Understanding the Law and Grace

Today, it is sad to know that many believers who are saved by Grace are still struggling to earn salvation by keeping the Commandments or by obeying the Law. It is very vital that every believer in Christ comes to understand what the New Testament teaches about the Law and Grace.
The aim of this article is to help the believer understand fully God’s demand for them to live their lives in the liberty which the Holy Spirit brings.
What is Law?
The Law is the body of specific instructions given by God through Moses to guide the children of Israel. It is a general principle, rules or codes of conduct. This includes the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), other commandments set before the people of God (Exodus 21) and many additional rulings intended to shape man’s personal, civil and religious way of life. The Law was a written code (Romans 7:6). The Law was the Law of God through Moses His servant. The Law comprises ethical, civil and ceremonial principles. These serve as a standard against which human behaviours can be measured and judged.
The Purpose of the Law
The Law reveals the following purposes:
  • How God wants His people to relate with Him;
  • To guide the people in their relationship with one another;
  • The Law contains what the people must do daily and things they must not do (the dos and the don’ts);
  • How to serve God and worship Him;
  • To show the way to life (Galatians 3:12);
  • To reveal sin (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:19);
  • To increase sin (Romans 5:20);
  • To show how people lie under its curse (Galatians 3:10-13);
  • To lead people to Christ (Galatians 3:24);
  • To show the utter weakness of man;
  • To show people their need for a saviour.
Weaknesses of the Law (Romans 8:3, Galatians 4:9)
  • Opposed to Life. A believer receives a new life (spiritual life) through faith not by the Law (Galatians 3:1-5).
  • The Law was very limited in its rule.
  • It was temporary (Galatians 3:19-20).
  • It could not give life (Galatians 3:21-22).
  • The Law could not deal with sin.
  • It was a mere servant which guided the people (Galatians 3:23-24).
  • It has been nullified.
  • It is foolish and irrelevant for a believer to follow it (Galatians 3:25-47).
  • The Law was inferior.
  • It brought discontentment, robbing a believer of their joy (Galatians 4:8-19).
  • It brought bondage, robbing a believer of their freedom (Galatians 4:20, 5:1).
  • It rendered a believer powerless, draining them of their faith by turning their attention to useless self-effort (Galatians 5:2-12).
  • The Law only condemns people and locks them up.
  • The Law was never meant to bridge the gap between God and people. Only Jesus Christ could do that. This is because the Law was not given to bring about redemption but to point to the need for redemption (Romans 5:20).
  • The Law was never intended to make possible a way to God. Rather, the Law was given to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24) thus, convincing us of the impossibility of gaining God’s acceptance on our own.
  • The Law was weak unprofitable and characterised with imperfections (Hebrews 7:18-19).
  • The Law cannot earn us righteousness, only faith can.
Law and Faith
We cannot please God by obeying or keeping the Law because the Law is not based on faith. It is only by faith we can please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are made righteous by faith and by faith we are justified but not by the Law (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 & 21).
God’s love is not conditioned by how many rules we obey but by faith and obedience in Christ. In our dealings with God, the only thing that counts is faith not the Law. We cannot have a relationship with God without faith. Through faith, we are released from the bondage of the Law and sin and we are given a unique freedom which enables us to be and do what is truly right. For this reason, we do not need the Law any longer.
Jesus Christ and the Law
  • Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). By His finished work of redemption, those who will believe in Him will no longer be under the bondage of the Law and sin.
  • He completed what the Law pointed to so that believers in Christ now serve the living God freely (Hebrews 8:5, 9:11-15).
  • He bore the curse of the Law on the cross (Galatians 3:13).
  • He ended the burden of the Law (Galatians 3:24-25, Romans 10:3-4).
  • He gave freedom from the Law (Galatians 5:1). Believers in Christ have been liberated from the Law and its yoke.
  • All that the Law required from us was accomplished in Christ.
The Holy Spirit and the Law
  • The promise of the Holy Spirit is not received by keeping the Law but by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Through the power of the Spirit, believers in Christ are set free from the Law (Romans 8:2 & 13, 2 Corinthians 3:117).
  • The Spirit gives new life (eternal life) but the Law kills (2 Corinthians 3:6).
  • The Spirit enables a believer in Christ to overcome desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16-17).
  • The Spirit helps a believer to freely manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit without any requirement or demand attached (Galatians 5:22-25).
  • The Law has no power to build the fruit of the Spirit. Only Grace by faith is this done.
  • Following set rules, rules out the leading of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament believer is not called to follow rules (the Law) but to follow the Spirit.
  • A believer in Christ is born by the power of the Spirit and not by following set of rules (Galatians 4:28-29).
  • Responding to the Spirit is exercising your freedom to do what you know is right. Through Grace, we are called to relate directly to God through the Spirit, not the Law.
