grace, God does not treat men as they deserve, but
He treats them in infinite grace,
without reference to their deserts."
The words law and
grace represent widely differing methods of divine dealing
with men. It is
therefore well first to consider them separately:
I. THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF
THE WORD "LAW"
1. Law as a Rule of
When used to indicate a rule of life, the word "law" has
(1) The Ten Commandments, which were written by the finger
of God on tables of stone (Exod.
(2) The whole system of government for Israel when in the
land which included the
Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17), the Judgments (Exod. 21:1 to
24:11), and the Ordinances
(Exod. 24:12 to 31:18).
(3) The governing principles of the yet future kingdom of
the Messiah in the earth, which are in
no way gracious in character, but rather are said to be the
fulfilling of the law and the prophets
(Matt. 5:1 to 7:29. Note 5:17, 18; 7:12).
(4) Any aspect of the revealed will of God for men (Rom.
7:22, 25; 8:4).
(5) Any rule of conduct prescribed by men for their own
government (2 Tim. 2:5; Matt. 20:15;
Luke 20:22). The word "law" is also used a few times of a
force in operation (Rom. 7:21; 8:2).
2. The Law as a Covenant of Works
Under this conception of the law, its scope is extended
beyond the actual writings of the Mosaic
system and the Kingdom law, and includes any human action
which is attempted (whether in
conformity to a precept of the Scriptures or not), with a
view to securing favor with God. The
law formula is "If you will do good, I will bless you." Thus
the highest ideal of heavenly
conduct, if undertaken with a view to securing favor with
God instead of being undertaken
because one has already secured favor through Christ,
becomes purely legal in its character.
3. The Law as a Principle of Dependence on the Flesh
The law provided no enablement for its observance. No more
was expected or secured in return
from its commands than the natural man in his environment
could provide. Therefore, whatever
is undertaken in the energy of the flesh is legal in its
nature, whether it be the whole revealed will
of God, the actual written commandments contained in the
law, the exhortations of grace, or any
spiritual activity whatsoever.
For the child of God under grace, every aspect of the law is
now done away (John 1:16, 17; Rom.
6:14; 7:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Gal.
3:19-25). (1) The legal commands of the
Mosaic system and the commands which are to govern in the
kingdom are not now the guiding
principles of the Christian. They have been superseded by a
new and gracious rule of conduct
which includes in itself all that is vital in the law, but
restates it under the peculiar order and
character of grace. (2) The child of God under grace has
been delivered from the burden of a
covenant of works. He is not now striving to be accepted,
but rather is free to live as one who is
accepted in Christ (Eph. 1:6). (3) The child of God is not
now called upon to live by the energy
of his own flesh. He has been delivered from this feature of
the law, and may live in the power of
the indwelling Spirit. Since the written law was addressed
to Israel, she alone could be delivered
from the written commandments of Moses by the death of
Christ. However, both Jew and
Gentile were delivered by that death from the hopeless
principle of human merit, and from the
useless struggle of the flesh.
II. THE BIBLICAL MEANING
OF THE WORD "GRACE"
This word, which in
salvation truth has but the one meaning of unmerited favor,
divine method of dealing with men which has obtained from
Adam until the present time, except
for the intrusion of the law system which was in force in
the time between Moses and Christ.
Under grace, God does not treat men as they deserve, but He
treats them in infinite grace,
without reference to their deserts. This He is free to do on
the ground of the fact that the
righteous punishment for sin which His holiness would
otherwise impose upon sinners as their
just desert was to be borne, or has been borne, for the
sinner by the Son of God.
