THE LAW AND GRACE – NOT OPPOSITES?

FOR YEARS GROWING UP, I’VE HEARD PEOPLE SAY THAT AS CHRISTIANS WE CANNOT MIX “LAW AND GRACE,” BECAUSE THEY SAID, THAT’S NOT THE GOSPEL.  But the problem with this view is that’s based on Christians taking the concept of GRACE out of its original context (the context of KINGDOM) and viewing it from an entirely different context (the context of RELIGION)?  What if I could show that God’s LAW and GRACE are really NOT opposed to one another at all?  And what if I could show from the Bible that Jesus and the LAW were actually different forms and expressions of the other?  Would that change your thought that Grace and LAW cannot be combined?

KINGDOM – THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT?

The problem we have traditionally had in Christianity, beginning in the second century, C.E., is that we have looked at the Bible as a RELIGIOUS text, rather than a KINGDOM text.  For example, we see the political, if not military, context of Kingdom brought out in the song of Moses, in Exodus 15, after the drowning of the Egyptian military in the Red Sea by God.  It is at the end of this song, where the first reference of God’s Kingdom is made in the Bible: “And the LORD shall reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18).

We also see the political context of the Kingdom when God chooses Israel’s first king, Saul, and then its second king, David, and then David’s son, Solomon, to take the throne after David dies.  These are clearly political contexts, not spiritual ones.  In fact, when announcing that Solomon would assume the throne after him, David says,

And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen my son  Solomon to sit on the throne of the KINGDOM OF THE LORD over Israel.  (I Chronicles 28:5; Emphasis Mine)

The phrase “Kingdom of the LORD” (Heb. malkhut YHWH) is clearly used here in a political context.  God is seen throughout the Scriptures as the KING of His KINGDOM, and in the New Testament, the phrase “Kingdom of the LORD” becomes “Kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God.”  This is all relevant because “GRACE” is a Kingdom concept.

ABOUT KINGS AND KINGDOMS

In a Kingdom, the King owns everything within His realm: the land, the buildings, the people, and even the work that the people do.  All belongs to Him.  It is all His.  Consequently, He is the One who decides what laws He will have, what are to be the values and beliefs of His kingdom, and even what feasts or celebrations those in His kingdom will observe or celebrate.  Also, citizenship in a kingdom is NOT a right, but a privilege, and is the result of the King’s right to choose whom He wants to be in His kingdom.  When a King chooses one to be a citizen of His Kingdom, then that individual has received the King’s “favor” or “GRACE.”

WHAT IS “GRACE”?

In the New Testament, the word “GRACE” is the English translation of the Greek word CHARIS.  It is the root word for the word CHARISMA (“GIFTS“), like in the “gifts of the Spirit,” or in the English CHARISMATIC. Ministers usually define it as “God’s undeserved favor,” but it’s also viewed in Christianity through the lens of RELIGION.  And as I’ve pointed out, the original CONTEXT was not RELIGION, but KINGDOM.  Consequently, then, although close, we should understand the King’s “FAVOR” or “GRACE” to be whenever the King – God = moves or does something on our behalf.  For example, when He chooses us to be one of His citizens, then His choice and decision to show us His “favor” or “grace.”

GRACE – A WHOLE BIBLE REVELATION?

But Grace is NOT just a New Testament revelation; it’s a revelation of God from cover to cover.  Many Christians have looked in the Old Testament to find the word “GRACE,” and they find a few references, but not as abundantly as they see it in the New Testament.  But what most Christians don’t know is that there are TWO Hebrew words that carry the meaning of “GRACE“: CHEN and CHESED.

  • CHEN.  This is the word that most Christians find when looking for the word “GRACE” in the Old Testament.  For example, in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found GRACE (Heb. CHEN) in the eyes of the LORD” (Emphasis Mine).
  • CHESED.  Like GRACE (Gk. CHARIS, Strong’s #5485) in the New Testament, CHESED (Strong’s #2617) is a major theological concept of the Old Testament.  The Hebrew word CHESED is a word with multiple layers of meaning: “love,” “benevolence,” “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “good will,” “favor,” “benefit,” “GRACE,” “mercy,” “piety loyalty,” “unfailing love,” and “beauty.”  It means all of these things.

