|Volume 18 Number 2 February 2016||
Paul, an inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, wrote, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 5:14 NKJV). Law and grace are being contrasted there. We are not under both, but under one of the two. Being under grace should not be confused with being under law.
Another point of contrast is that under grace, sin does not have dominion over us, but it is implied that under law sin has dominion. It is a wonderful thing to be under grace where sin will not have the final say, so to speak, in our lives. In another place, the Scriptures read, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).
John, another inspired apostle, also contrasted law and grace. John specified that the grace came through the Lord Jesus Christ, while the law was given through Moses. Again, we ought not to confuse the Law of Moses with the grace of Jesus Christ. It is not possible for anyone to be under Moses’ law and Christ’s grace at the same time.
What is the Law of Moses?
It is God’s commandments for Israel given at Mount Horeb (Malachi 4:4). Moses’ law included the Ten Commandments (Mark 7:10). However, Christ came to fulfill Moses’ law (Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 24:44), which included the coming of a prophet who is now to be heard in all things, which implies that Moses is to be heard now in nothing (Acts 3:22). That particular fulfillment has in effect brought Moses’ law to an end. Moses’ law is now abolished (Ephesians 2:15) and taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). The Ten Commandments written on stones (which were also a part of Moses’ law) are now done away (2 Corinthians 3:7-11). Christians are also dead to and delivered from the Law with the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:1-7). That law spoke to those under it (Romans 3:19), but since we are not under it, the Law of Moses says nothing to us. The apostle Paul rightly said, “You are not under law but under grace.”
What is grace?
It is properly summarized as that which came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Everything Christ has to offer for our good is grace. Christ died for all men by grace (Hebrews 2:9). The blessing of forgiveness of sins in Christ is according to grace (Ephesians 1:7).
After stating that we are under grace, Paul continued, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:15). Paul anticipated what people would think after hearing that they were not under the Law of Moses. Paul knew that many would think that they are free to sin if that law is absent. However, Paul affirmed that such is not the case.
When Jesus gave His grace, He also gave commandments (John 13:34-35; 14:15; 1 John 3:23; 4:20-21). That grace has its own law, which teaches us to live righteously, soberly and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-12). The switch from being under law to being under grace is really a change of law (Hebrews 7:12). A change of law does not suggest an absence of law just as a change of clothing does not imply being naked.
We must be content with the teaching of grace. We ought not to place ourselves under the now abolished and done away Law of Moses because God’s “grace” is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). It has all we need to serve God acceptably (Hebrews 12:28).The grace that saves is in Christ (2 Timothy 2:1). To get into Christ where that saving grace is, one must be baptized (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3). To those of you who have been baptized into Christ, I exhort to continue in the grace of God. May His grace and peace continue to be with you.
Physical versus Spiritual
Unbelievers and immature Christians both face the challenge of raising their thinking to loftier planes. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). It takes mental effort and resolve to dwell upon spiritual matters. Naturally, living in this physical world, it is easier to think in physical terms. Our Lord constantly challenged those He met to think of spiritual things.
In his nighttime discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus spoke of one being “born anew” (John 3:3). The ruler’s mind immediately went to physical birth, so he missed the point. In confusion he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). Further explanation was needed. “Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Baptism is a spiritual birth requiring two elements: water (cf. Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20, 21) and the Spirit (God’s working).
In his noontime discussion with the Samaritan woman, the Lord spoke of “living water.” This “water” would so completely satisfy that one would “never thirst” (John 4:14). Not surprisingly, her mind went straight to relief from her daily trek to the well (John 4:15). Without running water available, she had to carry all water used for cooking and washing. Jesus has the words of spiritual life, to quench the thirsty soul.
As Jesus prepared to journey to Judea, He told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). Thinking in physical terms, the disciples responded, “Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover” (John 11:12). Jesus was wanting them to know of His power – His power to raise the dead. The Master is able to raise the dead as easily as you or I would wake someone from sleep. Since they missed the point, “Jesus therefore said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14).
Jesus spoke often about His kingdom. The new birth is the way to “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Sadly, the disciples were still thinking of a physical kingdom. Even after His resurrection they asked, “Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They were thinking of a restoration of the old, physical kingdom. Jesus tried to get Pilot to understand, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Those who look for a physical kingdom will forever be disappointed. Beginning in the first century, when people experienced the “new birth,” they were delivered “out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13).