Would you be surprised that God's law leads to His mercy?
Obeying His Commandments from our heart is what He's really after!
So many times I have heard it said that we are not under the law but under grace. I have even said it many times myself. Is it just a cliche? What am I really saying? Is the law the enemy of grace?
First, let's look at a prophecy that combines God's law, grace, and mercy. It's the declaration of the new covenant that God made in Jesus Christ. It's found in Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and reaffirmed in Hebrews 8 and 10.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV
The Commandments God wrote on two tablets of stone in the first covenant He writes on the minds and hearts of those who embrace His new covenant. The wisdom of His new covenant calls for us to know them and welcome them in our hearts. Listening to Jeremiah's prophecy makes me wonder why I should be so flippant at distancing myself from the law of God. Apparently He wants to advance its impact on my life and not separate me from them.
I could very easily think that God's law and grace are incompatible, especially reading scriptures like Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16 which say, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law..." and "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." NIV
When I compare the scriptures from Jeremiah, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews they seem to cross like tangled fishing lines. But, are they really crossed and tangled? Here are a few observations.
Before we look at being justified we need to remember one thing. We are all very unjust. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Mindful of our sin and God's call to obey His Commandments, Paul said the roll that we play in observing the law will not justify us and will not make us righteous. Observing the law does not justify us though it is the just way of living. Observing the law does not make us righteous though it is the right thing to obey. We should observe the law, not to be justified, but to pursue right living and prevent the cultivation of sin. Likewise, we do not obtain righteousness by proclaiming faith in Jesus Christ and living a lawless life. If we fail to observe the law by ignoring His Commandments then we do many things that are not right in God's sight.
If I disobey God's law, then I am unjust and unrighteous. I sin. If I chose my own moral standards to declare my righteous then I raise my throne above God's. I sin and I am deceived. If I choose to ignore the law all together and throw off all restraints then I am a lawless man. As a person who has fallen short of the glory of God, I do so in one of these three categories. Paul identifies this in Romans 2:12. The only difference is that he places all who are not submitted to God's Commandments into one category. "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law." Romans 2:12 NIV
If we look into God's law, we find that grace is embedded there. Here sinners find mercy. Why? Because the law that God gave in the first covenant and writes on our hearts in the second covenant offers to us the weighty provisions of mercy for the atonement of sin. It's God's grace. God provides atonement for sin in His law, no where else. The difference is in the covenants and not a changing of Commandments. To compare the two you must look at their promises, the Priest, and the sacrifice.
Mercy and grace won't come by setting up my own moral code or by getting rid of God's Commandments. The acceptable sacrifice for sin was authored, provided, and administered through the law. The office of the High Priest with its authority and administration of atonement was only found in the law. The high priest was always a Levite under the first covenant and Jesus Christ under the second. There is no other mediator who ministers to God or makes atonement for the people. We only have those provisions because they were given to us in the law. There are no provisions found anywhere else.
Jesus did not do away with the law, no, He is a priest forever. He fulfilled the first covenant to administer the second. He now ministers His life to us who believe on Him as God's Son. He alone is our justification and righteousness. He is the sacrificed Lamb! He is our High Priest! Not so for those who sin apart from God's law. They have no Priest, they have no sacrifice, and they have no atonement, so they perish.
If I want the provisions of mercy and grace to be applied to my life then I take the first step of responding to God by bringing myself under His law. When I confess my sin, I am acknowledging the truth and authority of God's Commands. When I repent of my sin, I am turning to Christ and submitting myself to obey His Commandments. He does all the forgiving, justifying, converting, and empowering. I am simply believing, turning, and obeying.
There are many gifts given to us when we come into covenant with God, including God sending us His Holy Spirit. Praise God! But, today I write about trusting in Jesus and what He has done for us by fulfilling the law. I realize that He did not get rid of the law but that He ministers the grace provided through His sacrifice for my sins. He kept the Commandments but changed the covenant.
Because the law provides for the atonement of sin and Jesus is the atonement and High Priest, I commit myself to obey God's Commandments. I do not do so to justify myself or to establish my own righteousness. I do so to obey Him and please Him while remaining positioned where Christ provided atonement for my sins. If I sin, then I will confess my sin and repent towards God. By grace I have been saved through faith and not of my works. Praise the name of the Lord!
"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." Galatians 4:4-6 NIV
" Praise the Lord I'm in the new covenant with Christ!"