Grace vs Law by Alvin Swee
There has always been a debate over the issue of whether a person is saved once and forever the moment he accepts Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. The irony is that nobody disputes the fact that no one can be saved by means of his or her own righteous deeds no matter how great. Every Christian believes that one is saved only by grace through faith. However, there are Christians who believe that if you sin as a Christian, you lose fellowship with God. Is this true?
As a sinner, no matter what you do (good or bad) will be able to bring you close to God. (because this one is not in Christ). As a Christian, no matter what you do (good or bad) will be able to bring you far from God (because we are in Christ). The Blood of Jesus is greater than the blood of bulls and goats. Every New Year in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the priest will sacrifice a bull to make atonement for the entire nation and they will be righteous for an entire year. How much more the Blood of Jesus! (Heb 10:1-18).
How then are we to explain Heb 10:23-27, particularly v26 where it says that “if we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”? (NASB). The book of Hebrews was written to the Jews. Here the part of sinning wilfully refers to not holding fast to the confession of our hope in verse 23. The knowledge of the truth is that Jesus is the ultimate Sacrifice for all our sins. That is why it says further, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”. This is because the Jews cannot go back to their offerings of bulls and goats to atone for their wilful act of rejecting His Son as the Sacrifice and regard the Blood of Jesus to be unclean in verse 29.
The purpose of the Law was given to expose man’s sins and that through no man’s works will he be justified. (Rom 3:19-20). 1 Cor 15:56 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law”. No man can fulfil the Law perfectly, except Jesus. That is why Jesus said that He came to fulfil the Law. In fulfilling the Law, He took our place on the cross and overpaid the price for our salvation. All our sins were on Jesus and judgement came upon Him at that cross so that we who believe will never be judged again. Jesus has triumphant over sin and death. This is the Gospel: Good News.
We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). Moreover, in Rom 5:1, it says that “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). He is the Lamb of God that we bring for our sin offering. There are some Christians who would then ask about the book of James where it says “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17,26).They would claim that you would need to have works in order for you to be saved, quoting v14: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”. This is what the “Spirit Filled Life Bible” says of v14-26:
“James does not set faith against works, but rather discusses two kinds of faith: a dead faith and a saving faith. Saving faith is not simply a profession or an empty claim (v14-17), nor is it merely the acceptance of a creed (v18-20). Saving faith is that which produces an obedient life (v 21-26).”
Take note that James refers the person as “someone” not as one saved. It is as someone who professes to be a Christian but deny Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Here James emphases how one should conduct oneself as a Christian because of who he is in Christ. Note that Abraham was about 75 years old (Gen 12:4) when he believed in the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness. It was only after he was about 99 years old (Gen 17:1, 22:15-18) did he ‘produced’ that work. Thus, we see that true faith by His grace will produce true works by His grace; that He alone deserves all glory. (Read Rom 4:3 and Gal 3:6).
Moreover, in Rom 5:12-13, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned-For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” And it says again in verse 17-21: “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Does this mean that we can then go on sinning as Christians? That is why Paul goes on to say in Rom 6:1 onwards, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life……v14: For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
For the same reason, James 5:19-20 says “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Wander from what truth? The truth that we are not under law but under grace, that sin shall not have dominion over us but we walk in the newness of life in Christ. We pray for one another and support one another that we may be restored physically, mentally and emotionally, as James wrote in verses 13-18 in the same chapter. Jesus gave us the parable of the prodigal son; note that he was always the father’s son, but until he returned to the father, he was suffering. He knew the father from the beginning, thus, he was not considered as a sinner as some Christians claim. That is why when he came back, he asked his father to make him a hired servant. He did not understand the extent of the father’s love and grace. On the other hand, his brother who has been with the father all this while thinks that he could earn the father’s favour; he too did not understand the fullness of the father’s love and grace.
In 1 John 1:7-10, John was writing against the teaching of the Gnostic teaching that matter is essentially evil and spirit is essentially good; thus the body that Jesus supposedly possessed was not real, but merely apparent. They also taught that since the evil human body was merely a covering of the spirit within, there is nothing the body can do to affect the good part of the spirit, concluding that they had no sin. (read commentary on the book of James from the Spirit Filled Life Bible). That is why it is stated in verses 8-10 that they must first acknowledge their sin so that they may be forgiven. He was not writing to Christians as some supposed. That is why it is written in 1 John 1:7,”But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
In conclusion, I would like to quote Rom 8:1-4,
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
*All scriptures quoted are from the NKJV unless stated.