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The affirmation of my title is offensive to many theologians and pulpiteers. Those offended often hurl the legalist epithet at the affirmers. “No,” they say, “We are not under law, but under grace, in the Gospel age.” Is Christianity an all grace, no law system, or is this a mantra men repeat without due consideration of what the inspired writers refer to as “the Gospel,” “the Faith,” “the Truth,” and other like terms? Do these antinomians have no consciousness of the consequences of their denial?
Let us study this subject of eternal implications by means of some questions:
- Why do we need God’s grace? All accountable persons end up sinners: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Sin, if unforgiven, pays the awful “wages” of eternal separation from God (6:23). We cannot earn our forgiveness/salvation; God’s grace, manifested in the sending of the Christ and His death upon the cross, have alone made salvation possible (Eph. 2:8–9; Tit. 2:11–14).
- How do we become sinners? We become sinners not by birth or inheritance, but by our own transgression/violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4).
- Does the existence of sin imply the existence of law? Reason answers that it is impossible to violate non-existent law (whether under Moses or under Jesus). However, the New Testament explicitly answers this question: “But where there is no law, neither is there transgression” (Rom. 4:15b; cf. 5:13b).
- Would the absence of law under Christ obviate the need for grace? Indeed: No law—no sin; no sin—no grace needed. Those who assert that under Christ we have “all grace and no law” thereby eliminate the very need for grace.
- Does all grace, no law imply universal salvation? Most certainly. Without law, there is no sin. Without sin, there is no condemnation. Thus all will be saved. This heretical consequence is quite sufficient to expose the fallacy of the no law assertion.
Some seem never to have read the apostle Paul’s references to the Gospel as the “law of Christ” (Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). Moreover, James twice calls it the “law of liberty” and says we will be judged by it (1:25; 2:12).
The favorite passage of those who strip the Gospel of its legal character is Romans 6:4b: “For ye are not under law, but under grace.” Their misuse of this passage makes Paul contradict himself. They miss his use of the figure of speech (enthymeme) in which he mitigates one element so as to emphasize the other, with only understood in the negation and also understood in the affirmation: “For ye are not [only] under law, but [also] under grace.” Jesus, John, Peter, and Paul also employed this same figure (e.g., Mat. 10:34; John 12:44; Acts 5:4b; 1 John 3:18; et al.). Jesus has a law. It is His New Testament (Heb. 9:16–17), by which all who have lived since Calvary shall be judged at last (John 12:48).
[Note: I wrote this article for and it appeared in the Denton Record-Chronicle, Denton, TX, November 30, 2012.]
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