Law and Grace
By Let Us Reason Ministries
In the beginning the church had to contend with Judaism still living in the hearts of the believers. Clearly there was a transition to be made since the first 6-10 years of the church was exclusively made up of Jewish believers. From the time of the Judaizers to the Ebonite’s in the first few centuries there were always those who clung to parts of the Mosaic law for salvation. Grace in the New Covenant has not been enough for those who do not want to be delivered from the Old Covenant.
Within the Messianic Movement to Sabbatarians, their are some strict yet well meaning law observant people who want to revive something that Scriptures says has passed away for the New Testament believer. While it is up to ones own preference whether they want to keep any part of the law or even worship on a certain day. It becomes a different matter when they expect others to do the same as they do or they are considered not spiritual or not saved.
Commandment observers today are zealous and eager to accept a principle Paul himself rejected. He taught against the idea that law-keeping could be used to convey growth for our spiritual life or justification (Gal. 3:1-3). This does not mean we ignore the Old Testament? No the Old Testament teaching is beneficial to the Church to learn examples from Israel, to see the way in which Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and for typology (the tabernacle, feast days, priesthood etc.) But to suggest that both Gentile or Jewish believers in Christ would become more obedient or spiritual if they lived under the law is to miss the power which comes from the Gospel by grace in the new covenant. Paul certainly stood against this idea, so much so that he rebuked the whole Church of Galatia for bringing the law in alongside the Spirit of grace which they began in.
Some commentators have made artificial divisions of the Old Testament law into civil, ceremonial and moral categories. While this can be advantageous for studying the assortment of laws, these categories are not found in the Scripture. Different teachers can disagree with each other as where one division ends and the other begins. The Old Testament covenant and commands cannot be subdivided from one’s own conditional point of view. The Rabbis saw the covenant as a unit of 613 commandments consisting of 365 negative and 248 positive. While the law was perceived to be made of parts it was always understood as a whole. It is wrong to divide the law into categories that the word of God does not. It gives a false view that these are biblical divisions when in fact they are not. What happens is that some are discarded and others are continued to be a practiced something the bible does not teach.
The word “law” (Greek: nomos) can apply to the Ten Commandments, the statutes and decrees given at Sinai, the five books of Moses, or the entire Old Testament, it all depends on the context it is used in. Paul’s most recurrent use of the law has to do with ALL the divine requirements given to Israel, and there were 613 not just 10. On Mount Sinai God gave Moses 2 tablets of stone, which contained the “Written Law” 10 commandments by the finger of God Himself and God also spoke to Moses the “Oral Law” consisting of 603 commandments to Moses. These were later written down and put in the side of the ark. All the law is called the Mosaic Law, as Jesus often referred to it; it totals 613 commandments. Those who observe and perpetuate the law today want to discard the 603 and live by only 10.
The 10 commandments were never separated from the rest of the law of Moses. It was always considered a single unit with all 613 commands active for those under its covenant. Today we see law keepers divide it into parts to support the view that some of the law is operating as a rule of living for us today and other parts are obsolete. This is foreign to its operation. Either it is all intact or none of it is.
The Bible does not use words such as moral or ceremonial to distinguish the 10 Commandments from the rest of the law. The Bible is silent on dividing the law into parts of moral, ceremonial or civil.
The Law of Moses is a unit of 613 commands and cannot be divided in a way where some of the law is retained and some done away. The law contained legislation related to Israel’s moral, religious, and civil life. In the Old Testament the word Torah or law is always used in the singular sense (the first 5 books of Moses). In the New Testament the word for law is Nomos, it is always used in the singular, such as in John’s Gospel (1:17) the law (singular) came through Moses…” James 2:10 states to break one point of the law means we are guilty of all, because it is a unit. If the law were not unified, then when one was broken his guilt would only be in reference to the specific violation he committed. Biblically if one breaks a legal commandment, he is guilty of the ceremonial and moral ones too, if one breaks a ceremonial one he is guilty of all the others too. All the law is an interconnected chain, that is the biblical view. Imperfect law keeping is not law keeping at all, if you can’t keep it all then you become just as guilty as the other person that you are trying to bring under the law.
Some may say that Christians are not under ceremonial law but under the moral law of the 10 commandments. They say we must keep the law, not the details, but the intent. How do we separate the moral law from its punishments? When did God drop the penalties attached to the violation of the moral laws of the Old Testament? To have one is to have the other. Under law if one breaks the Sabbath you have an obligation to rock and roll them to sleep.
