Grace and Law — Are They At Odds?
Perhaps the most beautiful concept revealed in the Bible is the grace of God. Paul explained the foundation of grace this way: “God manifests His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Because of sin, all men deserve punishment in hell (cf. Romans 6:23), and yet God has made it possible for us to be saved through the gift of His Son (cf. John 3:16). Truly, the grace that God offers is good news!
Here’s something to consider, however: the grace of God and the law of Christ cannot be separated. Jesus knew all about grace, and yet He Himself declared, “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge you at the last day (John 12:48).” Certainly, Christians can know that their sins are forgiven by the grace of God (cf. Romans 8:1), but God still demands faithful obedience to His word and complete submission to His will (cf. James 4:17). Let’s consider some truths about God’s grace and God’s law:
God’s grace does not give us license to sin — Paul himself exclaimed, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid (Rom 6:1)!” The passage goes on to point out that those who are buried with Christ in baptism become dead to themselves and alive in Christ. No longer are Christians to be about the business of doing whatever we want. Instead, we live to serve as Christ served (John 13; Mark 10:45). We do what He commands because of our love for Him (John 14:15). Let’s be grateful for God’s continuing grace, but let’s not forget that His grace is not a license to sin.
Grace and law are not mutually exclusive — In recent years some have advanced the idea that grace completely frees us from the law of God, and that Christians can therefore afford to be lax in their views of Biblical authority. Brethren, this position greatly distorts the purposes of God. God has always given men commandments (or “laws”) which He expects us to obey. When a person breaks one law, he is guilty, and that guilt demands a penalty (cf. James 2:10). No amount of law-keeping can undo the guilt of that one broken commandment. This is why God’s grace is so important. The Bible says that all are guilty of sin (cf. Romans 3:10; 3:23), and there is nothing that any of us, in and of ourselves, can do about it. God’s grace is needed for us to escape the wages of sin in eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). The good news is that, as we humbly and submissively obey His will, Jesus’ blood cleanses us from every sin (cf. 1 John 1:7). God’s grace does not exclude His law, rather, it instructs us and motivates us to keep His commandments (cf. Titus 2:11-14).
We are saved by grace through faith — God’s grace has been offered to all (Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9), and yet Jesus said that few will be saved (Matt 7:13-14). This is because faith is required to gain access into Jesus’ sacrifice (Eph 2:8-9). It is impossible to “earn” or “merit” our salvation, but it is likewise impossible to be saved without submitting to God’s will in all aspects of our lives (Matt 26:39). Faith is defined as trust in Jesus as the Messiah conjoined with obedience to His word. The fact that faith is required to respond to God’s offer of grace means that we must properly understand and apply His law to our lives. Thanks be to God for His grace! — John Baker