Romans 6:14 “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
There is a lot of confusion in churches over whether the believer is under the law and to what degree. Many people say there must be a balance of law and grace. They argue the when the apostles talked about being free from the law, they only meant the ceremonial law. And even people who do realize we are under the Spirit may suppose he convicts us of sin just like the law does. I hope to explain the new covenant’s perspective on this issue and encourage you to trust in the Spirit instead of your flesh (under the law). When I say we are not under the law, I am not saying we should use our freedom to sin, only that our lives are free from it’s condemnation, guilt, and grip and are free to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13, Romans 6:15).
No longer under law
The new testament is very clear on the fact that a believer is no longer under the law. Hebrews and Galatians are devoted to this subject. In Romans this is also an integral part. We see a chapter devoted to it in Colossians 2. What are some of the key verses from these books?
Galatians 3:10-11 “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.”So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”
Galatians 5:1, 4 “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law… For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.”
Romans 6:14 “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”
These books make it abundantly clear we are no longer under law and should not try to be.
But they only mean the ceremonial laws, right?
There is a popular argument that when the apostles talk about not being under the law they only mean the ceremonial laws, not the 10 commandments. The problem with this interpretation is it involves breaking up the law into parts. But the law says cursed is everyone who does not keep ‘everything’ written in this law. James 2 says the same.
The law comes as a whole package. If this is not clear other verses specifically mention the 10 commandments.
2 Corinthians 3:7, 11 “The old way, with laws etched in stone (the ceremonial laws were never etched in stone, only the 10 commandments were), led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face… So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!”
Romans 7:7 “I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”
Only the 10 commandments say do not covet. Are we to think that Paul suddenly means the whole law in this verse but in every other only means the ceremonial law?
Galatians 5:13 also warns us to use our freedom to serve others in love, not to satisfy our sinful nature. Why would he give this warning if they only understood this freedom only to be from ceremonial laws?
What was the purpose of the law then?
Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews all explain the purpose of the law.
Romans 3:19-20 “for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
Galatians 3:19 “Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised.”
Galatians 3:24 “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”
So we see, the purpose was to show us how sinful we were and humble us before God so that when Christ came to save us, we would be ready to accept him.
Didn’t the law make us better people?
The purpose of the law was not to make us better people but to show us how much we needed Jesus. It was put in place to squash our pride in our abilities. In fact, the law could not have been used to make us better people, for it actually made the problem of sin worse. Not because of any fault of it’s own, but because sin was able to use it for it’s own purposes.
1 Corinthians 15:56 “the law gives sin its power.”
Romans 5:20 “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.”
Romans 7:5-6 “When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.
Romans 7:8, 11-12 “But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power… Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.”
The very commands that were supposed to make us better people, when combined with human nature, actually made us worse off. In the end we find that the law did not fix us and make us better people, it unintentionally brought more sin. Though the law remains good and holy, it cannot make us good and holy.
Well how do you live without the law?
Faith in Jesus, faith in God’s grace, and faith in the Holy Spirit.
Faith that Jesus did a good job in completely paying for and removing our sins from God’s sight.
John 19:30 “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.”
Faith that no matter how bad we mess up God will forgive and cover our sins.
Romans 4:4-8 “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it:
“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.””
1 John 4:18 “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
And faith in the Holy Spirit. Faith that he is at the core of the new nature God has given us and is working in our hearts to do the things that please God. So instead of throwing more willpower into changing ourselves, we trust in him.
Romans 8:5, 9 “but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit… You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.“
Galatians 5:16 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”
Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
God’s Spirit lives in us, working in our hearts and minds what is pleasing to him.
How do I follow the Spirit?
The Spirit does not guide us into fear, but into God’s grace, reminding us that we are righteous and loved by God (gifts freely given to us).
2 Corinthians 2:12 “And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.”
Romans 8:15 “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
The Holy Spirit is not your conscience! He does not go around nagging you into being a better person. That is a law based mentality and it’s what Satan does.
Romans 12:10 “for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.”
2 Corinthians 11:3, 14-15 “But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent… But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
Remember what Satan did in the garden? He gave them something that was supposedly good, the knowledge of good and evil. The awareness of their sins.
Genesis 3:6-7 “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”
The enemy was serving “righteousness.” But righteousness according the knowledge of good and evil. Righteousness according to the law. It brought the awareness of sin and shame. Not specifically because they disobeyed God, but because they realized it was wrong to be naked. The enemy wants to make you aware of your sins and use the law as his weapon. So if you hear a nagging voice pointing out your faults, it is not God’s Spirit, but an evil conscience.
Hebrews 10:22 “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
1 John 3:20 “Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”
If your conscience is not being washed of guilt, then it is not God you are approaching. The Spirit guides though love, peace, joy, kindness, and gentleness. He will speak to your heart and motivate you to do good things, but will always keep you in remembrance of God’s grace. He does not motivate through guilt, fear, and manipulation. Reject such leadings.
I hope these verses have given you something think about. It is a huge shift in life to move from under the law to under grace and I hope the prospect doesn’t scare you. May God bless and help us to see his grace in full measure and may he fully set us free from the law in our thinking!