Monday, June 22, 2009

Law and Grace

The Christian and the Law

The basic proposition is this: With the death of Christ, the covenant made up of legal requirements ceased to be an imperative for those who are in Christ by faith (this being evidenced by the rending of the veil of the Temple which separated man from the presence of God [Luke 23:45]), and a covenant of grace began; this side of the cross, the Law no longer has any claim upon the person who has faith in Christ for redemption; and by the term "Law", we are to understand this to mean not only the ceremonial laws of Israel, but also the so-called moral law, exemplified by the Ten Commandments. To elaborate on the proposition:

The Law could not free; Jesus can (Acts 13:38-39).

The Law was a burden even the Jews could not keep (John 7:19; Acts 15:10-11).

The Law was given through Moses; but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). (If there were no distinction between Law and grace, the verse would say, "The Law was given through Moses; and grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.")

The Law was not given as a means of justifying anyone (Rom. 3:20a).

The Law gives one knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20b).

The righteousness of God is demonstrated apart from the Law (Rom. 3:21; 9:30-32).

A man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

The Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives (Rom. 7:1), however...

...the old self was crucified (i.e., we died) with Christ on the cross (Rom 6:6); the body of sin was done away with.

Hence, we are not now under Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).

We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that we may be joined to Him who was raised from the dead (Rom. 7:4).

"But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under obedience to the old code of written regulations, but under obedience to the promptings of the Spirit in the newness of life." (Rom. 7:6 -- Amplified)

To illustrate that this release from the Law is not limited to the ceremonial law only, Paul testifies to the frustration and defeat of trying to keep the Law in his own strength: "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me coveting" (a violation of the 10th Commandment) (Rom. 7:8). (Throughout Rom. 7:7-24, in Paul's testimony of his struggle to keep the Law, he uses personal pronouns -- "I/me/my" -- 44 times, indicating the frustration of trying to keep the precepts of the Law through the exertion of personal effort. After his cry, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?", he announces that the answer is found in Jesus Christ, and in Rom. 8 Paul testifies not to defeat in trying to keep the Law by his own strength, but to victory obtained by the power of the Holy Spirit -- the focus is on the life of Christ living in us, not on "I/me/my" efforts to keep the Law. Also, the Rom. 7:7-24 passage should not be interpreted as the struggle of an unsaved person trying to keep the Law. The context of the passage is that it comes in Romans after Paul has developed the theme of how those in Christ have been crucified with Christ, and are now released from the Law; the context of the passage is within a discussion of our experience now that we are redeemed. Rom. 7:7-24 must be interpreted as a description of the experience of a redeemed person who is struggling to obey the Law as a means of living out his faith in Christ. And it is suggested that this experience of frustration, while common among Christians, is not a description of the normal Christian life; Rom. 8 describes what the normal experience of the Christian should be.)

The old covenant is described as a ministry -- literally a "dispensation" -- of death (II Cor. 3:7).

Through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life sets one free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

The works of the Law do not justify (Gal. 2:16).

The believer is dead to the Law (Gal. 2:19).

To teach that righteousness can be achieved or maintained by observing the Law nullifies the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).

Having begun by the Spirit (in redemption) we cannot be perfected (in maturity or sanctification) by the flesh (through efforts to keep the Law) (Gal. 3:3), for Christ has provided us with His Spirit and "works miracles among us" by faith, not by works of the Law (Gal 3:5).

Those who are of the works of the Law are under a curse (Gal. 3:10).

No one is justified by the Law; the righteous man (i.e., he who has been declared righteous through the redemption that is in Christ) shall live (i.e., shall walk daily) by faith (Gal. 3:11)

The Law no longer applied to believers once Christ came (Gal 3:19). The reason is that our righteousness is imputed to us by faith, not based on the law, hence "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4-5).

The Law cannot impart life (Gal. 3:21).

The purpose of the Law is to "shut up all men under sin" (Gal. 3:22), and to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24).

But if you are guided and led by the Holy Spirit you are not subject to the Law. (Gal. 5:18 -- Amplified)

He who teaches believers legalism teaches or sows bad seed and the results of that teaching shall reap corruption (i.e., death); the teacher who sows according to the Spirit, that teaching shall result in eternal life (Gal. 6:6-8).

The ceremonial and moral Law of Moses was a mere shadow of what was to come: let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink (a reference to dietary laws) or in respect to a festival or new moon (a reference to religious ceremonies and festivals -- see Neh. 10:33), or a Sabbath day (a reference to the moral law, as observance of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments); the substance, the reality behind those shadows, belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

Those who have died with Christ (i.e., every believer, according to Rom. 6:6) are not to submit themselves to decrees ("do this", "don't do that") (Col. 2:20). Submission to laws, rules, regulations, and principles for living have "the appearance of wisdom," but are of no value against the flesh (Col. 2:23).

