Law vs Grace:
Is there a conflict?

"...for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14)

  • ROMANS 6

    First, grace (God's freely given desire and ability to do His will, Ph. 2:13) called the sinner, a servant of sin, to freedom through faith in Christ, for by grace are ye saved. The sinner serving his master, sin, was headed for death and destruction, but his union through faith to Christ's death and resurrection freed him from his servitude to guilt, temporal power and the eternal hold of sin, damnation. God's Spirit of Grace freely given at conversion provides both the desire and power to do God's good pleasure as revealed in His Word of Truth; grace thus frees the believer from his former master, the lusts of sin, v. 7.

    Second, Paul identifies the believer with the risen Christ over Whom sin had no power; therefore, sin has no power over the believer united in Christ through faith, v. 10. (Cf. Gal. 2:20; v. 21, the law could not provide righteousness for the OT saints. (The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law, 1 Co 15:56. The Jews saw justification resulting from obedience to God's law, but obedience could not remove the fear of death brought about by the law; only Christ could remove that fear.)

    Third, the sin principle Paul develops is sin's power to cause individuals to follow after corrupt desires contrary to God's Word, v. 12.

    Fourth, righteousness, v. 13, has two understandings: first righteousness for eternal life provided only through faith in Christ, and second righteousness, i.e. right living, in this present life resulting from the power of the indwelling Spirit, v. 16. Not only does Paul clearly list God's standard for right living in this life, i.e. righteousness, Rom. 13:8-14, but the Apostle John clearly defines sin as the transgression of the law of righteousness, 1 Jn. 3:4; 5:17. John is dogmatic: if one is righteous/just before God by faith, he will desire to be righteous/just in this life according to God's Commands, 1 Jn. 2:3; 3:24; 5:2, 3; 2 Jn. 1:6. "The inwrought divine will" is not the Christian standard of life; anyone saying he knows God and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 Jn. 2:4 (see Jo 8:44).

    Fifth, the law of sin is to have no dominion over the believer, v. 14. Its power was broken by the Spirit of Grace through faith in Christ. Moreover, the Spirit of Grace released the believer from guilt, the temporal power and the eternal hold or penalty of sin, hell. Can the believer now say that because the eternal hold of sin is no longer active against him, God's holy law of righteousness no longer applies? GOD FORBID. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good, Rom. 7:12. The law is holy in itself; the fault is in us, the abusers of the law.


    Paul continually presents an antithesis, but his is between obedience and life and disobedience and death, both according to God's law, Rom. 6:13, 16; Gal. 6:8, &c. Grace frees the believer from sin's power which causes one to follow the ways of death.

    Therefore, the first thing the believer should remember is that he is not under the law and power of sin seeking control over him contrary to the commands of God, i.e. he is no longer a servant of sin, Rom. 13:8-14; rather, he is under the Spirit of Grace freeing him from the power of sin. But the Spirit's ability to live above the law of sin is not passive; it requires Godly discipline, starting with retraining the mind, Rom. 12:1, 2.

    "But," one might say, "Was not Israel under the law?" Israel was given the law, but Israel was never under the law for righteousness unto eternal life: ISRAEL WAS NEVER JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW. Salvation has always been, is and will always be by grace through faith in God's Sinless Substitute. Legalism desires to add works of any kind to the finished work of Christ; among other things, the Legalizers with whom Paul dealt attempted to add circumcision, e.g. baptism, to the work of Christ. God, in the Old or New Testament, never added any works to faith, though obviously Biblical faith results in Godly works in both Testaments. Hear what Christ said about the OT gospel:

    Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. (Jn. 8:56.) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk. 24:27.)

    How Christ was presented to the OT saints we are not told, but we do know that faith in Christ, typified in the offerings and sacrifices, was and is THE requirement for justification, "eternal life," from the beginning of man's existence to his end. There was never a time in history when God used the law to provide righteousness/redemption/justification; redemption has always been through faith in God's provided Redeemer, Job 19:25. Moreover, Israel was judged not because he failed to keep the law, but because of his uncircumcised, faithless heart, Jer. 9:25., &c.

  • ROMANS 3

    Certainly, no flesh shall be justified in his sight by the deeds of the law, Rom 3:19, 20 & 21a. But if the rest of v. 21 is not used, God's Word is mutilated: Paul clearly states the righteousness of God without the law was manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; thus though concealed in the OT sacrifices, the OT gospel was God's provided justification by faith without by the deeds of the law; Christ clearly revealed the OT gospel. Therefore, Paul argues that though Israel, through whom God chose to show Himself strong, had been given the law, Israel still could only be justified, made righteous, through faith, and the fact of justification by faith alone was obvious from the law and prophets. Paul consistently makes the point that redemption, justification never came through obedience to the law. Rather, all who seek righteousness/justification through the deeds of the law, from the first man Adam to the present, find only death.

