Grace & Law
"Some would have us to believe grace and law are in opposition to one another. However, the truth of the matter is they work in perfect harmony with each other in God's scheme of redemption. You cannot have one without the other” (Scaggs 40).
With LAW ONLY and NO GRACE, we would be in trouble since no one except Jesus kept a law perfectly. With GRACE ONLY and NO LAW, then we could never be lost. "There would be no need to obey any commandments because we would not be under a law” (Scaggs 40).
Since sin is a transgression of the law (1 Jn 3:4), and there would be no law, therefore, no sin. NO LAW, NO SIN.
Romans 7:7 says, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet."
Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;".
"IF there is NO LAW, rather GRACE ONLY, then how could Paul make such a statement, for indeed NO ONE COULD SIN!” (Scaggs 41) (Emphasis mine).
Titus 2:11-12 says, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that,”
[NEGATIVELY] “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live”
[POSITIVELY] “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"
(added words and emphasis in brackets [ ] mine).
"The very fact that grace teaches men these things shows there is still law” (Scaggs 41).
(Johnie J. Scaggs, Jr. Overview of the Book of Romans, Pg 40-41).
There are some who believe that there was no law prior to the Law of Moses and the 10 Commandments. I would like for us to examine the Biblical text and ask this question: Was there law prior to Mt. Sinai? It seems logical to me that there was LAW prior to the 10C (10 Commandments) / Law of Moses given at Mt Sinai. For example, prior to the 10C / Law of Moses we have Cain & Abel.
1 Jn 3:12 "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous."
Cain’s works were evil. How could his work be evil if there was not standard of good or evil? How could Abel’s works be righteous if there was no standard of right and wrong? Righteous means doing what is right.
I contend that there has always been a standard of good or evil, though it may not have been written down. We know from Heb 1:1 that God has in the past communicated his will through prophets and also directly to the fathers <patriarchs Heb 7:4> (i.e Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Israel).
When God communicates his will to mankind, this creates a standard, which is a law. If a person violates God’s will (His commandments), he sins (works evil). Cain’s works were evil because there was some standard of good and evil, God’s will. Abel’s works were righteous because there was some standard of what was right and what was wrong.
Heb 11:4 "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."
How did Abel offer a more excellent sacrifice that gave him witness that he was righteous? Heb 11:4 shows that Abel offered it by faith. Romans 10:17 teaches that faith comes by God’s word. Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice by faith.
It seems very logical and biblical to say that there was law or good / evil and right / wrong before Moses at Mt. Sinai and the 10C / Law of Moses (Ex 20; Deut 5).
Since the Law of Moses / 10C were only given to the Jews (children of Israel) Deut 5:1-3, then that legal system of commands were never given to non-Jewish people (Gentiles). That means, that from the time of Mt. Sinai until the time of the cross, non-Jewish people (Gentiles) lived under the same standards and guidance as they had before Sinai, just like Cain, Abel, and those that followed.
We would agree that Adam & Eve sinned in the garden (1 Tim 2:14; Rom 5:14). But how could they sin if there was no law, since sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 Jn 3:4). Adam & Eve violated the law of God in the garden of Eden when they disobeyed God’s direct command. When God commands, then there is law. When we disobey God’s commands, then we violate the law of God and sin.
How are we saved like Abraham was? What does our salvation have in common with Abraham? How can a Patriarch from thousands of years past share anything in common with us today and our salvation?
What can we say about Abraham? Abraham by faith followed God, even before circumcision was given. During this time, “justification is not limited to those who are circumcised”. This is “seen in the fact that Abraham was pronounced ‘righteous’ (in Gen 15:6) some 29 years (according to Jewish reckoning) before his circumcision (Gen 17:24). Thus, Abraham’s justification serves as a prototype for the salvation of all who will believe, whether circumcised or not (Rom 4:9-12).” (Gary Workman. Getwell Lectures 1983 - The book of Romans, National Christian Press, pg 81).
