Grace vs. Law


NACC 2009, No. 1 – Romans 6:14-15 (Jack W. Cottrell) I. THE TWO CHOICES.

  1. Two kinds of righteousness: personal OR God’s (Philippians 3:9). [“Righteousness” means “satisfying the requirements of the law.”]
    1. Our own personal righteousness = how well we satisfy (obey) the commandments of God’s law.
      1. a)  To be right with God by personal righteousness, we must live perfect lives.
      2. b)  What kind of personal righteousness do we have? Rom. 3:10; 3:23; Isa 64:6.
    2. God’s righteousness is his decision to satisfy (pay) the penalty of his own law in our place.
      1. a)  He did this through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
      2. b)  He offers to give to sinners this divine righteousness, and let them count it as their own and thus be saved.
      3. c)  Isa. 61:10; Phil. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21.
  2. Two ways of relating to God: wages OR gift (Romans 6:23).
    1. Relating to God in terms of wages means that on the judgment day you will receive what God owes you, whatever is fair, whatever you have earned or deserved by your deeds in this life. If you are good enough, you will go to heaven. Judgment Day will be PAYDAY.
    2. Relating to God in terms of gift means that on Judgment Day (GIFT DAY) God will give you heaven and eternal life as a free gift. You do not have to earn it or be good enough for it.
  3. Two gates into heaven: law OR grace (Romans 6:14, 15).

1. To be “under law” means that you are now in the law line, waiting to get into heaven through the law gate, according to the rules of law.

2. To be “under grace” means that you are now in the grace line, waiting to get into heaven through the grace gate, according to the rules of grace.

D. Two means of entering the gates: works OR faith (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9).

  1. One enters the law gate on the basis of his own personal righteousness or works. If your life is good enough, you can go through the law gate into heaven. How good does your life have to be to enter the law gate? It has to be perfect.
  2. One goes through the grace gate by faith, i.e., by believing and trusting in the divine righteousness earned by Jesus on the cross.

II. CHOICE # 1—The Way of LAW.
A. The word “law” is used in two different ways.

1. Law CODE = the set of the Creator’s commandments one is obligated to obey. (Everyone is always under a law code, as seen below.)

2. Law SYSTEM = attempting to enter heaven by means of obedience to one’s law code.

  1. a)  You are under the law system if you are trying to use your law code as a way into heaven.This means you are trying to get into heaven by how well you obey God’s commandments.
  2. b)  Is it possible to enter heaven under the law system? Theoretically, yes. But see below.
  1. Everyone is under a law code, and always will be by virtue of creation.
    1. Pagans are subject to the heart code: Rom. 2:14-15.
    2. Jews prior to Christ were subject to the Mosaic code.
    3. Everyone since Pentecost is subject to the New Covenant code.
  2. Being under a law code is good and necessary. It is based on the fact that God is our Creator and we are his creatures (Psalm 24:1-2). This never changes, and we should not want it to change. Rom. 7:12.
  1. Romans 6:14, 15 speaks of the law system, not any kind of law code.
    1. Paul is not here saying, “You Christians are no longer under a law code.” Nor is he saying, “You are no longer under the law of Moses.” (It is true that we are NOT under the law of Moses, but
      that is not the point he is making here.)
    2. His point is this: “You Christians are no longer under the law system.”
  2. Who IS under the law system? Can it work?
    1. Anyone trying to get to heaven by obeying his law code is under the law system.
    2. Is it possible to get to heaven by obeying one’s law code? Theoretically, yes – if you use your law code exactly right, you can be right with God through the law system. No grace needed!
    3. HOW does the law system work? How is it possible to get to heaven by obeying one’s law code? Here are the rules of the law system:KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS; ESCAPE THE PENALTY; BREAK THE COMMANDMENTS; SUFFER THE PENALTY.(Here, “commandments” = your law code, and “penalty” = hell.)
    4. So how does one get to heaven by the law system? By keeping the commandments of his law code. That’s all there is to it!

F. The BAD NEWS for those under the law system: Romans 3:23 – “all have sinned.”

a. There is one slight qualification: you must keep all of the commandments that apply to you, perfectly, all your life. You must have a lifetime of sinlessness or perfect obedience.

b. One sin disqualifies a person under the law system. James 2:10; Gal. 3:10.

1. NOTE: This is the main point of Romans 1:18 – 3:20, i.e., no one will actually get to heaven by means of the law system (works, wages, personal righteousness), since all have sinned. Once you sin, you can never be perfect again; and being perfect is the only way you can get into heaven through the law gate. The law gate is forever shut to the sinner.

2. See the conclusion of this section of Romans: 3:19-20.

G. The GOOD NEWS is that God has provided another way to get to heaven, one that will actually work for sinners.

1. This other way of getting to heaven is the system of grace. Grace as a way of salvation is God’s alternative to law. He prefers law, but he provides grace.

2. NOTE: Everything in the second main section of Romans (3:21 – 5:21) is aimed at explaining the way of grace.

III. CHOICE # 2 – The Way of GRACE.
A. The concept of grace has three connotations in relation to salvation.

  1. It can mean the source of salvation: grace is an attribute of God’s nature. It is an aspect of his love. It is what causes God to WANT to save sinners and to make it possible for them to be saved.
  2. It can mean the content of salvation: grace is the gift of salvation bestowed upon us by God. It includes justification, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.

3. It can mean the system of salvation: grace is the way God deals with sinners so as to allow them to go to heaven. This is what we are discussing here.