  • ROMANS 4

    When Paul said ...that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith, (Gal. 3:11) he was speaking of all men of all times, restating what was already in effect. Paul continually confronts the Jews over their false idea that God offered, in any way or in any time, righteousness through the deeds of the law; Paul thus calls them to faith in Christ for justification. Rom. 4:1-10 gives us Paul's argument that the OT saints were justified by faith alone without the law:

    First, Abraham was not made righteous by works. "Why," Paul points out, "do those proud of their linage to Abraham depend on their deeds according to the law and traditions for righteousness and justification when Abraham did not?"

    Second, if Abraham had been justified by works, he would have had grounds for pride, and God would have been debtor to him: there would be no grace. Therefore, faith has always been the grounds for justification, righteousness before God, for God is debtor to no man, Rom. 11:35. James, though, makes it clear that faith, exemplified by Abraham, without works is dead, 2:18. Paul argues against any heretical teaching that the OT saints were justified by the deeds of the law.

    Third, God's righteousness by grace - not works - was clearly evident not only in Abraham, but in David. Thus faith resulted in God's righteousness throughout the OT period. The fact that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness is important enough that the Lord said it at least five times, Gen. 15:16; Rom. 4:3, 9; Gal. 3:6; Ja. 2:23.

    Fourth, faith for righteousness before God was not restricted to the OT nation of Israel, i.e. the circumcision, and Paul uses Abraham as his proof; Abraham is the father of all them that believe regardless of their physical relationship to him, v. 11. The promise went through the line of faith and grace, through the righteousness of faith, not through the line of the deeds of the law, v. 13.

    Fifth, the Lord told His OT people what He thought of those who failed in faith, Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith, Habakkuk 2:4.

    Therefore, not only did the Word of God rebuke the OT Jews, but Paul soundly rebuked the Jews of his day for "resting in the law" to justify themselves before the Father; the charge against them was especially serious because the righteousness of faith in Christ was so clearly presented in the law and prophets. Never was any person justified by the deeds of the law; every person from the time of Adam is justified freely by God's sovereign grace, viz. God alone opens man's eyes to see his need to trust in God's provided Sinless Sacrifice, Ps. 14:1, Rom. 3:10. The crowning glory of Israel, therefore, was Israel's God: He chose to show His marvelous grace through Israel above all the other nations on earth, De. 4:34, Jer. 2:11. He worked in and through them despite themselves.

  • ROMANS 5

    The works of the law were NEVER able to redeem fallen man; Paul's reference to all men in Rom 5:18 includes both Old Testament and New Testament saints. The redemptive work of Christ was needed for all men of all times because the law could redeem neither fallen Adam nor his fallen children. The purposes of the law was to reveal man's sinful condition, his shortness from God's glory and his need for God's provided righteousness through the Sinless Sacrifice, Christ, Rom 5:20; Gal 3:24, 25 (note that faith takes care of the conviction of the law that brings one to Christ). Paul's antithesis is the offence of one man, Adam, and the obedience of one man, Christ: just as Adam's offence placed all future generations under the curse of sin and death, Christ's obedience reaches all generations, including Adam. Christ paid the penalty of all who by faith look(ed) to God's Sinless Sacrifice to pay the price for their sins, John 3:14.

    Though God's law was written in man's heart at creation, the clear delineation of the law entered the world from the Mount; therefore, the clear delineation of God's grace also entered the world from the Mount. The law entered, showing how undeserving Israel was of God's blessings, provisions, &c. God's undeserved grace was not clearly shown in Abraham, for the law was not yet given. Thus the law showed how great God's grace was as He took the "lawless" people unto Himself, leading them in His way. Grace and law go hand in hand: Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, Rom 5:20. God's abounding grace overcomes man's abounding sin as defined by God's law. Therefore, to make the law as given at the Mount an antithesis of the abundant grace of God is clearly a very wicked sin.

    John 1:17, For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Observe: First, though appearing to present a "grace-law antithesis," the word but is added to the text; it is, consequently, unwise to suppose a doctrine, especially one as evil as militancy between God's grace and God's law, on the translators' added word. Second truth was not new with Christ; certainly, He is truth incarnate, but truth is God's revelation of Himself to man through His Law-Word, Dan 9:13, Mal 2:6, & Rom 2:20, and through the Man Christ Jesus, John 1:17. Thus though the OT saints lacked the NT incarnation of the TRUTH of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6, they did not lack God's TRUTH. Moreover, despite for God's law is despite for the incarnate TRUTH, the Lord Jesus Christ, for God's law and His TRUTH are one and the same, Ps 119:142. Hence, the OT saints lacked God's grace, i.e. God's power that provides freedom from the power of sin, as we know it today because that powerful grace came through Christ. Through Christ, no matter how great the power of sin is upon an individual, the Godly power and desire to overcome sin is greater. In addition, the OT saints lacked the personal revelation of truth in action as revealed by the Man Christ Jesus.

