Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grace and the Law - Christianity 101

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me."' For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:14-17)
There are two primary covenants that God has made between Himself and mankind. The first covenant was given through Moses and was a covenant of law. It promised that all who would obey the law would find right standing and approval with God. "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." (Exodus 19:5-6) However, the second covenant was given through Jesus Christ and was a covenant of grace, and all who trust in Him are made sons and daughters of God. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)

In simplistic terms, the primary differences between these two covenants is the means of obtaining approval from God and the abundant life He promises. For those under the old covenant, this is done through works and keeping the law, while for those under the new covenant, this is done through faith in Jesus.
"Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works" (Romans 4:4-6)
"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." (Romans 11:6)
It must be understood that these two covenants are incompatible with each other, meaning, you cannot live in both covenants at the same time. One is a covenant built on works and the other a covenant built on grace and faith. Paul wrote of those believers that still wanted to insist on circumcision, itself being a work of the law,
"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:2-6)
We cannot live in both covenants at the same time. Either we must choose to live by the law, the whole law, or we must choose to live by faith in Jesus Christ; it is either works or grace, but not both. Over and over, Paul kept reminding the early believers, and us, not to revert to law once we have found grace in Christ Jesus. "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3)

The truth is that the Law came, not to eliminate sin, but that sin might increase. Not that the Law is a minister of sin, but rather that our sinful nature is stirred up towards sin by the law.
"The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21)
The Law came so that we might recognize that we are a sinner; birthed with a sinful nature that, by ourselves, we are unable to free ourselves from. The Law is good and holy but we are sinful; our sinful nature taking advantage of the Law to produce death in us. Through the Law, we see sin "become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:13) But, where sin increased through the law, the grace of God more super-abundantly abounded in forgiveness and favor towards us in Christ. What the Law could not do, Jesus did in His grace towards us.
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:12-14)
Through the Law, sin became our master, but through the grace of God we are made free from sin; free to live the life God created us to live. The grace of God has set us free!

David Robison

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