GRACE—REPLACES THE LAW OR REPLACES RIGHTEOUS BEHAVIOR?
GRACE—REPLACES THE LAW OR REPLACES RIGHTEOUS BEHAVIOR? Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Christian theology is built on a false premise. The false premise is that Divine grace replaces the need for righteous behavior. This is not what Paul taught. Paul taught that Divine grace replaces the Law of Moses. The misunderstanding of what grace is intended to replace has produced multitudes of believers who are babies in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and in the willingness and strength to choose the good and reject the evil.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Goal of Redemption Is Righteousness The Book of Romans Is Addressed First to Jews Grace Replaces the Law of Moses, not Righteous Behavior Do the New Testament Writings Stress Righteous Behavior as an Essential Aspect of Salvation? Conclusion
GRACE— REPLACES THE LAW OR REPLACES RIGHTEOUS BEHAVIOR?
God’s desire for man is best summed up in the following passage:
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)
Who is the man that does good? The man who:
Walks humbly with God.
God’s will for man never changes—not under the Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic covenants, the new covenant, or any other covenant. God always loves and approves of the person who practices righteousness, loves mercy, and walks humbly with God.
Who would deny this? The answer is, no one.
But religious people always are able to find a way to evade the need to practice righteousness, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
The Jews were able to evade Micah 6:8 by worshiping the Torah instead of God, and by devising an endless amount of statutes whose purpose is to interpret the Torah, the Law, so that it governs every aspect of daily life. The Orthodox have fastened and still fasten on the letter of the Talmud, and sometimes are unmerciful and as proud and arrogant as it is possible for a human being to be. They do not always walk humbly with God.
The devout Jews often look down to the Torah instead of up to God!
The Christians have fared no better. They have used and yet are using the writings of the Apostle Paul to prove beyond doubt we are "saved" by a sovereign, supreme, unconditional grace whether or not we practice righteousness, love mercy, or walk humbly with God. Those who follow this line of teaching often do not practice righteousness, love mercy, or walk humbly with God.
The purpose of this short essay is to clarify the purpose of Divine grace—that it is not intended to replace righteous behavior but to replace the Law of Moses, in the hope that righteous behavior, mercy, and humility, which sometimes were not produced by the Law, will result.
God’s desire always and eternally is that people practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. God never has and never will provide a covenant that replaces the need for righteous behavior in human beings.
All his life the Apostle Paul sought righteousness. The devout Jew places righteousness above all other values, all other goals, even when he does not understand how God views righteousness.
When Paul was studying under Gamaliel he was seeking righteousness. When Paul put Christians in jail he was seeking righteousness under the Law, for the Law teaches we are to put to death those who would attempt to turn us away from the true God.
When the student does not understand that Paul was striving for righteousness he cannot possibly understand Paul’s teaching concerning the grace of God.
Paul was not seeking righteousness so he would go to Heaven when he died. Eternal residence in the spirit Paradise was not Paul’s goal. Residence in Heaven was not the goal of salvation under the old covenant nor is it the goal of salvation under the new.
Paul was seeking righteousness so he would be pleasing to God, and in the day of resurrection would be one of God’s stars.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 2:2,3)
The concept of eternal residence in the spirit Paradise, of a mansion in Heaven, was added to Christian theology at some point after the death of the original Apostles. Heaven as the goal of redemption does not appear in any writing of the Hebrew Prophets or of the Apostles of the Lamb.
Paul was seeking righteousness in order to please God and also so he would not be punished or destroyed in the Day of Judgment. Paul knew the terror of the Lord!
The Gentile comes to the Lord Jesus from a different perspective. The Gentile is told all men are sinners. He is informed there is none righteous. He is instructed that the soul that sins shall die and go to Hell. Then he is told that if he will confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in his heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead he will go to Heaven when he dies.
The blood of Jesus becomes his ticket to Paradise.
