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Law and Grace

March 9, 2011

I’ve been thinking some lately about law and grace. Battles within the church have been fought over law and grace. Some Christians believe we should still keep much if not all of the law. Some say that because Jesus fulfilled the law we are not bound at all to any of it. Like most polarizing issues, a right understanding is likely found somewhere between the two extremes.

We know that we are not saved by keeping the law. That would amount to being saved by works. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesian Christians that they, and we, are saved totally, wholly, and completely by God’s grace alone. Our works have nothing to do with it. But he immediately follows that up with a reminder that God demands good works from us. Is it really any wonder the church has fought over this issue of law and grace throughout its history?

God is a God of grace. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham had faith in God and based on that faith God saw Abraham as being righteous. Put more simply, Abraham was saved by God’s grace when he placed his faith in God. Nothing has changed. This is the same way we receive salvation today, according to the book of Ephesians.

There is clearly a distinction between law and grace. This cannot be denied. I think the problem is that we have misunderstood the distinction. I think we have done the disservice of placing law and grace on opposite ends of a spectrum then relying on one or the other of them, or perhaps some combination of them, for our salvation.

I think when we properly understand the law, we see it as a demonstration of God’s grace. The law was never meant to be a means to our salvation. The law was always meant to be observed within the context of a relationship with the lawgiver. The law was less about restrictions and more about guardrails on the path of life. The giving of the law was a demonstration of God’s grace.

I am not saying we are bound to the law today. Without the precious indwelling of the Holy Spirit the law provided what the believer needed to maintain fellowship with God. With the Holy Spirit to guide us in our relationship with God, the law becomes less necessary. That does not make it bad.

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