Grace and God’s Law
Christ has magnified God’s law and has also given His gracious Spirit to make obedience possible. Part 3 of the “Has God’s Law Been ‘Done Away’?” series.
Many today believe that Christ replaced God’s law, the 10 Commandments, with grace. Therefore, they reason, it is no longer necessary to keep the Commandments—grace is enough.
They base their thinking on these verses: “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (Acts 15:11) and “even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ. … For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:5, 8-9).
These scriptures are very clear about the importance of grace in Christianity. But are they the whole story?
One of the big mistakes many make when studying the Bible is to neglect studying everything the Bible says on a topic, choosing instead to base an idea on one or two verses. This is the error many make on the subject of law and grace. They read the above scriptures and stop there. Only by seeking out the many other relevant passages can we come to a correct conclusion. We will find that it is not grace or law, but grace and law.
Till heaven and earth pass away
When God delivered His law to the ancient Israelites, He gave them the 10 Commandments, as well as many additional ordinances and rituals. To Israel—and to first-century Jews—this was the law, the Torah. It included the 10 Commandments, but also much more. Therefore, by the time of Christ their “Bible” consisted of three parts: the Law (what is sometimes called the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), the Prophets, and the Psalms or Writings.
With that in mind, remember that Christ said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
Therefore, since heaven and earth have not passed away, all has not yet been fulfilled, and the Law—the Torah—remains in effect.
However, the questions remain: How does grace fit into this picture, and should Christians be responsible for observing every ordinance and ritual in the Torah—even the animal sacrifices? How can we know how grace fits in with God’s law? Your salvation may depend on how you answer these questions.
Magnifying the law
Although Christ emphasized that not so much as “one jot or one tittle” will pass from the law, the Bible makes it clear that there have been certain changes in the law. The New Testament Church came to understand that the law would have to be changed in the way it is administered. Once we understand that, we can better understand what Isaiah meant when he wrote that God would “magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21, King James Version).
In reference to that prophecy, Christ said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). That is, He “fulfilled,” or filled the law full, by giving it an even greater importance, one that includes our very thoughts, not just our actions. He explained its original intent and magnified it spiritually, expanding our requirement of obedience to it. (See “Jesus Fulfilled the Law: How? Do We Have To?”)
A new Spirit
Full mental and physical obedience to God’s law is possible only if God, by His grace, gives us the Holy Spirit.
God inspired Ezekiel to write, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God wants willing obedience—an obedience possible only through that “new spirit”—the Holy Spirit. To make that obedience possible, He promised, “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33).
That is, we do not simply go through the physical aspects of obedience by our own willpower. Instead, God gives us the grace to obey His law with our whole heart and mind—with the help of His Holy Spirit. God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the gift of willing obedience. This understanding becomes more apparent as we look at how the apostles explained the Christian’s relationship to the law.
In the next post in this series we will see how God gave His grace to lead the Church to a better understanding of how the law was to be administered.
This is the third in a seven part series on God's Law. To read part 2, see “Who Has Authority to Change God's Law?” To continue the series, see part 4 “Circumcision: The First Administrative Change in God's Law.”