Jesus’ disciples knew both the Hebrew and the Greek, and many of their references from the Old Testament actually come from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, now called the Septuagint, since most Greek-speakers outside the land of Israel were already familiar with this translation.  But they also knew the importance of CHESED in their own lives, and for those who would read their writings, and so they used TWO GREEK WORDS to translate the core meaning of this ONE HEBREW WORDAGAPE (LOVE) and CHARIS (GRACE).  This is why these two words are paired up so often in the New Testament.  They are NOT a New Testament revelation, but a revelation of God that we see throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

SOME OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES:

FROM THE PSALMS

For example, growing up, we use to sing the chorus: “Thy LOVINGKINDNESS is better than life” (Psalm 63:3).  The word “lovingkindness is the Hebrew word CHESED.  You can substitute the words “love and grace” for “lovingkindness,” and you maintain the essence of what this verse is really saying: “God’s love and grace are BETTER than life.”  What Christian would not likewise agree?

FROM THE TORAH (“LAW”)

We also see GRACE taught in God’s LAW.  The word translated as “LAW” is the Hebrew word TORAH.  But here’s another translation kicker: the word TORAH does NOT mean “LAW” at all, but it means “Instructions, Teachings, Guidance, and/or Directives.” TORAH is NOT LAW, it is INSTRUCTIONS, GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS on how we, as His people, are to live our lives with Him and with one another.  It’s focus is NOT about “getting people to heaven,” but on how we are to live our lives down here on earth.

But in Exodus 33, after the golden calf incident (Exodus 32),  Moses asked God to reveal to him His glory, and the LORD agrees to do so, since He and Moses were already in an intimate relationship, but only under the condition that He [the LORD] put him in the cleft of the rock and cover his face with His hand, so that he does not see the LORD’s face, for seeing it, God says, would kill him (Exodus 33:17-23).  When the LORD does pass by, Moses hears all of the “LORD’s goodness”:

And the LORD passed in front of him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God,  compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in LOVINGKINDNESS (Heb. CHESED) and truth, who keeps LOVINGKINDNESS (Heb. CHESED) for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will be no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7, NASB; Emphasis Mine)

There’s three things I’d like to point out here:

CHESED AND TRUTH

The first time CHESED appears, God is telling us that He is “abundant in CHESED and truth.” Although the word CHESED is translated into English as “LOVING-KINDNESS,” it could just as well have been translated as GRACE.  If that’s done, then we have the same exact phrase here that we find in John 1:17, “GRACE and truth.”  “GRACE and truth” are seen here proclaimed by God as one of His attributes here in God’s TORAH, and John writes that “GRACE and truth” came by Jesus Christ, because He’s the “WORD [of TORAH] MADE FLESH” (John 1:14), and as such, He brought God’s revelation that only Moses got to experience on Mt. Sinai, His “GRACE AND TRUTH,” and He brought it into the world for ALL to see and witness through His life and ministry.

GRACE does NOT oppose LAW; in fact, the word “but” in John 1:17 is NOT even in the original Greek text.  English translators added it.  John is telling us in John 1:17 that God has given us blessing upon blessing: the first blessing came when God gave to all of us, Jew and non-Jew alike, His TORAH on Mt. Sinai, and now, He’s given to us another blessing on top of that, which is His LIVING TORAH, prophesied in Isaiah 51:4-5,

Hearken unto Me, My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation: for a law [Heb. TORAH] shall proceed from Me, and I will make My judgment to rest for a light of the people.  My righteousness is near; My salvation is gone forth, and [His] arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon [Him], and on [His] arm shall they trust.  [Emphasis Mine]

In this passage, God prophecies about the coming LIVING TORAH, and that when He comes, He will bring God’s righteousness and salvation, and that His arms shall judge the people, and it will be upon His arm that they shall trust.  In our English translations, the words “My” is literally “His” in the Hebrew, and “Me” is literally “Him.”  Because of how this is translated, most people don’t realize that this is another Messianic prophecy.