  • ROMANS 11

    V. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

    Paul does not present any supposed antithesis or militancy between grace and law, and beware of those who would attempt to do so (2 Pet 3:16). Paul simply says that Israel sought to obtain redemption through works but failed miserably to his own destruction, v. 7. Paul points out that the doctrine of God's freely given grace according to His sovereign will, election, is not new: it was very evident when He reserved to Himself seven thousand men, v. 4. God chose His remnant according to His sovereign grace, not according to their works, and Paul uses this fact to soundly rebuke those who tried to seek God's justifying redemption through works. He also gives the reason they sought redemption through works, viz. God hath given them the spirit of slumber..., vv. 7. This is a hard saying, but the OT gospel of righteousness/justification according to the election of grace apart from the deeds of the law is so clear that the Spirit must hide it.

    The law was then and is now God's standard for right living: it shows man how far short of God's glory he is, and it shows his need of both the Sinless Substitute to pay the eternal payment for sin and for the Spirit of Grace to free him from sin's control and thus from the destructive temporal results of sin, 2 Cor 5; Gal 6:7-9. The Lord never freed man from the requirements of His Commandments.


    The Lord promises to freely give us all things because of Christ, Rom 8:32, but the context of the chapter places conditions upon v. 32, i.e.

    For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (8:3, 4.)

    Namely, the law could not give the power to fulfill its righteous requirements so one could inherit God's temporal blessings, but the Spirit of God's grace given through faith in His Son certainly enables one to fulfill its righteous requirements. Furthermore, the blessings in Eph 1:3 were promised to those living above the desires of the flesh by the power of the Spirit of Grace, Eph 2:2. The blessings of Rom 8:32 and Eph 2:2 cannot be construed as unconditional unless one calls Christ a liar, for He clearly required obedience to His command-word, e.g. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him, John 14:21. See all of John 14 & 15.

    "What about the `if...then' promise of Ex 19:5?" Obviously, it was given to OT Israel after his redemption from Egypt; but equally obvious is that vv. 5 & 6 are quoted by Peter for application to God's people of all time:

    But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Pet. 2:9.)

    Peter continues, holding God's people to His standard of "good and evil" established for them by the Lord; he also warns against using Christian liberty to cloak maliciousness, vv. 10-16. Not only did Peter bring forth the "if...then" covenant to the church, but so did the Apostle John: And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight, 1 John 3:22. The "if...then" covenant cannot be voided by unbelief, for God continually presents the choice between the ways of life and death as presented in His Word, De 5:33; Gal 6:7-9.

    "UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW" must logically say that choices by individuals or nations have neither good nor bad consequences according to the Word of God, which is totally contrary to Rom 2. The Lord knew false teachers would abound; therefore, He warns against being deceived into thinking that choices do not have consequences before God according to His established rules of life, i.e. Rom 13:8-14.

    Additionally, the enemy's perversion of "UNDER GRACE, NOT LAW" logically means that Christ, the Word of God, militated against God's law. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil, Mat 5:17.

    Christ did not come to bring any new way of righteousness and salvation into the world, but indeed to fulfil that which was shadowed by the figures of the Law, by delivering men through grace from the curse of the Law: and moreover to teach the true use of obedience which the Law appointed, and to engrave in our hearts the power for obedience. (Geneva)

    God's grace is freely given through faith in Christ; it frees the Child of God from lust's sinful laws warring within, permitting him to choose the ways of life over the ways of death. Sin's demands for a life in rebellion to God's law is voided by God's grace, so the believer is "not under law, but under grace;" God's grace gives a new desire to live according to God's commandments:

    And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 Jn. 2:3, 4.) And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (3:24.) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (5:2, 3.) And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. (2 Jn. 1:6.)

    The same John who wrote John chapters 14 & 15 wrote that the Spirit of God gives to God's redeemed enjoyment in knowing and doing God's commandments. Therefore, according to the Apostle, those who seek to void God's commandments know not God through Christ. Though apparently John excludes from God's kingdom those who find God's commandments grievous, Christ is more charitable:

    Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:19.)

    We do know that those presenting a law vs. grace militancy, antithesis, are doing great violence to the Lord and His Word. They and their followers are consequently in grave danger from the God of the Commandments. (Heb. 12:25.)

    We must conclude, therefore, that God's law and God's grace were NEVER at enmity. Throughout the NT, Christ, Paul and the rest of the authors prove over and over that the OT saints were justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    But equally clear is the fact that those who throughout history have been and are justified by grace through faith have always had love for and desire toward God's commandments: they see them as God's standard of holiness to be obtained through self-discipline and the working of God's Spirit of Grace.

    Printed copies of the above in tract form as the Lord Provides:

    Pastor Ovid Need
    Linden Baptist Church
    P.O. Box 6 (30 Plum St)
    Linden, Indiana 47955
    (765) 339-4609
    Pastor Need

    ['Unpublished Material']   ['Home Page']   ['The Biblical Examiner']