Believers and the Law
  • A believer in Christ is not or cannot be justified through the Law (Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:20). This is because the Law has no power to give one a place before God.
  • A believer in Christ is free from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13-14).
  • A believer in Christ is free from the condemnation of the Law (Romans 8:1-2).
  • A believer in Christ is free from the burden of the Law (Galatians 2:1-5, 5:1).
  • A believer in Christ has met the requirements of the Law in Christ (Romans 8:4).
The State of the Law
  • The Law has been Abolished: It ceases to be lawful and cannot be enforced or imposed on believers (2 Corinthians 3:6-15, Ephesians 2:15).
  • The Law has been Cast Out: The Old Testament laws (the Law of Moses) have been gotten rid of to give way to the Gospel of Christ: the Gospel of truth, redemption, salvation, freedom, peace, Grace and faith. The two cannot be mixed (Galatians 4:21-31).
  • The Law is Blotted Out and Taken Out of the Way (Colossians 2:14-17): Christ died on the cross to take the Law out of the way so that a believer in Christ is no longer under the curse and death the Law brings. This made our redemption very possible.
  • The Law is Changed: We have a new covenant in place, with Christ as our Mediator and Priest (Hebrews 7:12).
  • The Law is Annulled: It is no longer valid. This is to make us have a free access to God and personal approach which the Law never allowed (Hebrews 7:18-19) because of its weakness and inability to make anything perfect. It has to be changed or annulled for our qualification to approach God.
Freedom in Christ
The concept of freedom can only be understood with this in mind—without Christ, man is trapped in bondage of the Law and slavery to sin. Jesus Christ delivers from all bondage. In Him we have freedom from struggling to please God though the Law. Freedom from the Law is freedom from sin. Freedom that Grace brings is the freedom from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14). He set us free from sin, its guilt and punishment—free from the Law we could never hope to keep. We are set free through faith in His death on the cross and His resurrection. He set us free to experience the complete freedom that comes when the Spirit lives within us (2 Corinthians 3:17). The Spirit calls us to life of freedom from the burden of the Law. Freedom from the Law does not promote sin but righteousness. Freedom is obtained in following the Holy Spirit, who directs us to that path which brings reward and not punishment, blessing and not curse, joy and not grief.
Believers in Christ are justified through faith and have the Holy Spirit who assures them of eternal life and empowers them to live the Christian life of freedom which Christ gives:
  • Freedom from the Law;
  • Freedom from the desire of the sinful nature;
  • Freedom to love and develop the fruit of the Spirit;
  • Freedom from the power of the flesh.
What is Grace?
Grace can simply be defined as God’s free and undeserved favour. It is God’s life transforming gift of His favour to those who do not deserve it. It can also be described as undeserved love and salvation God gives through Jesus Christ. Someone had also defined Grace as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
Salvation and forgiveness of sins are available for all, who through faith, accept God’s Grace revealed in Jesus Christ. Eternal life comes neither by keeping the Law nor works but by the Grace of God. Doing God’s works does nothing to help us to obtain God’s favour but through faith, Grace is given and not earned (Ephesians 2:8-9). A believer in Christ is no more under the dominion of sin which the Law brings but under Grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:14). Grace cannot be earned by relying on good works or by keeping the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ and His accomplished works on the cross.
Through the cross, Jesus brought salvation and redemption from the curse of the Law and its bondage, forgiveness of sin, victory and dominion over sin and the flesh, reconciliation with God and eternal life. In other words, Grace brings salvation.
Charles Spurgeon said that Grace that does not change life drastically is not the Grace that can save. It is the same Grace that brings forgiveness from sin that also brings ability to live a righteous life (Philippians 2:13). Therefore, Grace is an empowerment to live right (Titus 2:11).
Benefits of God’s Grace
  • Grace empowers and teaches us to deny ungodly life and works.
  • It enables us to continue in truth.
  • It places total obedience.
  • It provides ability to obey God and pardon for sin.
  • Since Grace is exalted above the Law, it helps us to keep the freedom which we have received in Christ.
  • Spiritual life and vitality come as a free gift through God’s Grace.
If we are to experience the Grace which enables us to live godly lives, fellowship with Jesus is essential. We are to continue in the truth we have received. It is the truth in which we continue that can set us free (John 8:32). Sin factor is still active in every believer wanting to regain its power to rule them.
Grace vs. Freedom
It is important to know that we are set free from the dominion of sin to the dominion of righteousness (Romans 7). Without a new life, we remain slaves to sin. The Law had no power to build the fruit of the Spirit. Grace gives a believer freedom from struggling to please God through the Law. For this reason, Grace is exalted above the Law. Freedom from the Law is freedom from sin. To live according to the Law for righteousness is to live under the dominion of sin. Grace brings the Holy Spirit to work with us (John 3:8). When we try to obey the Law, we demobilise the Holy Spirit.

