GRACE DISTINCTIONS #3 – by Jack Cottrell

III. LAW SYSTEM vs. GRACE SYSTEM. Here we are thinking of the distinction between the two systems or ways of being right with God. When we think of “being right with God,” we are thinking of receiving eternal life and going to heaven. From our perspective as sinners, we can think of it simply as salvation. And the point here is this: we must distinguish between two ways or systems of being “saved,” i.e., of getting to heaven. These two ways are the LAW SYSTEM (see point II. above) and the GRACE SYSTEM.

This may well be the most important distinction of the ten I am explaining here. It is the key to Paul’s point in Romans 6:14-15, where he says twice that we are “not under law but under grace.” NOT UNDER LAW! BUT UNDER GRACE! This is indeed one of the most important things you can know about yourself: you are not under law, but under grace! What does this mean?

This means that we as Christians are not under the LAW SYSTEM of salvation; we are under the GRACE SYSTEM of salvation. We are not trying to be right with God by how well we are keeping our law code (by “how good” we are), but we are right with God via the gift of grace made possible through Jesus Christ. If you do not get this distinction between the law system and the grace system, you will never understand grace.

Many still think wrongly that in this statement (“you are not under law”), Paul is talking about a law CODE. Some think he means we are not under the Law of Moses. It is true that we are not under the Law of Moses as our law code, but that is NOT what he is talking about here. Some think Paul means that we as Christians are not obligated to obey ANY law code, now that we are under grace. This is absolutely not the idea. God is still our Creator; we still have a law code; we are under that law code.

Here is what Paul is saying: we are not under the law SYSTEM, where our salvation would depend on how well we keep our law code. The problem with trying to be “saved” (trying to be right with our Creator) via the law system is that for this to happen you would have to obey your law code perfectly! You would have to be 100% good! This of course will never happen for us, since all are sinners (Rom. 3:23). The sad fact is that no one CAN be right with God under the law system.

But for salvation purposes, we are not relating to God as Creator and Lawgiver. We are relating to him as Savior and Redeemer. We are not under the law system; we are under the grace system! Here is the summary of this distinction:

A. Under the law system, God as Creator, acting through his holiness, gives us our law code. Perfect obedience to our law code results in heaven; disobedience to it (even once) results in hell.

B. Under the grace system, God as Savior, acting through his love, gives us Jesus. Faith in Jesus results in heaven; unbelief toward Jesus results in hell.

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  1. Got it. The question should have been, “Having obeyed the Gospel commands that put us under Grace, is the law code for those of us now under Grace, general and special(New Testament) revelation?”

    And my in-house retired grammar teacher caught the subject-verb mismatch in the original question. The ‘are’ should have been an ‘is’.

  2. NO NO NO! The law code for ALL HUMAN BEINGS living in the New Covenant era is the same, namely, everything the Bible teaches about human moral and religious obligation grounded in our identity as creatures made in the image of God and made known to us via general and special revelation (the latter being especially the New Testament Scriptures). It does not matter whether one is “under Law” or “under Grace” regarding our salvation status; the law CODE is the same for all. Gospel commands are simply God’s instructions on how to make the transition from being “under Law” to being “under Grace” regarding salvation status. The list of gospel commands is very short and sweet: hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized. The list of law commands (comprising our law code) is much longer; one person counted over one thousand such commands in the New Testament alone.

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