Law and Grace

by Franklin Camp

 

A major problem in religion today is a misconception of law and grace. This has been a stumbling block from the time sin entered the world.  A failure to grasp the subject is fatal to the soul.  Grace is the foundation of redemption.  The one who errs here will miss heaven. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

A cardinal fallacy is the doctrine that law excludes grace.  This position creates paramount issues.  If grace excludes law, it excludes obedience.  Law is essential to obedience.  One must have something to obey.  One cannot obey nothing.  The religious world generally denies the necessity of obedience in becoming a Christian.  Some equate obedience with works that do not save.  But James 2:14-26 — along with other passages — cannot be harmonized with the doctrine of faith alone.  Others know obedience is essential, yet struggle in trying to exclude law, but not obedience.  If grace excludes all law, no door is open for obedience.

If law excludes grace, one of two things must follow either there is no room for obedience, or if obedience is essential, one must explain what must be obeyed.  One may say “commandments” must be obeyed, but this will not resolve the issue.  A difference in “command and law” cannot be explained by those who reject law but want to retain commands. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord... Then shall I not be ashamed, when! have respect to all thy commandments.” (Psalms 119:1, 6)  Law and commandments are synonymous terms throughout the Bible.

Does grace exclude obedience to the commands of the gospel?  The gospel has commands. (I Corinthians 14:37). God would not provide salvation by grace and give commands that conflict with grace.

Some say grace and commands harmonize.  If grace and commands harmonize, grace and law also harmonize.  The exclusion of law excludes commands.  There is no way one can exclude law and include commands.

Denominational preachers try to avoid the problem by teaching obedience is not essential in becoming a Christian, but is necessary for the Christian.  When pressed, they will deny that one’s obedience has anything to do with salvation, but they refuse to teach their members obedience is not important.  Thus, they find themselves in a strange situation—obedience is important, but not required.

Some say, “But a Christian will want to obey.” Why obey something that has no relationship to going to heaven?

Let me raise some questions for those teaching that grace excludes law. Is grace no longer essential after becoming a Christian?  When one is saved by grace, does he then live the Christian life by law without grace?  Surely not.  Does it not follow that one obeys after becoming a Christian and that obedience does not conflict with grace?  When the Christian obeys, what is obeyed?  If commands, it is law.

One not only becomes a Christian by faith, but the Christian lives by faith. (Galatians 2:11, 20).  One cannot live the Christian life by faith alone—that is, faith minus obedience.  Then why think one may become a Christian by faith minus obedience?

No one denies a Christian must be obedient. (Hebrews 5:8-9)  What does the Christian obey?  Is it law?  If not, what does he obey?  If law, then law does not exclude grace.  Christians are not sinlessly perfect.  That kind of imperfection requires grace.

There is the second raw of pardon for the Christian.  I do not hesitate to refer to it as the law of pardon for a Christian.  When a Christian sins, he must repent. (Acts 8:22)  He must confess his sin and pray. (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:22).  Would one deny that a Christian must obey these commands?  When one obeys them, is it submission to law?  Does one’s obedience cancel out grace? When one is forgiven, it must be in one of two ways— merit or grace. Forgiveness by merit is an impossibility.  Pardon is extended only through grace. When a Christian sins, repents, confesses it, and prays; he has submitted to law and receives pardon.  Obedience is necessary, but it does not earn pardon.

If the second law of pardon does not conflict with grace, why would the first law of pardon—the one for the alien?  Grace does not exclude law if correctly interpreted.