Modern Christianity pits Law against Grace and Faith against Works. Is this doctrine Scriptural? Was this the plan and wish of our Heavenly Father? Did our Messiah put an end to Law and Works? It is important for us to understand the biblical definitions for each of these terms as well as learn the connections between these 4 biblical terms. If you are seeking the roots of our faith, and you are a person ready to be reproved, corrected and instructed by Scripture, I invite you to test the following study.
Definitions of Law, Grace, Faith & Works
Law – God’s Law lets us know what Sin is, in His eyes. Breaking God’s Law, is considered Sin.
- Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
- Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
- 1Jn 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law
Grace – Grace is God’s unmerited favor on our lives. We are saved and made righteous by His Grace towards us
- Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
- Rom 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
- Tit 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Faith – We gain God’s Grace through our Faith in Him. It is the belief that “He is the Creator & Redeemer, and there is no Life in us, without Him”
- Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
- Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
- Rom 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Works – Works Is all that we do. Our obedience to his Word/Law brings us blessings. We will be judged according to our Works
- 2Ti 3:16,17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
- Jas 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
- Rev 20:12,13 … and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Is Law against Grace?
Many presume that God’s Law is against Grace, and that by keeping God’s Law, we fall from Grace. These are common misconceptions which have risen from misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses which have been taken out of context and study them further.
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
For one who quotes the above verse as proof of God’s Law is against His Grace, we have to read the very next verse to understand Paul’s thoughts. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. (Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law : 1Jn 3:4). So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What then? shall we BREAK GOD’S LAW, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. But why then did he say we are not under the Law? this will be addressed in the next point.
Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
The above verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians explains what his whole ministry revolved around. Contrary to popular belief, Paul never said God’s Law is done away with. The misunderstanding lies in the concept of “Righteousness by the Law” or “Justification by the Law”. Paul is not saying that the “Law is against Grace”, or that whoever that obeys the Law has fallen from Grace. He is simply saying that “Righteousness” / “Justification” cannot be attained through the Law. He is saying that whoever tries to “attain righteousness” by the Law, has fallen from Grace. A good example of this, is the doctrine of the Circumcision Party which taught that a person needs to be circumcised to be saved/ receive salvation/ attain righteousness/ be justified. We are not made righteous through the Law, which is there to guide us. This is why we are not under it. But does this mean the Law is done away with? by no means. If that was so, what would we be judged by? God’s Law was never meant to be against His Favour/Grace.
Grace enables us to live according to God’s Law
The Grace of God clearly cannot be against the Law of God. This idea is further endorsed by Paul as we see in the verses below
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law according to 1Jn 3:4. So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in BREAKING GOD’S LAW, that grace may abound?”. Grace came to us through Messiah’s blood Sacrifice because we were “Law Breakers” or “Sinners”. What Paul explains here is whether we can say, that we are no longer under Law and continue in Sin, because Grace has been poured on us. Grace has been poured on us, so that we no longer continue in Sin (Breaking God’s Law). (Refer Rom 6:15 as well)
Is Works against Faith?
Similar to the notion that God’s Law is against Grace, some presume that Faith is all that we need. The common misconception here is that works is “dead” where faith is “alive”. Many of these thoughts have also sprung up through misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses as well, and study them further.
Gal 2:16 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.
As per the definition of the word “Works” given above, “Works” of the Law, means what you do in obedience to God’s word. For example not committing Adultery or Murder are Works of the Law. Just as we saw in the verses regarding Law & Grace, Paul again focuses his attention in telling the reader that you are not justified through your obedience to God’s Law, but by the Faith you have in God.
Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Here again, Paul’s focus is justification through “Works”. He is not saying that one should not Obey God’s Law, but he is simply saying that one is not Justified through the good/obedient works he does. We are saved/ made righteous/ justified because of our faith – because we believe that God will give us the Grace we need to move from death to life. Just because we believe in God’s graciousness, can we now say that we do not need to be obedient to Him? To keep and do the Words of God? Obedience to God’s Words was never supposed to be against the Faith we have in God.
Works is what perfects our Faith
Even though no one is justified through “Works” alone, obedience to God’s Word or Works of the Law as it is known, does perfect our Faith in God. In other words. when we obey Him, we show the amount of Faith we have in Him. Let us see the explanation given by James in this regard.
Jas 2:21-24 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
James explains the connection between Works and Faith in a few words. He shows how Abraham’s Faith became perfect in the eyes of God, when he was willing to do what was commanded by God, even to slay his only son. In Gen 15, when God promised him an heir and a countless amount of descendants, Abraham believed. Gen 15:6 reads “And he believed in YHVH; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” God counted Abraham’s Faith as righteousness the moment he believed in God. But James shows how this verse of Scripture was fulfilled only when Abraham obeyed God in offering up his son. (And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:) As much as we have faith in God, without obedience to Him, that faith is not perfected. In other words, if we say we have Faith in Him, but keep on disobeying Him, how can we prove our faith like our father Abraham did? Let us obey Him and show how much faith we have in Him.
As we have seen through the passages above, we cannot pit “Law” against “Grace” and “Works” against “Faith”. We are not made righteous through the “Law” or our “Works”. It is only through our “Faith” and His “Grace” that we are saved. This doe not mean that God’s Law is done away with and we do not have to do the Works of the Law. God’s “Law” shows us how to be obedient in doing the “Works”, as much as “Faith” in Him, produces “Grace” or His Favor towards us. “Grace” in turn helps us keep his “Law” as well as our “Faith” becoming perfect in His sight through the Obedient “Works” we do.
We have to break down the wrong doctrines taught to us and start reading God’s Word through the help of His Spirit. Let us be perfect before God (2Cor 13:11, 2Ti 3:17, Heb 13:21, Rev 3:2) adding Works to our Faith and keeping His Law because of His abundant Grace.
There are many more misunderstood verses regarding this subject which we will study in the coming days. Meanwhile, I also invite you to read this study for more clarity on this topic.