Abraham was already, prior to circumcision, following God’s commands. (i.e. Gen 12:1-2). By faith, Abraham left his country and his kindred prior to circumcision.
Heb 11:8-9 “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:”
How is it that Abraham offered up Isaac by faith?
Heb 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” God communicated His will, His commands, to Abraham.
Gen 22:1-3 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.”
God said unto Abraham.. do this….Abraham went to the place God told him to do what God had told him. He obeyed the commandments of God. Was this a command of God? Yes. Therefore, if there are commandments to be obeyed and disobeyed, then there is a standard of right and wrong, good and evil, and laws of which can be broken. If Abraham had disobeyed God, would he have broken God’s law or commandment? Yes, he would have. Therefore, there was a law, though not yet a written law as we know it.
How are we saved like Abraham was saved? When we by faith in God rely upon God to save us and obey his will in submission to His authority, God saves us.
It just doesn’t seem logical to me to say there was no law of God prior to the Law of Moses and the 10 Commandments.
What about those who were not Jewish or Hebrew? Was there any right or wrong (law) or standard for them prior to the Law of Moses and Ten Commandments?
Jonah 1:1-2 “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”
God communicated directly with Jonah and commanded him to go preach repentance to a Gentile people and a Gentile nation. This shows that God was communicating with other nations and peoples, not just the Jews through the Law of Moses / 10C. We only have the story line of history of God’s chosen people and their interactions with other peoples. However, God was also communicating with Gentile nations. When they repented, God did not destroy them. (Jonah 3:10; Matt 12:41). However, when they turned back to their evil ways and sin, God punished them (Nahum).
What laws are we to follow & who gave them?
Our lawgiver today is Christ.
Heb 1:1-2 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”
We will be judged by the teachings and words of Christ.
Jn 12:48 “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Jesus Christ gave his words and teachings and doctrine to His apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit. Those men wrote these teachings and commands down through the Holy Spirit for us to have today, thus the NT.
Acts 1:1 “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:”
Eph 3:1-6 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”
It is here that we see the holy apostles and prophets recorded the teachings of Christ, the NT, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus making the NT the word of God and not the word of men.
Is there a law today? If so, what laws are we to follow? Also, who gave these laws? Our lawgiver today is Christ. The holy apostles and prophets recorded the teachings of Christ, the New Testament, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We have those teachings today. They are “….profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How can teaching, scripture, or writings be profitable for correction if there is no right or wrong to correct. How can we have instruction in righteousness if it is not something to receive instruction toward? There is no right or wrong without a standard of right and wrong.
Therefore, the scriptures give us instruction in how to be right, or how to live right before God. If you do not heed those instructions, then you do wrong. If you do wrong, you disobey God’s instructions or God’s will and violate His commands. Therefore, you sin by violating the instructions or law of God. 1 John 5:17 “All unrighteousness is sin”. We cannot call Jesus our Lord if we do not do the things that he says or instructs (Luke 6:46). Either God has communicated His will to us today or He has not. It cannot be both. I am convicted and believe that God, our Creator, has communicated His will to mankind so that mankind may be saved.
1 Timothy 2:4 “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Truth is something that we must come to the knowledge of. Truth is something that can be obtained and known. Jesus, our Savior said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Truth can be known, and we can come to knowledge of that truth and be saved. Those of the world need this knowledge of truth which leads us to salvation. Where do we find that knowledge of truth that leads us to salvation? John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” God’s word is the source of truth. It is the source of knowledge that leads us to salvation. Without this knowledge and truth, we would not know that Jesus is the resurrected Messiah, the Savior of the world. Therefore, God’s word is truth and contains instructions in righteousness (right living) and also contains teachings that lead to knowledge of salvation.