B. What is the grace system, and how is it different from the law system? It is the opposite of law.

  2. This sounds wrong somehow; is sounds so unfair!
    1. Break the commandments but escape the penalty? That’s not fair!
    2. Keep the commandments but suffer the penalty? That’s not fair!
    3. Are we sure this is the way grace works? Do we really want to be saved by a system that is NOT FAIR? Don’t you want God to be fair with you on Judgment Day? (Careful here!!!)
  3. Here is an experiment, in the form of a matching quiz.

a Below are two names (write your name in the space under Jesus’ name).

_____JESUS_________                                   ____________________

___________________                                  ____________________

b Now, here are two words: SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS. Write in the space after each name, the word you think most appropriately goes with that name.

4. Now read 2 Corinthians 5:21.

  1. Under the grace system sin goes with Jesus, and righteousness goes with us. Is this FAIR? NO! But this is the point: grace was never meant to be fair! It CANNOT be fair! By its very nature it is the OPPOSITE of fair! It is ANTI-fair!
  2. On the cross the righteous Father treated Jesus the way we deserve to be treated, and he treated Jesus the opposite of the way he deserved to be treated.

c. Under the grace system the gracious Father treats us the way Jesus deserves to be treated, and he treats us the opposite of the way we deserve to be treated.

d. Jesus took what we deserve, and we get what he deserves. In each case it is the opposite of fair.

C. The Grace Mentality: grace is a way of thinking.

1. How we perceive our relationship with God determines our overall attitude or state of mind. Those under law—or who THINK they are under law—will be dominated by one kind of mental state; those under grace—and who know what this means—will be dominated by an entirely different attitude.

  1. a)  Those who think in terms of law are filled with dread and terror whenever they think of death and judgment. They know they are not good enough to be saved, and they know what they deserve: hell!
  2. b)  Those who understand that they are under grace, however, are filled with joy and hope and peace and assurance. This is the mentality that comes from understanding grace and knowing that you are under it.

2. Many Christians, who are of course, by definition, under grace, still think and act as if they were under law. They still have the mental attitude of someone who is under law. Their mentality has not caught up with their reality!

3. The transition from the law mentality to the grace mentality is just about the greatest imaginable transition in thinking. It is a Copernican revolution, a paradigm shift.

a) It means shifting our focus from our personal righteousness to the gift of God’s righteousness. It means thinking of eternal life not in terms of something we earn but in terms of something God gives us as a gift. It means ceasing to trust our own works to make us good enough for heaven, and beginning to trust the cross of Christ as our sole means of entering heaven. It means ceasing to be dominated by hopelessness and fear and drudgery, and beginning to be filled with hope and joy and assurance.

b) It is like changing from playing a game you cannot possibly win to playing one where you know you are not going to lose.

4. For peace and assurance, we must think in terms of grace.
CONCLUSION: What will you say at the heavenly grace gate when God asks why he should let you in?

A. “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” (So said the justified [!] tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.)

  1. “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me.”
  2. “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.”
  3. [Pointing to Jesus:] “I’m with Him!”NEEDED: ONE THOUSAND POINTS

An active, dedicated, hard-working church member dreamed that he passed away after a long and satisfying life. As he approached the heavenly gate, he noticed a sign posted which read, “ENTRANCE REQUIREMENT: 1,000 POINTS.”

The man looked a bit worried. He walked up to the angel guarding the gate and said, “That requirement seems pretty high. Do you think I could possibly have accumulated that many points?” The angel kindly replied, “Well, why don’t you tell me what you have done, and I will tell you how many points you have earned.”

“OK, then,” the man said enthusiastically. “I was an immersed believer in Christ for 32 years; I taught a Sunday school class for over 12 years; I was a youth chaperone whenever they needed me; and I was a regular member of the praise team!” “That’s wonderful!” said the angel. “Now let me see. That’s worth – ONE POINT.”

The man suddenly became very pale and began to perspire, but he went on. “Well, I tithed all my income, and sometimes gave even more. Also I served as an elder in the church, and I served on the finance committee and the building committee. I attended every work day at the church; I mowed the grass and did repairs and painting. At every fellowship supper I helped set up the chairs and tables and then stayed late and helped take them down.”

He looked expectantly at the angel, who smiled sympathetically and answered politely, “That sounds great! That’s worth – ANOTHER POINT. Now you have a total of TWO.”

The man looked as if he were about to go into shock. He spoke rapidly with a sense of desperation: “I invited a lot of people to church, and often went calling with the preacher. I won quite a few people to Christ. I supported the camp program, and for a while was a forwarding agent for a missionary family. And I never cheated on my income tax!”

The angel tried to speak encouragingly as he said, “That’s quite a record of good works! That’s worth still another point. Now you have – THREE.”

The poor man’s face sagged with futility, and his shoulders drooped as he seemed resigned to his fate. “I may as well give up,” he mourned. “I don’t think I can ever be good enough to get into Heaven. In fact, it seems impossible for me or anybody else to get in there without the GRACE OF GOD.”

[ENDING # 1 — ] “Ah, now,” said the angel brightly. “Now you’re talking! That in itself is worth the OTHER 997 POINTS!” [Bad!]

[ENDING # 2 — ] “Ah, now,” said the angel brightly. “Now you’re talking! That in itself is worth the WHOLE 1,000 POINTS!” [Good!]

[ENDING # 3 — ] “Ah, now, did you say GRACE? You know what? YOU’RE STANDING AT THE WRONG GATE! This is the LAW gate; that’s where you need the 1,000 points. Look over there. Do you see that other gate, with another line of people leading up to it? That’s the GRACE gate. You don’t need any points to get in there. Under grace, heaven is free!” [Best!]

At that point the man woke up from his dream. His bed was thoroughly soaked with perspiration, but he had a smile on his face and a whole new outlook on his Christian life!