To try to help us out of this predicament some propose we are not under the moral law for salvation, but as a rule of life. In other words as Christians we are given the Holy Spirit to keep the moral law of the Old Testament.
The Scriptures such as Luke 2:21-39 and Mark 7:8-13 show that the “Law of Moses” is the “Law of God” and is one law which includes moral, ceremonial and civil elements, all of which are cannot be separated from the penalties. The law, the law of Moses and the Old Covenant are terms that are used interchangeably. Jesus says in Mark 7:10: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ This is the 10 Commandments, yet Jesus attributes it to Moses, not to the 10 commandments, making no distinction. What we see is keeping the moral commandments also means observing the penalties.
Legalism teaches it is the keeping of the law that makes one righteous. Legalists are Nomianists. They say we are saved by grace but we have to keep the law as an addition to sanctify us. biblically our sanctification began when we were justified, past tense, and its all by faith. Justification is a legal declaration to be right before God, sanctification is a continuing work. Some seem to think that we become more holy or spiritual by keeping the Old Testament laws which is exactly the same mistake the Galatians were doing. This is evident because Paul said they began in the Spirit but tried to be perfected by the flesh, through the laws. Paul made it clear they were not benefiting from practicing them but it was actually hindering and even deceiving them.
The law showed us that we need a savior but if one can’t accept that then they can’t call on the savior to save them. If you can’t receive the law then you can’t receive the grace to be saved. The apostles were first disciples of John, God was preparing them with the law before they could receive grace from the one who is the truth.
Paul In Romans 6:14 states that as believers we are “no longer under law but under grace.” This clearly teaches that law is not used as a saving or a sanctifying prescript for believers . Some wrongly misinterpret this and have us believe that it says “you are not under the law for salvation, but are under the law for sanctification.” This is to misuse Scripture and ignore the context. Paul in his writings conveys a whole, unified law system and not just parts, rarely does the context show otherwise. In Romans 8:4 we are taught that the righteous requirements of the law are “fulfilled in us.” All the righteous requirements of the law are not fulfilled by us, but fulfilled in us by Christ. Paul is not telling believers that the law needs to be kept by us. If one is to keep the law then they must meet its requirement. We could never fulfill the law unless we are perfect this is the very reason Christ did. The law demands was perfect obedience your whole life, or your guilty and eternally punished. Christ has fulfilled the law for all believers who accept the New Covenant under his conditions. Its demands are no longer required of us because he fulfilled them. The Greek word “fulfill” is pleroo which means “to complete fully.” Christ completely fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant and gives that victory and new standing to us, His children. Christ said: “Tetelestai! it is finished!” Paid in full, no more installments
Paul states in Rom 3:21-24: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”
Rom 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. By trusting in Christ’s work the law is fulfilled perfectly. Christ is the end of the law, the Greek word is telos which means termination or goal. The law was replaced. All the Old Testament types and shadows were replaced by the light the one who gave us them, Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, to bring it to its natural conclusion and completion. It was there for a time and was then replaced and is non operative for a believer, it is put aside. The laws recipients were Israel. The New Covenant recipients are both Israel and the gentiles. The Old Testament law clearly is not our reference point under grace. Jesus becomes the instructor in the New Covenant through the Holy Spirit.
Those who try to be righteous by their works are spiritually immature and will not obtain spiritual maturity by faith. The law kept the nation Israel imprisoned. The laws intent was not to bring us to itself but to a person. Salvation is in a person, not a teaching or a practice, the laws intent was to be a tutor. The Greek word is pedagogue which means a child conductor. That we were like prisoner kept under a special military guard. It kept us inward, shut up like a child is trained up with rules until he becomes mature and of age and the authority over him ends. That begins with faith. Under guardianship and discipline it regulated ones life but did not give life. The law spoke of mans uncleanness and to be cleansed meant an atonement by blood was needed. The results of being taken out of captivity from a tutor is when faith arrived we became mature, the law of Moses no longer had authority over us we have faith in the law giver. We now share in God’s nature becoming his children and receiving the blessings he gives to his family. We now have a new legal status, we have attained sonship by faith, not by works.
When one does not understand law and grace they mix the two together.
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? If you want to be under the old covenant Listen to its dictates.
