One little monk changed the world. And all it took was reading through Paul’s letters. Martin Luther grew up under the idea that God was a taskmaster. His grace was a footnote. It was all about what you can do because you knew better.
It was in a thunderstorm with terrible lightning that Martin Luther promised to give God his life in service, originally studying to be a lawyer. He thought for sure that because God expected so much, he was angry with him as a result.
Begging for his life, he made good on his promise. He entered into the ministry and the world has never been the same. Wanting to correct what he thought were mistakes in the Catholic doctrines, he found out this wasn’t necessarily true.
So he set out to change the world. Originally, he had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church. But when he found out they weren’t open to his suggestions, the Protestant Reformation was born. And one of his central tenants came out of Paul’s writings, that we are saved by grace through faith and no longer under the law but under God’s grace.
Much of the conversation between law and grace happens from Paul’s writings. He dealt extensively with the Old Testament law of Moses. He wrote about it often because the Jews of his day thought that if they follow the letter of the law they would have their own righteousness. But Paul showed that no one can follow God’s law and we all need his grace.
The Letter Kilts
We’ve already been talking about the law in other posts. But during a discussion on the ministry of the old covenant and Moses covering his face to hide the glory of it, Paul talks about the new covenant in its glory (2 Corinthians 3:1-11).
He compares the old covenant glory with the new covenant glory. The old covenant included the law of Moses written on stone. Paul brings out that there is glory in both covenants, but the new covenant of God’s grace brings life through the Spirit. He says that the letter kills, but the Spirit brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Think about how the letter kills. The letter refers to the law of Moses. The laws of Moses show people their sin. It’s like staring into a mirror and seeing all of your flaws. But the law doesn’t fix the core issue. The mirror isn’t a cream for your face.
The law only goes so far. And it stops short of redemption. It will tell you everything you’re doing wrong. It will even penalize you for doing it wrong. But only Jesus and his grace can change you from the inside out.
So the law was good for a time and for and for a specific purpose. But because it doesn’t go far enough, we need more than just the law. Getting a diagnosis is only part of the solution. That’s where God’s grace comes into play.
In Romans 6, Paul talks about how we are no longer vulnerable to sin. Before we met Christ, we couldn’t fight sin at all. We gave in every time. Temptations weren’t much for tempting us because we wanted to do what they wanted us to do.
But now as Christians, we have the ability to turn our temptations and old desires down. We don’t have to give in. Jesus gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to deny these passions. He has truly set us free.
Now that we have a choice, Paul commands us to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:12). We are responsible for any time we don’t prove that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:2, 11).
This battle was already won by Christ. We don’t have to struggle with it anymore. Instead, we are under God’s grace. The law is no longer our master. We can stare into the mirror or we can bow before the Master.
But just because we’re under grace instead of law doesn’t mean we can get away with every little sin. Actually, because of the indwelling presence of the Spirit, we want even more to please and honor God. Now we have the power to do it.
Being under God’s grace instead of the law doesn’t give us permission to sin. It gives us power to refuse it and put it in its place. Sin has no place in our lives. But we must be dead to it. It’s up to us to kill it.
We must not get the impression that we can do these things on our own. Willpower is not enough. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. And we get this from faith in Jesus. It’s our faith in Jesus that gives us that power.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6, 8 that we are saved by grace through faith. It’s not something we do on our own. It’s a gift of God. Any effort purely on our own will fail. But an effort empowered by the Holy Spirit succeeds.
Jesus walks alongside of us. Why do something on our own if we can get help from a friend? And he is our Advocate, always coming to our aid. He sent the Holy Spirit so his presence may dwell within us and help us.
Interestingly, this is the other place where Paul mentions the phrase, “Dead to sin, alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). So it’s not only about being under God’s grace, but it’s also through faith. These two are the double punch against sin.
Because of God’s grace we have the power to resist sin by faith in the power of Jesus dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. He makes us capable against it. But this same grace and faith also gives us the power to please God and find things that glorify him, and then do them with our whole being.
God’s grace is one of the most powerful weapons we have as believers in Jesus. And faith in him is the catalyst to bring that grace and its power to the reality of every situation. We are more than conquerors because Christ is with us.
What do you see as benefits of God’s law and his grace? We need them both, but we live under God’s grace.