Home > Brandenburg, Law & Grace > The Law and Grace: Disastrous Misunderstandings (part two)

The Law and Grace: Disastrous Misunderstandings (part two)

August 8, 2007

Paul encountered much objection in Galatia when he preached the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.  The leadership among the Jews demanded circumcision and keeping the laws of Moses in lieu of coming to Christ.  Paul wrote:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  Galatians 2:16

He also said to them:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:  Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.   Galatians 1:6-8

So salvation by grace is a true gospel and salvation by works is a cursed, false gospel.

Many today, however, have taken God’s saving grace and turned it into lawlessness, also called antinomianism.   They essentially have made grace a garbage can for their sins.  Instead of cleaning up their lives, God’s grace enables them to sin without consequence.  God’s grace doesn’t allow us to live any way that we want.  Just the opposite, someone who regularly lives a worldly, fleshly, or sinful life proves that he was never under the grace of God, because God’s grace isn’t a trash receptacle, but a cleansing agent, transforming a life.

The hypothetical antagonist of Romans 6:15 asks, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”  This wasn’t just a straw man.  People thought this in Paul’s day, and they manifested a complete misunderstanding of what Paul taught.   They weren’t under a system of law that required them to produce their own righteousness.   We never have been and we still aren’t.  But that grace that we receive, that saves, also enables or empowers us to live lawfully.

Paul said that it works like this:  “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).   To whomever we characteristically yield ourselves servants to obey, that is whom we serve.  Those under the dominion of grace, serve righteousness.  They keep the law.  Those under the dominion of the law, serve sin.  The law doesn’t enable anyone to keep it.

So, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11, 12).  Nobody is justified by the law.  If you add one regulation of the law to grace, you nullify grace.  God forbid, however, if you think that God’s grace yields lawlessness.  If you do, then you probably don’t have the grace of God in your life.  God’s grace isn’t like that.  The grace of God will enable you to keep the law of Christ from the heart.

Categories: Brandenburg, Law & Grace
  1. August 8, 2007 at 9:58 pm


    Lawlessness is the mindset that says, “You can’t tell me what to do.” My current series is attacking that mindset, see posts over at my place. Hesselgrave’s illustration of this point really drives home what lawlessness is.

    “For example, if I were to be stopped for speeding while driving in our neighboring state of Wisconsin, I might be willing to admit that I had indeed been driving 80 miles an hour in a 65mph zone. That would be tantamount to admitting that I am a ‘lawbreaker.’ But suppose I simply disregard the speed limit and respond to the officer by saying something like, ‘You can’t give me a ticket. I’m from Illinois. Your Wisconsin laws don’t apply to me and you have no right to arrest me.’ At that moment, I become something other than just a lawbreaker. I become an ‘outlaw.’ I become ‘lawless.’” [David J. Hesselgrave, “Conversing with Gen-Xers and Millennials Concerning Law and Grace, Legalism and Liberty”, p. 16.]

    That’s where so many professing Christians are today. They are simply outlaws.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. August 9, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Interesting point, Bro. Don, and illustration. Nothing concerns me more than perversion of God’s grace and the gospel.

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