Law, Grace, and Holiness
In Today’s church there are 2 Extremes:
Legalism vs. Grace. The reaction to religious legalism is a distorted grace that indulges all behaviors.
A spirit of religion ends in legalism, where people judge others based on outward appearances and by the way they live.
The problem is that we don’t just judge their actions, we judge the person as well.
Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you…” (Matthew 7:1–5, ESV)
The other extreme is lawlessness where people endorse all kinds of sinful behaviors because “we aren’t supposed to judge.”
Well, we aren’t supposed to judge people, but we are supposed to judge behaviors:
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,… What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 5:20–6:2, ESV)
What is Sin? An arrow missing the mark – what is the mark? The image of God in man.
Three types of laws: Civil, Moral, and Ritual (or Ceremonial Law)
Old Testament civil law: how to govern a people and what should be done to people who violate the law. Eye for an eye, stoning for rape and adultery, e.g.
Ritual law: what sacrifices are to be offered, what foods to eat, what the priests are to wear.
Moral law reveals the character of God that does not change: no adultery, no murder, etc.
The biggest confusion in today’s society is over sexual morality and how it relates to the image of God. Sexual morality isn’t civil or ritual or OT, it is moral. But many denominations have raised up false teachers, abandoning the Word of God and confusing Grace with Lawlessness.
“For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:18–19, ESV)
When Paul says that the Law cannot save anyone because all fall short of the righteousness of God. BUT he does not say that the moral law has passed away in Christ, because the moral law reveals the character of God.
And God has called us to Holiness, not by the power of our own good deeds but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in us.
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” (Romans 7:21–8:3, ESV)
Paul points to the inability of humanity to achieve godly righteousness by an external law, and God had to create a new covenant which put his righteousness in our hearts:
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. … I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.– Jeremiah 31:31-34
The Holy Spirit enables us to be a holy people, and God still looks for holiness in us through the work of Holy Spirit. The “just requirements” of the Law now fulfilled in us by the Spirit – in Paul’s mind – necessarily include sexual purity, no thievery, no idolatry, no homosexuality, etc. (I Cor. 6:9).
And so, there is no contradiction between the idea of being saved by faith through grace, not by works of the flesh, and the new Law of Love, which reflects the character of God in sanctified conduct.
“You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45, ESV)