Under Grace and Free from The Law
Every sincere child of God should take to heart the Apostle Paul’s reprimand of the believers at Galatia when he writes: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey (Gk. peitho, rely upon) the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal. 3:1).
‘Bewitched’ here above means; “to be fascinated with false representations.” In this case it was certain false brethren from James in Jerusalem who had come in among the Galatian grace believers to “spy out their liberty” in the grace of Christ (Gal 2:4, Gal 2:12), to bring the Galatians grace believers then under “the Law.”
These Galatian grace believers forgot the truth they had learned from Paul regarding the freeing work of the cross of Christ on their behalf.
These Galatians had begun with a clear understanding of the issues of grace and all that Christ had done for them at Calvary and the position God had given them “in Christ.” But they became “foolish,” allowing their thinking to wander from their ‘completeness in Christ’ (Col. 2:9-10) and thus had been ‘bewitched’ into thinking their adherence to a set of external rules would qualify them as more pleasing to God. Paul reasons with them:
“This only would I learn of you, Received Ye The Spirit by The Works of ‘The Law,’ Or by The Hearing of Faith? Are ye so foolish? Having Begun In The Spirit Are Ye Now Made Perfect (complete) By ‘The Flesh’ (self-effort to make yourself righteous)?” (vs. 2-3)
Are we required to “keep the law” in order to experience the fullness of the Christian life? Hardly! It’s vital to realize that grace is not only the way of salvation but grace is also the key to the sustaining and successful Christian life. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord (which was by grace through faith), so walk ye in him:” (Colossians 2:6)
The ‘law’s awful alternative is for our lives be lived in vain, empty, fruitless and barren.
“3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect (complete) by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet In Vain.” (v. 3-4).
Alternatively, we “ye are complete in him (in Christ) …” (Col. 2:10) and free to live under grace.
Yet, one of the major roadblocks on the road to spiritual growth is the deceptive notion that the Christian life consists simply of mastering certain “principles” or “precepts” as Laws); that if we successfully follow a list of steps and standards, we will achieve spirituality. This is all of manmade, Satan inspired, religious wisdom, it is in vain and fruitless. Many honest souls can’t believe that obedience to God can be secured in any other way than by “the law” principle, by adherence to a set of external rules by which to obey and seek to please God; then being under a Performance Based Acceptance system.
The truth is, however, that no believer who sees his life as slavish servitude to a list of rules and regulations (laws) will be effective. Rather, we should and will be motivated to godly living and faithful service only when we see ourselves not as serving the law but rather, simply responding to God’s revealed grace and love.
Romans 6:14 is an important verse. Although it is familiar and often quoted, it is amazing how little genuine understanding exists as to its real meaning: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are NOT under the law, but under grace.” The first “for” states the fact that Sin’s lordship over us is ended. The second reveals the basis on which this release is now realized in our lives: that we are “not under the law” not under a Performance-Based Acceptance System that demands duty 1st and only then offers blessing. We see this “if thou” basis for blessing among Israel under “the Law” from Deut 28:1 and 15.
But “under grace,” which freely bestows ALL blessing to us FIRST, knowing that the blessing we have will cause fruit to follow naturally. It is important to understand that grace frees us from both sin and from the law that prompts and empowers Sin.
“… the strength (Gk. dunamis, power) of sin is the law. (1 Cor 15:56b)
Free from “The Law”:
Read Galatians 4:1-2, which demonstrates the two-fold function of “the law”:
“Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But Is Under Tutors (teachers) and Governors (masters) until the time appointed of the father.”
A “tutor” is one who teaches, while a “governor” is one who controls, restricts and restrains. These are the two basic functions of “the law”: to stop or control sin and/or to teach one to bring forth fruit that would be acceptable to the justice of God… but neither Saves or Changes us inwardly. Actually, “the law” simply demonstrates our own inadequacy; the problem with the law is really the problem with us, it points out our utter inability. Romans 8:3 reminds us, “...What The Law Could Not Do, In That It Was Weak Through The Flesh ...” So, “the Law” frustrates us and turns us toward receiving Christ in us as the answer for righteous living!
The only answer to the “condemnation” of the law is to deal with ‘sin’ by some other means. The law can never stop sin in our lives simply because the Sin nature is “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). And, as we’ve read, the law actually ‘activates Sin.’ For “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
Thus, here in Romans 7 Paul tells us of his own frustrating experience with “the Law” even AFTER his salvation.
“For when we were in the flesh, THE MOTIONS OF SINS, which were BY THE LAW, did Work In Our Members (flesh body) to bring forth fruit unto death.”
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I Had Not Known Sin, But (except) by The Law: for I had not known lust (desire), except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
“But Sin, Taking Occasion by The Commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, For Without The Law Sin Was Dead.”