To these concepts often is added that while a change in his behavior is desirable it is not essential because he is "saved" (meaning he will go to Heaven when he dies) "by grace."
Further teaching stresses that once he has his "ticket" he can never lose it nor can anyone take it from him. He will go to Heaven when he dies because of a supreme, sovereign, unconditional grace.
Notice how the "ticket" doctrine is reflected in the following "translation:"
"But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by being ‘good enough’ and trying to keep his laws.... (comment on Romans 3:21 by Kenneth N. Taylor, Living Letters, Tyndale House Publishers, quoted in The New Testament from 26 Translations ).
We do not understand how Taylor derived this interpretation. It is not related to the Greek text. Going to Heaven has nothing to do with the context of Romans 3:21. The Gentile reader would think God has given us a plan of salvation that is an alternative to godly behavior.
While people of past covenants were required to live righteously, under the Christian covenant one does not have to live righteously, it is taught. God sees only the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and it is this imputing (ascribing) of righteousness that is salvation under the new covenant.
The Apostle Paul would have been dumbfounded had he known that scholars would be able somehow to turn his teaching of Divine grace into a substitute for practicing righteousness, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
The "ticket to Heaven" doctrine has little or no relationship to the new covenant. The purpose of the new covenant is to produce people who practice righteousness. The first aspect of the Kingdom of God is righteousness—not imputed righteousness but the righteous personality that is developed in us as we abide in the Lord Jesus.
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)
The goals of the Christian salvation are (1) to be changed into the image of the Lord:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
And (2) to be brought into untroubled union with God through the Lord Jesus:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
It is only as we attain these two goals that we can walk in close fellowship with God.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (II Corinthians 6:17)
It is only as we attain these two goals that we are available for the numerous roles and relationships of the Kingdom of God, such as being a member of the Bride of the Lamb, a brother of the Lord Jesus, and a member of the royal priesthood.
Perhaps the major foundation of Christian theology relating to Divine grace is found in the Book of Romans, Chapters Two through Five. It is here we find such basic statements as the following:
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)
Since the foundation of our doctrine is found in these four chapters, perhaps we should consider to whom Paul was writing. We understand that Paul was addressing Jews, and Gentiles as well; but Gentiles who were being taught by the Judaizers that in order to be saved they must keep the Law of Moses.
It is clear that in the opening chapters Paul is addressing Jews, as we shall see in a moment. Later Paul turns to the Gentiles.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (Romans 9:3)
Do you see how Paul is beginning to speak to Gentiles?
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: (Romans 11:13)
Let us look now at some passages revealing that Paul had Jews in mind when he was writing the early chapters of Romans.
Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (Romans 2:17)
Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (Romans 2:23)
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (Romans 4:1)
And notice the following verse:
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (Romans 7:1)
We have not understood these chapters because we have come from a Gentile background with going to Heaven as our goal rather than the pleasing of God by righteous behavior—the goal of Paul and of all other devout Jews.
Now we come to the point of the present essay. Christian theology presents Divine grace as a replacement for righteous behavior. It is maintained we ought to please Jesus by trying to practice righteousness, trying to be merciful, trying to walk humbly with God. But God, seeing our sinful nature, has chosen to bring us to Heaven by a supreme, sovereign, unconditional grace—an abstract legal maneuver not actually dependent on any change in our personality or behavior. Grace is grace, and if we attempt to mix works with grace, then grace no longer is grace.
The idea seems to be that God gave us numerous commandments under the new covenant. But He understands we cannot obey Him and so He saves us by grace (defined as an unconditional pardon). This is our tradition and it is totally false. It is no wonder Christian people do not take the biblical commandments seriously.
What kind of Father would command his children to practice certain behaviors and then teach the child He does not expect to be obeyed? Our heavenly Father would never do such a thing. All He has commanded us to do He expects us to do. He has given us access to His very Presence through the blood of Christ so we may receive grace to help us keep His commandments. Any other interpretation of the new covenant is unthinkable and an affront to God’s righteous Nature.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Romans 11:6)
The problem in our thinking is, we understand Paul to be speaking to Gentiles about a replacement for righteous behavior. Rather, Paul was speaking to Jews about the replacement for the Law of Moses!