Paul addresses the law system of the Old Covenant in Galatians 4:22-31 The Judaizers appealed to the law, Paul does the same and to show its true intent.
Paul goes into typology, in an allegory in Galatians with 5 illustrations of pairs: 2 women, 2 sons, 2 covenants, 2 mountains and 2 cities. Paul launches into a story that is an allegory. Using two symbols that they would be familiar with, the two sons Ishmael and Isaac. How did Abraham obtain the promise by works, by Hagar or by faith by Sarah. Sarah was barren and waited until she thought it would be impossible. By age 85 she had become impatient she suggests Abraham marry her handmaiden to give her a son. While this was legal in their society it was not Gods will, God was not involved in this. Age 86 Hagar is pregnant and Sarah become jealous and chases her away. The angel of the Lord intervenes and she is sent back (Gen.16:14-16). At age 99 God speaks to Abraham assuring him a son by Sarah and reaffirms this to Sarah at age 100 the son is born, you could say at the fullness of time. God deliberately waited 25 years from when he first promised him.
In Gen.17 he makes a covenant of circumcision Gen. 17:10-11: “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; V.13-14 “He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. “And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Then Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah. Why? Because Circumcision was given when Abraham and Sarah tried to receive the promise in the flesh ! Her name needed to be changed to receive the promise. Adam was punished for listening to his wife’s ungodly advice and so was Abraham in that he was given a reminder never to trust in the flesh. Gods promise cannot be obtained by human ability. This is what the Abrahamic covenant is related to, the land of Jerusalem, this covenant of cutting the flesh was to continue for Israel and was given again in the Mosaic Covenant. Now Paul is going to argue this point for salvation not obtained by mans efforts but by faith alone, trusting in what God says and can do.
V.23 (2 women Hagar and Sarah) But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, Ishmael is not the heir, his mother conceived him by ordinary means. Isaac was conceived by a mother who was unable to conceive by ordinary means, but by the supernatural intervention of God. The N.C. is Gods intervention, the O.C. operates from mans ability. The O.C. could not save, it had no power, the N.C. saves absolutely.
v.24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Each represent Jerusalem. One of earth the other of heaven. those who are justified by faith alone inherit the heavenly one. Mt. Sinai is where the law was given to Israel, all the commandments were instituted only to separate Israel from the nations and to condemn them. To show how far man falls short of what God requires to show how Holy God is. The laws birth was given at Sinai and Israel could not follow it no matter how long or hard they tried. Those who put themselves under the law are true sons of Hagar, they are trying to obtain the blessing by their own hands. Remember the glory that occurred on Mt. Sinai. The NT in 2 Cor.3:1-18 gives us more insight to its affect, it was temporary fading away.
V.26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Each represent Jerusalem. One of earth the other of heaven. Those who are justified by faith inherit the heavenly one. She is our mother of believers in typology. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. The promise is of faith. Ishmael did not come from faith nor represent it. Ishmael represents what seemed like blessing, but in time would bring contention. This is what is said of the Old Covenant v. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Paul uses this as an illustration of the flesh always in conflict with the Spirit. Paul explains the conflict of those who walk In faith are persecuted by those who try to live by law. This is the difference between the Jews under the Old Covenant and those under the new covenant.
Gal.3:24: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Israel was treated as a minor, being schooled in the basics of God. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Gal.3:12: “Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them ” old “Hagar” represents the “teacher,” it no longer has a governing relationship over us. If one is putting themselves under the law they cannot receive the blessings of faith These are the two different covenants, the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar, The other sets one free.
As Gal.4:1-2 states we are under guardians, the law was a baby sitter until we make a profession of faith then we don’t operate by the law. Its not done away but we don’t need its instructions we are now heirs. Faith is superior then the law.
4:7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. We are partakers of the divine nature that a son operates by, the law could never give someone the Holy Spirit, to go back to the inferiority of the law is denying the new nature and giving opportunity for one to live in the Old, in the flesh. So many struggle because of being brought under the rules and regulations of men. The 10 Commandments purpose was to reveal to man the holiness of God and His standard of righteousness. It showed us what sin is by giving the goal which is the perfect standard of God himself. The foreshadowing was fulfilled by Christ. They no longer has any spiritual instruction but its purpose is to drive one to the person it foreshadowed.