According to the prophecy, this LIVING TORAH would “proceed from God,” and through the disciples’ interactions with Him, they knew that Jesus was the LIVING TORAH that God had promised.  In fact, according to archaeologists, digging in the land of Israel, they have found engraved in the homes of the early Jewish believers, the earliest title for Jesus, HATORAH, “The LIVING TORAH.”  And in his experience with Jesus, the LIVING TORAH, John writes,

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life — and the Life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father as was manifested unto us — (I John 1:1-2)

The LIVING TORAH, Jesus, was someone they could experience with all their senses; He was someone they could see, hear, touch, feel, and smell.  He was not an idea or some myth, but a real human being who was also God’s LIVING TORAH.  In John 5:45-47, Jesus says that “Moses wrote of Me,” and so the TORAH (or the first five books of the Bible; also called the Pentateuch) is the written description of Jesus, and Jesus is the living embodiment of the TORAH.  The more like Jesus we become, the more in line with TORAH we become, and the more in line with TORAH we become, the more like Jesus we become.  Jesus and the TORAH are ONE (Heb. ‘echad).

And by God sending His LIVING TORAH, His Son, Jesus Christ, we gained an intimately personal, up-close experience of His life and how He interacted with God and others, and therefore, through this experience, we gained a much better understanding of what God expects of us in living out and practicing His TORAH in our day-to-day life.   And because we have gained an even deeper, more intimate level of knowledge of God and His TORAH, as well as the salvation and freedom that He brought to us, this is why He is an even greater blessing than the written TORAH (John 1:14).

CHESED AND FORGIVENESS OF SIN

The second time the word CHESED appears it is in the context of the forgiveness of sin:  “who keeps LOVINGKINDNESS (Heb.  CHESED) for thousands, who forgives iniquity,  transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:7).  And this same idea is shared by David in his psalm, that was written to remind us not to forget “all His benefits”:

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.  The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in LOVINGKINDNESS (Heb. CHESED).

Now pay attention to how David describes God’s CHESED, His “lovingkindness,” or an even better translated as His “love and grace”:

He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever.  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His LOVINGKINDNESS [Heb. CHESED, “LOVE AND GRACE“] toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  (Psalm 103:7-12; Emphasis Mine]

Isn’t this the same God, the same love and GRACE that we see spoken of throughout the New Testament?  We need to know and realize that our God does NOT change (Malachi 4:2), and that His CHESED, His LOVE and GRACE, has likewise NOT changed.

GRACE & TORAH: THEIR INTERRELATED ROLES

So ask yourself, “If GRACE is first taught in the TORAH, God’s Instructions, then how can GRACE be in opposition to His TORAH (or “LAW“)Instead, like the children of Israel, it is by His GRACE that He chooses us to be a part of His Kingdom, a “KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION” (Exodus 19:5; I Peter 2:9).

God gives us His “FAVOR” or “GRACE” when He chooses us to be part of His KINGDOM, but He also gives us His “FAVOR” or “GRACE” when He leads us by His Spirit on how to walk out and observe His commandments as the lifestyle He has chosen for those who are part of His KINGDOM.  Our obedience to His TORAH, His Instructions and commandments does NOT make us citizens (i.e., or “saved”), but once we are citizens, God expects us to follow the instructions, commands, values and beliefs of His Kingdom since as His people, our lives are to be a reflection of Him and His Kingdom.  The process by which we learn how to live as Kingdom citizens is typically referred to as “SANCTIFICATION.”

In His Word, God is seen as the ultimate TEACHER who has provided us with His INSTRUCTIONS, TEACHINGS, and GUIDANCE, NOT a list of “Do’s and Don’ts, ” which is an extremely superficial view of it. Instead, God’s TORAH is described as containing His WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING (Deuteronomy 4:5-8), and it’s what we are to pursue (Proverbs 2:1, 2, 4-6); in fact, King Solomon wrote that it was the “whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Why?  Because God is all about “rules”?  No, it is because the TORAH is a written description of God, of who He is, of what He likes, what He doesn’t like, what makes Him happy, and what makes Him angry and upset, etc.  It is a written description of Him and His WAYS.  The WAYS He wants us as His sons and daughters to imitate and to follow.  These ways don’t make us His children, but as His children, He wants us to love Him and to follow His INSTRUCTIONS, like any loving parent would.

