The Difference Between Law and Grace
What is the Law –Really?
It's time to pause for a moment and put a definition on a word that we use so very often in Christianity. It's the word "law." We've been trained through and through to believe that a law demands us to do, or not do, something. Not so!
The Purpose of the Law
Keeping the law sounds admirable. But contrary to what most of us have heard in church for years, attempting to follow the law is not intended to make us closer to God. Rather, its purpose is to show us how far we are away from Him!
The Old vs. The New
The Old Testament (or covenant) told us how to live life focused on God's standards. Then the New Testament came into effect and God's grace and mercy became the target. Assuming that's all true (and it is), why is it so hard to find a substantial difference between what is taught in the Gospels and what is found in the Old Testament? The difference is that God's New Testament with mankind (that's what we would call a "will" today) actually begins in the book of Acts –not after that page in our Bibles found between Malachi and the Gospels!
It Is Finished
When Christ cried out from the cross "It is finished!" He did not mean that His life was over. He was telling the whole world –both Jews and Gentiles– that the law was completed; it was fulfilled; and it no longer stood as a barrier between man and God.
The Solution to Mans' Real Problem
Mans' real problem is not his sinfulness and need for forgiveness. Since the time of Adam, man has inherited the tendency to not trust God –to sin. And with every man's sin came every man's spiritual death. "There is no one righteous, not even one;" "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:10, 23) Mans' critical need is life –spiritual life. God has provided a permanent solution to the problem of sin and He offers eternal life to all who will receive it.
What Part Should the Law Play In Our Lives?
After receiving God's gift of eternal life, doesn't the law help us to understand His desires for us? Doesn't it at least show us where to ask God to help us improve? The answer is an emphatic "No!" to both of those. According to the Bible –in passage after passage– we are told to give up trying to follow the law –and instead we are to live by faith.
Enter Into God's Sabbath Rest
The true Sabbath is not a day of the week. It's a description of resting from our own efforts of trying to please God. There is only one way to please Him and it's not by performing good deeds or avoiding bad ones. It can only be accomplished by learning to trust and rely upon Him more each day. That is what "resting from our works" means.
Who Teaches that We Should Keep the Law?
The teachers of the law might have good intentions, but the Bible doesn't have anything good to say about them. A passage in 1 Timothy reveals that those troublesome teachers in Paul's time were motivated by the same things as many teachers today. It's either a lack understanding about what the law was designed for or they desire some kind of personal gain.
The Flesh –Our Sin Nature
The flesh (or sin nature) desires what is pleasing to the senses. The aroma of a favorite food stirs a craving that becomes stronger and stronger in our mind. And often, the expectation of that food's taste is way beyond what it can possibly fulfill. The same is true for each of our senses. They draw our attention to the things of this world that we do not already have: more education; a better job; new clothes; a bigger dwelling; more food; a shinier car; compassionate friends; a kinder, prettier, sexier and more accepting mate; children that are more respectful; less demanding relationships...
In Summary ...
There is nothing more frustrating in a Christian's life than trying to do all the right things to please God and realizing that the life we want to live can't be achieved. While striving to make a good performance, our shortcomings become all the more obvious. The reason is that we have been taught to measure our successes in life by using what God designed to show our failures!
Law (Legalism) vs. Grace
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11 - NIV)