The Balance of Law and Misunderstood Grace

28 Oct

At times there seems in the Christian walk to be a paradoxical battle between the balance of law and grace. At one end of the spectrum there can be within us a complete allegiance to the law, (by the law I mean Mosaic Law and our own laws), that attempts to earn righteousness by obedience through self, that longs to tick all the boxes and what’s more add extra boxes to gain a sense of self-righteousness. On the other hand there is an unjust weight of a complete denial of the holiness of God’s law, a rebellion to all morality and good deeds and an abuse of the freedom found in Christ Jesus in pursuit of a misunderstood form of grace. To pledge an allegiance to the law, to find salvation, acceptance and a sense of righteousness by obedience to it is intrinsically wrong, likewise a lack of good deeds, irreverence of Gods law and the pursuit of a sense of freedom in rebellion must also be wrong.

God spoke to me back in 2009/10 with the scripture Christ quoted from Isaiah and aimed directly to the Pharisee’s, namely, Matthew 15:8 “these people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”. At first I wondered if I was hearing correctly, however, as Christ revealed more clearly my brokenness and unclean heart the more I realised how pharisaical and religious I was. I was trying to earn my acceptance and salvation by the things I did, by my allegiance to the law and my own law. The more I tried to stop sinning the more I realised how helpless I really was. This was the point where I had met my match; in fact I had met something that far outweighed my efforts, an unattainable standard only able to be attained by Christ, namely, the law. The only place I could turn was Christ, my efforts, my striving to be acceptable and my own self-righteousness was not good enough for God and there was nothing I could do but come to Christ and enter his rest.

Two scriptures come to mind:

Galatians 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Hebrews 4:9-10 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

The sense of freedom and liberty that came as God took me through a process of untangling me from the precise and sharp demands of the law was immensely powerful and peaceful, however the more I was led into grace, the more I abused it. I became in a sense, resentful of the law, that which has a grip on so much of Christianity today, that which I saw and still see destroying people’s liberty, I set out to rebel against, not necessarily consciously, but in my heart I was resentful towards it. Not only was I resentful towards the law, but my sense of freedom had led me to not only ask the question Paul so blatantly and sternly answers in Romans 6, but also stray into its path.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [j]resulting in death, or of obedience [k]resulting in righteousness?17 But thanks be to God that [l]though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

I sinned because I believed I was no longer under law. Sure, those who have died to the law are no longer bound to its unattainable demands, however, the issue was that I used my freedom to sin, to rebel against what I thought to be a stumbling block to me and to all the religious, despite knowing Pauls letter to the Romans in which he writes “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good”. The problem was not the law, it was me.

Romans 7 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Before I was a believer I was a salve to sin, I was entrenched in it, obeying its every move and command. When I became a believer I did not stop being a slave, I was no longer a slave to sin but now a slave to righteousness, moving from one master to another. In one sense I am completely free in regards to sin, however in regards to righteousness I am a slave. This is the reason Paul writes in Romans 6 concerning presenting ourselves to God as alive from the dead and as instruments of righteousness. The revelation that we are no longer bound to sin but bound to righteousness must lead us to offer ourselves to God as an instrument, not to play our own self worshipping tune, but to allow Him to play his righteous standard (law) and holy tune through us to His glory.

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

This passage in Ephesians 2 is the essence of God’s plan for humanity. The ultimate aim for God’s people is that we bring Him glory, our end if you will is not our good works or righteousness, that is our means, to the end of which is Christ being glorified in and through His children. We are not saved by works but faith, works however, are not wrong, they are right only when they are IN Christ Jesus and NOT of ourselves to attain salvation. Works bring God glory, but only works motivated in Christ rather than stained by self, are edifying to him.

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