LAW AND GRACE
Law in the context of religion means a body of God’s instructions ordinances, statutes and commandments, as presented through prophets or holy persons, aimed at guiding man in his relationship with God and his fellow man. The concept of law means in effect, that man is responsible to his Creator, therefore, it is compulsory for man to obey God according to the stipulated instructions given by Him, hence, the extent to which man keeps the law determines his faithfulness to God or whether he will be punished or commended.
Conversely, the term Grace more commonly mentioned in the New Testament implies mercy, loving kindness and tender affection. Grace in the biblical context means unmerited love which God expressed to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus died for the sin of the world, thereby redeeming man from eternal condemnation. This is a gift of grace because man did not merit it by self virtue but by God’s grace. Grace is the opposite of Law. Whereas the gift of grace is free, law requires personal effort and involvement.
The Purpose and Significance of Law and Grace
Romans 4:13-25; 5:18-21
All men are sinners and the only way to be justified before God must come from God’s own initiative. This is the reason he gave us Jesus Christ as propitiation for our sins. This Jesus Christ did by his death and resurrection:
The PURPOSE of God’s grace is basically to create a conducive environment for man to face God in faith for the forgiveness of his sins so as to receive that divine status of being righteous before God. God’s grace to man is illustrated through Jesus Christ. Man’s belief and faith in him brings about forgiveness, which in turn, reconciles man to God. This is the significance of Grace to man.
Law is a reminder that man is sinful as demonstrated by his own constant failure to observe all its requirements.
By the works of the Law, no man will be justified to receive God’s Grace. The knowledge of the law leads to punishment because without the law, there would be no sin. This is because Law breeds sin and since all men are sinners, they stand condemned before God. This is the significance of the Law to man.
On the other hand, God’s decision to restore man to fellowship with Him is an act of Grace because man does not merit it. This is what Grace implies. Such Grace cannot be earned by keeping the Law (it is almost impossible to keep all the laws). The law therefore came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased; grace abounded. Through grace, one might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Law and Grace Compared
Keeping the Law leads to death since one is bound to contravene it, whereas man’s faith in God through Jesus Christ guarantees forgiveness and life. When man’s sins have been forgiven, he will now receive divine status of being righteous before God. “The promise to Abraham and his descendants that they should inherit the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants-not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all”. (Romans 4:13-16)
Abraham did not doubt God’s promise that he would have a son at his old age. He held firmly to his faith. Such a comparison of Law and Grace continues as Paul dwells on the theory of universality of sin vis-a-vis the universal application of God’s remedy to remove it. ‘Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation of all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in to increase the trespass but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5; 18- 21).
This in effect means that through Adam’s disobedience and sin, all men became sinners (sin entered into the world) but through God’s grace and righteousness in Jesus, men are saved. Since the reward of sin is death; all men are liable to die but grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Summary / Significance of Law and Grace to Today’s Christians.
- The Law is impotent as far as salvation is concerned, a means to an end but not an end in itself.
- God’s remedy for salvation lies in accepting as true the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- As Adam’s sin culminated in the condemnation of all men, man’s faith in Jesus Christ by way of faith in him also leads to forgiveness of sin and to life everlasting.
- God rescued man from condemnation out of Grace and not on the basis of man’s ability in keeping the law.
- Christians have died to sin through baptism and faith in Jesus.