Law and Grace
Distinctions between the Old and New
For the Law was given through Moses;
grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. NASB
The Law is an expression of the character and nature of God
Because the Law is an expression of God’s will and desire for mankind, it flows out of the very nature of God Himself. The very nature of God’s Law is entirely consistent with God’s nature for God, who is goodness and truth, would never command what violates His nature.
Romans 7:12 – 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. NASB
Deuteronomy 4:8 – 8 "Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? NASB
Nehemiah 9:13 – 13 "Then Thou didst come down on Mount Sinai, And didst speak with them from heaven; Thou didst give to them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments.
Because the Law is an expression of true moral virtue as it reflects God’s character and nature, it therefore gives very specific definition to what sin is, or what violates God’s nature. Therefore the Law gives us clear insight into the nature of sin, making us conscious of sin.
Romans 3:19-20 – 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. NASB
Romans 7:7-8 – 7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." NASB
Because the Law also categorizes different types of sin, sin against God, and various types of sin against people, it also helps us to see the severity of certain types of sin. Much of the Civil Law is very moral in nature and with the penal sanctions there are penalties attached to certain crimes, even as severe as death. There are also provisions made for restitutions to be made in many cases to the offended party. This helps us to see what kinds of sins are more severe than others, by the severity of the penalty or restitution that must be made. In this also we see clearly what the perfect measure of justice is for criminal activity.
Leviticus 24:19-21 – 19 ‘And if a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. 21 ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. NASB
Exodus 22:1-4 – 22 "If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. 2 If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. NASB
Because the Law is an expression of God’s holy and perfect character, people cannot not fully obey it. People have a natural inability to obey God’s Law because they are sinners by nature and therefore transgress God’s Law and sin.
Romans 3:23 – 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, NASB
Romans 5:12 – 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned NASB
Now as redemptive history has progressed, God has placed the Law in history to show people’s sinfulness very clearly and their guilt before God because of their many sins. The Law shows us in very specific terms exactly where and how we transgress God’s nature and this makes our guilt crystal clear.
Romans 5:19-21 – 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. NASB
Romans 7:13 – 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. NASB
At this point we should also mention the very negative and accusatory language of the New Testament in regard to God’s Law. The Law is many times in the New Testament seen as that “which brings about wrath, kills us and condemns us, holds us in bondage, is our enmity between us and God, is the power of sin, a certificate of debt against us and hostile to us, that which is weak, useless and obsolete.”
Romans 4:15 – 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation. NASB
Romans 7:9-12 – 9 And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. NASB
1 Corinthians 15:56-57 – 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. NASB
Galatians 4:3-5 – 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. NASB
Ephesians 2:14-17 – 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. NASB
Colossians 2:13-14 – 13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. NASB
Hebrews 7:18-19 – 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. NASB
Hebrews 8:13 – 13 When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. NASB
In this sense we are made to see the very severe nature of our guilt and sin because of the very pure nature of God and His Law. There is therefore a severe tension upon us because of sin and guilt which is relieved by the grace of God in Christ through the Gospel. In this sense the NT looks at the Law in negative terms but with the purpose of driving us to Christ. See then, that God has added the Law for this very specific purpose. The Law was added to make our guilt to be clearly seen and our inability to be righteous in and of ourselves so that we will be driven to seek God for mercy. And this mercy God has provided in Christ. The Law was given as a schoolmaster or tutor to lead us to Christ.
Galatians 3:19-26 – 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. NASB
Now consider that even though the Law is very severe in its condemnation of our sins which perfectly reflects God’s attitude toward our sins in His holiness and wrath, it does so in order to lead us to the grace of God in Christ, which is also a reflection of God nature of grace and mercy. See in this thought then both the severity and the kindness of God.
Romans 11:22-23 – 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. NASB
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