If we say that grace replaces righteous behavior, then we defeat the whole purpose of the new covenant.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
God has ordained that we should walk in good works, that we should practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8:10)
"The covenant that I will make with the house of Israel"! Do you see how the new covenant is addressed first to Jews, that they should practice righteousness? The new covenant applies to Gentiles only as we become a part of the one Seed of Abraham through our marriage to Christ.
If we make Divine grace a replacement for righteous behavior we find ourselves contradicting not only the commandments of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels but also several strong statements by the Apostle Paul himself.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: (Matthew 7:24)
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
Let us now look at several passages in the Book of Romans that demonstrate clearly Paul was speaking to Jews and contrasting grace with the Law of Moses, not with righteous behavior.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)
"By the deeds of the law." We Gentiles of today look at this verse and perceive it to say that people are not justified by behaving righteously in the sight of God. This is not what the verse is stating.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (Romans 3:21)
Not the righteousness of God apart from our moral transformation but the righteousness of God apart from the Law of Moses.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:28)
One might say, Paul indeed was speaking of the Law of Moses but the same holds true of any moral code—we cannot be saved by any philosophy or moral code. Salvation can be found only in the Lord Jesus.
We cannot choose to behave righteously by our own moral code in place of receiving the Lord Jesus.
However, in stating that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law of Moses the Apostle Paul was not discounting the need for moral transformation, because that would clearly contradict all Paul said in the sixth chapter of Romans and in numerous other passages.
The Jews were pressing toward righteousness. Paul was informing them that now that God had given Christ for their sins they could not achieve righteousness by observing the Law of Moses. God has provided His own Lamb. To please God the Jew must look up from blind adherence to the Torah and receive Christ. In so doing the Jew is not losing his righteous status with God because God has seen fit to provide a righteousness apart from the Law.
Paul tells us in Chapter Seven of Romans that we are dead to the Law of Moses that we may be married to Christ. Marriage to Christ is a moral discipline a thousandfold stricter than the Law of Moses.
To teach we are saved by grace instead of by works, meaning that how we behave is not an essential aspect of the new covenant, is, as Peter said, to wrest Paul’s words to our own destruction.
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (II Peter 3:16)
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31)
As long as our adamic nature is alive it is under the Law of Moses, especially under the Ten Commandments. The Law is as a household slave who brings us to Christ, meanwhile watching over us so we do not commit sin while we are becoming acquainted with Christ. It is our death and resurrection with the Lord Jesus that frees us legally from the Law of Moses.
If we remain alive in our old nature, and then attempt to "marry" the Lord Jesus, we are found to be in adultery. For the Law of Moses has dominion over an individual as long as he remains alive in his adamic personality.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Romans 4:13)
Again, it is clear that Paul is contrasting faith with the Law of Moses, and he is speaking to Jews. He is not informing Gentiles, who at this time knew little about Abraham and his inheritance, that they no longer need to obey the eternal moral law of God.
The eternal moral law of God has been placed in our conscience.
The eternal law of God has been in existence from eternity—long, long before it was expressed in a negative form in the Ten Commandments. The eternal moral law of God will still be in effect tens of billions of years from now, if one can measure ageless eons in terms of time. The eternal moral law is the Nature of God.
The eternal moral law is, You shall love God with your whole personality and your neighbor as yourself.
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: (Romans 4:14)
Again, to Jews concerning the Law of Moses.
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (Romans 4:15)
The Law of Moses.
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:13)
The Law of Moses.
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: (Romans 5:20)
The Law of Moses.
