Sermons

Faith, Grace and Law - Part 1

Sun, Oct 16, 2022
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:31 mins 16 secs

Message text

Faith, Grace and Law
Hebrews 8:8-13

INTRO: Good morning. In my last few lessons we examined the role of God's grace, our faith, and works in our salvation. We said that God's grace is His role in the redemption plan and includes everything He did to accomplish our salvation. Obviously there must be a response from man in order for God's grace to work. If everything God did to save man required no response then everybody who ever lived would be saved regardless of how they lived. Jesus makes it clear that this is not the case in, Matthew 22:14 – “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The required response to God's gracious offer of salvation is summed up in God's word as "Faith". “Faith”, as a comprehensive Biblical term, includes everything man does in response to God's grace. Grace is God reaching down from Heaven to mankind with an offer and a means of salvation. Faith is man reaching upwards to God in realization of His doomed state, and in the hope of God's grace. Grace is God reaching down to man. Faith is man reaching up to God.

Any response whatsoever from mankind is a work. A work is defined as a mental or physical action which intended to produce a result. God's grace and man's faith works together to produce a result. Both grace and faith are works. Grace is the work of God. Faith is the work of man. Human works, though necessary, do not negate the need for God's grace or our faith. Both grace and faith are indispensable to the salvation process and both of them are works. Thus we rightfully conclude that if works were not necessary, then salvation would be possible without any response from man whatsoever. Jesus makes it crystal clear in Matthew 7:21 that this is not the case.

We also saw that works cannot save us by circumventing God's grace or our faith. Works cannot save us by repaying God for what His grace cost Him. Works cannot save us by compelling God to offer His grace. God's grace is a gift, freely offered, completely exclusive of man's works. Works cannot save us by earning, paying for, or deserving salvation in any way. If works could save us, we wouldn't need God's grace. In these ways, works cannot save us, but faith is a work (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:11), so even though works cannot save, they are still necessary.

What I want to look at today is God Law. Where does God's law fit in all of this? This is an important question because there are those who claim Christ as savior, and make the claim that there is no law under the new covenant. I have heard it said among some that the old covenant is 'law and no grace' and the new covenant is 'grace and no law'. The purpose of this lesson is to make an examination of God's law and how it fits in with God's Grace and our Faith.

What is law? Law is a rule or a set of rules, enforceable, regulating the behavior of those over which it has authority. The short definition is a rule of conduct.

I. Is there law under the new covenant?

A. There are two laws spoken of in the New Testament. The most common one directly mentioned as law, is in reference to the Law of Moses. In Acts 13:39, Paul made a reference to the Law of Moses that is of particular relevance to this lesson. Paul said, “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses”.

1. Paul made a reference here to the Law of Moses and in doing so he made a very important observation. The Law of Moses cannot justify anyone. The word “justify”, means to 'make just' or to declare one to be innocent. The Hebrew writer further explains this in Hebrews 10:4, where he wrote, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
2. The animal sacrifices under the Law of Moses were incapable of taking away the sins of the people. All they did was accomplish the rolling forward of sins. The animal sacrifices were only capable of appeasing God's wrath for a period of time.
3. The Hebrew writer tells us when this time was in Hebrews 9:15, where we read, “And for this reason He [Jesus Christ] is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
4. Under the Law of Moses, the sins of the people were only atoned for until the death of Christ on the cross at which time His blood then provided the total and complete forgiveness of their sins.

B. In first century times, there was a lot of confusion and resistance from some Jews who just would not let go of the Law of Moses. A large portion of the New Testament is devoted to explaining the difference between the old and new covenant. It is vital to our understanding of God's law that we know the difference. Much religious error today comes from the inability of some to distinguish between the Law of Moses and the law of God under the new covenant.

1. For example, let's look at a particular verse which is contrasting the two laws we find in scripture and from there, we will make some observations and then build on this study of whether or not there is New Testament law.

a. Galatians 2:16 – “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
b. In the book of Galatians, Paul was dealing with Judaizers who had crept into the churches and were convincing them that they should follow after the Law of Moses. Paul's singular purpose for writing the letter to the Galatians was to correct this false teaching brought in by those who refused to let go of the Law of Moses and were bringing Christians back under the old law.

2. Let’s examine the text of Galatians 2:16 and for a moment, let's look at it from the perspective that Paul is speaking of all the law of God and not just the Law of Moses. When Paul's statement in Galatians 2:16 is taken from its proper context, it can be, and is, used to set forth the belief that there is no law under the new covenant.

a. Those who want to go to heaven but don't want to commit their lives to serving God acceptably, convince themselves that they are safe from God's condemnation based on the misguided belief that the inabilities and inadequacies of the Law of Moses apply to all of the Law of God in general.
b. This belief allows them to live any way they want because they believe that the new covenant releases us from the Law of Moses and releases us today from obligations to a new covenant law.

