Monday, July 16, 2007

Grace and the Law (Revised)

For some time now I have been wondering why so many have been making a fuss about the Federal Court ruling concerning the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools and other government buildings while at the same time teaching that believers are no longer under the Law but under the grace of God through His Son Jesus. They go to great lengths to scripturally prove that the Law, meaning the Ten Commandments, has been “done away with. ”If this is so, why flaunt the Commandments on the lawns of homes, church buildings and along the highways and byways in expressing their outrage against this ruling?? I fear that today’s leaders of the church have led many into a state of confusion by not understanding and properly explaining what law the believer is no longer under.

Yes, the scripture clearly states that the believer is under grace and not under the Law (Romans 6:14), but what does this mean? What Law is the believer no longer under? Is it the Ten Commandments? And---What is the role of grace?

The Bible speaks of two “laws;” The Law of God, which is called the Ten Commandments or two tablets of the Testimony, and is also known as the Moral Law, the Law of Love and the Decalogue.

And then there is The Law of Moses, also known as the Book of the Law, the Book of the Covenant, the Ceremonial Law, and the Mosaic Law. This Law contains over 640 ordinances written by the hand of Moses.

These two laws are quite often referred to in the New Testament. God had a unique role for each of the two Laws to serve. But carnal reasoning of the differences between these two Laws has led many amuck---particularly in interpreting New Testament references to the Law.

The writers of the Scripture most often use the singular word “law” to refer to either the Ten Commandments, or to the Law of Moses. Keeping every verse of Scripture in its context and following the nature of its use is the only way to determine which Law the writer is speaking of. If we don’t have a clear understanding of their different purposes, it is easy to miss the context of the writings and arrive at a misguided conclusion.

The role of the Moral Law:

The Law which contains the Ten Commandments is the only way sin is defined in the Bible. Thus its purpose is to govern the moral conduct of God’s children.

The Apostle Paul writes,

“----I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

The same could be said of any one of the Ten Commandments of the Law. Without the Moral Law there would be no knowledge of sin, but the Law was given that sin might be revealed; sin is transgression of the Law (1st John 3:4).

We read in the letter to the Church at Rome,

“for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13 NASU)

It is clear that in the above Scriptures the Apostle is speaking of the Law containing the Ten Commandments. Men were sinning ignorantly until the Moral Law was given thus they were not judge based up the Moral Law; but the Apostles continues,

“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” (Romans 5:14 NASU)

Because of the curse (Genesis 2:15-17), known as the Law of Sin and of Death (Romans 8:2) given to Adam in the Garden, men were dying because of sin even thou they had not committed the same sin as Adam.

“Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19 NASU)

The law, as important as it is, can only identify sin. But the law, though it reveals that all men are sinners, does nothing to rectify the situation; it does not remove the curse of death nor does it pay the death penalty for man’s transgressions. Thus the law is powerless in regard to the salvation of man.

The biggest problems of the Jews were they had lost sight of what their father Abraham had---righteousness by faith. They were seeking righteousness or justification by the works of the Law; they had become legalist. The Law could not impart life but in the revealing of sin, because of the weakness of flesh (Romans 8:3-4), it became a minister of condemnation and death. Many today have fallen into the same trap; they have become legalist performing worthless ritualistic acts and other dead works. Others have gone to the other extreme vainly trying to use grace for their covering while continuing to willfully sin; a horrific mistake.

The role of grace:

Here is the answer to the question, “what does it mean that we are under grace and not under the Law. “Those who have faith in Christ Jesus are under the grace of God’s forgiveness and are no longer under the curse of the Law; the curse being death (Romans 3:19-26). Therefore where the Law has no saving power, grace has the power of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8). God sent His Son “to take away sins” (1st John 3:5). He paid the penalty on man’s behalf. According to the Scriptures, the LORD laid on Him (Christ) the iniquity of us all and made His soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:6,10). Grace does something else that the law can not. According to the Scripture, the Savior’s mission was to “save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The Bible makes it clear that Jesus does more for man than just pay the penalty for sin, by His grace He sets the believer free from the dominion or control of sin (Romans 6:14). Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the believer is led and empowered to walk in the ways of righteousness (Romans 8:5-17).

The Spirit of Grace speaks by the hand of the Apostle Paul as he writes,

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2 NASU).

Then grace appeared in the person of Jesus to free man from the curse, the Law of Sin and of Death, and to transfer him from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and eternal life. Thus grace delivers men’s souls from the PENALTY of the Law containing the Ten Commandments, BUT NOT FROM THE LAW ITSELF. True believers keep the Law, now written upon their hearts (Hebrews 8:8-12), out of faith and love toward their Savior, not according to the letter written on stone or paper.

Is the Law still in effect then?

The Apostle answers that question,

“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Romans 3:31 NASU)

It is a Biblical fact that by and through faith the Law containing the Ten Commandments is established by the believer; it is still in effect, it is not done away with.

Jesus, speaking of the Ten Commandments and the Prophets says,

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19 NASU)

[I did not come to abolish but to fulfill]

Through love and faith our Lord was obedient to the Moral Law from birth to the cross.

Jesus also said,

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15 NASU).”

The role of the Ceremonial Law or the Law of Moses:

Many of the misguided think The Ten Commandment Law was nailed to the cross with Christ. They base their understanding on the following Scripture.

“------having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13 NKJV).

The Law containing the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God on tablets of stone; a sign of their durability. The ceremonial Law was written by Moses on a scroll, a sign of their being temporary, for Christ is their substance.

The ceremonial Law; which is the law of circumcision and all the rituals that were performed in the tabernacle services—the killing of the lamb, the sprinkling of the blood, the Passover Feast, the keeping of the Passover Sabbath and other festivals and etc. These were all types and fore-shadows of Christ and serve as a “tutor” to lead the worshiper to Him (Galatians 3:23-29). By love and faith through His sacrificial death He completed every one of the Mosaic Ceremonial Laws. Thus the Ceremonial Law is no longer in effect because their prophetic practices were fulfilled in Christ.

Summary concerning sin:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4 NASU).

Summary concerning grace:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14 NASU). ”

James C Sanford

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