Differences Between Law and Grace
Question: We hear a lot of talk about how we do not have to obey the Law given in the Bible because we now live in the age of grace. Then people say some denominations are legalistic while others are not. The people who say their denominations are not legalistic are usually the ones saying others are. I understand there were periods of time that were times of law and the current one, which is of grace. My question is what is the difference between the time of grace and the time of law?
This is a good question and one that should be dealt with clearly for many has been confused on this subject. Understanding of this truth impacts upon many of the doctrines of the Bible, such as eternal security, our eschatological position, and our conduct in this world. When we speak about Law in capitals related to God we are speaking of the Law of Moses, though there is a law of works operative since Adam. It began with one simple command, not to eat of a certain tree and continues today in the principle of sowing and reaping; “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) The law of the harvest as it is sometimes called says that if you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. This principle is founded in the bedrock of the world we inhabit.
The Law of Moses is not simply the Ten Commandments as some people think. There are 613 laws that make up The Law of Moses, which can be found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is also called the Pentateuch within the church. (Torah means instruction, while Pentateuch basically means five volumes.) Grace on the other hand is the Greek word charis which is basically rendered as unmerited favor. Confusion results among Bible readers at times because the see elements of unmerited favor or grace during the time of the law, and they see elements of law active during the current age of grace. In terms of God’s dealing with man as a separate age these are mutually exclusive principles, but in terms of God’s sovereign will over all things they are not. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament (or New Covenant) and we have three additional commands of the Lord we are responsible to heed: That we follow Him; go unto all nation; love one another. It has been truly said “there is grace under law, and law under grace.”
Dr. Feinberg in his book “Premill or Amill” (pgs 138-145) gave seven distinctions between Law and Grace, and Dr. Fruchtenbaum in his worthy book “Israelology” made some notations of importance (pgs 493-494) that I will borrow from and here add a touch of Michael to try to make the matter clear.
Seven Distinctions Between Law and Grace
(1) There is a distinction between when each begins and ends.
The Law of Moses began only with Moses. Its termination occurred with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on Cavalry. Grace came specifically with Jesus Christ, and now offers salvation to all. It will end with the departure of the Holy Spirit and those sealed by the Holy Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
(2) There is a distinction as to whom it is addressed.
The Law of Moses was addressed and given to one people only, Israel. Grace however is offered to all and given only to those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. The reason grace must be available to all is because all mankind are under the same judicial sentence, and therefore the only recourse has universal application.
(3) There is a distinction in respect to requirements.
Law was limited regarding who was subject and requirements had to be met before blessings could be received – Command – “do and be blessed.” Grace is directed toward those who have been accepted by God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, thus the order is “because you are blessed, do.”
(4) There is a distinction in enablement.
The Law of Moses provides no means of obedience. Grace provided the means of living by faith through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
(5) There is a distinction in the basis of Law and the basis of Grace.
The basis of the Law of Moses is a covenant of works and the basis of grace is a covenant of unmerited favor freely bestowed upon all who come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Human merit is the foundation stone of the Law. The merit of the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation stone of grace.
(6) There is a distinction in the purpose of each.
The purpose of the Law was to show man his utter lack of merit before God and the impossibility of gaining any merit based on his own strength or ability. The purpose of grace is that by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ all who are redeemed by faith in Him alone might live godly lives and be brought into glory.
(7) There is a distinction in the results of the operation of Law and Grace upon lives.
The Scripture testifies that the Law of Moses brings death and its letter kills. It is a ministration of death and a ministration of condemnation. Grace gives life. It is a ministration of the Spirit and a ministration of righteousness.
There is more that I could write concerning this subject, but I think the information given here satisfies the narrow context of the question. It is possible that if I were to wander too far afield on this I would create confusion where I desire to shed light. So we will save further remarks for another day and place them under the appropriate related topic.
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