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Law and Grace

by Daniel J.M. Galpin

There is much discussion within the walls of the church regarding law and grace. Extremes are often taken: some say no laws, rules, or guidelines exist and that we are lead by the Holy Spirit only while others have a list of codes to live by that could match that of the Jewish traditions. What does the Scripture say regarding the law and grace?

We are not under the law, nor without the law, but we are under the law. While at first that statement may appears to be contradictory, when the three usages of the word law are each defined, it is not contradictory at all. In fact it is very clear. The Scriptures use the same English word “law” to refer to multiple Greek words; thus without looking up the Greek it can be misleading.

The meanings of the word law are as follows: the first usage is the Greek word nomos (nom’-os) and often refers to Jewish sacred tradition. The second account of the word law refers to anomos (an’-om-os), the Greek word for those outside of the Jewish law or the Gentiles. Thirdly, the word law is the Greek word ennomos (en’-nom-os) meaning under the law, bound by the law or subject to the law. Substituting the definitions for the words in the above statement gives it more clarity: We are not under the Jewish law nor live without law, but we are subject and bound by the laws, the laws of Christ.

Christ summed it up nicely in Mt 22:36-39 – “Which [is] the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. “ In addition, Should the laws of men and God disagree we are not without direction: Acts 5:29 – “Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men.”

As for grace, many have a misconception that it means God’s unmerited favor. Scripture teaches us otherwise: the Greek word for grace is charis (khar’-ece) and it means God exerting His holy influence on souls both turning us to Christ and keeping, strengthening, and increasing our faith in Christ. While this involves God’s unmerited favor because we our so undeserving, it is not limited to such. Grace is much, so much more: as when God told Paul that His grace was sufficient and Paul’s infirmity would not be removed. That was not unmerited favor; it was power to endure life’s circumstances. If God’s grace was enough to enable Paul to continue, we know that it is enough for us too.

While the law shows our need for grace, we cannot live the law of Christ without it; grace is God’s power within us, influencing us, for Christ is in us, thus, we can live out the law of Christ. For it is not us, but Christ, actually, the Holy Spirit within us who does it!