A detailed study of the Scriptures reveals a noticeable and contrasting division of God’s administration over the Jews (Law) and the Church (Grace): “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” <Jn.1:17 (NIV)>. This quote does not indicate that there was no Law before Moses, since at the creation account God gave specific instructions and the ensuing consequence of breaking His command <see Gen.2:15-17>; neither does it suggest that there was no Grace before Christ came into the world; since in the response of God after Adam and Eve broke His command and sinned, God came down to earth looking for Adam and finally provided for Adam and Eve’s redemption from their sin a means of cleansing and forgiveness (His Grace), by clothing them in the skin of an animal that had to be killed in their place, representing a sacrifice for sin, that which the Law required <see Gen.3:21>; for the Law required the death of the sinner. Here then, we see the very first mention in scripture of the Grace of God and is referenced in the N.T. in the sacrifice of Christ Himself for the salvation of all sinners; “God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” <2 Cor.5:21 (NIV)>; “He himself [Christ] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” <1 Pet.2:24 (NIV)>.
It is important to observe that wherever the Law is mentioned in Scripture it refers to the Law given by Moses and covers God’s administration up to the event of Christ’s death on Calvary, the final and eternal sacrifice for all sin. From that point in time, and onward, God’s Grace is the characteristic of His administration over the Church age and will continue until He comes to call all believers (the Church) to be with Himself <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>. Furthermore, it should be observed that in any time period defined by God (dispensation), the Scriptures do not combine the two principles of Law and Grace, and Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians’. Wherever the Law is mentioned it demands justice, condemnation, curses and the death of the lawbreaker; and a study of the books of Exodus and Leviticus will reveal the demands of the Law <see such passages as Ex.20-23; Lev.19-24>. In contrast then, where the Law brought terror, Grace brought freedom to the worst of sinners <see Lk.23:39-43; Rom.5:8; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 1 Tim.1:15>.
Another important observation that must be made is that the N.T. references to the “law” are to the Law given by Moses, but there are exceptions <see Rom.7:21-23>. In some cases, the reference is to the both the “moral law” (10 commandments) and the “ceremonial law” (offerings and sacrifices), both comprising the whole law. Examples are: of the whole law <Rom.6:14; Gal.2:16; 3:2>, of the moral law <Rom.3:19; 7:7-12>, and of the ceremonial law <Col.2:14-17>. Contained in the ceremonial law are the “types” or “foreshadows” of the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ as Priest and Sacrifice pictured in the Tabernacle and the Levitical Offerings <see Ex.25-30; Lev.1-7; cf 2 Cor.3:7-18>.
Three errors that have plagued Church teachings are those that affect the relationship between Law and Grace:
- ANTINOMIANISM: such maintain that believers in Christ have been freed from the moral law by virtue of faith and grace and therefore are not required to live holy lives: <see Titus 1:16; Jude 4>
- CEREMONIALISM: a system of rites and formalities and originally it demanded that believers should observe the Levitical ordinances, and the modern form is in the teaching that such ordinances are essential to salvation: <see Acts 15:1>
- GALATIANISM: or the intermixing of law and grace – teaching that justification is partly by grace and partly by law; or that grace is given so that the incapable sinner can keep the law. Such teaching has been addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians’ and is God’s conclusive answer: <see Gal 1:6-8; 3:2-3>
The following outline and scripture references, which speak specifically to the moral law, is what the Scriptures teach us on this important subject.
- WHAT THE LAW IS: It is holy, just and good <Rom.7:12>; spiritual <Rom.7:14>. It is something in which we should delight ourselves <Rom.7:22>. It is NOT of faith <Gal.3:12>
- WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: It exposes, or makes us conscious of sin <Rom.7:7; 13>; it condemns us before God, it cannot justify <Rom.3:20>. It was given because of transgressions <Gal.3:19>, and makes us guilty before a holy God <Rom.3:19>. It demands complete adherence in all it’s elements <Gal.3:10; James 2:10>. It is the administration of death and condemnation <2 Cor.3:7, 9>, and proclaims the death sentence upon all <Rom.7:9>. It is the power of sin <1 Cor.15:56>. It was given (2500 years after Adam) to convict guilty mankind of sin and complete helplessness in view of God’s just requirements – strictly an administration of condemnation and death <Jn.1:17; Gal.3:17>
- WHAT THE LAW CANNOT DO: It cannot justify anyone before God <Acts 13:39; Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11>; or anyone who attempts to obey its principles <Gal.2:16>. It cannot obstruct God’s grace <Gal.2:21>. It cannot pass judgment on the sinful nature (only the sinner) <Rom.8:3>, and cannot make anyone perfect in God’s sight <Heb.7:19>.
- THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER LAW: Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from the demands and condemnation of the Law, and through our faith in His sacrifice we are identified with Him in His death (through baptism), and death exempts us from the Law <see Rom.6:1-10> Now that we have been risen with Christ we should live according to the principles that direct our life-style as believers <Rom.6:11-23>. We are not delivered from the guilt of sin but from the control of sin <Rom.6:14>. However, this should not encourage us to lean toward Antinomianism where we say that a godly life is not important <Rom.6:15>. Another principle that is given to us is that since we are dead to the Law and alive unto Christ, our lives should demonstrate the “fruits” of our new life <Rom.7:1-6; Gal.2:19; 3:23-25; 1 Tim.1:8-9>. Note here that in Rom.7:1-6 Paul is not referring to the Ceremonial Law but to the Moral Law <Rom.7:7>.
- THE BELIEVER’S RULE OF LIFE: The believer should live as Christ did <1 Jn.2:6; Eph.4:1; 5:1, 15-16>; and should love as Christ loved <1 Jn.3:16; Jn.10:11; 13:34-35; 15:13>. The believer must abstain from sinful desires <1 Pet.2:11, 12-23>; having turned from the “darkness” of sin, must live in the “light” of the gospel <Eph.5:8-11>. The believer should not indulge in the desires of the old sinful nature to which he/she has “died” <Gal.5:16-21>; and must follow Christ’s example <Jn.13:15>, in obedience to His commands <Jn.14:21; 15:10, 12; 1 Jn.3:22-23; Heb.10:16>.
In consideration of the above, it is instructive “to remember that God’s appointed place for the tables of the law was within the ark of the testimony [covenant]. With them were “the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded” (types [pictures], the one of Christ our wilderness bread, the other of resurrection, and both speaking of grace), while they were covered from sight by the golden mercy-seat upon which was sprinkled the blood of atonement. The eye of God could see His law, so badly broken by Israel, only through the blood that completely vindicated His justice and propitiated [appeased] His wrath” (quote from Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth – Emmaus Correspondence Course) <see Heb.9:4-5; cf Ex.25:21; 34:27-28; 40:20-21>.
WHAT IS GRACE?
Grace is the undeserved mercy and kindness of God to a sinner; even though we as sinners are not deserving of God’s grace: <Rom.5:6-8; Eph.2:7-9>. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy….” <Titus 3:3-5 (NIV)>
GOD’S PURPOSE IN GRACE – We are saved from God’s wrath by His grace through our faith in Christ, and justified apart from the Law <Rom.3:24; Eph.2:8-9; Gal.2:16>. As a result of His Grace we should look forward expectantly to the hope of all believers – the hope of His return for us <Titus 2:11-13>; we have also been made heirs of salvation <Titus 3:7; Eph.1:13-14>. We now have direct access to the throne-room of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ <Rom.5:2; Heb.4:16; 10:19-22>, and are maturing through His written Word <Acts 20:32>. The Grace of God is therefore complete and all-inclusive, and these principles cannot be blended together with the Law, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” <Rom.11:6 (NIV); see also Rom.4:4-5; Gal.3:16-18; 4:21-31>.
In conclusion then, we see that believers in Christ are not classified as “children of the bondwoman (or slave)”, we have been freed from the bondage (slavery) of sin <Gal.4:31>, consequently we have no fear of what the Law demands (death of the sinner), and we should not attempt to divide the Law into “Moral” and “Ceremonial” for we are not bound by what Moses gave to the Israelites at Sinai <see Heb.12:18-24>. This is referred to as “the righteousness of God apart from the law” <Rom.3:21>. So all unbelievers, having violated the Law, should accept the sentence of the Law “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” <Rom.3:23 (NIV); Rom.6:23 >; but such can find in Christ a perfect and eternal salvation for; “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes……..if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” <Rom.10:4, 9 (NIV)>.