Many Christians today struggle with the concept of law vs grace; and in many ways, I used to be one of them. Some teach that we are “under grace” and no longer have to obey God’s Law. Unfortunately, this view leads many Christians to claim Jesus as Lord while still living lives filled with sin.
But on the opposite side of the debate, we have those who teach that we are still called to obey the Law (apart from the animal sacrifices of course). However, this viewpoint can lead to religious obedience and rule-following rather than a personal, loving relationship with our heavenly Father.
So which is it? Do we still have laws to obey even though we are now under grace?
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Prior to Moses, there was no law. People either had faith in God and obeyed Him or they didn’t. (Hebrews 11) Fast forward to the days of Moses… the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and had lived under bondage for over 400 years. God rescued His people and Moses began leading them through the wilderness towards the Promised Land.
During their journey, God made a covenant with the Israelites. The “Law of Moses” was a part of what we now refer to as the “Old Covenant” or the Mosaic Law. It was an agreement God made with His people that if they upheld their end to obey His laws, He would be their God and provide for them, protect them, etc. But as we see throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites failed miserably… countless times I might add.
God, in His amazing love and mercy, had a plan from the beginning.... His name is Jesus.
Paul tells us that the Law kept us under “protective custody” until Jesus came… it wasn’t meant to be the end-all for salvation. It was simply a placeholder until God fulfilled His ultimate plan for our redemption. It also showed us our need for a Savior by demonstrating our inability as sinful man to keep God’s holy standards on our own strength. (Galatians 3:23-25)
In Jesus, we now have a New Covenant. Jesus came to earth as a man, obeyed the Law (thereby fulfilling our end of it), made the Old Covenant obsolete by sacrificing Himself for the sins of mankind, and ushered in a New Covenant sealed in His blood. (Hebrews 8:6-13)
This is what it means to be set free from the Law. It will not be the “measuring stick” God uses on judgment day to define our righteousness (hallelujah!), but rather the question will be whether or not we have made Jesus the Lord of our lives. And as God transforms our hearts and minds and we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, we naturally live holier lives because we long to please our heavenly Father.
He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)
God gave us His Son for the forgiveness of our sins and then gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us and equip us to live holy lives.
It’s no longer law vs grace – rather God’s laws are written on our hearts and His grace empowers us to live by them.
We obey the Holy Spirit. We live by the laws He places on our hearts. It’s no longer a written law that we are called to obey. For example… we know in our hearts that it’s wrong to murder, lie, or cheat on your spouse. We don’t need a written Law to tell us because God’s Spirit is at work in our hearts to convict us and lead us into all truth.
By the time Jesus came, it had become all about “religiousness” and who could obey God’s laws the best. Jesus even told the religious leaders that they looked good on the outside but had corrupt hearts.
But when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, God is faithful to give us new hearts. He becomes the desire of our hearts rather than the things of this world. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s no longer work to obey… rather serving God brings us great joy.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.