In Exodus 19:3-25 a record is given of Israel's choice by
which they passed from a grace
relationship to God into a law relationship. In each
instance they were sinners, but through
sovereign grace and in spite of their sin God had been able
to bear them on eagles' wings and
bring them to Himself (19:4). God proposed the law to them,
but did not impose the law on them
(19:5-7), which law the people accepted (19:8). Thus they
deliberately forsook their priceless
position under grace, which was according to the covenant
made with Abraham, and assumed the impossible responsibility
of law by which they must stand or fall before God on the
basis of their own merit. Immediately upon this choice God
became unapproachable (19:9-24), though before, He had
brought them to himself on eagles' wings. The nation thus
fell from grace by choosing a covenant of works in place of
the gracious mercy of God. The experience of that nation is
the experience of every individual who trusts in his own
good works or merit, and does not depend on the boundless
grace of God, which in Christ Jesus is provided for and
offered to all.
Divine grace is three-fold in its operation:
1. Salvation by Grace
God saves sinners by grace, and there is no other way of
salvation offered to men (Acts 4:12).
Saving grace is the limitless, unrestrained love of God for
the lost acting in compliance with the
exact and unchangeable demands of His own righteousness
through the sacrificial death of
Christ. Grace is more than love; it is love set free and
made to be a triumphant victor over the
righteous judgments of God against the sinner. When saving a
sinner by grace, it is necessary
that God shall have dealt with every sin, which would
otherwise demand judgment and thereby
hinder His grace. This He has wrought in the death of His
Son. It is also necessary that every
obligation shall be cancelled, and to this end salvation has
been made an absolute gift from God
(Eph. 2:8; John 10:28; Rom. 6:23). Likewise, it is necessary
that every human merit shall be set
aside, lest the thing which God accomplishes shall be in any
measure based on the merit of men,
and not on His sovereign grace alone (Rom. 3:9; 11:32; Gal.
3:22). Since every human element is excluded, the Gospel of
grace is the proclamation of the mighty, redeeming,
transforming grace of God, which offers eternal life and
eternal glory to all who will believe.
2. Safe-keeping through Grace
It is through grace alone that God keeps those who are
saved. Having provided a way whereby
He can act in freedom from His own righteous demands against
sin, having disposed of every
human obligation for payment, and having set aside eternally
every human merit, God has only
to continue the exercise of grace toward the saved one to
secure his safe-keeping forever. This
He does, and the child of God is said to stand in grace
(Rom. 5:2; 1 Pet. 5:12).
3. Grace Provides a Rule of Life for the Saved
God teaches those who are saved and kept how they should
live in grace, and how they may live
to His eternal glory.
As the law provided a complete rule of conduct for Israel,
so God has provided a complete rule
of conduct for the Christian. Since each and all rules of
life which are presented in the Bible are
complete in themselves, it is not necessary that they shall
be combined. Therefore the child of
God is not under law as a rule of life, but he is under the
counsels of grace. What he does under
grace is not done to secure the favor of God, but it is done
because he is already accepted in the
Beloved. It is not undertaken in the energy of the flesh,
but it is the outliving and manifestation
of the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is a life which is
lived on the principle of faith. "The just
shall live by faith." These principles are stated in
portions of the Gospels and the Epistles.
1. What is represented by
the words law and grace?
2. Name the three-fold principle of the law.
3. Name five aspects of the law as a rule of life.
4. Define what is involved in the law as a covenant of
5. Define what is involved in the law as a principle of
dependence on the flesh.
6. What aspects of the law are done away for the child of
God under grace?
7. What particular deliverance came to the nation Israel,
and what two deliverances came to all
mankind through the death of Christ?
a. What is the Biblical meaning of the word grace?
b. How long has grace obtained?
c. When and for how long did it cease?
a. Describe the experience of Israel as recorded in Exodus
19:3-25 in passing from grace into
b. At that time did God propose or impose the law?
10. How does Israel's experience illustrate the position of
every self-trusting sinner?
11. Wherein is divine grace more than divine love?
a. What has been divinely accomplished by the death of
Christ regarding the three major
principles of the law?
b. What alone is imposed on the sinner as the condition of
13. Describe the exercise of grace in the safe-keeping of
those who are saved.
a. By what rule are those who are saved by grace expected to
b. Is this a rule complete in itself?
c. What is the motive which should actuate its observance?
d. Where in the Scriptures is the grace rule presented?