To understand and appreciate “Grace”, there is a need to first understand “The Law” and the principles that govern the two covenants, which God has revealed and given to humanity for the expression of His will on earth.
The Law – Old Covenant:
The law is a compilation of decrees given to the Israelites. This whole body of law was known as the Torah, which are the laws of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
This Law of Moses, also called the Old Testament Law, was a demand revealed to Moses and placed upon the children of Israel as a standard for righteousness; a righteousness which could only be attained through their obedience; a righteousness which was necessary for them to merit God’s favor, blessings and acceptance.
The law covers a range of demands which includes the Ten Commandments, ceremonial laws, circumcision, animal sacrifices, food requirements and observance of the Sabbath and holy days etc.
This law played a major role in the life of Israel as a covenant community. When the law was transgressed, the covenant was broken, and so was the relationship with God. The consequence of this was a curse that came upon the people and ultimately resulted in death. In order to restore their broken relationship and to be free from the curse and consequences of their disobedience, certain sacrifices were required as penalties, which included yearly animal sacrifices.
In the New Testament, “The Law” is always considered as the commandments and rules which the people must obey and follow in order to be acceptable with God. The sad part was that people could not obey and fulfill the law, and this produced constant disobedience, and so they were bound by sin leading to a broken relationship with God. The animal sacrifices which were offered continually year by year for their sins, could not make them perfect.
However God’s purpose of the law was to bring people to Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law and of all the promises of God. It is through Him alone that our lives are made righteous and acceptable to God.
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” – (Galatians 3:24).
The role of the law as schoolmaster is to teach us that we are incapable of abiding by it! And in that way it points us to Christ. We eventually realize the law cannot make us righteous or bring us to perfection to receive life (Hebrews 10:1), but rather it becomes weak and powerless through our flesh.
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh….” – (Romans 8:3).
The power of sin is the law. The law therefore gave strength to sin, because it could not be fulfilled. The laws which were supposed to bring life brought sin and death instead.
“But sin took the opportunity provided by this commandment and made me have all kinds of wrong desires. Clearly, without laws sin is dead. At one time I was alive without any laws. But when this commandment came, sin became alive and I died. I found that the commandment which was intended to bring me life actually brought me death” – (Romans 7:8-10 GW).
“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” – (Romans 4:15).
“Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin” – (1 Corinthians 15:56 CEV).
Clearly no one who relies on the law can be justified or find acceptance with God; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin (Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:20).
“Yet we know that a person is not justified by doing what the Law requires, but rather by the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah. We, too, have believed in the Messiah Jesus so that we might be justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah and not by doing what the Law requires, for no human being will be justified by doing what the Law requires” – (Galatians 2:16 ISV).
The Age Of Grace – New Covenant:
A new era has dawned upon us by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, which brought the end of the law under the Old Covenant and the beginning of a New Covenant – -The Age Of Grace- – a life of freedom and divine favour through the grace of God.
The cross of Jesus Christ was the dividing line between the Law and Grace. It marks the commemoration of the end of an era (The Law), and the beginning of a new era (Grace). On the cross, He said, “It is finished” – John 19:30.
We are now in the era of grace. We are no longer slaves by the law, but we are now sons by grace. We are now free from “The Law” and all its demands.
“But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster (the Law). For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” – (Galatians 3:25-26).
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” – (Romans 6:14).
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” – (Galatians 5:18 ESV).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” – (Romans 8:1-2).
The law is an expired system under the New Covenant of the grace of Jesus Christ. Grace is the only valid order under the New Covenant which governs us, as long as we continue to believe in Jesus Christ, and are led by the Holy Spirit.
The law was but a shadow or reflection of the blessings that were to come through Christ Jesus, and not the actual blessings themselves.
“For the Law, being only a reflection of the blessings to come and not their substance, can never make perfect those who come near by the same sacrifices repeatedly offered year after year” – (Hebrews 10:1 ISV).
Under the Old Covenant the sacrifices the priests offered daily year in and year out according to the law, could not take away sins; whereas the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is His own Body that was offered for us once and for all on the cross, can. It is a New Covenant established so our sins and iniquities are remembered no more. The sacrifice of Christ is the sacrifice of Grace, which has supplied all the demands and met all the requirements of the law to set us free from the law of sin and death. This is what Grace has done for us. It has given us a life of freedom from sin and death, so we can now live by faith in Christ Jesus through His finished works, and receive the promises of His Spirit and enjoy all the benefits of a right relationship with God.
“So we are made holy (sanctified) because Christ obeyed God and offered Himself once for all. The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now He is sitting at God’s right side, and He will stay there until His enemies are put under His power. By His one sacrifice He has forever set free from sin the people He brings to God” – (Hebrews 10:10-14 CEV).
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” – (Hebrews 10:16-18).
The eternal law of God is now written in our hearts, and obedience is joyfully fulfilled in us through the Holy Spirit.
“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” – (Psalm 40:8).
We are no longer slaves to the law. Grace has freed us from the constraint of the law that constantly confines us to sin. We are to live in this liberty wherewithal Christ has sets us free.
“Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm in this freedom, and don’t become slaves again. I, Paul, can guarantee that if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Again, I insist that everyone who allows himself to be circumcised must realize that he obligates himself to do everything Moses’ Teachings (The Law) demand. Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying the law (Moses law) have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor (Grace). However, in our spiritual nature, faith causes us to wait eagerly for the confidence that comes with God’s approval. As far as our relationship to Christ Jesus is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether we are circumcised or not. But what matters is a faith that expresses itself through love” – (Galatians 5:1-6 GW).
