Last week we began looking at the subject of Law and Grace. We discussed “legalism”, this being a symptom of trying to obtain God’s favour by doing things in order to gain salvation; an attempt to maintain and keep salvation; or a platform for us to look down on others who do not match our supposedly high standards.
Christianity is unique in that it is a religion of ‘Grace’. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not emphasise what we have to do for God but rather focuses on what He has already done for us.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
Grace is: “Something for nothing, for those who don’t deserve anything”.
So what is the purpose of the law then? This is covered in great detail in the book of Romans. Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:7-14:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
Personally I find I have to read through passages like these quite a number of times and quite slowly, in order to understand what the passage is saying. To help explain further lets look at 3 things that the law does:
(1) The law reveals sin
Each of us live to our own standards of right and wrong. I might do something that you consider sinful but I am OK about, it depends what your own particular conscience allows. By contrast, God’s law provides us with absolute standards about what is acceptable and what is not. The law is like a straight plumb line which we measure our lives against. It reveals just how crooked our lives have become.
(2) The law provokes sin
We generally don’t like being told what to do. We are disobedient and think we know best. We are generally happy with the idea of a loving God who just wants to be nice to everybody, but when we encounter a Holy God telling us there are things we should and shouldn’t do, we tend to rebel. This simply proves how sinful our hearts really are. The law actually provokes us to rebel.
(3) The law leads us to Christ
The law frustrates and condemns us because we are just not good enough to keep it in our own strength. The law should cause us to cry out for mercy when we try but fail to keep it. It leads us to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. We realise that if we are going to be saved at all it can only be by grace.
Christ’s death not only loosed us from our sin but also loosed us from the law. When we became Christians we died to sin (as demonstrated in baptism) and we also died to the law, therefore releasing us from its hold.
Isn’t it fantastic? Next time we will discover more about God’s wonderful grace. Until then have a great week.