II. Let's deal with this issue first. Is there law under the new covenant?

A. To answer this question, let's look at two key verses. The first is Romans 3:23 where Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” There is no one today, who is accountable before God, who has not sinned. All have sinned and fallen short.
B. In 1 John 3:4, we learn that "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." If then, there is no law at all under the new covenant and sin is a transgression of law, then how is it that all have sinned? What law was transgressed? For there to be a transgression of law, there must be a law to transgress. We cannot break a law where there is none. If there's no law against speeding then we can't break the speed limit. It is not possible to transgress a law that does not exist. Indeed, in Romans 4:15, Paul wrote, “… for where there is no law there is no transgression.”
C. Yes, there is law under the new covenant. So what is it called, and how do we know which law is being discussed when we see “law” referenced in scripture?

III. In referencing the new covenant law, Paul mentions this in Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Paul is contrasting two laws found in each covenant here. We have the law of the Spirit of life contrasted with the law of sin and death. We already know that the Law of Moses was incapable of the justification of anyone.

A. The Law of Moses was not a law, which when kept, could permanently free anyone from sin and condemnation. It is obvious that the law of sin and death is a reference to old covenant law.
B. The law of the Spirit of life is a reference to a law, which when kept, frees us from the old covenant law of sin and death. If there is no law under the new covenant, then it is not possible to be made free from the old covenant law. Yes, there is NT law, and in Romans 8:2 Paul called it the "the law of the Spirit of life".
C. While writing his inspired letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This reference to a law cannot be about the Law of Moses. God gave the Law of Moses to Moses on Mount Sinai centuries before Jesus Christ walked the earth. This was near the end of a letter that Paul wrote which was dedicated to the abolishment of the Law of Moses and how it does no good to keep it.

1. He makes mention of a law we are supposed to keep, and he called it the “law of Christ”. We are not required to keep the Law of Moses, but we are required to fulfill the law of Christ.
2. If there were no law under the new covenant, then there would be no law of Christ to fulfill. So far we have 2 references to new covenant law. Paul has called it the "law of the spirit of life" and the "law of Christ".

D. In James 2:8 we see another reference to new covenant law, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'' you do well;”. James called this a “royal law”. That cannot be a reference to the Law of Moses because Moses was never a king. So then who is the king that James is talking about here?

1. Paul answers that question in 1 Timothy 6:14-15 – “that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,”. Jesus is our king under the new covenant so the royal law can be nothing other than the law of Christ.
2. If there is no new covenant law, then what are the standards by which Jesus rules us? A king who reigns over a people must do so with rules of behavior. We simply call these rules, law.
3. Paul called it the "law of the spirit of life" and the "law of Christ" and James called it the "royal law". James isn't finished yet. He also made a reference to new covenant law a few verses later in James 1:25 – “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”.

E. What is this liberty that James is speaking of here? Those who believe and teach that there isn’t any law under the new covenant, will tell you that this law of liberty is really freedom to live our lives, free of any of the rules of conduct required by God as found in scripture.

1. Is this true? We can put that to the test by reading carefully what the verse says, “… is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” If the law of liberty freed anyone from keeping God's law, then no one would have to be a “doer of the work” in order to be blessed.
2. Yes, there is law in the new covenant and James says we must be a doer of the work of this law of liberty. The law of liberty liberates us from the sins which the Law of Moses could not accomplish. The law of liberty does not liberate us from the need to obey God.

So far we have the:
1) "law of the spirit of life", which Paul said would free us from the law of sin and death.
2) "law of Christ", which Paul commanded Christians to Fulfill.
3) "royal law", which James commanded Christians to Fulfill. The result of this fulfillment is love for their neighbors.
4) "and the "law of liberty", which James commanded Christians to continue in and to do the work.

 

IV. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians we see one of the most informative verses regarding the laws found in each covenant. 1 Corinthians 9:20-21- “and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;”[NKJV]

A. Here is a parenthetical statement which Paul used to insure there was no misunderstanding. Paul says, "being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ".[KJV] However Paul adapted his conduct, it never involved disobeying the word of the Lord, or violating his allegiance to the law of Christ.
B. Paul was still living under law, and here he was discussing various ways in which he engaged in his evangelistic efforts to both Jews and Gentiles. “Paul accommodated himself to the prejudices and preferences of men so far as he could without sacrificing truth and righteousness, in order to win them to Christ ... He did this, not that he might be personally popular with any man, but that by doing so he might throw no obstacle in the way of their giving the gospel a fair hearing.” [David Lipscomb]

1. To those Gentiles who did not live under the Law of Moses, Paul says he made it obvious that he was not living under that law. Then Paul made an important statement regarding the law under the new covenant. He said "being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ", in other words, "I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law".
2. Paul declared to Christians that he and every single person on earth, both Jew and Gentile were not living without law. The law he was living under was the "law to Christ". Of the laws Paul spoke of in this context, the law to Christ is the one he is living under.

C. Concerning the law of God, Paul wrote in Romans 8:7 – “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

1. A carnal mind is a sinful mind. In this context Paul was discussing the differences between those who live with and without sinful minds. This mind is subordinated to Satan instead of God and was called "the carnal mind" by Paul here. Such a mind no longer has any regard or concern for eternal things and is occupied completely with this earthly life of flesh.
2. He says those who live with carnal minds are not living in obedience to the law of God. If there were no law under the new covenant, then it would not be possible to live outside the law of God. There is law under the new covenant and in this verse Paul called it the law of God.