The next chapter of Romans (Chapter Six) reveals beyond all possibility of doubt that Paul was not replacing righteousness with grace, faith, mercy, or any other legal maneuver. Rather, Paul was replacing the many varied aspects of the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath observance, circumcision, dietary laws, feast days, the laws governing leprosy, and so forth with obedience to Christ through the Spirit of God.
Obedience to Christ through the Spirit of God always produces moral transformation—moral transformation portrayed in increasingly righteous behavior.
Salvation is not a trip to Heaven. Salvation is moral transformation and increasingly righteous behavior. This is what salvation is.
To say we are saved by Divine grace apart from moral transformation is precisely equivalent to claiming we are healed apart from being healed.
Do the New Testament Writings Stress Righteous Behavior as an Essential Aspect of Salvation?
If the writings of the New Testament emphasize righteous behavior and moral transformation as an essential aspect of salvation, then it cannot be true that Divine grace is a supreme, sovereign, unconditional legal maneuver in which people are accepted of God while they continue in an unchanged state.
If the student will take the time to go through the New Testament and write down every passage that stresses imputed righteousness and compare his list with a similar list of passages that stress actual righteousness of behavior, he may come to the same conclusion as we: it is time for a reformation of Christian thinking!
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
Righteous behavior is an essential aspect of salvation.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
Righteous behavior is an essential aspect of salvation.
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)
Righteous behavior is an essential aspect of salvation.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
And so on and on and on!
We think we see today a move in the Christian churches toward repentance and some stress on righteous behavior. People feel the need for moral change even though their basic theology claims that God views us only through the Lord Jesus no matter how we behave.
We believe that revival is here, a revival of repentance in the churches, and that it will expand rapidly. The revival will take place in the midst of great trouble, as we understand the Spirit of God.
If Divine grace indeed is intended to replace righteous behavior as far as we Gentiles are concerned, then the commandments of the Lord Jesus and great portions of Paul’s writings must be dismissed as applying only to unsaved people—certainly not to the (Gentile) Church of the Lord Jesus. If such is the case, no revival of repentance is needed or even appropriate. If God sees us only through the Lord Jesus, then every effort at repentance and righteous living is an affront to the supreme grace that God is thought to have provided.
However, the Spirit of God is calling for repentance on the part of God’s people. The revival of repentance will be facilitated greatly if God’s scholars and theologians will take another look at the sixth chapter of Romans, observing that eternal life comes only as we choose to become the slave of righteousness. If we, having received Christ as our Savior, having been baptized in water, having received the Spirit of God, then choose to be the slave of sin, we are inviting spiritual death. This is what the sixth chapter of Romans teaches clearly and consistently.
The Law of Moses was issued as a provision for the sinful nature of man until the Seed should come who is the Heir of all the promises of God. The Divine Seed is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has come and has shed His blood as an atonement for our sins. Then God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in Heaven.
We who at one time were under the Law of Moses have now, in the drama of water baptism, reckoned ourselves dead on the cross with Christ and alive with Him and seated at the right hand of God in Heaven.
Having died in this manner we now are legally free from the Law of Moses in order that we may be married to Christ, and not be considered an adulteress in so doing.
Our union with Christ always will result in the fruit of righteous behavior. If our receiving Christ does not result in a new creation, in a transformed moral nature from which proceeds righteous behavior, then we are not abiding in Christ. We are not working out our own salvation. We have changed the grace of God into an excuse for immorality.
The preachers of today are saying to Christian people, "You shall not surely die even if you do not serve the Lord Jesus, because you are saved (will go to Heaven when you die) on the basis of a supreme, sovereign, unconditional grace." When the ministers of the Gospel teach this doctrine they are misunderstanding the goals, and the program for attaining those goals, of the Apostle Paul. They are leading themselves and their hearers to destruction.
It is your responsibility to study the New Testament, particularly the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, making certain that no individual steals your crown of life by convincing you that the God of Heaven does not require righteous, holy, sternly obedient behavior of His saints.