If there is righteousness and unrighteousness, then there must be a standard of right / wrong, of good / evil, of right doing and wrong doing, a law. To say there is no law is to say that we cannot sin, since there is no standard of right / wrong. If there is no sin, then there is no need of God’s grace. Therefore, grace and a standard of law or right and wrong go hand in hand. The legal system sets the standard of perfection and God’s grace fills the gaps of our human imperfections and incapability of living the law flawlessly. Without grace, there is no hope. Without hope and faith, we would not access that grace. Without law, we would not need grace, faith, or hope because there would be no sin. Since we have a new covenant built upon better promises, we then follow this as our guide (Hebrews 8:6). That new covenant is the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15). Jesus shed his blood on the cross for us. Matthew 26:28 says, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” We today live under a better testament, better covenant, a better law. As was stated before, the law itself alone doesn’t save us, but it is still God’s guide for mankind to follow. It is God’s standard of right and wrong.
There is a teaching making its appearance again regarding the righteousness of man called “double imputation”. It goes something like this: “The system of faith says, believe in Jesus, and He will give you His own righteous record as a gift” (Jones 45). “We can only be saved when the spotless moral performance record of Jesus is applied to our accounts” (Jones 40). This is different than saying that our sins are remitted or removed by the blood of Jesus and so our record is cleared (which would be single imputation). This is saying that we now have the record of Jesus' perfect life applied to our account. This is called “double imputation” which is noted by the popular Calvinist theologian R.C. Sproul. He says, “Of course, Protestantism really teaches a double imputation. Our sin is imputed to Jesus and his righteousness is imputed to us” (Sproul).
This is a teaching of Reformed Theology or in other words, a Calvinistic (Presbyterian) or Lutheran teaching. If God gave you the righteous record of deity, then you could never be lost. This is a Calvinistic teaching which leans to the impossibility of apostasy. It is the teaching that says “… God has credited his very own righteousness to the sinner's account” (Jones 21). This false doctrine teaches that “In the gospel of Jesus, not only have your sins been forgiven, but Jesus’ own righteousness (perfect record) has been put upon you” (Jones 45). If this is the case, then when, by faith, we become Christians, then if that record has been applied, how could it be removed? We would have the record of Christ. This teaches the false doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. It is possible to fall from grace (Gal 5:4).
Many who teach this doctrine quote Abraham as a poster child of this teaching. Let us consider Abraham and his justification. Abraham's "justification was therefore not based on any works about which Abraham could boast, but was based on God's grace accepted by faith (Romans 4:5) and the obedience that faith induces (Heb. 11:8-19; James 2:21-24). The imputation of such righteousness depends on God's gracious willingness to forgive sins (Romans 4:6-8). This is not an imputation of the personal righteousness of Christ, as some are teaching, but rather the 'righteousness of God' (Romans 1:17; 3:21) - a legal verdict of exoneration that comes from God as a result of Jesus' sacrificial death. It is because of being 'reconciled to God through the death of his Son' (Romans 5:10), and therefore 'justified by his blood' (Romans 5:9), that righteousness 'might be reckoned' to us by God (Romans 4:11) (Workman 81). "The man to whom the Lord does not impute sin is the pardoned person. God does not count his sin against him because he is no longer a sinner. The man to whom God imputes sin is the one who is still in his sin" (Taylor Jr. 81). Regarding Romans 4:8, Winters states, the sins "are not imputed or counted because they are forgiven. God counts sin, all sin, as sin. But once sins are covered, forgiven, they are no longer credited to one's account" (Winters 52). If our sins are covered and forgiven, then we no longer have condemnation and stand justified before God due to the redemption of Christ and forgiveness of sins. We do not need the righteous record of Christ applied if we have our sins forgiven by Christ. We have no need of double imputation.
Jones, Jonathan. A Graceful Uprising: How Grace Changes Everything. Start2Finish Books, 2015.
Sproul, R. C. “Double Imputation.” Monergismcom Blog, 2012, www.monergism.com/double-imputation-r-c-sproul.
Taylor, Robert R. Studies in Romans. Quality Publications, 1996.
Winters, Howard. Commentary on Romans: Practical and Explanatory. Carolina Christian, 1985, Page 52.
Workman, Gary. The book of Romans. Getwell Lectures, 1983.