“Tell me why you are bent on being under the Law, do you not listen to what the Law really says”? (Galatians 4:21). This post comes as a follow up to the post of last two weeks on Grace. Whenever grace is mentioned, the Law is more than likely to be mentioned as well. So, what is it with Grace and the law? Why does the Book of Romans place so much emphasis on them? Is it a case of grace versus the law? Well, here’s a comparison between Grace and The Law.
Even from the name, one can guess what The Law is all about. The law is a set rules and principles. And with those rules, come their respective penalties if broken. Romans 2:12 AMP says “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish, without regard to the Law and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged and condemned by the Law”. Furthermore, it does not help us in living a sin free life. In fact, we are bound to sin more when we are under the Law because the Law produces self-righteousness (Romans 10:2-3). Self-righteousness is the dependency on one’s own ability to attain a right standing with God. The truth is, no one can be made righteous by self-effort…it is not possible. It was inevitable for those of the old testament to fall in and out of sin because they were under the Law. It is the grace of God that empowers us with The Holy Spirit, who guides us into all righteousness. We are declared righteous by that same grace of God. The bible lets us know in Galatians 5:4 that “you people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from Grace”. Now if a person has been estranged from Christ, how then can we say he is in right standing with God? We are made truly righteous only by grace through our faith.
With the law, comes continuous atonement (a pay-as-you-sin kind of atonement). When a person sins, the Law requires all manner of sacrifices be performed and possibly even punishment for that sin; remember the adulterous woman who was to be stoned to death because that’s what the law requires. Before the outpouring of God’s grace, the priests in charge of atonement of sin were always busy (Leviticus chapters 1-27). As one person is leaving, another is coming to be cleansed. It was a never-ending atonement. But the grace of God has given us now a once-and-for-all atonement. It was because the covenant of the Law was not enough to keep people away from sin that the Covenant of Grace had to be brought in through Jesus (Hebrews 8:7; 7:11). The Grace of God causes us not just to do the will of God…systematically as with the law…but also to desire to do it (Romans 8:28). Grace helps us live a more God-pleasing life (Titus 2:11-12). The Law is unable to justify us in the presence of God; although it makes us concious of sin (this recognition leads us to repentance, but it provides no remedy for our sin) …Romans 3:20 AMP. We are justified, free from condemnation, the guilt of sin and made blameless only by the grace of God.
The law separates us from God but grace draws us nearer, here’s how. When we are subject to the Law we think more like “I want to do this so I can make God happy”. Grace makes us think more like “God please help me to please you”. Did you note the difference? With the law, there is a sort of “Master to Slave” relationship but grace helps us depend on God as our helper. When we are under the law, we are too busy struggling with keeping it, that we do not even bother about having a relationship with God. We are battling constantly with keeping of the commandments that our view of God changes from “Father” to “commander”. Under the Law, we are not even worthy to call the name of God. Grace on the other hand, produces a type of relationship between us and God where we realize we cannot go on without Him and we cannot please Him without His help. It produces a “Father to Son” relationship instead. When Jesus was on the cross at the point of death, He called God “my God” that we might be able to call Him “Abba Father” (Matthew 27:46; Romans 8:15). Only Grace gives us such a bold access to God.
“For all who depend on the Law are under a curse; for it is written “cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the law, so as to practice them”” Galatians 3:10. The law is treated as a whole. Those who choose to be under the law who may keep all the requirements of the Law, but still struggle with jealousy once in while are just as good as those who do not even keep it at all. But for those of us who choose to bask in the grace of God, we live by faith and by faith we understand that we have been redeemed from the curse of the law and its condemnation (Galatians 3:13). Jesus Christ bore all our curses and gave us blessings in exchange. In actual sense, no one can fulfill the law. Only Jesus has and forever, it’d be only He. Why not choose grace? Suppose a person is even able to then fulfill the law (which is not possible), that still doesn’t save the person. We aren’t and can never be saved by our fulfillment of the works of law but only by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9 AMP).
Now after all these, am I saying the Law is useless? Am I then insinuating that it’s a battle of the Law versus grace? No, not at all. Though we are not under the law, we are not lawless. There is a difference between being under the law and keeping the law. The law is to be kept while viewing it under the lens of grace. We are to keep the commandments of God but still recognize that it is not by our self-effort but by grace that our obedience pleases Him. To be under the law is to be bound by its every word. When the law says a liar must suffer 600 years anyone under that law would have to face the penalty. However, to be “not lawless” means we don’t go about sinning deliberately, acting uncultured or as without a code of conduct. Grace is not a license to sin (Romans 6:15). Rather, it helps us serve God best. The Law is a written guide that can only be kept by God’s Grace.