“For I Was Alive Without The Law Once: But When The Commandment Came, Sin Revived, and I Died (disabled me functionally). “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
“For Sin, Taking Occasion by The Commandment, Deceived Me, and by It Slew Me.”
“For we know that The Law Is Spiritual: But I Am Carnal, Sold Under Sin” (Rom. 7:5, 7-11, 14).
It is ONLY our identification with Christ at Calvary that frees us from Sin’s power. Romans 6 reveals that our freedom from Sin’s dominion over us is based squarely on the fact that We Have Been Crucified With Christ.
“Knowing this, that Our Old Man Is Crucified With Him (Christ), (so) That The Body of Sin Might Be
Destroyed (Gk. kartargeo, made of no effect), (so) That Henceforth We Should Not Serve Sin.
“For He That Is Dead (with Christ) Is Freed from Sin (freed from Sin’s dominion)” (vs. 6-7).
Here we learn that this same identification with Christ’s Cross has also made us free from “the law.”
“Wherefore, my brethren, Ye Also Are Become Dead To The Law by the (crucified) Body of Christ...”
“But Now We Are Delivered From The Law, That Being Dead Wherein We Were Held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:4, 6,).
At its most basic level, the law… is a ‘Performance-Based Acceptance System.’ To be “free from the law” means that Christ has delivered us from trying to “be good” in order to be accepted or further blessed by God. No longer is it necessary to be under external obligations of performance and duty. For “in Christ” we already have an eternal standing with God in grace. We have divine favor by a sovereign act of God, which has not only reckoned (counted) to us Christ’s redemptive work, but also makes us fully accepted by God (Rom. 5:1)!
Our trust is in the finished work and victory of Cross of Christ, not our frustrating effort to keep “the Law” … which we could never do of ourselves. Christ took the Law of ordinances out of the way by the Cross. “Blotting Out the Handwriting of Ordinances That Was Against Us, which was contrary to us, and (He) Took It Out of The Way, Nailing It to His Cross;” (Colossians 2:14)
This deliverance from “the law” gives us liberty from Sin’s dominion in the details of our lives. The relationship between Sin and the law is clearly seen here, in I Cor. 15:56: “... The Strength (Gk. dunamis, power) of Sin Is The Law.” Our problem all along has been Sin and the law points out Sin on its every occurrence, thus Condemning Us. Having been made free from Sin through the cross-work of Christ, the law has lost its job or function… thus, the cross simultaneously makes us free from “the law.”
“There is therefore Now No Condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath (now) made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 (KJV)
During the “But Now” of today’s grace age We Cannot Be Condemned by “the Law.” We now live in a rarified atmosphere of the pure grace of God that saved us and keeps us to the uttermost. We can breathe deeply as the tension of failure is gone. God no longer keeps any account of our failures!
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute (count his) sin.” (Romans 4:8 (KJV)
Since the Cross of Christ alone has so effectively dealt with Sin and our sins, should we then try to use “the law” to motivate us to live in a godly manner? Let’s see what Paul says. Paul declares that it is grace that teaches and motivates the believer today to “maintain good works.”
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching Us that, Denying Ungodliness and Worldly Lusts, We Should Live Soberly, Righteously, And Godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
So, it is the recognition of God’s work by His Grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness, to stop sinning in our lives and to live soberly, righteously and godly to bring forth fruit that will please God.
All that we have received of God and will enjoy of God has come to us by His… grace. Thus, Paul calls his Christ-given gospel “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), since grace is the operating system by which His program for this age is operating. This age is thus called “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2).
Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Cor. 15:10). We need to discover in our lives what this means. It is grace that produces results, whereas law-keeping makes only for frustration. The good news of “gospel of the grace of God” liberates us into a life of service for Christ and, if it were truly understood by believers it would electrify them and electrify present-day Christianity that is so weak and confused.
The problem of our present time is that the Church today largely preaches a message that is little more than warmed over legalistic Judaism… rather than the liberty that comes from faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Let’s understand this clearly, the Christian life is not about earning credits and blessings from the Lord. Instead, the Christian life is to be the grateful response to what He has already done for us in that He has given us everything in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:32 sets forth our confidence:
“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, How Shall He Not With Him Also Freely Give Us All Things?”
The little word “for” in the middle of Romans 6:14 here is intriguing. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14b (KJV) We believe both parts of the verse but why this second “for”? The answer is the key to the Christian life; for the believer, being under grace accomplishes what all his legalistic efforts could never attain. Under grace, we are counted righteous with God. It’s important to discern what it means to be “under grace.”
