To live in the spirit
24 Jun 2004 10:59 GMT
No longer under the law but under grace
No longer under law but under grace
The longer I live, the more convinced I am that the Apostles statement in Romans 6:14, that believers in Christ are no longer under law but under grace is of immense importance. It opens our eyes to the radical difference between the two kinds of relationship between God and us which Paul articulates in the third chapter of Galatians: the difference between a bilateral covenant and a unilateral compromise.
The bilateral covenant refers to the kind of relationship God established with Israel through Moses; the unilateral promise refers to the kind of relationship God established with Abraham 430 years earlier. Under the bilateral covenant, God and Israel exchanged obligations, that is, everything God agreed to do for Israel depended upon how well Israel obeyed His commandments. But what God promised to do for Abraham depended only on God Himself as Paul says so well in Romans 4:20,21: No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
What had God promised? The answer is found in Genesis 12:1-3 and 15:5,6, where God promises to guide Abraham to a land for him to possess and in which to have many descendants, and through one of whom (per Galatians 3:16), God would bless all the families of the earth (Gal. 3:8). The fulfillment of that unilateral promise occurred in Christ through whom God acted redemptively on our behalf, not in response to our obedience, but in spite of our failure to obey. So Paul says in Romans 5:6, 8 & 10, that while we were helpless (to obey), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.....(Thus) God shows His love for us in that while we were yet (disobedient) sinners, Christ died for us. ....(so), while we were enemies (of God), we were reconciled to God by the death of His son.
When the full import of this stupendous information is assimilated by us, we are filled with so much gratitude for Gods unconditional love and mercy for us (which Paul calls faith, that we are energized to become far more
obedient to Gods commandments than if we were still relating to Him on the basis of Law. Someone once said that the difference between law and grace is that under law, we work six days and rest on the seventh day, whereas, under grace we are given rest on the first day and work the next six days. There is a whale of a difference between these two kinds of work!
Work in response to law is burdensome and inadequate and often leads to burnout, while work in response to grace is joyful, restful and productive (as suggested by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30). Also, work in response to grace is of a finer quality. It knows how to discriminate between what is of primary importance and what is of lesser importance (as noted by Jesus in Matthew 23:23-24).