Here's A Thought...

Here are some "THOUGHTS" that will hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have about what the Bible has to say about our everyday lives. These articles are here to provoke thought; provide answers, guidance and resources; all in an effort to bring you into a closer relationship with your Heavenly Father!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grace vs Law

There is a growing movement of teaching in the world today about “Grace”. That is, there has been an increased teaching about the “Grace” of God and how we are to apply that in our life today. I sometimes have heard it referred to as; “hyper-grace”.  As I listen to the various teachings and teachers of the Word and study the word on my own, I have found that I have been dealing with increasing conflict in my spirit over this teaching. Please allow me a few moments to share with you what I have been dealing with and I hope and pray that I can bring some understanding to those of you who have been struggling with this as well.

First of all, I think we have to have a foundational understanding or definition of what “grace” is. So here is the definition that I am going to be working from whenever I use the word Grace: Grace is the understanding that God sent His only Son to be tortured, humiliated, beaten and crucified (that is murdered) on the cross for the purpose of paying the penalty for my individual and personal sin against my Heavenly Father. Sin is anything that I do that violates, offends or creates separation in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Grace is also the power that is granted us from our Heavenly Father (as made available to us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ and delivered personally to us through the Holy Spirit) to stand against, resist, and defeat the very source of sin (that is Satan and all of his works) that is in our lives.  Grace gives us the power to overcome the very things we struggle against that pull us away from our Heavenly Father. Grace gives us the power and the strength to be obedient to the relationship that God so eagerly desires to have with us.

Now anyone who has had any familiarity with church or the bible has heard reference to “the Law”. I also want to have a common understanding of what I am referring to when I reference “the Law”. The Law refers to any directive that has been handed down from God. Now, this is not just referring to the “10 Commandments”. God speaking to Isaac put it this way;
I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:4-5 ESV)
So when I make reference to “the Law”, I make reference to all the above.

So here enters the struggle for me and I think for many others. We are somewhat mislead when we are taught that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we now live under the “grace” of God and no longer under the “law” of God. This is an accurate statement, however it is incomplete. I think that sometimes we can be given the impression that it is an either/or conversation. Just like it is difficult at times to understand that Jesus was “fully God and fully man”; that just sends our brain cells into “TILT” mode. Allow me to elaborate.

Under “the Law” of Moses; God made it clear to us that because of our sin, we were not worthy to be in His presence. We were not worthy to speak to him, not worthy to ask for His help and certainly not worthy of being in His presence. Under “the Law”, in order to seek some redemption for our sins; we would have to offer some sort of sacrifice in the form of a food offering or the slaughtering an animal, and we would have to go through a “priest” in order to make this intercession on our behalf. What “grace” does is that through the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, our offering for redemption has been given in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grace is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Grace does not abolish the law; grace is the love of God sacrificing his Son that we would no longer be liable for the punishment of “the Law”.

The main point that I want to get across to everyone is that it is not and either/or conversation. It is both! (This is where people begin to get uncomfortable.) Give me a minute to clarify.

There is only one person who walked the Earth that was without sin; that is Jesus Christ.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
No one can earn salvation by following the law. Salvation is only accessible through grace by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grace does not abolish “the voice, the charge, the commandments, the statutes and the laws” of God; it allows for the forgiveness in our times of failure. It strengthens us in our times of weakness. Grace is the power to overcome evil and the allowance for the weakness of our flesh.

Jesus said:
          “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)
Matthew chapters 5-7 are a collection of the teachings of Jesus. In this particular statement, he is laying the groundwork for the need of Him. He is beginning to let us know that on our own ability, we are unable to achieve a level of righteousness that will grant us access to the kingdom of Heaven. But there is also instruction of not relaxing the law and warning against teaching others to relax the teachings of “the law”.

The laws and commandments of our Heavenly Father do not go away through Christ; it is in Christ that we are able to escape the penalty of our inability to keep the law. Here is the rest of what Paul said in Romans:
          But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
            Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:21-31 ESV)

When we come to the conclusion that we are no longer under the law because of grace; we base that conclusion on an assumption that the law only existed to point out our sins. The problem with that assumption is that the law does so much more.

The law points us to righteousness. Paul continued:
            Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
            Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
            What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
            For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:12-23 ESV)
Paul continues:
            There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
            You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
            So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:1-17 ESV)

Paul is clearly stating that for those who are under the grace of God, as provided by the Holy Spirit by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you will desire righteousness through obedience; obedience to your Heavenly Father, obedience to His righteousness, obedience to His laws and commandments. This is not to say to earn grace - this is to say to desire righteousness because of grace. Grace is the free gift of the sacrifice of Christ; obedience towards righteousness is natural outpouring of love to the relationship that we have been granted access to through grace! This is not an expectation of perfection or perfect righteousness, for we know that we all have sin. Paul wrote to Timothy in both letters encouraging him to “pursue righteousness” knowing that only Christ has obtained perfect righteousness.

Not only does the law point us towards righteousness, in pursuing obedience and righteousness we find protection from the consequences of sin. The law explicitly points out to us Gods desire for us. I could write a book on all that our Heavenly Father has to say to us in the bible in regards to blessings to the righteous and judgment to the unrighteous. I think the very first Psalm sums it up nicely for us.
            Blessed is the man
                        who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
            nor stands in the way of sinners,
                        nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
            but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
                   and on his law he meditates day and night.
            He is like a tree
                        planted by streams of water
            that yields its fruit in its season,
                        and its leaf does not wither.
            In all that he does, he prospers.
            The wicked are not so,
                        but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
            Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
                        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
            for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
                        but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1 ESV)

I would just like to conclude with this – the conversation we should be having is not grace instead of the law. It is obedience to the law because and through grace. It’s not one or the other; it’s both. To put it another way; Jesus Christ did not sacrifice Himself on the cross for you to pursue more sin; He died to grant you the freedom to pursue your relationship with your Heavenly Father, free from penalty and restrictions of sin. Grace abounds for the forgiveness of sin, not the allowance of it.

May the abounding love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ guide your heart and your mind towards a greater understanding of, and relationship with your Heavenly Father. May all the blessings of God fill you and strengthen you as we all battle against the flesh; and through the power of the grace of God lead us to victory over sin so we may walk in victory, walk in obedience, walk in peace…walk in grace. -Amen

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