Relationship with Christ: Are we Under Law or Grace?
Theologians have been debating it for hundreds of years. After Christ’s work was done on the cross we now have access to his wonderful grace. Where does that leave the law? Is there no more place for law in the Christian life? Has law been replaced by grace? Jesus gave us clear direction on that issue when he preached on the mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Paul reaffirmed what Jesus said in Romans 3:31 “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law”
Many would argue in defense of sin. Now that we have access to grace we are no longer under law therefore any sin we commit it is automatically forgiven by a merciful God who offers an everlasting supply of grace to his weak and feeble followers. This is a dangerous belief with unspeakable consequences. Some are so disillusioned that they are willing to entertain the idea that sin may be good in that it proves the grace of God. To this Paul rises up in indignation when he says in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Christ, and Paul who followed him, are not asking for a shallow confession or a soft repentance that is tinged with insincerity and proves ineffective. They are calling for a tangible repentance. A confession so remorseful and honest that, when joined with the grace of God, it causes one’s thinking to change. It changes our attitudes and it altars our behavior in a radical way. The consequence of a tangible repentance will be a deep and personal relationship with God that will result in good works so that our light might “shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16.
So, if we are saved by grace, what is the purpose of the law? The law is like a great spotlight in the hands of God to show us the darkness in the deep, inner recesses of our depraved souls. The law is the great revealer. It exposes that which is contrary to God and provides us an opportunity to confess that which we now see which hinders God’s work in our lives.
I have a Llewellyn Setter, she is about 5 months old. She could be an excellent bird dog even though I don’t bird hunt. She is a family pet and an inseparable companion to my five year old son, Kameron.
Every morning Keely and I take a walk down an old country road near my home. I use this time to pray and meditate and begin my day by focusing on the things of God.
Keely walks with a leash. The leash is what gives me control over her. Without it she would run and rampage through the neighborhood completely out of control. She is young and still being trained. Occasionally she will pull the leash attempting to go in a direction I don’t want to go. If I gently jerk the leash she will fall back beside me. Sometimes she digs her front paws in the ground in an attempt to resist going forward. Again, a gentle tug reminds her she has a master.
The law of God is like a leash. It helps us to keep in line. It enables us to walk beside the Savior and prevents us from getting ahead or falling behind. It is the vehicle through which we demonstrate our love by submitting to the will of our master. “If anyone love me, he will keep my word” – (John 14:23). We will occasionally want to sniff out the pleasures of the world but a gentle tug on the leash reminds us of the relationship we have with the Master and how “friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4)
As we get older and more mature in the faith we walk with less resistance. We love Him more and more and we treasure our fellowship with the Master. In fact, there will probably come a time when the leash is totally unnecessary. We walk with him simply because we want to and wouldn’t dream of leaving his side because the aroma of his holiness is so much more attractive than the stench of sin.
The question is not law or grace? The question is how these two work together to sanctify us in our walk with the Master.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.