REMEMBER THE ANCIENT PATHS

In fact, throughout the Old Testament [or Hebrew Scriptures], God calls us back to the ANCIENT PATHS, the OLD PATHS of His TORAH that He gave us, Jew and non-Jew alike, on Mt. Sinai:

Remember the former things of OLD; for I am God, and there is none else;… (Isaiah 46:9)

Thus says the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the OLD PATHS, where is the GOOD WAY, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will NOT walk therein.  (Jeremiah 6:16)

Because My people has forgotten Me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ANCIENT PATHS, to walk in paths in a way NOT cast up.  (Jeremiah 8:15)

Set up for yourself roadmarks, place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, the way BY WHICH YOU WENTRETURN, O virgin of Israel, RETURN to these your cities.  (Jeremiah 31:21)

When Israel came out of Egypt during the Exodus, there was a “mixed multitude” of gentiles (non-Jews) who came with them (Exodus 12:38).  They came with them across the Red Sea, and they were there with them at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Consequently, the TORAH was not given to only the Jewish people, but it was given to ALL people, Jew and non-Jew alike.  In fact, there’s a Jewish Midrash (or teaching) that communicates this same idea:

The Torah was given in the desert, for if it had been given in the land of Israel, the Jews would have said, “It is ours!”  and if it had been given somewhere else, the inhabitants of that land would have said, “It is ours!”  Therefore, it was given in the desert so that whoever wanted to could come and receive it.

God gave the TORAH where He did for a reason, and according to the Bible, it was given to both Israel and the “mixed multitude” of Gentiles (non-Jews) who came out with them.  And even after that, there were the Rahabs, Ruths, Doeg, and others who would likewise leave their nations, and attach themselves to the people of Israel, just like the “mixed multitude” before them.

“SEAL THE LAW AMONG MY DISCIPLES”

Not only has the TORAH been given to both Jew and non-Jew alike, but we also learn from the Scriptures, that God commands us to SEAL IT within God’s DISCIPLES, as written by the prophet Isaiah: “Bind up the testimony, SEAL THE LAW AMONG MY DISCIPLES” (Isaiah 8:16; Emphasis Mine).  And, of course, God SEALS both forms of His TORAH, the written and the LIVING, in our hearts by His Spirit:

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also SEALED US and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a PLEDGE.  (1 Corinthians 1:21-22; Emphasis Mine)

God’s Spirit has not only SEALED US, but He gave us the “down payment” (or PLEDGE) of His Spirit.  We have not received yet the complete “fullness of the Spirit,” but this will come when Jesus returns and we receive our new resurrected body.  But in addition to “sealing the law (or TORAH) among His disciples,” Isaiah then writes

To the Law (Heb. TORAH) and to the testimony:  if they speak NOT according to this word, it is because there is NO LIGHT in them.  (Isaiah 8:20)

Christians have traditionally looked at the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, but throughout the Scriptures, God has looked at things through the lens of His TORAH.  In fact, one of God’s commands states that if a prophet or a dreamer of dreams comes and gives a sign or a wonder, and this sign or wonder happens, but the prophet or dreamer instructs people to leave God’s commandments behind, they are NOT to listen to them.  (Deuteronomy 13:1-2) But why would God allow such a thing?

For the LORD your God is TESTING you to find out if you love the LORD your God  with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Deuteronomy 13:3)

God continues to TEST His disciples (lit. “students”) just as did in the biblical period, so He does today.  He wants to know if you love Him, but there’s another reason for the tests:

And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, TESTING YOU, to know what was IN YOUR HEART, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  (Deuteronomy 8:2)

God also TESTS US to see what’s in our HEARTS, and whether we will “keep His commandments or not.”  God is the Teacher, we are the students, the Bible is our Kingdom textbook, and life is our classroom.  And like any Teacher, God TESTS us to see if we’ve been learning the material in the textbook.  And on things we don’t do well on, we will be retested over and over again.  As a result, it is to our advantage to do well on our TESTS when they come.

CONCLUSION

Is there a conflict between “LAW” and “GRACE“?  No, there is not.  The “conflict” is a man-made construct based on misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error.  When God the King chooses us to be in His Kingdom, we receive His favor or “GRACE,” as He again gives us His “favor” and “GRACE” when He gives us the Spirit to lead us and guide us on how to live as His Kingdom citizens by studying the TORAH, His instructions and commandments.

Although the word TORAH is usually used to refer to the first five books, it can be used to refer to any passage, any chapter, any book, or the first five books, or the whole Old Testament, or even yet, both the Old and New Testament.  Consequently, the whole Bible is TORAH, God’s Instructions and commandments.  Therefore, how can any Christian NOT be under TORAH?  To NOT be under TORAH, a Christian would have to NOT be under the Bible at all.

