The question of Law and being saved by grace has a lot of discussions, and some believers find it difficult to reconcile Law and grace as they read through scripture. For example, Romans 2:13 says, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” On the other hand, passages such as Galatians 2:21, says “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Also, Galatians 5:4 says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
The Law is found in the Old Testament books, specifically the first five books in the Bible, and includes the Ten Commandments. When Jesus spoke about the Law, He says in Matthew 5:17, “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.” The Law reflects God’s character and is “holy and righteous”. Romans 7:12 says, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” The problem arises because fallen people cannot keep the Law. Because of that, the Law now condemns us rather than acquitting us.
The Law was to instruct and guide His people, exposing man’s sinful nature and humanity’s need for a saviour. This Saviour is Jesus Christ, and He fulfilled all the Law perfectly. So, Acts 13:38-39 says, “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
All the prophets and righteous men longed to see the day of Christ (Matthew 13:17, John 8:56). Ezekiel 11:19-20 says, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Also refer to Jeremiah 31:32-33, Hebrews 8:9-10; 10:16). This new heart means that we delight in God’s word and His commandments. Rather than being negative about Law, we are submissive and are inclined to do them because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:18 says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Those who trust in Jesus are not under the Law because the Law is engraved on their hearts. It is not just an external act but an internal change initiated by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers those saved by grace to desire, obey, and seek what was previously not possible so that God may be glorified.
The Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel and had three dimensions:
- The “Ceremonial Law.” The ceremonial law related to Israel’s worship, and its primary purpose was to point to Jesus Christ.
- The “Civil Law.” The civil law applied to the daily living of the Israelites as a nation.
- The “Moral Law” is the direct commandments of God revealing His nature and will.
Jesus fulfilled and kept all of the Law perfectly. Since Christ fulfilled all the Law, and humanity is sinful, the only way for us to be seen as righteous is to believe in Christ and be covered by His righteousness. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
By dying on the cross, Jesus became the “once and for all” sacrifice, and there is no longer a requirement to repeat sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 9:12). He was the final and perfect sacrifice for all time. As a result, there is no longer a requirement for a priesthood to stand as a mediator between man and God, but Christ being the great high priest through His sacrificial death, allows us to enter into the presence of God with all freedom and confidence (Hebrews 7:23-24, Ephesians 3:12). There is no longer a need to worship God in a specific location because Jesus Himself is the centre of worship, and through Him, we can meet God. Jesus said there is a time coming when true worshippers will not worship on this mountain or Jerusalem but will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:21-23), that He is the temple (John 2:19-21), and where two or three are gathered that He is among them (Matthew 18:20). Jesus fulfilled it all!
In fact, Jesus took the Law to a higher level. If you read Matthew 5:17-48, you see that Christ is looking at the spirit of the Law and not the letter of the Law. To obey the letter of the Law means to follow them to be accepted in God’s sight. The problem is that this is impossible for sinful people to do, and we can never earn our own righteousness. The spirit of the Law has to do with understanding the deeper meaning of the Law. When Jesus was asked bout the most important commandment, He went on to describe the spirit of the Law. Matthew 22:37-40 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.“
Christians are now under the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Love is the fulfilment of the Law because this is the way of the Spirit; it is the spirit of the Law, and on it depend all the Law and the Prophets. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
So it does not mean that the Old Testament commandments are irrelevant today. According to Matthew 22:37-40, all the Law and the Prophets depend on the two great commandments: loving God and loving your neighbour. What it does mean is that true believers love God, and they love one another. As a result, they do what pleases God and understand His will, as revealed in His word. Amen! 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
When we are “born again” in Christ, the Holy Spirit makes us new, renewing us, revealing Christ to us, and as we behold Christ and fall in love with Him, we desire to walk in His ways, and glorify Him, and be obedient to Him, becuase we are true children of God. It is not to justify ourselves because we are already justified by believing in Christ through His sacrifice. But obedience is a result of love. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Amen!
If you still trying and keep the law not as a result of loving God, seeking to earn your way to Christ by good works, then, Galatians 5:4 says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”