Grace vs. the Law
We should note that every person under the Law is still under sin. This is because the Law was not given to deal with sin but to expose it. Before the Law came, there was sin but sin could not assert itself. The Law came to revive sin. The Law came to make sin more sinful—to show people their utter sinfulness, weakness, depravity and their need for God. The Law made no provision for people to overcome sin and it made no provision for sin to be pardoned but placed a demand on total obedience. Grace came to place the same demand on obedience from people but it provides them the ability to meet the demand and pardon for sin. We are not called to a sinless perfection since sin nature is still active. All we need to do is to strive to obey God through His Grace. Each time you are convicted of a particular sin, ask God for forgiveness and the Grace to live a holy life. However, if you sin and don’t feel convicted, it means that you aren’t a child of God (1 John 3:9).

The table below shows the difference between Grace and the Law:

Grace The Law
Grace gives new life different from the old life—the very same life of God. The Law, on the other hand, never gives new life.
Grace by faith builds fruit of the Spirit. The Law has no power to do such.
Grace delivers people from the bondage of sin. The Law brings bondage.
Grace looks at the heart. The Law judges motives.
Grace says whosoever believes in Jesus is saved and has passed from death unto life. The Law says, “Obey me and live!”
Grace offers pardon through the death of Jesus. The Law identifies sin instead of making righteous.
Grace is willing and ready to save and forgive. The Law brings condemnation and guilt before God.
Grace restores righteousness the Law took away. The Law sets up standard making people helpless before it.
Grace through faith brings justification. The Law could not justify a guilty sinner or make anything perfect.
Grace teaches to live godly and righteously. The Law was given to show our transgression. It was a school master to prepare us for Christ (Galatians 3:24). The Law identifies sins instead of making righteous. Instead of imparting life, the Law convicts in order to make people turn to Christ for life given freely to those who believe in Him by faith.
Grace is the new way of the Spirit. The Law is the old way of the written code (Romans 7:6).
Grace is highly exalted, profitable and makes perfect. The Law is weak, unprofitable and characterised by imperfection (Hebrews 7:18).

*This article was originally published in The Prophecy Conference Manual.

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