Not Under the Law, but Under Grace;
One of the greatest controversies in Christianity is the dispute between the principles of legalism and grace in the Christian life and walk.
The law keepers contend that it is not enough to have faith in Christ; it is also necessary to perform good works and keep the law. They contend that if one does not obey the law, he is in a state of sin, and is not, and cannot be, right with God. The "grace aloners" say that if you add the law to salvation by grace, you have negated grace and fallen away from the true faith.
The teachings of the New Testament, particularly Paul's, certainly bear out what the "grace aloners" are saying. One of the more prominent verses that states this:
For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8.
Paul also says that those who return to the law as a means of keeping themselves have fallen away from the faith:
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Gal. 5:4-6
The Epistle to the Galatians may seem on the surface to be speaking of those who only are attempting to revert back to the ceremonial law, such as circumcision and keeping of ceremonial "holy days" and other observances. Many would argue that it is not speaking of the moral law at all. However, the Old Testament law -- both ceremonial and moral -- is as a two-sided coin, and cannot be divided. If you revert back to ceremonial law, you have negated the way in which Jesus Christ has fulfilled it in His own Person and Sacrifice. And the ceremonial law was instituted by God as a means of covering up the violation of the moral law. The little animals were constantly sacrificed because the moral law was constantly broken. Jesus Christ died as our perfect, one-time Substitutionary Sacrifice to atone for -- nay, take away -- the penalty for our breaking of the moral law (sin.) So, therefore, if He fulfilled the ceremonial law, He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the moral law also, and provides a better and more sure way of being right with and pleasing God. What is that better way? It is this: the Father now writes His laws on the hearts of believers in a spiritual sense, as prophesied many times in the Old Testament, and repeated in the New. When one is born again, he receives the Spirit of God into his heart, and with it Love, which is the fulfillment of the law. Sin has been dealt with when the law, which makes sin manifest, is nailed to the Cross of Christ. And death because of sin is dealt with when, in Christ's Resurrection, we receive His Life by His Spirit -- the life of Divine Love. We are now to live out of that Divine Love, which is living unto God. (Rom. 6:11)
We are new creations in Christ Jesus, in that we die with Him and then are raised with Him to a new life. If we do not move past our belief that we still must "do" something to keep ourselves right before God, we have not gone on into the Resurrected Life as a New Creation! We die with Christ (we suppose) but we remain dead in our trespasses and sins, because we will not receive His Resurrected Life as New Creations! And this is what people do when they continue to battle sin by means of attempting to obey the law. Friends, the New Testament declares that the law was nailed to the Cross, and yet many do not believe it! Read:
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Col. 2:14)
Do you believe the above passage? Are you trying to say, "Yes, I believe it, but..."? That passage is very clear. It means what it says. The law was nailed to the Cross. Why? Because God has provided a BETTER WAY. The law, which was the essence of the Old Covenant, died with Christ on the Cross. If you come to Christ on the Cross, you receive, among other things, the benefit of the death of the law. If you do not come to the Cross, you are still under the law, and you will be judged by it! But if you have come to the Cross, and died with Him there, as the Bible says you have, you have died to the law! You are no longer under it! Nothing could be plainer!
God has ushered in a better way. What is that better way? It is that if you have come to the Cross, and died with Christ, the law is dead to you because it was nailed to the Cross, and the old you is dead. Now you are raised in the Resurrection and have become a new creation. We do not live by Christ's death; we die by His death! Rather, we died by His death! Now we live by His Resurrection! And in that Resurrection we have the Life of Christ, which is His Spirit. The "better way" is the Way of the Spirit, which God has given to all those who are born again of the Spirit.
Romans, Chapter 6 says it all, concerning sin, death, our identification in Christ, and our victory over sin:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6)
The above passage, my friends, is not speaking of human will but Divine Power! Sin is not dealt with by the human will in obeying the law. It is dealt with at the Cross by the Divine Power of God. In addition, the ability to live unto God is not by my or your will, but by the Divine Power of God! The gospel is God's Power to save, deliver, and restore! Saved from the wages of sin, delivered from the power of sin, and restored to fellowship with God by the Spirit. He does it according to grace through faith! Too many Christians are attempting to live out of their own power. According to the above passage in Romans this is impossible. The power to overcome sin is to know that you are dead to it at the Cross and are now empowered by the Holy Spirit to live unto God. When this happens, God's Power alone delivers you to a higher state than battling sin in the flesh. You cannot serve two Masters. You cannot live unto sin and live unto God at the same time! Your only role in all this is complete submission to His truth and His Will by faith!
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Rom. 6:14-18.
The key to living the Christian life is to serve righteousness. We serve righteousness as we obey the Holy Spirit within us! When we walk after the Spirit, we will not obey the lusts of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16) For you cannot serve two masters. It is not what you "don't do," but what you "do" that counts. Your "do" is to obey the Spirit within and be led by Him. As you do that the "don't do's" just fade away.
We are delivered from sin, and raised to fellowship with God, not by the keeping of the law, but by the power of the Gospel of God working in us! As Romans 1:6 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; the Jew first, and also to the Greek. If you are born again, it is really not so difficult to figure out what Paul meant and what the truth is. If you are not born again, you will not understand, and will never understand, until you come to the Cross for forgiveness of sin and are born again to be empowered by God to live unto Him.
Paul not only spoke often of the necessity of grace through faith; he also spoke often of "being led of the Spirit." It is the possession of the Holy Spirit that sets born again Christians apart from the lost, which includes the religiously lost. And if one has the Spirit of God living in him, and leading him, then he is not a law keeper; he is a grace-aloner. The law is for lawless people. Lawless people are those who do not have the Spirit because they have not been born again; therefore they are still under the law to constrain them and drive them to obedience. But born again Christians have the Spirit; and the Spirit leads; He does not drive!
