Law and Faith

Does the subject of law and faith ever confuse you? I think it can be confusing for those of us who were born in the Messianic age, and not under the Old Covenant, as the Jews of old were. I think, too, that in this confusion a lot of false doctrines were born out of wrong ideas of what all this means.

Thus, a lot of folks have misinterpreted our relationship now to the law and to faith, and have either built doctrines based on legalism, or they have swung the other direction, and have built doctrines based on libertinism.

So, which one is right and which one is wrong? I believe both extremes to which the pendulum swings are wrong, in and of themselves, and that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Righteousness of God
Romans 3:21-25 ESV

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

For example, on what basis were those under the Old Covenant saved from their sins? On the basis of keeping the law, or by faith? They were saved the same way we are, by God’s grace, through faith in God; through faith in the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. They looked forward to his coming in person. We look back to when he came, and we look forward to him coming again to take us to be with him forever. But, whether Old or New Testament, the gospel message is the same.

So, what is the difference between the two, and what is the same?

First, I want to look at what is the same, which is that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith. And, here it helps to understand what faith is and what it isn’t. Faith means to be divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives. It is not something we drum up in our own flesh. Even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift from God, not of human works, lest we should boast that somehow we earned or deserved our own salvation. Thus, the kind of faith it takes for us to be saved from our sins is supernatural, not natural.

Since this faith comes from God and is of God and it persuades (convinces) us to submit to God’s will for our lives, it walks in obedience to the Lord, it surrenders to his purposes, and it follows him and his ways. That is why we see all throughout scripture, whether Old or New Testament, a distinct and direct link between faith and obedience. Yet, obedience is not just keeping a set of rules, for not one of us could ever keep the law perfectly, which is why Jesus died for our sins.

Faith is about yielding the control of our lives over to Jesus Christ, and allowing him to work his will and his ways in our lives, as we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives. So, under the Old Covenant, they had rules they had to follow, and under the New Covenant, we have rules we have to follow. They had a lot of ceremonial and liturgical and purification laws which they had to follow. We do not. I am grateful for that. But, following all of those, to the letter of the law, never saved one of them.

God’s moral laws have continued, though, both throughout the Old and the New Covenants. In the New Testament, he summed them all up in two laws:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40 NIV).

So, what is the big difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant? Well, for one, we don’t have to obey all those old ceremonial, liturgical and purification laws. We don’t need to go through human priests who give sacrifices for our sins once a year. Human beings are no longer our mediators between us and God. Through Jesus Christ, we are all kingdom priests and we all have direct access to the Father. Jesus is our only mediator between us and the Father. We now have God living within us, and we are his temple. We have a lot more freedom than they had, I believe, but it is not freedom to disobey God, as some would have you to believe.

Justified by Faith
Romans 3:27-31 ESV

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

So, if they were saved by God’s grace, through faith, in the Old Testament, too, then why make the distinction between the Old and the New, with regard to what saves us? I believe it is because those who were raised under the Old Covenant had a difficult time transitioning to the New, and they were holding on to the Old, feeling as though they still had to follow all the old customs and traditions, some of which were not of God, but were added by the elders, for they felt that somehow that all of those things were what made them righteous, but they did not.

Many of them actually did not have true faith in Jesus Christ, in God, but their faith was in their own ability to follow a bunch of rules, and so they based their salvation on their own righteousness, which, in many cases, was a false sense of their own goodness, for they gave lip service to God, and they followed some of the letter of the law, but their hearts were far from God. They were good at following religious rituals, which gave them a false sense of being right with God, but they were short on true obedience and heart surrender to the Lord, for they were also full of wickedness and pride.

A lot of people equate obedience to the Lord with keeping the law, but they are not one and the same. God chided his people all throughout biblical history for going through the motions of religious practice, while they withheld from the Lord what he desired most, and which was most essential to their fellowship with him and to their salvation. And, that is hearts which are surrendered to the Lord, yielded to the Lordship of Christ, walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands, but all in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit now living within us, empowering and strengthening us.

Many people today, as well, think that if they go to a “church” on Sunday mornings (or on Saturdays), and they sit through a religious service, and sing songs of Praise and Worship to God, and they put money in the offering plates, and they do good deeds, and they don’t do anything real horrible, like murder someone, that they are good. Or, else they put a lot of stock in religious practices, as though these are essential to our salvation, but they are not. Going to a Sunday service does not make anyone more or less in a right relationship with the Lord, or more or less spiritual.

What matters to the Lord is that we die with him to sin and we live with him to righteousness, all in his power and strength, and according to his will for our lives, and in submission to him, and via yielding to his Lordship over our lives. For, this is why he died. This is why he gave his life up for us on that cross. Yes, when we believe in him, his righteousness is credited to our accounts, but that righteousness, if it is truly from him, will be lived out in our daily lives, as well.

Yes, it is by God’s grace, through faith, and not of ourselves that we are saved, for our salvation and the faith to believe in Jesus are gifts from God, but they are gifts which we must receive into our lives via putting them into action. That is what faith is all about. It isn’t faith, at least not the kind which saves us, if it is lip service only, but with no action to back up our professions. Jesus didn’t die just to deliver us from the punishment of sin. He died to put sin to death in our lives, and to free us to walk in his holiness and righteousness, in his power and strength.

Yet, there is no boasting, for this is not something we can do apart from God. Only in Christ, empowered by his Spirit, and strengthened by his love and grace, can we even begin to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to him. But, what we must understand here is that God’s grace to us is not freedom to continue in our sinful addictions, free from guilt and remorse. God’s grace, which brings salvation, instead, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return.

So, we are not saved via legalism, and we are not saved via libertinism, either. We are saved from our sins when we surrender our hearts to the Lord, submit to his will, yield to his Lordship, and do what he says. For, if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, not have the hope of eternal life with God, no matter how religious we may appear, and no matter what prayers we have prayed, or what confessions of Christ we have made. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we have eternal life with God and the hope of heaven.

Praise the “I AM!”
An Original Work / February 24, 2012

Jesus, my Savior, full of compassion,
Glorious in power, mighty in strength;
Gracious Redeemer, mighty deliv’rer,
My heart adores Him. Praise to His name!
Perfect salvation my Lord provided
When He died for my sins on a tree;
Crucified my sins; conquered in vict’ry,
When He arose, so I could be free!

I am so thankful for His forgiveness;
Grateful that He chose to pardon me,
Giving me new life full in His Spirit,
So I can serve Him; His servant be!
Walking in daily fellowship with Him,
Obeying Him whate’er He commands;
Forsaking my sins, living in freedom,
I will endure with Him to the end!

He gives me peace and calm reassurance
In times of sorrow, or in distress.
His grace is sure, and oh, how sufficient
To meet me in my need for sweet rest.
Oh, how I love You, Jesus, my Savior.
My heart longs for You where’er I am.
Your word is precious; speaks to my spirit;
Brings comfort, healing. Praise the “I AM!”

Friday, April 13, 2018, 7:00 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from Your Word. May we take it to heart, and follow what you say. Amen!

Recommended additional reading on this subject:

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