The answer is repeated over and over in Paul’s epistles: it is the discovery that we have everything in Christ, then believing it and resting in it. “For he (the believer) that is entered into his (God’s) rest, he also hath ceased from his own works (of self-effort), as God did (cease) from his. (Hebrews 4:10, adapted)
We must never believe that these truths are merely abstract doctrines that have no relevance to our lives. The motivation for the marvelous ministry committed to our trust grows out of the great joy that comes when the truths of grace grip the heart. A clear understanding of and confidence in “the grace of God” is the only way to live to successfully. We are securely forgiven and unconditionally loved by God our Father.
How Grace Works:
Grace is not against or opposed to “good works”! Under grace, God simply does not bless us on the basis of good works. We’ve already received all the blessings of God based solely on the merits of His Son’s Cross-work… for He “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-4) and this is to be found nowhere else. Our completeness that is in Christ means our deliverance from 1) trying to “be good” and 2) “doing right” in order to be accepted by God. (see Col. 2:6)
Never think that good works are not important to grace. We must learn that grace is God’s way both in salvation and for the Christian life. Grace is the modus operandi for the Christian life. The good works the law demands… the grace of being in union with Christ (cf. 1Cor 6:17) actually produces of its own accord, according to His will (cf. Phili. 2:13, 1:6).
The law demands good works, using its terror, rejection, shame, fear of punishment, unanswered prayer, personal tragedy, etc. as motivation. Performance was required to secure the blessings and avoid the curses. Grace, on the other hand, allows us to serve on a different basis not from fear but on the Basis of Love and Gratitude, From Appreciation and Gladness for Blessings Freely Given and Freely Received.
This is the fundamental difference between the way that law and grace produce results: the reason for doing good works under law is different from the reason for doing them under grace. Two familiar passages well illustrate this; “the Law” of conditional forgiveness that Jesus extended for Israel in Matthew 6:14-15;
“(only) IF YE FORGIVE men their trespasses, Your Heavenly Father Will Also Forgive You: But (only) IF YE FORGIVE NOT men their trespasses, Neither Will Your Father Forgive Your Trespasses.”
Israel’s motivation to do the good work of forgiving others is clear: Only if a person forgives the other first, then they will also be forgiven. If not, there is no forgiveness for them. This is the law principle’s motivation.
Now contrast this above with the words Jesus gave Paul for us today as seen here.
“Being justified (declared righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24 (KJV)
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13)
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, Forgiving One Another, Even as (in the same way as) God for Christ’s Sake Hath (already) Forgiven You (which was freely by grace through faith alone).” (Eph. 4:31-32)
This is of the program of grace; we do the same good work, but for a different reason. Rather than being against good works, recognizing God’s grace toward us motivates us and thereby produces good works, thus producing them for a different reason than the law does. Under grace we serve as the natural response of who we now are in union with Christ. Are we to forgive one another because they perform up to our expectations because they confess their wrong or make restitution? NO! We forgive because by faith we are free to live consistent with who we now are “in Christ” … simply ‘out of gratitude.’
As we rejoice in an understanding of how God values and esteems us “in Christ,” that understanding will motivate us to serve one another. Galatians 5:13-14 instruct us:
“For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but By Love Serve One Another. For All The Law Is Fulfilled In One Word, Even In This: Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself.”
Thus, as we live “under grace” we are able to produce the very good works that the law demanded but which we were not able to accomplish under that Law system (cf. Gal. 3:10).
The knowledge of the love of God so clearly demonstrated for us in Christ is His powerful motivation to encourage us to godly living and faithful service. It is the love of Christ which constrains us not our love for Him, but His love for us. This is the motive of gratitude and appreciation. Our lives are lived purely as a “thank you” in response to God’s unspeakable gift.
Knowledge of God’s love for us “in Christ” is His powerful motivation to encourage us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. To view Romans 12:1-2 as a command is utterly wrong, that would make a law of grace. Paul beseeches by the “the mercies of God,” which will bring about a submissive heart. Vows cannot obtain this. Even if they could, the sacrifice would not be acceptable to God, for “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (love), it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:3).
How can this powerful motivation of love be produced in our lives? Paul has told us, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). The Holy Spirit and “the word of God” work together. It is as we look into “the word of God” and learn the details of all that has been accomplished in Christ for us that we can come to rest by faith in God’s amazing grace. It is our faith resting in an intelligent understanding of the facts of Calvary that allows the Spirit to empower those truths to transform our lives, thus the word of God “works effectually in you that believe.”
The Church will realize the greatness of its potential only when it discovers not new gimmicks and methods, but the message of grace that it once professed to believe. It is grace that sets us free from the frustration of the performance system of the law. We are made capable in our service for Christ, in our own right, when we see ourselves as “the children of God,” who are now set free from the bondage of the law, sin, and death, and brought into the “glorious liberty of the sons of God” through having come to understand the riches of His grace.