Law and grace

184 law and grace

When I listened to Billy Joel's "State of Mind New York" song a few weeks ago while reviewing my online news, I accidentally came across the following article. It states that the state of New York recently passed a law prohibiting pet tattooing and piercing. It amused me to learn that a law like this is necessary. Apparently, this practice is becoming a trend. I doubt many New Yorkers took note of the passing of this law, as it was just one of many that has recently been put into effect in this state. By their very nature, governments at all levels have a legal mindset. No doubt they pass many new prohibitions and commandments. For the most part, they are trying to make the world a better place. Laws are sometimes necessary simply because people lack common sense. However, the news channel CNN reported that new laws came into force in the US in the year 201440.000.

Why so many laws?

Mostly because we people with our penchant for sin try to find gaps in existing regulations. As a result, more and more laws are needed. Few would be required if laws were able to make people perfect. But this is not the case. The purpose of the law is to keep imperfect people in check and promote social order and harmony. In Romans 8,3, in his letter to the parish of in Rome, Paul wrote the following about the limits of the law that God gave to Israel through Moses (Romans 8,3 GN). "The law could not bring us humans life because it did not matter against our selfish nature. Therefore, God sent His Son in the physical form of our selfish sin-decayed man, and let him die as a sacrifice for the sin-guilt. So he made sin the process just where it had unfolded its power: in human nature. "

Not understanding the limitations of the law, Israel's religious leaders have added additional provisions and additions to the law of Moses. There was also a point where it was almost impossible to keep track of these laws, let alone obey them. No matter how many laws have been passed, perfection has never been achieved (and will never be achieved) by keeping the laws. And that was exactly where Paul arrived. God did not give the law to make His people perfect (just and holy). Only God makes people perfect, just and holy - by grace. By juxtaposing law and grace, some accuse me of hating God's law and promoting antinomism. (Antinomism is the belief that by grace one is relieved of the obligation to keep moral laws). But nothing is further from the truth. Like everyone else, I wish people would be better at laws. Who wants to know that lawlessness exists? But as Paul reminds us, it is vital to understand what the law can and can not do. In his mercy, God gave Israel the law that included the Ten Commandments to lead them on a better path. Therefore, in Romans 7,12, Paul said: "the law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, just and good." But by its very nature, the law is limited. It can neither bring about salvation nor free anyone from guilt and damnation. The law can not justify or reconcile us, let alone sanctify and glorify us.

Only God's grace can do this through the work of reconciliation of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us. Just as Paul wrote 2,21 in Galatians [GN]: "I do not reject the grace of God. If we could insist before God that we fulfill the law, then Christ would have died in vain ".

In this regard, Karl Barth preached to prisoners in a Swiss prison:
"So let's hear what the Bible says and what we as Christians are called to hear together: By grace you have been redeemed! No one can say this to themselves. Nor can he tell anyone else. Only God can say that to each one of us. It takes Jesus Christ to make that statement true. It takes the apostle to communicate. And it takes our meeting here as Christians to spread them among us. That's why it's honest news and a very special message, the most exciting news of all, as well as the most helpful - indeed the only helpful one. "

While hearing the good news, the gospel, some people fear that God's grace does not work. Legalists are particularly concerned about people turning grace into lawlessness. You can not understand the truth revealed by Jesus that our life is the relationship to God. By serving with Him, His position as Creator and Redeemer is by no means called into question.

Our role is to live and share the Good News, to proclaim God's love and to be an example of gratitude for God's self-revelation and intervention in our lives. Karl Barth wrote in "Church Dogmatics" that this obedience to God begins in the form of gratitude: "Grace evokes gratitude, just as a sound evokes an echo." Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning.

Barth further commented:
"When God loves, he reveals his innermost being in the fact that he loves and therefore seeks and creates fellowship. This being and doing is divine and different from all other kinds of love to the extent that love is God's grace. Grace is the unmistakable nature of God in so far as, through its own free love and favor, it seeks and creates fellowship, without preconditions of any merit or claim of the beloved, not hindered by any unworthiness or opposition, but on the contrary, by all unworthiness and to overcome all resistance. In this distinctive feature, we recognize the divinity of God's love. "

I can imagine that your experience does not differ from mine when it comes to law and grace. Like you, I would much rather have a relationship that springs from love than with someone who is committed to the law. Because of God's love and grace towards us, we also wish to love and please Him. Of course, I can try to obey him out of a sense of duty, but I would rather, as an expression of a true love relationship, serve together with him.

Thinking about life in grace reminds me of another song by Billy Joel: "Keeping the Faith". If not theologically precise, the song brings an important message: "If the memory remains, yes, then I will keep the faith. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. To keep the faith. Yes, I keep faith. Yes I do."

by Joseph Tkach


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