You have no doubt heard all your life about how Grace and Law are polar opposites, how you cannot be saved by Grace if you are committed to obeying the Law. This is directly contrary to the overall witness of Scripture. I will show you Grace and Law are not only not incompatible, but are absolutely necessary to each other.
Let’s start in Ezekiel 16:6:
And when I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you in your blood, Live! Yes, I said to you in your blood, Live!
Albert Barnes wrote,
In thy blood – may be connected either with “I said” or with “Live.” In the latter case, the state of blood and defilement is made the very cause of life…
So that the last phrase in the verse could be rendered, “Yes, I said to you, ‘Live through your blood.'” In other words, the blood brings life. But why does God say it twice?
In “Circumcision: The Individual’s Covenant with God” Rabbi Yohanasan Gefen wrote that each iteration of this statement refers to a different shedding of blood. The first statement refers to the circumcision of Abraham, while the second refers to the Passover Lamb.
The Calvinists will take issue with what I have to say next, but here it is anyway: Circumcision represents our decision to commit ourselves to God, while the Passover Lamb represents God’s decision to commit himself to us. Without both commitments, we are lost.
Circumcision was a physical manifestation of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises. He circumcised his flesh and the flesh of all of the males in his house, including Ishmael, as an outward sign of his complete trust in God’s faithfulness. However, circumcision in itself was not the means of Abraham’s salvation. It didn’t replace his faith, and the act of cutting himself did not cause God to keep his promise of an heir and a great inheritance.
Consider Ishmael. He was circumcised also, but he did not inherit the covenant. Many years before the circumcision, God promised Abraham a son. When he began to doubt, he tried to force God’s promise through his own power. Ishmael was conceived through his father’s mistrust of God and a reliance on works to earn God’s favors. Obedience alone will never be enough to warrant inclusion in the covenant with Abraham; one must also have faith.
But faith in what? In the Messiah Yeshua, our Passover Lamb whose blood covers us and takes away our sins. This is the ultimate inheritance of the children of Abraham, and the ultimate reason we must keep God’s Law.
We do not (cannot!) obey to earn God’s favor or to bribe or force him to keep his promises. God is faithful whether we are or not. No, we obey because we believe. If we believe in God’s faithfulness to provide an atonement for us and to forgive us our sins, then we will obey him. Obedience follows true faith, and there are only two reasons why a a person would not keep God’s Law:
1. Ignorance of his requirements, such as is the case with those many Christians who have been deceived their entire lives to believe that God didn’t mean what he said.
2. Lack of faith. As James said, “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” There is no such thing as faith without works. A lack of works always indicates a lack of faith.
As I have said over and over, this does not mean that anyone is saved by their works. Abraham did not circumcise himself before his faith, but because of it. We do not keep God’s Law to earn salvation, but because we are saved. Likewise, a person can be perfectly obedient to every point of the Law and still be eternally lost because they put their hope for salvation in obedience instead of in God’s faithfulness.
I can’t tell you how many sermons I heard growing up in the Assemblies of God about how the Law was replaced by Grace. Even at the time it all seemed a little hypocritical. If the Law was done away (or “fulfilled” away) why did Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and others spend so much time talking about it? Why do we put the Ten Commandments up on the Sunday School walls?
The Bible was very little help. James clearly wrote that the Law was still in effect, and Peter wrote that you had to have a good foundation in the scriptures (the Law and the Prophets) in order to understand Paul’s letters. But why should an understanding of the Law be important to understand someone who spent so much ink telling us to forget the Law?
“Don’t take James so literally,” I was told. “He’s talking about a new spiritual law that has replaced the old written law.”
OK, but what about Peter? He couldn’t have been writing about spiritual scriptures. Scriptures means “writings”. If they only exist on a spiritual plane, how can they be written? And how could one study writings that aren’t written?
As I have demonstrated through numerous arguments, that was all so much hot air and wishful thinking. Grace and Law were never in opposition, but were always complementary. You cannot be saved by Grace unless you are first convicted by the Law, and you cannot be saved by God’s Grace unless you are also committed to obeying God’s Law. How can a person claim to believe in someone else if they refuse to believe what the other person has said?
Law and Grace are not opposed to one another, but are merely two sides of the same coin. If you are not committed to obeying God’s commandments, then you cannot be heir to his promises. And if you are not under God’s Grace, then all the obedience in the world will earn you nothing but damnation.