Grace vs. the law: A false paradigm

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A teaching pervades the church today that suggests the law, the full body of teachings found in the Torah, is dead, kaput, irrelevant for believers in Yeshua-Jesus the Messiah. The entirety of the law, they say, was nailed to the cross, leaving us to live in an age of grace in which the law can no longer indict us.

They say we live in the age of grace, not the law – as if it’s an either-or situation.

Some go even further, suggesting those saved by faith in Jesus the Messiah are incapable of falling into sin – and should not even concern themselves with such matters.

Even though the entirety of Scripture clearly teaches otherwise, many in the church are willing – even eager – to embrace this “law vs. grace” theology, based 100% on some badly mangled interpretations of letters by Paul, which, if properly understood are not and cannot be at odds with the rest of Scripture.

First we must define what we mean by the law.

It’s found in the first five books of the Bible, or the Torah, which means “the teachings.” Moses begins to give the law in Exodus 20 with the Ten Commandments. There are hundreds of others dealing with all aspects of life, including food, worship, governance and man’s relationship with God. Some of them can’t be kept today because there is no Temple.

What we’re not talking about when we refer to the law and the Torah are man’s laws, extra-biblical rules established by the rabbis through what they refer to as the “oral tradition.” They were often confused with God’s laws – and still are in today’s rabbinical Judaism.

But that leaves us with the entire body of moral law found in the Torah.

Was it overthrown by Jesus-Yeshua or, as some suggest, Paul?

Let me quote Paul:

  • Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
  • Romans 6:2: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
  • Romans 6:15: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
  • Romans 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.”
  • Romans 7:13: “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”

Here’s where many go wrong in the church today. Through Jesus’ sacrificial atonement on the cross, there is forgiveness through repentance for sin – forgiveness, not a license to sin.

Think about the woman accused in Jesus’ time of adultery. She was about to be stoned. Jesus-Yeshua said to the crowd of accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The accusers walked away. Jesus asked the woman: “Hath no man condemned thee?”

She answered: “No man, Lord.”

Jesus responded: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

He didn’t just say “go.” He said, “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8)

And that is our example. Forgiveness and grace are extended when we turn away from sin. And what is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law.

1 John 3:4: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” That’s the New Testament. That’s an Apostle writing, long after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. And he’s addressing it to believers.

So is the law still alive and well and relevant to believers today? Yes. You best believe it.

Does that mean one finds salvation through obedience to the law? No. Salvation is through grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Noah found grace through faith. (Genesis 6:8)

Abraham found grace through faith. (Genesis 15: 6, Romans 4:16, Hebrews 11:8)

Isaac found grace through faith. (Hebrews 11:20)

Jacob found grace through faith. (Hebrews 1:21)

Moses found grace through faith. (Exodus 33:12)

Gideon found grace through faith. (Judges 6)

David found grace through faith. (Hebrews 11:32)

And so on.

“The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38)

In that regard, nothing has changed from the beginning – faith, repentance, grace, salvation.

What is the role of the law then?

Without the law, we would not know how to be faithful, we would not know for what we need to repent, we would not know for what we need to seek grace and we would not know we are in need of salvation.

But God also promises that obedience to the law is good for us in our everyday lives on earth. Consider Joshua 1:8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

Remember who the real Lawgiver was and is – Yeshua-Jesus Himself. Moses was more accurately the law receiver. He presented the law that had been given to Him to give to the people.

Yeshua said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus sought to make clear that the law, as interpreted by the Pharisees, had become burdensome to keep. But it didn’t need to be that way – not through faith, repentance, the power of the Holy Spirit and grace.

God has always been full of grace (Psalm 116:5; Joel 2:13), and people have always been saved by faith in God (Genesis 15:6). God did not change between the Old and New Testaments (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 55:19, Hebrews 13:8). His grace was demonstrated through the law by providing the sacrificial system to cover sin. Yeshua was born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4) and became the perfect sacrifice to bring the law to fulfillment – not to an end.

James tells us: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26) For some in the church today, “works” has become a dirty word. It is a dirty word only if you believe that through your own works you can achieve salvation.

At the end of the day, there is really no conflict between grace and the law. A grace that has the power to save also has the power to motivate a sinful heart toward holiness. Thus, as James suggests, where there is no impulse to be godly, there simply is no saving faith.

“The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” by Joseph Farah is available in both hardcover and e-book versions.

ALSO: Get Joseph Farah’s book “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age,” and learn about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith and your future in God’s Kingdom. Also available as an e-book.


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