The modern Christian church teaches that since Jesus died on the cross, our sins are forgiven. The blood of Jesus makes us white as snow. If we do sin and confess our sins, Jesus in HIS righteousness will forgive us and restore us. Through the cross, He has taken our place through the propitiation of sins. We are justified by faith. No longer are we under the yoke and bondage of the law.
But as any student of the Bible may discover, there seem to be many contradictory statements. Especially in the teachings of the Apostle Paul and especially in the Book of Galatians. This Book gives an account of what could be called the “old school religion” (Judaism), vs the “new school religion” (Christianity). Paul had traveled this region previously and had planted churches there. However, in his absence, the old school church had come in and won over some converts back from the new school church. At the very least the gospel he had preached was significantly watered down. This letter from Paul to the Galatians is an attempt to correct the errors of theology and doctrine being taught in these churches.
I would make the supposition that so much of the modern church has derived their doctrine of grace from this letter (and the Book of Romans), that they have overreached its meaning. It must first be put in context that Paul was admonishing the errors in the old school church that had crept into the churches at Galatia.
“I marvel that you so soon are being moved away from Him who called you into the grace of Christ, to another gospel”, (Gal 1:6)
In this verse, the gospel of the “grace of Christ”, the word grace is Strong’s definition from G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude). In other words, God in His infinite wisdom and love, blessing humankind.
“We Jews by nature, and not sinners of the nations, knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ; even we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law. For all flesh will not be justified by works of law”. (Gal 2:15-16)
In this verse, Paul is making the argument that the Jews are no longer justified by the law, but in the new covenant of Faith in the finished work of Jesus. The point he was making was the gentiles never partook in the Jewish faith. Why should they go to some religion they were never a part of in the first place?.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf”. Gal 2:20
This verse gives the impression to live by faith in the finished works of Christ. That Paul cannot do anything apart from faith through grace. But one has to remember that Jesus, in His agony on the cross did not take away the sins of the world, but He BORE them. It is up to the believer to appropriate the power of the cross to overcome. “And He said to all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To “Pick up the cross..” means to fight against the temptations and lusts of the flesh. This requires a conscious and willful action. Grace plus faith alone in the cross is not enough.
There are many other verses in Galatians which one could gain the impression that it is grace + faith + nothing (Latin; Sola Fide). Grace and faith are wonderful gifts of the gospel but it is only one half of the equation. “For of God we are fellow-workers, a field of God, and you are a building of God. each one’s work shall be revealed. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try each one’s work as to what kind it is. If anyone’s work which he built remains, he shall receive a reward. If anyone’s work shall be burned up, he shall suffer loss. But he shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1Co3:9,13-15).
“My brothers, what profit is it if a man says he has faith and does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). It is very apparent from reading the scriptures, that we have to cooperate and participate in our salvation.
Jesus and illustrations of His commandments in the Bible
Jesus in his dissertations and teachings on the principles of His kingdom seemed to always be teaching one thing; His commandments (The Law). These were not suggestions. They were not friendly wisdom or psychiatric advice. It meant obedience. They were in the same vein and language in which He gave the ten commandments. i.e. “You shall, You shall, You shall…”. For example;
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should also love one another” (John 13:34).
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you”, (Mat 5:43-44)
“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne” (Matthew 5:34).
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (John 15:12).
“And why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments
“And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
In Matthew 19:17, the question then is what commandments is Christ specifically referring to that we must keep for us to “enter into life?”. He tells us the reason He came to earth; “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). So for us to “enter into life”, we must keep the commandments.
This leads us back to Exodus 20:6 “and showing mercy to thousands of those that love Me and keep My commandments. The exact same words Christ used in Matthew 19:17, are used in Exodus 20:6, which is the Ten Commandants or the Decalogue. In the two dispensations of the Jewish church and the Christian church, the commandments have not changed. The Law is not made null and void by the cross.
So when the modern church considers the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, they consider them as null and void, outdated. Nothing could be farther from the TRUTH. That the law is made of no effect since Jesus suffered on the cross and took upon Himself the sins of the world. But in reality, just the opposite situation occurred. When the Divine of God took on human form and came to the earth, He shined more light and illumination on the Ten Commandments (The Law). The Ten Commandments are the sum and substance of all religion and faith. It is the summation of all heavenly kingdom principles. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus was the Savior of the world because “they might have life”. He took on human form and showed his creatures of creation how to find life abundant. He showed us Himself and His Kingdom. He showed us how to overcome the world and the flesh. He took upon his flesh and crucified it until it became Divine. Through His sacrifice, He freely gave in His love unto us to share in His Kingdom;
“according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also in this very thing, bringing in all diligence, filling out your faith with virtue, and with virtue, knowledge; and with knowledge self-control, and with self-control, patience, and with patience, godliness, and with godliness, brotherly kindness, and with brotherly kindness, love. For if these things are in you and abound, they make you be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (2 Peter 1:3-8)
The symbolism of the cross was LOVE personified. Jesus tenderly showing how the law could be fulfilled. The appearance of the WORD incarnate as Jesus the Christ to the earth was a monumental example to all of the universe. It was an astonishing illustration of the LOVE and TRUTH of our Lord.
Grace and the Law are like a Pendulum
The Christian life can be compared to a pendulum. At one side the weight swings to grace, and to the other side swings to the law. At the very center between these two is perfect equilibrium. This represents that the child of God is centered in Christ. We are told to keep our focus and our eyes on Jesus. “Be mindful of things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be of this mind. And if in anything you are otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you. Yet, as to what we have already attained, let us walk in the same rule, let us mind the same thing”. (Philippians 3:14-16).
“Therefore, holy brothers, called to be partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus”, (Hebrews 3:1).
The Christian’s goal is to be always centered in the equilibrium position with Christ. The physics of a pendulum can be compared to spiritual laws. One swing back and forth of the weight is called a period. If the arc of the swing is small, it is called a true period. This represents although we are not in the complete center with Christ, we are well within His scope and control. But wild upward swings back and forth of the weight are called an empty pendulum. The force of the weight is such, that the momentum is always in front of the weight. This represents that we are out of control, and out of the protection and will of Christ.
What does this have to do with law and grace? What happens when the arc of the pendulum is extremely tilted toward the law? If the Christian depends too much on the merit of works and striving to obtain perfection, they make null and void the work of Christ. They are like Martha, always doing busy work. They are not like Mary who rests in the comfort and love of her Lord. The Christian becomes an empty pendulum.
What happens when the arc of the pendulum is tilted extremely towards grace? If the Christian depends on only the merit of Christ and His propitiation for sin, this excuses them of any responsibility. They say grace plus faith, plus nothing. However, they are like this verse; “And everyone who hears these sayings of Mine and does not do them shall be compared to a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:26). They have not centered themselves on the TRUTH and WISDOM of the WORD. The Christian becomes an empty pendulum.
This is why it is important for the Christian to be centered in the equilibrium position in Christ. This is our daily goal and purpose. “Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Grace & Faith and The Law Agree
The seemingly strong contradictions in Scripture regarding salvation, faith, and the law are no contradictions at all. In fact, just the opposite is the case!. These concepts dwell together in perfect kingdom harmony. It could be said that The Law is TRUTH, and that grace and faith are LOVE and Mercy. One is the steadfast unchangeable principles of God’s kingdom. The other is the everlasting eternal LOVE and Mercy of God. One requires obedience to kingdom principles, and the other appropriates the strength and power to live according to those principles.
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