Is it Law, or is it Grace - Is it "grace only" or is it "law only"? Must it be one or the other, or - is it both?
Law - God's law or laws, most would agree, show us God's very high standard. His law "leads us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24), who IS the Standard. Jesus is the purpose of the law since He came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:16-22). Therefore we must come to Christ in order to keep the law - because only He can "fulfill" it in us! By thinking that the law of God is no longer needed or that it has been "done away" with, there develops a kind of "faith in faith". This is a counterfeit faith, a faith toward a principle about faith, that is without faith from, and in the Author of that faith. It is "faith (Christ's) to faith (ours)", not faith IN faith itself (Romans 1:17 AmpBible). This results ultimately, in a shallow and surface relationship with God. A God-on-demand relationship. This can lead to a corruption of the true purpose and function of grace (Jude 1:4).
When Jesus said what He did about coming to fulfill the law, He did not mean that He came to do it for us. He came to show us the goal of His perfection, which is the perfecting of all the ones who come to Him for salvation (Matthew 5:48). Most unfortunately today, there is so little familiarity with the Law or God there is little or nothing to lead others to Christ. The Ten Commandments and even the Bible itself is slowly being removed from the consciousness of the culture. There is little consciousness of sin - what it is, why it is, why it is bad, and what Jesus thinks about it. Most just do not know what sin is. Much of this has been the result of the grace only concept. To try to comprehend either the Law or Grace in a stand-alone context results in a contradiction of realities. God cannot contradict Himself, even as the Book that He inspired cannot contradict itself. Sin is the transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4).
If someone says to us that we have committed a crime, the first thought is that we have broken a law. Sin is a "crime" against God’s law. His law is His not ours, so if we break His law we commit a crime against God. Jesus came to pay - in our stead - the penalty for our crime against the Law. If we have a sentence against us for a crime commuted or forgiven by a judge, does that mean that we no longer have to keep the law that we broke? When seen in this light, the whole issue seems absurd.
When we come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, we must understand what it is that we are being forgiven. Many today might say, " I have not done anything to need forgiveness". And why would they ask that ? - because they have not heard of sin and/or what it is. And their lifestyle proves the reality. The law of God is needed in the world today in a practical sense - perhaps more than ever. The law of God gets our attention. It strikes the chord of conscience - the conscience that God put in every human, so that they can be turned. It harmonizes with that conscience, strengthens awareness of the lawbreaking tendency (sin) within (Romans 7:13-20). It is the doorway to repentance. The Father can give the Holy Spirit the key to their salvation and eternal life, in His time, and in His way. A wonderful by-product of the law of God is that until the time that they are brought to Jesus, it functions as a restraint of the evil of fallen man. For Christians, the Law of God measures our progress toward maturity. God’s Law is very much in effect, because it condemns those through the conscience who have not come to Christ. Otherwise, Jesus would not have died for the sins of the whole world, for all time (1 John 2:2). The very concept of grace pleads for existence of a transgression - transgression of the law of God. Some reject or ignore God’s law because they have never really died under the law (Romans 6:1-4,15-19). They have not deeply experienced the conviction and condemnation of the Law in the heart. Therefore they have not truly surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21-23).
The other extreme is to attempt to make the Law of God stand alone in a effort to keep it as an end in itself - what has been called Legalism. There are many problems with this, first of all the fact that humans are not perfect yet, and therefore cannot keep a perfect law perfectly. The law itself will make no one perfect (Hebrews 7:19). Legalism is in effect a way around real change. Effort can be mistook, even misread, as spiritual growth, character, and maturity. It is easy to forget that human nature can be bent by sheer determination and will power. It is called establishing a habit. So easily we can label human willpower as character. Forcing ourselves to do something is not Godlike character - it is willpower. As someone has said, character is what you do in the dark. Rightous character is what we do and are naturally, without outside constraint - in the dark and in the light. The law condemns because we cannot keep it perfectly due to our fallen nature (Romans 7:8-12), bringing the need for grace. The law is there as a guide to progress and change in our nature, directed by the Holy Spirit, under the umbrella of God’s grace, until divine nature will have become a reality (2 Peter 1:4). Ultimately, Jesus will deliver us from the power of sin completely! (Romans 7:22-25; Jeremiah 31:31)
So, the law of God is enabled by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-10), and fulfilled by the love of God through Jesus Christ in us (Romans 13:10) who will impart the nature of God. The grace of God is now His "law" - a law that enables eternal life to be formed in us permanently and forever (Romans 8:1-4)!
Law and Grace - now they are One. Now, we can be One in Him (John 17:21).
Father, I pray that we will love your law (Psalm 119:97 and all of your word, even as David did. May it guide us (v 105), even as we are thankful for your grace, purchased by your Son, because of our breaking it...Amen!
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." - Jeremiah 31:33
*NOTE: The reader should prayerfully read Romans 6-8. The whole Law/Grace issue is explained in these three chapters.
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