The Law & Grace

Dr. John Woodward

The preacher said "We all start out life naked and hungry, and it goes downhill from there!"


Thankfully, the way we were born again in Christ

has more of a basis for optimism!


Colossians 2:6 draws an important comparison between the way the Christian life begins and how it should express itself in discipleship.

"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." The Living Bible paraphrases this, "And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day's problems; live in vital union with him."

How does conversion to Christ compare with abundant Christian living? Consider here the role of God's law in this process.

Law and grace in conversion

Life in Christ begins as a response to the need which is exposed by the law of God. To appreciate the good news of salvation in Christ, the sinner needs to recognize the bad news of condemnation outside of Christ. Paul summarized the verdict of God's law upon the human race:

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:19-20).

The law served as a tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). There may not always be a conscious awareness of the verdict of God's written law, but there is also the verdict of the inner law of one's conscience (Rom. 2:12-16).

When the sinner admits that he/she cannot save himself, then he/she is a candidate for God's grace through the gospel. Paul continued, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:23,24). Repentance and faith puts the believer in Christ, with all the blessings that are found in Him (Eph. 1:3).

This free salvation cost Christ everything, but it is given to us freely! Entrance into new life is apart from any meritorious works. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9; See Titus 3:5,6; Rom. 4:5). Good works, however, are the evidence of Christ's live in us: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).


Law and grace in Christian living.

Now back to our initial topic--comparing entrance into Christ with the way to abundant life in Him. The "exchanged life" is usually appropriated by the believer after he/she is heartbroken over personal failure in attempting to live for Christ in their own resources. Consider the way the seventh chapter of Romans describes the birth pangs of the abundant life. After describing our vital union with Christ and our calling to reckon this true (Romans 6:1-14), Paul delineates how the self-life is unable to accomplish sanctification though the law of God (Rom 7:1-25).

The believer's "old man" was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6); he now has a regenerate human spirit (the new man). In Christ he "delights in the law of God in the inner man," yet the flesh contains "no good thing" (Rom. 7:22,18). Using the example of the tenth commandment, the apostle testifies that this external law "slew him" (Rom. 7:7-11); he could not live in victory. Try as he did in his righteous attempts at obeying the law, Paul finally hoisted the white flag: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:23,24).

This giving up of self-effort opens the door for God's resources for abundant life in Christ: "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 7:25-8:2).

In Christ we are free from the law's condemnation! We have the liberating privilege to live according to a higher law--"the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." The life of Christ can be expressed through us if we confess our inability to fulfill God's written law through our self-effort. Instead we must surrender and trust in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).