Christ they profess
  2. Experience of the Holy Spirit


What is unique in the history of ethics is that:

  • The highest value is love (for others):  αγαπη
  • The second highest value is joy: χαρα          (related to χαρισ!)


Paul’s alternative to the Platonic/Aristotelean Cardinal virtues is:

But the fruit of the spirit is

Love αγαπη

Joy χαρα  

Peace ειρηνη

Forbearance, patience towards others μακροθυμια,      

Kindness χρηστοτησ

Goodness αγαθωσυνη

Faithfulness πιστισ

Gentleness πραυτησ

Self Control εγκρατεια  (Gal 5,22)


Christian morality does not grow out of the meticulous observance of laws, but rather from experiencing the Holy Spirit.


The freedom and glory of the children of God: Romans 8:21

Whoever belongs to Christ is a son/daughter of God’s (Gal 3:26) and is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, man nor woman (Gal 3:28). 

Freedom according to Paul has the following form:

  1. Freedom from sin
  2. Freedom from the flesh
  3. Freedom from death
  4. Freedom from the law

According to Romans 5-8


Freedom expresses itself in a relativization of everything relative (1 Cor. 7:29-31) 

This allows the apostle a relatively care-free eclecticism: 

παντα δε δοκιμαζετε, το καλον κατεχηετε:Test them all and hold onto what is good (1 Thess. 5:21)

Paul maintained and continued to recommend the common: 

Virtue Catalog: Romans 12:9-21 or more obviously Christian in Eph. 4:25-. 

Catalogue of Vices 1 Cor. 6:9 

Instructions for Christian Households Col 3:18-4:1; Eph 5:22- 


A word of caution: you should, under no circumstance, attempt to construct and ethical system out of these. 

Paul’s ethic is most commonly referred to today as a “Interim Ethic” in the face of the anticipated end of the world. This is an unreliable reduction. In fact it is the freedom that Jesus himself lived and taught: 

Seek first the Kingdom of God…. (Matt 6:33)

The Absolute makes everything else relative (Tillich)

Live “sub condizione lacobea” (James 4:15)


True freedom exists only in relationship to God. Everything else is disconnection but not freedom.