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The law, the Gospel, and what to do with it

A good friend of mine posted this on Facebook: ‎”The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.” (Billy Sunday) and followed it with this: “the Gospel gives us the righteousness thru Christ that we could never attain without keeping the law in it’s entirety…which is impossible. Once we have gained that righteousness through acceptace of Christ’s free gift, we then should desire to live within the law because it is itself reflective of the nature of God. We do not attempt to keep the law to gain salvation, we attempt to keep it BECAUSE of our salvation. Romans 3:31 , 8:3-4” I told him that he was not incorrect, but that I felt it necessary to clarify what he says about the Christian’s relationship to the law. That discourse is below…

Understanding God’s law reveals our lack of ability to attain righteousness…the righteousness necessary to gain eternal life and to avoid eternal separation from God. “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). As a result of no one being righteous (Romans 3:10), we have earned death (“The wages of sin is death”- Romans 6:23). The law has therefore condemned us to death because we absolutely cannot keep it.

However, the rest of Romans 6:23 says “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “But” tells us this is a contradictory statement to the previous “wages of sin is death”…that sounds like bad news to me. So “but” means good news is coming…this gift of God through Jesus. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The rest of scripture reveals that the death we earned by breaking God’s law is death…eternal separation from God in this life and the next (or, to be honest, hell). But Jesus took our place, a substitutionary sacrifice. Why did God allow this? He knew we could never meet the requirements of the law on our own. He sends His son, Jesus, to live a perfect life we could not live. He allows His son to die in our place (the Old Testament says that without blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins). Jesus’ perfect blood was shed in our place…He paid our penalty…He died our death.

But, just because He did that, doesn’t mean it’s over. We are not justified or redeemed or forgiven just because He died. The Bible continues to teach that we have a responsibility to claim this gift. Acts 3:19 says we must repent and turn to God so that our sins may be wiped out. Without repentance, this transaction is no good to us. Ephesians 2:8 says we are saved by grace, God’s grace, through faith – and this not of ourselves. Without faith, this transaction is no good to us. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and with your mouth you confess and are saved.” Without confession and belief, this transaction is no good to us. It takes repentance, faith, confession and belief in these truths to be saved, to receive this gift from God, this new life in Jesus, through Jesus.

At this point, the law is complete. Christ is the fulfillment of the law. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus clearly says in Matthew 5:17 that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but He did say in the same verse He came to fulfill them. Paul says in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses. In Him the law reached its goal. He has now opened the way to God through trust in Him rather than through observance of legal requirements. Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

We, as Christians, experience righteousness by a faith relationship to God. Righteousness does not come from human actions in following commandments, whether human or divine commandments. Righteousness comes from God Himself. We maintain righteousness by our continual seeking of God Himself, through Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit…in seeking to follow God in this way, it will result in upholding the law (Romans 3:31). Upholding the law does not result in righteousness “for we maintain that man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28). “Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” (Galatians 2:19).

All this to say that we do maintain the law because of our salvation, but that the law is not the reason for our seeking righteousness or even the avenue for seeking righteousness. We must seek God…”But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Trying to keep the law will only result in failure. Trying to seek God will result in being filled (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6).


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