We are no longer underneath the law. Jesus has put Himself between us and the law, rescued from the penalty we are now “under” Him. The laws have become lifeless ordinances that served their usefulness in time but now are put aside for the believer. Instead we receive God himself, the Holy Spirit, in the better covenant (2 Cor.3).
Rom 7:6: “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Hebrews 8 speaks of a better covenant (v. 6). It is better in its commands, has a superior Mediator and is better in its empowerment by grace and the Holy Spirit. Heb.8:8-13 teaches that we are under a new and superior covenant. In fact, all of the Book of Hebrews shows that to mix the two covenants is to regress, not progress. In Hebrews 12:18-24 much like Galatians states that we have not come to the Old Covenant and Sinai, but to the new and far superior covenant.
Zechariah 11:10 says, “And I took my staff, beauty and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. so it was broken on that day.” When did this occur? “Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then I said to them, if it is agreeable to you, give me my wages and if not refrain. So they weighed out for my wages 30 pieces of silver.”
The misunderstanding many Christians have in their thinking is that without the law we are lawless. Just because a law is obsolete and abolished does not mean we are without law! Likewise all the moral code in the Ten commandments and the moral Law of God in the Old Testament is brought over and re-instated under the new Covenant the Law of Christ. The moral law was there before the law was given to Moses and it continues afterwards.
The law only speaks to those who are under the law, evidently excluding believers from its ministry, since they are not under the law but grace. While this excludes believers, it includes the entire world under the ministry of the law.
Here all the guilty world is open to the evangelistic ministry of the law. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Rom. 3:19 here all the Body of Christ’ is out of reach of the condemning ministry of the law If they want to be (2 Cor. 3:9; Rom. 8:1-2). Believers are not under the Old Testament law and therefore, beyond its grasp (Rom. 3:19)… for you are not under law but under grace. Rom. 6:14: ” But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal. 5:18.
Those who hold to the 10 commandments today are left with a non-spiritual exercise of picking and choosing what they arbitrarily think would still apply from the Old Testament. Again, this is to misunderstand the New Testament teachings of life under grace and living in the Spirit. This constantly causes confusion, as well as leads to legalism whose fruit is division. The mixing of law with grace for sanctification is error, which can only bring bondage since it removes one out from grace.
As far as the issue of the Sabbath or anything else under the law. The ceremonial sign the Sabbath of the Old Covenant ceased when the covenant which it was a sign of was passed away.
Long before Satan paganized the church he tried to Judaize it, by having them be confused by which covenant to live under. The Judaizers said to the Galatians they were missing something, practice the law, add parts of it and you will become more spiritual. But the law adds nothing to ones spirituality, it takes away, because what Christ did is perfect by himself. The confusion comes when believers practice obedience to law is equal to keeping ones salvation. Someone once said, Satan would have us prove ourselves holy by the law while God gave it to prove us sinners. When it defines wrong it has done its work of tutoring. For those who feel they benefit from keeping the law they have the freedom to choose to observe what they like but when they feel superior for trying or when they tell others to do the same, then it becomes legalism.
We were not saved by the commandments in the Old Testament and were certainly not saved or kept by keeping commands in the New Testament were are saved and kept By God through faith.
This very issue came up in the early church and was settled at the first council in Jerusalem. Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” These are the same ones Paul addressed in Galatians. (The law of Moses includes the 10)
The apostles address this issue In Acts15:10 “Now therefore, why put God to the test, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear”. The law of Moses is not binding for the gentiles is made clear in Acts 15.The Judaizers came in to bring the believers back into bondage. The same as the Law keeping people of today.
Acts 15:24-25 “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law’ -to whom we gave no such commandment.”
Can anything be clearer!
Paul says this in the book of Galatians about those who unsettled their souls telling them to keep the law. Paul says “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. God has not told you to do this, but man.”
The devil gets more people into hell with religion than no religion. The law by its nature makes one very religious. To resurrect the Old Testament laws as a way to live or have God’s approval is to have a religion Christ pronounced dead. At the same time trying to live in a relationship purchased by Christ. Oil and water don’t mix, and neither does the law and grace, they are two totally different operations, two different covenants.
Gal.5:4: “You who would be justified by the law (obedience and works) you have fallen away from grace.” To be justified is to make one more obedient or more right with God. Whether one adds food or baptism or a day its all useless for a spiritual life. Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now trying to be made perfect by the flesh.” I hope you don’t fall for any of this.