Yet another friend’s correspondence has served as the inspiration for this article.
Among Christians, there seems to be a long standing and ever raging debate over law, specifically, if we are still under it. Or, another way of asking the question might be, are we still under the law if we are saved (or under grace)?
When we consider any topic which serves to develop a doctrine, whether it be personal or corporate (read denominational), it’s important to thoroughly investigate any passages of Scripture which seem to conflict or contradict other passages, as the Bible will always be in accord with itself. Such is the case for those who believe that the states of grace and law are mutually exclusive.
An oft used but still pertinent analogy of the co-existence of the two would be the following hypothetical traffic stop. Imagine being pulled over for driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone. You would consider yourself fortunate if the officer showed mercy by letting you go with only a warning. Consider this show of mercy as the state of grace, or unmerited favor. Your behavior warranted punishment, but the officer chose to forgive you. After pulling away, your appreciation for this grace is evidenced by your obedience to the law (obeying the speed limit). But, if you are pulled over by the same officer for the same offense later in the day, would you still be under grace? The answer is not likely. There would be a penalty to pay for your transgression, even though you were forgiven for it once. The simple fact that one continues to commit the same crime indicates a rejection of the law itself as well as any previous forgiveness.
What then do we do with Scriptural passages which seem to indicate we’re now “free from the law?” One such passage, delivered by Paul, was addressed in a previous article. In summary, we need to always remember the distinction between the laws of the Bible, Jewish ceremonial (festival) and God’s law (Ten Commandments). The final word may have been spoken by none other than Jesus, himself. Yet, it too has been debated and used by both sides of the argument.
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus states, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”This passage, or at least the last portion of it, is often used in support of the “free from law” argument, using a definition of the word fulfillment which fits the argument (read rid of). But, if this definition is accepted, the passage would contradict itself, for the first part of the verse clearly states that He did not come to destroy the law. This reasoning also squares with Christ’s words in another passage, when he says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”If an expectation to keep commandments exists, then the commandments must also exist and, of course, the law is still in effect.
Some will argue against all of the original commandments being in effect, again using Christ’s own words, as found in Matthew 22: 37-39, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But here again, choosing this interpretation of the passage requires ignoring the passages which come before and after this statement of Christ’s. Verse 36 acts as a frame, with Christ being asked which of the commandments is “the greatest in the law?” Surely, Jesus would have availed himself of the opportunity to set the record straight if all law had been abolished. Instead, He further clarifies His answer about the two great commandments in verse 40, saying, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”This declaration, simple yet complete, constitutes a neat and efficient packaging of the Ten Commandments in two groups with the first group containing the first four commandments, those which pertain to our relationship with God (Though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind). The second group includes the final six commandments, those which pertain to our relationships with each other (Though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself).
In the end, the individual again is forced to decide which path to follow. Does being under grace mean we’re not subject to the law? You be the judge, but consider these words found in Romans 6: 15, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
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