Bill Faith: Is there, in the New Testament, a conflict between "Law" and "Grace"?
There's widespread confusion in regard to Biblical Law and its relevance to the Christian life. Indeed Christians who willingly submit to it are viewed as teaching salvation by works. Not true! Let it be known that we are not saved by our works - but by the grace of God. But does that excuse us from keeping the law of God?
The Apostle Paul (Romans 8:1-11) compares those 'in the flesh' and those 'in the Spirit'; that is, those who are unconverted and those who are converted. He states (v. 7) "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God". That is, the unconverted mind is 'fleshly', hostile to God - is not in subjection to God's laws.
Do you realize what the apostle is telling us? The converted mind is subject to the law of God. With this in mind, let's read and understand verse 1 of Rom. 8. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit". If we are in the Spirit, we will walk in subjection to the law of God and therefore will have no condemnation.
Subject To The Law?
It must be noted, however, that a distinction is made between those who are subject to the law of God and those who are not - those who are walking according to the Spirit and those who are walking according to the flesh. Paul then tells us that God sent His Son because of our weaknesses so that the "righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-4), Notice again that Paul emphasizes a difference between those who walk in subjection to the law of God and those who do not. We cannot earn our salvation, but rather are saved by faith. Nevertheless, we must understand that "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17).
The so-called 'old covenant' was replaced. Why? The reason is explained in Hebrews 10:8 where we're told, "Because finding fault with them I will make a new covenant". God found fault with the people, not with His own laws. Because the people would not obey His laws, He said that He would establish a new covenant, one in which He would "put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts" (v. 10). If we truly have God's Spirit, His laws should be an integral part of our daily walk.
Recall the old song: "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage; You can't have one without the other". Likewise, people pretend they can be a Christian without the law. This is also contrary to God's way.
We all fall short of keeping the law perfectly. All too often we sin. That's why we can only be saved by God's grace and not by the law - not by our own righteousness acts, but by the righteousness of Christ. When we are repentant God imputes to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, our Saviour.
Jesus Christ is our mediator - and our example. He was able to overcome, and with his Spirit in us we can overcome also, if we are willing to put forth the effort.
The writer of Hebrews warns that it is impossible to renew those who have once been enlightened, and were partakers of the Holy Spirit, if they fall away (Heb. 5:4-6). Sadly, they neglected their salvation and didn't exert that necessary effort.
Because of our human weakness it may seem impossible to keep God's Law. We need to remember that with men it is impossible to perfectly keep its every 'jot and tittle'. But with God all things are possible (Matthew 16:26). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" wrote Paul. "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (I Corinthians 3:16-17).
Our God is holy and righteous. If He is to dwell in us, then we, too, must be righteous - defined as "all your commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). He bought us with a price, therefore we are not our own (I Cor. 6:19-20). We belong to Him.
The apostle Paul asks, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?" (I Corinthians 6:9)? I John 5:17 says, "All unrighteousness is sin". And in I John 3:4 we are told that the transgression of the law is sin. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that unrighteousness must include the transgression of the law, because both are sin.
Satan is the deceiver of the whole world and he has deceived some into thinking that it is not necessary to keep the laws of God. Don't ever be lured into believing this. Prophecy in Revelation 13:17 says, "The dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman [God's true church], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ". Why do you think that the dragon will be angry with the woman? Because Satan wants to deceive the whole world and there are still those who faithfully keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Later, John was to write, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
Some believe that we only need faith in Christ. Others seek salvation only by keeping the commandments. We need both. The inspired Scriptures tell us, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? O foolish man ...faith without works is dead" (James 2:14, 20).
It is possible to have our name blotted out of the Book of Life. Whoever overcomes will not have his name removed (Rev. 3:5). We are not saved because of our works, but by God's mercy, through grace. But because of our love for God and of our faith in Him, we firmly establish God's laws in our life (Romans 3:31).
Finally, John wrote: "He who says 'I know him' and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. He who says he abides in him also himself also to walk just as he walked" (I John 2:46). Don't be deceived by those who claim God's Law is 'done away' - they lie!
How did Christ walk? He by God's grace, and by staying close to the Father in prayer "with vehement cries and tears" (Hebrews 5:7), led an unblemished life. He never once transgressed the divine law.
As the brethren of Jesus and as children of the Father we are to walk that same walk.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 Issue 2, March/April 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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