Consequently, the TORAH is a natural, intricate part of God’s KINGDOM.  Unfortunately, our sin nature rises up, and alters, changes, distorts, or completely rebels against what God has commanded in His Word.  Of course, not to follow the King’s commands infringes upon our relationship with the King.  In his book, Rediscovering the Kingdom: Ancient Hope for our 21st Century World (2004), Myles Monroe writes,

The laws of the kingdom are the way by which one is guaranteed access to the benefits of the king and the kingdom.  Violations of kingdom law places one at odds with the king and thus interrupts the favorable position one enjoys with the king.  The laws of the kingdom cannot be changed by the citizens, nor are they subject to a citizens referendum debate.  Simply put, the word of the king is law in a kingdom.  Rebellion against the law is rebellion against the king.  (65-66)

Myles Monroe was born in the Bahamas when it was still a colony of England.  And it wasn’t until he was older when the Bahamas wanted to be an independent nation of its own.  I remember him saying that when the Bahamas was a colony of England, England paid for everything and took care of everything that they needed, but when it became an independent nation, they had to pay for their own things.  England quit providing for them.

The same is true with God’s Kingdom.  When we make the kingdom our #1 priority in our life, and seek to fulfill its needs and the desires of the King, then God will provide all of our needs.  This is what Jesus meant when He said:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). But when we violate or go against the commands of the King, our relationship with Him is interrupted.  And depending on the command, we might feel powerless to defeat the desire of sin in our lives and to obey what God wants us to do.

And this is the reason why Jesus died on the cross.  He died to defeat the power of the sin nature in our lives and to liberate us, NOT just to forgive us, from our sins and the penalty of our sins.  We’ve been liberated from the power of sin; therefore, once set free, sin is no longer a “have to,” but if we do sin, then it was because we “wanted to.”  And just like in our culture, if we do something wrong, we get arrested and taken to court.

And just as the prosecuting attorney, in our culture, would enter into the courtroom and read the list of crimes that we were being accused of to a human judge, so the “accuser of the brethren,” Satan, reads the list of our own crimes against God’s Kingdom before God, the Ultimate Judge.  If we were to be crucified for our own crimes against God, then this list of crimes, or broken ordinances, that we had violated would’ve been nailed to our cross in the same way that the sign, the placard that Pilate had written, was nailed to the cross of Christ above His head, listing His crime against Rome.

But instead, when we ask God to forgive us, and invite Jesus into our lives, God took this list of our crimes against God and His Kingdom, this list of broken ordinances, and He nailed it to the cross of Christ.  So instead of us paying the debt of these sins, Jesus paid for them by His death, the shedding of His blood, and as a result,  we receive God’s pardon instead of His condemnation.  This is actually what Paul is saying in Colossians 2:13-14, NOT that God’s TORAH, or commandments, were nailed to the cross, as I’ve heard erroneously taught numerously times, but that our SINS, our violations against God’s commandments was nailed there.

Yes, Jesus died to defeat the Enemy within our lives, our own sin nature, so now being liberated from its power, we can FREELY RETURN to the ANCIENT PATHS of God’s TORAH, as God’s son or daughter, with the TORAH written in our mind and heart, so we can now “yield our members to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:19c), and as a result, Paul says,

But now being made FREE FROM SIN [NOT GOD’S LAW], and become servants to God, you have your FRUIT unto holiness, and the end EVERLASTING LIFE. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6:22-23; Emphasis Mine]

The way of TORAH is that life of righteousness, that “FRUIT unto holiness,” that we are to daily strive to live until we come into the Presence of our King, the LIVING TORAH, the Lord Jesus Christ.  So as I’ve tried to show here, TORAH is NOT our enemy.  It is NOT the opposition.  It is what should be a central part of our lives as God’s children and as citizens of His Kingdom.  But as we approach the last days, Jesus has warned us that disobedience to God’s TORAH will increase or “abound,” and the result of that is that “the love of many shall grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).   The more sin, the less love; the more obedience, the more love.  So even in these difficult times, let’s again embrace our King’s “favor” or “GRACE,” and seek to walk as Kingdom Citizens, reflecting the light of Christ, the LIVING TORAH, and through the power and leading of the Spirit, walk the way of TORAH.

 

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