The Christian teacher who presents the Law as the standard of conduct, rather than faith as the basis of conduct, their teaching shall be fruitless (and they do not understand what they are saying even though they may say it with confidence) (I Tim. 1:6-7) . . .

...for although the Law is good, reflecting God's character, the Law is not for those who have been proclaimed righteous, but is for those who are lawless and rebellious (i.e., non-believers) (I Tim. 1:8-10).

There remains a Sabbath rest which some Christians (many?, most?, the vast majority?) have yet to enter into, wherein the Christian rests from his works. Be diligent (i.e., be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently) to enter that rest (Heb. 4:1-11).

The Law is "weak and useless"; it made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:18-19).

"For if the first covenant (of Law) had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second" (Heb. 8:7). But when God effected a new covenant (of grace), "He made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear" (Heb. 8:13).

The Law is characterized this way by Andrew Murray in his book The Two Covenants: "The law took men into its training, and sought, if I may use the expression, to make the very best that could be made of them by external instruction." In other words, law is an external instruction or influence which seeks to improve men in their external behavior. This was the nature of the Law as given to Moses.

The Christian is not under obligation to keep the Law, but is now constrained by the power of the Holy Spirit and the outflow of the presence of Jesus Christ in the heart, by His grace, through faith:

"Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers..." (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:7-9)

"This is the work of God (for you to do), that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29).

Law-keeping does not produce fruit; being joined to Christ does. (Rom. 7:4)

(Again, Rom. 7:6, as quoted above): "So now, we serve not under obedience to the old code of written regulations, but under obedience to the promptings of the Spirit in newness of life."

The righteous requirements of the Law are fulfilled in us, "who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4).

While "the previous regulation and command (i.e., the Law)" proved itself "weak and ineffective and useless, for the Law never made anything perfect" (Heb. 7:18-19), in contrast, "by the grace of God, I am what I am (i.e., I am the product of grace), and His grace toward me was not found to be for nothing -- fruitless and without effect." (I Cor. 15:10 -- Amplified)

"For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience (i.e., the faith) of the Gentiles . . . in the power of the Spirit." (Rom. 15:18-19)

Christians are a "letter of Christ . . . written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts . . . God made us adequate (literally, "capable") as servants of the covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Cor. 3:2-6)

We become the righteousness of God due to Christ in us. (II Cor. 5:21)

Paul's "command": not "Keep the Law," but "Walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 3:16).

"As you received Christ (by grace, through faith), so walk in Him (by grace, through faith)" (Col. 2:6).

Do not submit yourselves to decrees, but instead "keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,...set your mind on the things above,...for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ." Christ is our life. (Col. 3:1-4)

As we "run the race" (i.e., the course or the path uniquely prepared for us by God), our primary responsibility is to keep "our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ" who is the author and finisher of the faith we need in order to live the life He purposes for us (Heb. 12:1-2). Related to this, Paul prays that believers will "have the eyes of their hearts enlightened" so that they may know the hope of their calling in Christ (Eph. 1:18).

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has now appeared to all, training us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11-12)

Fix your hope completely on grace (what God does in you). (I Peter 1:13)

The purpose or goal of Christian teaching is to produce love from a pure heart, resulting from faith. (I Tim. 1:5)

Why the Law was given:

It was added because of sin (Gal. 3:19).

but Christ has taken care of the sin problem:

Our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ... (Rom. 6:6-7)

...hence, the old covenant of Law is done away with for those in Christ:

Behold, days are coming says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete... (Heb. 8:8, 13)

...because they have a new nature:

For the love of Christ controls us...Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all those things are from God... (II Cor. 5: 14, 17-18)

The Law is not limited to "the Law of Moses" only. It may be applied to any denominational rules or regulations of behavior, customs, rituals, or various principles of living that are intended to, when followed, enable a person to conform to the will of God in the various areas of their life. When Christianity is reduced to a formula, or to a set of principles to follow or apply to one's life, the inclination is then to try to follow that formula, or apply that set of principles, in the power of the flesh. Christ does not want our best effort to live for Him; He wants us out of the way so that He might live His life in us.

"No man can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations; His teachings are truths that can only be interpreted by the disposition He puts in. The great marvel of Jesus Christ's salvation is that He alters heredity. He does not alter (or reform) human nature; He alters its mainspring." Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

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