“Not Under Law, But Under Grace?” (Part 2)


In the last installment, we discussed the meaning of Paul’s statement in Romans 6:14-15 that we are “not under law.” In this installment, we will discuss the remainder of his statement, that we are now “under grace,” and we will also show why that this fact may abolish sin’s “dominion” over our lives.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 tells us that death will be swallowed up in victory when we become immortal spirit beings (unable to die anymore), exclaiming: “O Death, where is your sting?… The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” When we sin (by transgressing the law), then we bring the death penalty upon us. But Paul continues: “But thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Notice: God GIVES us the victory. The Bible tells us that we can find mercy, forgiveness, protection and help from God. We can be placed under God’s grace, rather than living “under the penalty of the law.”

God, through Jesus Christ, is offering us His grace, so that we can be freed from the law’s death penalty. When we accept God’s grace, then we are UNDER His grace. We can be under God’s protection.

Jesus uses a similar analogy when He states in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under (Greek: “hupo”) her wings, but you were not willing.”

We must be willing to come under Christ’s wings. You must be willing to “humble yourselves under (Greek: “hupo”) the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

The use of the Greek word “hupo”, in English “under,” is important. We are no longer “under” the law—it’s death penalty—but “under” grace. Since God is willing to give us protection by, symbolically speaking, gathering us “under” His wings, and as we are to humble ourselves “under” the mighty hand of God, we can come “under” God’s grace; that is, under God’s protection and authority. In Matthew 8:9, a Roman centurion states that he is “a man under (Greek, “hupo”) authority, having soldiers under (Greek, “hupo”)” him (compare also Luke 7:8). In the same way, we are “under” God’s grace, coming “under” and putting our trust “under” the shadow of His wings (compare Psalm 17:8; 36:7).

We are still using similar terminology today when we want to express the thought that someone is under authority of someone or something else. We speak of someone who is “under the influence” of alcohol; or that someone is placed “under observation.”

What, then, is meant in detail that we are to live “under grace”?

Simply put, God’s grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is the gift of God. It includes manifold facets of God’s undeserved pardon and forgiveness, His mercy and His compassion, and more.

The Greek word for “grace,” “charis,” can mean benefit, favor and gift. The Greek word “charisma” is derived from the word, “charis.”

God’s grace is a gift, and it includes forgiveness of our sins and thereby the removal of the death penalty. We were freely justified by God’s grace—in that God forgave us our sins, following our repentance and belief in Christ’s Sacrifice (Romans 3:23-24).

Paul makes clear that we cannot justify ourselves. When we sin, we incur the death penalty, which needs to be forgiven. The law–any law, whether ritual or spiritual–

cannot forgive our sins or justify us. We read in Galatians 5:4: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

Titus 3:7 confirms that we are justified by grace, adding this: “… having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

When and as long as we are under grace, and not under the law’s death penalty, then we have the promise of eternal life (Romans 6:23: “the GIFT of God is eternal life”)—something which is promised to us by grace. (1 Peter 3:7 speaks of the “grace of life.”)

We need to realize what all is included in the concept that we are under grace. First of all, grace is a GIFT which is FREELY given to us. We cannot earn it—nothing that we do “entitles” us to receive God’s gift of His grace (Romans 5:15; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 3:7).

We read that God calls us to salvation through His grace (Galatians 1:15). It is a gift from God that we even CAN come to Him. We read in John 6:44 that we cannot come to God unless God draws us to Him (and John 6:65 says that this must be “granted” to us). And Romans 2:4 adds that repentance is a gift from God as well.

We read that we believe through grace (Acts 18:27). It is a gift from God that we even CAN believe.

We read that it is through the grace of God that we have been and can be saved (Acts 15:11; compare Ephesians 2:8).

None of this does away with the need to keep God’s law.

Paul asks the question in Romans 6:1, whether we should continue in sin after we have obtained God’s grace of forgiveness. His conclusion is: Absolutely not. He says that we were once slaves of sin, but that we now have become slaves of righteousness. If we were to continue in the practice of sinful conduct, we would have received God’s grace in vain.

Paul warns in Hebrews 12:15 that we must be diligent not to miss out on God’s grace. In Jude 4, we read of evil ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, thereby denying Christ.

In Ephesians 6:24 we read that God’s grace will be given to all those who love Jesus Christ in sincerity, and Christ told us that we love Him if we keep His words and commandments (John 14:15, 23).

Grace is not limited to the past. Rather, it is through grace that we can serve God now. Hebrews 12:28 says: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, BY WHICH we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” We are to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).

It is through grace that God gives us His Holy Spirit, and that is why we are warned not to insult “the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29).

Grace includes more than forgiveness of past sins. Otherwise, sin would again rule over us the minute we fall for its evil devices. And we oftentimes do. When we do, we can again obtain forgiveness after true repentance and belief in Christ’s Sacrifice, and God cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). But grace is no license to sin. God expects of us to become more and more perfect… to live more and more without sin.

However, as we saw, we cannot keep God’s law or be obedient to God, just on our own strength. We need God’s grace to be able to accomplish this.

And so, grace is not only the favor of forgiveness of past sins, but it also includes the strength and power to overcome sin now and in the future and to live more and more righteously. And this is an all-important reason WHY sin will have no more dominion over us, as we read in Romans 6:14-15.

In Titus 2:11-12, we read that God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that we are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we must instead live soberly, righteously and godly in this present evil world. The German Luther Bible is even clearer, emphasizing that it is the grace of God, which helps and motivates us to forsake ungodliness and to embrace a righteous and godly life.

The Life Application Bible has the following annotation: “If we’re no longer under the law but under grace, are we now free to sin and disregard the Ten Commandments? Paul says, ‘By no means.’ … the law does not justify us or help us to overcome sin. But now that we are bound to Christ, he is our Master, and he gives us power to do good rather than evil.”

Romans 5:8-10 adds that we were justified and reconciled to God through Christ’s death, but that we will be saved by His life. It is Christ’s life in us that continues to justify us and that saves us.

When we are under grace, we receive justification for our sins when we repent of them and believe in Christ’s Sacrifice. We become justified through faith. We must believe in Christ, but we must also have the faith OF Christ in us (Galatians 2:16, Authorized Version), which is given to us through the Holy Spirit. Christ must be living in us. It is HIS faith which continually justifies us.

In addition, we receive power and strength to become more and more righteous. God’s righteousness, which we are to seek (Matthew 6:33), is also God’s gift, as is God’s grace (Romans 5:17). In other words, God gives us His righteousness through His grace. He offers it to us, but we must accept it. When we let God live in us and guide us through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, then we will become more and more righteous.

We can only keep the righteous requirements of the law, IF Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit, and IF we follow Christ’s lead. Christ must keep the law in and through us (Romans 8:3-4). He condemned sin in His flesh—and we must allow Him to condemn sin today in our flesh.

Rather than abolishing law through grace, it is God’s grace which cleanses us from sin and which enables us to become more and more righteous by obeying the law. We are under grace—including its power to overcome sin—thereby abolishing sin’s dominion over us.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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