The Holy Spirit living in a heart is the only way by which Jesus Christ can be Lord. He cannot be Lord to anyone who does not have the Spirit. Christ in us does not drive us to obey the law; He leads us into all Truth (His Word) and into obedience to His Voice through His Word. The controversy is not over whether or not we are to walk in goodness and righteousness, (of course we are!) but rather whether we are to be driven by the law or led of the Spirit. Romans 8:9 says that if we have not the Spirit of Christ we are none of His. The only thing that will please God is when, as His children, we are led of His Spirit.
Understanding and adherence to this great truth would lay to rest all of the argument over faith and works, or faith alone. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone; we are not then to work for further righteousness. We, rather, are saved by a faith that draws us to Christ and the Cross, and then brings the Holy Spirit to live in us. Then our works are God's works, and not our own.
Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd. "My sheep hear my voice," He said, "and I know them, and they follow (my emphasis) me." (John 10:27) You see, the Good Shepherd leads; He does not drive His sheep. He speaks and those Who know Him listen and follow. This is exactly the way that a shepherd in the east keeps His flock, as opposed to a western shepherd who drives his sheep, sometimes using hirelings or sheepdogs to do so. The eastern shepherd who leads is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, and the manner in which He keeps His flock together and in line. It is a very good representation of the Lordship of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When someone tries to argue with a born-again, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Christian about the necessity of keeping the law, he should be reminded that Jesus is his Lord, his Good Shepherd, and that He leads by His Spirit. He is leading His sheep into all Truth. He is leading His sheep into Love -- of Him and of others. That is the entire fulfillment of the law. If you love God first (primarily) and your neighbor as yourself, you will not practice idolatry or lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery or murder. You will honor your father and mother and be just and upright with all those with whom you have dealings. In fact, because the Spirit leads, you do far more than simply obey a set of rules and principles externally. The Spirit leads into uncovering the deepest recesses of your heart and correcting areas that could never be addressed by explicit, merely external, law. All the sinful attitudes of our hearts are laid bare and dealt with by the Spirit. This happens as a Christian learns the Word, lives by it, and allows himself to be cleansed by it.
That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:26, 27
People who are not born again spiritually cannot "see" these great truths. And that is why we have the contentious struggle and controversy over law and grace. Religious, legalistic people have only come as far as repentance. They have not received the atonement for their sins and been born again. Because they are repentant of their sins, they turn to law to deliver them from the sins themselves. But they cannot see that God never intended that men just stop sinning; He intended to restore men to fellowship with Himself. He does that by putting His Spirit in believers! He cleanses us at the Cross, and He puts His Living Holy Spirit in us at the Resurrection. Christ nailed the law and our sin to His Cross, so that He could give us His Spirit in the Resurrection. And so we die with Him that we might live in and unto Him, and that He might live in and through us. At the Cross and Resurrection, we change the lordship of our flesh and the law for the Lordship of Christ through His Spirit.
Galatians 3:24 tells us that the law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. How does it do this? It makes sin manifest. Law-keepers are constantly conscious of sin and the need to get rid of it. That is all that they see. They are living on a much lower level than born-again believers. They do not have faith in Christ and His Shed Blood as a Perfect Substitutionary Sacrifice. There are entire sects and denominations that are walking in disbelief. They have not come by way of the Cross. They may talk often of the Blood and the Cross, but they "see" Jesus only as a Great Teacher, and believe He is trying to get them to keep the law. They will not personally come to the Cross that takes away the sin of the world! At the Cross, we must humble ourselves and shed the guilt of sin, the burden of sin, and take on Christ. If all that we do is come and repent and take on the keeping of the law, we are not saved. We are only being prepared for salvation. God is allowing the law to be our schoolmaster, i. e. teach us about our sin and call us to "Come to the Cross of Christ to be cleansed and made whole!" Wholeness is not just about getting rid of sin; it is about getting rid of sin and being filled with (and led by) God's Spirit!
If you are a law keeper and constantly judging yourself and others by the law, you need to fully repent and come to the Cross. You are self-righteous if you believe you have the power to cleanse yourself of sin by keeping the law. You are nothing but lost if you believe you measure up to God's law; no man can. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23.) Humble yourself at the Cross and ask Jesus to take all of your sin upon Himself, cleanse you and then fill you with His Spirit, so that He, as your Good Shepherd, may lead you into all truth and righteousness. Then you will be completely free to obey Him as He leads. Fall short of this, and you are not redeemed; nor do you know God.
Ye must be born again! (John 3)
Let me, in closing, add this. It is a serious matter to trivialize the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, and this is what those do who profess they are Christians, but choose to live by the law and accuse those who don't. The Holy Spirit living in a believer is a very Precious and Divine Entity. He should be treated with the greatest reverence. Nevertheless, His indwelling can be trivialized in several ways: (1) Those who have the Spirit can grieve the Spirit by constant disobedience to His leading. (2) Those who refuse grace through faith make light of Christ's suffering and death on the Cross, which was the means by which He came to set men free and grant the Promise of the Spirit. (3) Those who choose the law over the Spirit deny the Truth of the New Testament in its clear teachings on the matter; therefore, they make God a liar. In these, and other ways, the Truth of God is trampled on, trivialized and rendered powerless by those who so believe and practice.
Being born again and having the Spirit is a very holy thing, and we should cherish the fact and treat it with great reverence. The Presence of the Spirit is Christ Himself actually living in us; and that should never be trivialized or treated irreverently. Law-keepers are very quick to point the finger at those they believe have turned their back on the law; and those with the Spirit are often too quick in defending their position as born again believers, when in fact their lives are not always witnesses to the Truth which the Spirit uplifts.