“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” 2 Corinthians 13:14.
Grace is God’s “indescribable gift” to the believer (2 Cor.9:14-15). As Christians, we are:
- Saved by grace (Ephesians 2:1-9; 1:4-8).
- Standing in grace (Romans 5:1-2; Acts 13:43).
- Strengthened in grace (2 Tim.2:1; 2 Cor.12:9; Heb.13:9).
- Taught by grace (Titus 2:11-12).
- Energized by grace (1 Corinthians 15:10; Acts 4:33; 6:8).
- Growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18).
The Danger of Self-Effort
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” Gal.5:4 (see Heb.12:15).
The Bible says it is possible for a Christian to “fall away from grace”. This does not mean that he has lost his salvation; rather, it means that he has separated himself from the effect of God’s grace in his life. Paul says that those “who are trying to be justified by law…have fallen from grace.”
“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” Galatians 3:19, 24-25 (read also v.20-23).
The Law of Moses was given to reveal sin. Its purpose was to act like a mirror. When we look into a mirror and see that our face is dirty, we do not pick up the mirror and rub our face with it to try to get clean. Its purpose is simply to show us that we need cleaning, but we go to another source – the water – to be made clean. In the same way, the Law was added for a short period of time to show mankind their need of salvation, and to point to the One who would make us clean (Rev.1:5; Titus 3:5).
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” Romans 3:20.
The covenant of the Law that God gave to Moses has nothing to do with us (read Galatians 3:15-17). It was simply added to preserve Israel until the coming of the Messiah. We are part of the covenant that God made with Abraham and with Christ (Galatians 3:7,29; Romans 4:1-5,16,22-24). If we get caught up again in self-effort and legalism, we are walking in the wrong covenant! (read 2 Corinthians 3:6-18).
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21.
The Curse of the Law
All who try to live by the Law through self-effort are under an automatic curse (Galatians 3:10-14; James 2:10), for under the light of the Law two things are revealed:
- God’s righteous standard and judgment (Matt.5:21-48).
- Our inability to reach that standard (Rom.3:23; 7:14-25).
God knew that we could never keep His standard of righteousness, so He sent Jesus to take that curse upon Himself and set us free from the Law’s demand of judgment.
“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” Romans 8:3-4 (see also Philippians 3:3).
Christians Under Law
“You foolish Galatians!…After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:1-3 (read also 1:6-7).
We are born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:3,6). But many Christians then try to live the rest of their lives under law. In other words, they try to live up to God’s standard by self-effort. But it doesn’t work! When a Christian lives in legalism, his life becomes characterized by constant struggle (Romans 7:1-25), self-condemnation (James 2:10), a lack of joy (Galatians 4:15), alienation from God (Galatians 5:4) and condemnation toward others (Romans 2:1-3). So terrible is this life under law that God actually took the law and crucified it to the Cross!
“…having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” Colossians 2:14.
The Christian life was designed to work by God’s grace. It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to grow and become more like Christ (2 Cor.3:17-18). The Bible says we are now dead to the Law (Galatians 2:19) and living under grace (Romans 6:14).
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” Romans 7:6 (read also verse 1-5).
The New Way of the Spirit
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” Galatians 5:16 (see also Philippians 3:8-9; Romans 8:1-2; Hebrews 10:29).
The Holy Spirit has been given to empower you to keep God’s holy standard. He writes God’s law, not on tablets of stone for us to try to keep, but on our hearts.
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” 2 Cor.3:3 (see Heb.10:16).
The “new way of the Spirit” is a life of inner empowerment, not of outward law. God’s grace releases the law of love in our hearts (Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8-10; John 13:34-35). This inner love fulfils everything required by the written code. But like everything else with God’s grace, this love comes from God not from us. All we have to do is walk in this grace!
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (see also Heb.4:16; 1 Peter 5:10; James 4:6).