So far we have the:
1) "law of the spirit of life", which Paul said would free us from the law of sin and death.
2) "law of Christ", which Paul commanded Christians to Fulfill.
3) "royal law", which James commanded Christians to Fulfill. The result of this fulfillment is love for their neighbors.
4) "law of liberty", which James commanded Christians to continue in and to do the work.
5) "law to God" Which Paul says he is not living without.
6) "law to Christ", which Paul says he is living under.
7) "law of God", which Paul says carnal minded people are not living in obedience to.

V. In our study of Hebrews we learn a very important fact about the new covenant and law.

A. Hebrews 8:8-13 – “8. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming,'' says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah 9. "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,'' says the Lord. 10. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,'' says the Lord, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11. "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.'' 13. In that He says, "A new covenant,'' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

1. There are a number of points that we can take from this context, relative to our lesson. There was going to be a new covenant. We know this new covenant is the New Testament under which all Christians live. But notice carefully, that God says that this new covenant is going to have its laws written on our hearts and in our minds.
2. This new covenant has laws. Being written on our hearts and minds tells us that Christians are going to follow this law from the heart out of love for God. Christians are going to follow the laws of the new covenant from their own free will, because they love God and want to obey Him. The new covenant which replaced the old covenant came with laws.

B. Finally, going back to James we see yet another reference to the law of liberty, James 2:9-12 – “9. but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery,'' also said, "Do not murder.'' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”

1. James is very obviously not speaking about the Law of Moses here. The scriptures make it crystal clear that the Law of Moses contained in the old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant whose laws govern us today. There are some important points we can take from these scriptures.
2. It is a transgression of God's law under the new covenant to show favoritism. In Verse 10, James writes, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
3. James lumps the entire new covenant law into one system. There is only one lawgiver, and only one law.
4. There are no transgressions of new covenant law that are more or less grievous to God. Any one transgression of any element of the law of Christ is a breach of the whole law because it breaks fellowship with the object of our faith, God.

a. James is reiterating something Jesus said in Matthew 5:19 – “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” ,
b. There is no such thing as a white lie or small sin. Any transgression of the law of Christ is a trespass of the whole law. Verse 11 is given as an example.

C. Another very important point we need to take from this context is found in verse 12, “So speak and so do, as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." The law of liberty James spoke of is going to be used to judge us in the end. In John 12:48 Jesus tells us that we will be judged by the things He spoke, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”

Let's go back over what we have so far...
1) "law of the spirit of life", which Paul said would free us from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
2) "law of Christ", which Paul commanded Christians to Fulfill. (Galatians 6:2)
3) "royal law", which James commanded Christians to Fulfill. The result of this fulfillment is love for their neighbors. (James 2:8)
4) "law of liberty", which James commanded Christians to continue in and to do the work of that law. Our liberty is the freedom from sin, not a pass from obedience to God's law. (James 1:25)
5) "law to God" Which Paul says he is not living without.
6) "law to Christ", which Paul says he is living under. (1 Corinthians 9:21)
7) "law of God", which Paul says evil minded people are not subject to but should be. (Romans 8:7)
8) The "New Covenant" will replace the old covenant and its laws will be imprinted on our hearts (Hebrews 8:8-13)
9) The "law of liberty" is transgressed by any violation of God's will. (James 2:9-11)
10) The "law of liberty" is going to be used to judge us. (James 2:12)

VI. The word of God teaches that there is most certainly law under the new covenant. And this law can be broken, which means we need to obey the new covenant law faithfully, because in the end, we are going to be judged by new covenant law.  In order for there to be any judgment, there must be a standard or a set of rules by which we are judged. Yes, there is law under the new covenant and we must live by that law if we are to have any hope whatsoever of an eternal home in heaven with God.

CONCLUSION:
In our previous lessons on Faith, Grace and works, we established the need for all of these things to work together in order to provide man with a means and method of salvation. If grace was all that were required then everybody on earth would be saved regardless of how they lived or how they believed. It's by grace we are saved through faith so we know that it can't be grace alone. We also cannot be saved by faith alone because without grace all the faith in the world would be useless to us. Works are a necessary component of faith; therefore we cannot be saved by works alone either. It takes all three of these things, grace, faith and obedience working together.

Add to these three things God's law under the new covenant. God's grace provided us with a means and a hope of salvation. It's not grace alone because man has to make a response to what God has offered. Everything man does in his response can be summed up as faith.  Works are everything we do by faith. God does not owe us anything for them. Works cannot save us by going around the blood of Jesus Christ. Finally, the new covenant law is what we have to obey in order to live faithfully under the rule of Jesus Christ our king. Grace gave us hope. Faith is our response. Law is what directs how we are to live. If we did not have God's law, we would not know what our response to God's grace should be. Without God's law, we would not know how He wants us to live.
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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

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Taken from a sermon by: David Hersey

 

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