Grace and Law, Some Thoughts
There are certain things in this walk with God that live in divine tension. Through the centuries the pendulum swings back and forth. During one period there is an emphasis that takes things to an extreme. Then, there is the move back to the divine tension and then the swing to the other extreme.
One thing I have learned is that humanity likes extremes. Extremes create cults, heresies, and a large dedicated following. Extremes work to codify faith or Bible themes that make the human mind capable of grasping and explaining how it works and what God meant. Extremes usually have some sort of formula that can be applied to make us comfortable.
Right in the first century, the wars of orthodoxy began. We have the problems laid out in the writings of the apostles. Interestingly enough, these same issues continue to this day. Oh, they get different names and different proponents who preach and teach as if this was new, a new revelation. Sure, it gets the popular jargon of the day. It gets dressed a little differently, but it is still the same old deception or extremism.
Antinomianism has been around since grace was taught. Legalism has been around since the law was revealed. Antinomianism is characterized by teachings that are against law. They can be benign or take an exaggerated stance. Legalism can be demanding, condemning, and choke the life out of a person.
Some thoughts that I have been having I would like to share.
Grace has no meaning if there is no law. If there is no standard or demand for order and morality, there is no need for grace. For a society to exist there must be laws to maintain that society and protect its citizenry. The law when enforced becomes a deterrent to evil. The law allows for members of the society to be protected so they can prosper. It allows the holding of property, allows the development of businesses, creates the opportunity for education and the arts. Law can bring out the potentials of humanity in an orderly society.
Religious law which forms the basis of civil law teaches of morality and ethics. It speaks of what God requires of man. When I speak of religious law, I am speaking of that which is in the Bible, not the piles of decrees that have been added to maintain a denomination.
Grace as defined by many is unmerited favor. We come to unmerited favor when we have violated the laws of God. The unmerited favor of God is based in the price that Jesus paid for us at the cross. I cannot appreciate that grace unless I understand the egregious way of my life and actions in violation of God’s standards. My plea in the court of heaven is the blood of Jesus. The grace I receive is based in the sacrifice Jesus made. On my own, I have no stance or hope.
If we throw the law away, we throw grace away too. I am not talking about earning favor with God through keeping the law as a means of salvation. I am saying the law is the school master that teaches me how lost I am. It causes me to throw myself on the mercy of God. God does not owe me grace because I whine and cry. He gives grace because He wants to and can give it because his justice has been satisfied in Jesus.
There is no cheap grace. There is no saving law. This divine tension of law and grace has to stand just that way. Breaking the laws of God is sin. The laws are still in effect. Christ did not do away with the law, but he took the curse of it and nailed it to his cross.
We do not deserve the grace given. Any teaching or preaching that goes in that direction is misguided. But we do receive the grace of God, but it is not owed nor is it cheap. God is a God of order, not chaos. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, David says in Psalms.
Essentially I am saying that we must live with this divine tension. When the pull is one way, we must remember the other. When there is divine tension, it keeps us a people of faith and trust.