The Principle Of Law & Grace:
The difference between “The Law” and “Grace” is the principle that governs it. The law places certain demands upon us which must be met. These demands are commandments which are considered to be “the works of the law”. If these works are not met, then we are disqualified from receiving the promises of God. The Law is powered and driven by our works.
Grace on the other hand does not place a demand upon us, but rather it supplies the demand for us to make us qualified for the promises of God without any obligation. The demands (works) have already been met and finished by Christ Jesus. Grace is powered and driven by our faith in the finished works of Christ.
The Old Covenant of the law says, “Thou shall….” or “Thou shall not….” or “If thou shall….”.
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God” – (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” – (Deuteronomy 28:15).
The law is an unrelenting taskmaster that is always demanding from us what we cannot fulfill.
Under the New Covenant of Grace, God says, “I will.…”.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” – (Hebrews 8:10–12).
Under this New Covenant of Grace we are no longer bound by rules and standards (which cannot be fulfilled), to qualify us and to make us acceptable to God. Under this New Covenant of Grace, Christ has met and fulfilled all the rules and standards for us, so we can now be obedient and acceptable to God. Our part is simply to believe, receive and continue in the finished works of Christ.
Remember, The Law is powered and driven by our works, and Grace is powered and driven by our faith in the finished works of Christ.
You can clearly see the difference between “The Law” and “Grace”. Under “The Law”, we are the one doing and meeting the demands, but under “Grace”, God is the one doing everything and supplying the demand, not us. Christ has finished and fulfilled the works of the law for us. All we need to do is believe in His finished works.
Living by the law is striving to earn the righteousness and promises of God by our works and personal achievements which we have been freed from; but living under grace is simply trusting in the finished works of Christ and receiving His righteousness, and the full promises of God.
Our faith must constantly be on God, trusting Him as we continue walking and increasing in His grace. Keep believing and confessing the Word of His Grace.
The Ten Commandments:
We must be very careful in our presentation of the Word in order to bring clarity and balance for people to understand the principles of God in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, because both are relevant in bringing us to full understanding and to the knowledge of Christ.
The Ten Commandments are part of the body of “The Law”, which was the moral and ethical rule, the majority of which is still a standard for us as believers in Christ Jesus.
A careful study of the epistles of the New Testament will reveal to you that “The Laws” that Paul the apostle and others said we are no longer under, was referring specifically to the ceremonial laws, circumcision, animal sacrifices, food requirements and observance of the Sabbath day and holy days, and not to the Ten Commandments.
Living under grace does not mean we should now steal, commit adultery, murder, have other gods, dishonor our parents, bear false witness etc. Rather, the tenets of the Ten Commandments are taught as part of our lifestyle in Christ, even under the grace of God.
Jesus did not abolished the moral and ethical laws of the Ten Commandments in the Old Covenant, but He reaffirmed it as principles that we must become obedient to from our heart, rather than the technical observance of the letter of the law (See Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 38-42, 43-44).
The majority of the moral law (Ten Commandments), according to Exodus 20:1-17, continues to be a standard of ethics for us as the New Testament Church under the grace of God, by the enabling of Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. Thus we can be obedient in fulfilling this and experience transformed lives.
Lawlessness & The Law of Love:
Living under grace, and being free from the Old Covenant Law, does not mean we are a lawless people who are rebels claiming to be in the Kingdom of God.
The New Testament makes us to understand that there are “Two Laws”:
- The law of sin and death, which is the Law of Moses.
- The law of the Spirit of life, which is the law of Liberty (in Christ Jesus).
“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” – (Romans 7:22-23).
“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” – (Romans 8:2).
Clearly, you see that there are two laws from the scriptures above. One law (The Law of Moses) leads to bondage of sin and death, but the second law, which is the law of the Spirit of life leads to liberty. The Book of James calls this second law, the law of Liberty (James 2:12). This law of the Spirit of life is rooted in love, and this is the law that governs the eternal kingdom of God. This is the New Covenant Law we are now under.
What is the law of the Spirit of life? This law of the Spirit of life is the eternal moral law of God, brought to us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is written in our minds and hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our conscience reflects this eternal moral law of God.
The eternal moral law of God is what God Is. It never changes. It is an eternal principle.
Jesus summed up the eternal moral law of God as loving God with all of our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is why we are given the commandment to love one another.
Every Kingdom of God is governed by a system of rules, which is the standard that regulates the people of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God has a spiritual law that we are commanded to obey and live under, and that is the “The Law of Love”, which is the New Commandment given to us under the New Covenant. This law is not the carnal law of the letters of Moses, which brings death, but this law is a spiritual law, which is the law of the Spirit of life.
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” – (John 13:34-35).
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” – (John 15:12).
We are not a lawless people. We are now under the New Covenant law of LOVE, which is rooted in the grace of God. The whole law is encapsulated and fulfilled in love. This is why we are now under “The Law of Love”. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” – (Galatians 5:14).
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” – (Romans 13:8-10).
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” – (1 John 22-24).
“You are doing right if you obey this law from the highest authority: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” – (James 2:8 GW).
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We know that we have passed from death (law) unto life (grace), because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death (law)” – (1 John 3:11, 14).
“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” – (1 John 2:8-11).
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” – (1 John 4:7-11).
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of love, and this love is God. The only law we are under is to love one another, because love fulfills everything. The nature of God is love. We are able to love one another through the Spirit of God, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” – (Romans 5:5).
Now, let us explore more on what grace is, so we can believe, receive and increase in this grace of God.
Copyright © 2017 by Israel Onoriobe
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The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen (so be it).