Why Law and Grace?
So often Law and grace are pitted against each other! Yet, both come from God. So, just how does all this work? Am I to obey the Law? Does sin matter if grace is the answer? Then again, could it be that we are to balance law and grace? Indeed there is a correct answer, so let us dig into this and sort it all out!
Why the Law?
What was the purpose for which God gave the Law? Some say, “God wouldn’t give us the commandments if we couldn’t keep them.” Is this the case, or could there be another reason?
Imagine that a great ruler offers a huge sum of wealth to any who can swim the breadth of the Pacific Ocean. The date is set. People begin practicing in earnest! Some people have gotten really good! They look around at others and start talking of how important it is to practice, practice, practice, and not be lazy like these others! For how will they ever reach the far side without trying! Finally the day arrives. The ocean swarms with swimmers! It doesn’t take long and many give up. Others press on. In the long run, even the best can’t do it. All the practicing didn’t avail. All alike fell short of the mark set!
So it is with the Law and commandments. There are those who take the keeping of the commandments very seriously! Then there are others who, quite honestly, don’t care! Yet, all alike can never reach “the other side.” Therefore, we must come to understand that God did not give the commandments for us to keep “as best that we can,” but rather “to keep them perfectly”! Neither were the commandments given to see if we were as good or better than other people, but rather to see that we did not meet the standard of God’s holiness. They were given so that people could plainly see that they are not “good people,” but awful sinners! For those to whom the commandments were given, were required to be unselfish at all times. To always put others first. To never lust inappropriately after others, not even in the mind, or in the movie theatre screens! God emphasized that all our words should be for building up – all the time! That we should always have pure thoughts in our minds! That we should never even want to harm another! To put it very simply, we are called to be equally perfect as God is perfect! Do you think, that even with a lifetime of trying harder, bettering oneself, and so forth, that you could become just like God?
Yes, there is a very important lesson God is teaching us! We have it here, “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.” (^Romans 3:19) Is this what we are being taught? With a certainty, the purpose for which God gave the Law, was to show people that they are guilty before Him! To show that they are guilty sinners condemned to the Lake of Fire! God did not give the Law for the purpose of us bettering ourselves until we might, maybe, be good enough for Heaven! For do any of us honestly think that we will ever reach the point where will live just as perfectly as God Himself? It’s simply impossible! And that is precisely the reason for which God gave the Law! So that we would come to the place where we would finally admit, “I’m a helpless sinner! I need someone to save me or there is zero hope for me! Yes, I need Jesus the Savior to save me! For either it is God’s grace alone, or I have no hope at all!”
It can be truly hard for the “good person,” to admit that they’re simply not good enough and can, in fact, never be good enough! That they need God’s grace every bit as much as the worst sinner that has ever lived! Yet this is really “good news” for the bad people of the world! For God extends His grace to them! In fact, they are more frequently the recipients of God’s saving grace than the religious people! The reality is that we must acknowledge that we are helpless sinners in order for God to extend His grace to us! Therefore, it is written, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) With a certainty, the good news is, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Indeed, it is tough for a good person to be saved. For they don’t understand how ungodly they actually are! They find it difficult to acknowledge that they are no better than the worst sinner! It is hard for them to realize that all their obedience is nothing but “filthy rags”! (Isaiah 64:6) Yet it is true! We are saved by God’s grace alone! Nothing else will do!
Truth be told, the answer does not lie with us, but with God! God the Father sent His uniquely born Son from Heaven’s glory to this Earth to save helpless sinners! We need to stop looking to ourselves for the solution and look to Jesus as our Solution! We couldn’t pay our sin-debt, so Jesus did! We could not achieve our own righteousness, so Jesus gives us His! We are not called to have faith in self, but to place our faith in Christ! He is the Saviour, we are not!
Are The Ten Commandments for Christians?
We could rightly say that, ultimately the ten commandments and the Law was for the people of Israel. As they are called, “The law of the Jews.” (Acts 25:8) As well, we know that the Law is given for the unsaved. As it is written, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for…the ungodly and sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:8-9) Of course “the just” are those who have been justified in the blood of the Lamb for sinners slain! Unquestionably, the Law was given for the explicit purpose of helping people understand that they all fail the test of being as holy as required – to be as holy as God Himself! This, then, would cause us to turn to our Lord Jesus Christ – for Him to save oneself!
Do you grasp just how loving God is to reach down to guilty, prideful, sinful humanity who deserved to experience the wrath God poured out in full measure? For each of us willfully rebelled against God and went our own way! Yes, God allowed us to do so! He would never ever force us to love Him! Yet, despite our slanderous attitude against God, He still offered us a way of escape – a way of salvation! This through His own beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! The One of whom it is written, “Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20) Again, and most amazingly, it is written, “The gospel…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
The fact of the matter is that we can conclude that the Christian is not under the rule of law. This does not mean that sin does not matter! Rather, Jesus Christ Himself is our victory! Our eyes ought to be on Him, and not law! He is our life! He is the way! He is the truth! He is our Saviour! We are not saved by grace and then left to scratch the rest of our way to Heaven by the merits of the Law! No, we are saved by grace from the moment we place our faith, right on through eternity in Heaven’s glory! For we can never be saved by adherence to the Law – this is not our saviour – Jesus is our Saviour! We are not to place faith in self to keep the Law, but in Jesus Christ alone!
May I ask you, what are you counting on: your obedience, or the sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God offered on the altar of the cross as full and final payment for all of your sins? For it is written with great clarity, “We have been sanctified [made holy] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) I further ask, do you want to be saved? God promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Victor J. Reimer
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Photo credit: “Arm Wrestling Day” by Hector Alejandro
*Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyrighted © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
^Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007.
Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.
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