Law or Grace: Command or Provision

Galatians 3:10-12 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

A common teaching of churches today is that we are not under law, but under grace. The Old Testament is usually termed law, and the New Testament is called grace. The majority of preachers stand upon Paul’s statement that we are not under law, but under grace. Nevertheless, many of the ones who stand upon this teaching are still under law, because they do not understand the difference between law and grace. The definition usually given for “grace” is “unmerited favor.” Although that definition is not inaccurate, it doesn’t sufficiently define it either.

Some people consider “law” to refer to the Ten Commandments only, some consider it to be the rabbinical teachings of Jewish customs and traditions, and some take it to be the entire Old Testament, and so they forsake it and adhere only to the New Testament. If we forsake the Old Testament, we make a dreadful mistake. Jesus said, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus’ purpose was not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. That also should be our purpose, to fulfill it by experiencing it. After all, Jesus’ purpose for fulfilling it is so that we can experience His life in it.

John 5:39-40 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.
40 And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.

The life is not the Scriptures. The life is the Lord Jesus Christ that is hidden in the Scriptures. If you study the Old Testament without feeding upon the Christ-life in them, you are under law. If you are feeding on His life in the Old Testament, you are not under law. The same thing is true for the New Testament. If in your reading and study of the New Testament, you are not feeding on the Divine life found in them, you are still under law. It is law to you. Just because the first page of that section of the Bible has “New Testament” written on it doesn’t mean it is grace and not law. How you relate to it and receive it is the determining factor, whether it is law or grace. To many Christians the New Testament is also law, because they don’t know how to extract the life of the Lord that is in it.

John 1:17-18 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.

Grace and truth comes by Jesus Christ. Wherever you find Him, you will find grace and truth. If you are able to find Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, you will hear a declaration of God. A revelation of God does not come through the genius of man. Human intelligence, reason, and education do not express God. Thus, “no man” hath seen God at any time. Only Jesus Christ declares Him. The law is given by Moses; grace and truth by Jesus Christ. If you hear the declaration of Jesus Christ, you are not under law. If in the Pentateuch, you only hear what Moses is saying, you are under law. But if you hear what Jesus Christ is saying through Moses, you are not under law but grace. Do you see the difference? For that same reason, if you do not hear the declarations of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, you are still under law. The difference is not Old Testament and New Testament. The determining factor is, “Are you hearing the voice of the Lord?”

If the Old Testament is law to you and the New Testament is grace, then you are still under law. The whole Bible is either law to you or grace to you. It is a sad but true statement that many Christians are under law and not grace, because they are unable to hear the declarations of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.

The following will show that the difference between law and grace can also be considered to be the difference between command and provision.

Leviticus 19:2 Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.

The legalist under law reads this and thinks, “God is commanding me to be holy.” So he sets about to discipline himself to be holy. God wants him to be holy, so he is going to do all he possibly can to become holy. Everything he thinks God wants him to do, he is going to do. Everything he feels God doesn’t want him to do, he isn’t going to do. He will drop his bad habits and begin a rigid regimen of reading the Word, prayer, and good works. He is going to love everybody and hate no one. He will discipline himself to become holy. God has given him a command, and he is going to do all that is in his power to be obedient. The result: He is under law, and he does not become holy.

On the other hand, the one under grace reads the same passage of Scripture, but hears something different than the interpretation of the one under law. Instead of hearing a command to be holy, he hears God giving him a provision. God is making him a promise. He is saying to him, “Because I am holy, I can make you holy.” So holiness is not something he has to generate through rigorous discipline and works. Like Abraham, he believes God, and God counts it as righteousness (Genesis 15:5). He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, He was also able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Romans 4:20-22. Unbelief tries to accomplish holiness through discipline. Faith believes that God will create it. Faith appropriates God’s provision.

Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.

The legalist under law hears a command to walk before God and be perfect. So as in the other example, he sets about to accomplish it with the same result as before – failure! The one under law thinks of God as apart from him. He usually sees God as sitting on a throne up in the sky somewhere, or at least, at a distance looking down upon him. He feels God has given him a command, and he has to be obedient to carry it out.

The one under grace, on the other hand, hears not a command, but a provision which he counts as a promise. He says, “If I walk in the presence of the Lord, He will make me perfect in His sight.” He realizes that exposure to God brings change to his nature. So he refuses to think of God as separate from him. He removes all distance by practicing the presence of the Lord. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he is in the presence of the Lord. He refuses to have walls and gives God access to all areas of his life. By the way, this is also what it means to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is Lord when you allow Him to work His will in you. He is not Lord when you try to work it out for yourself.

A believer under grace refuses separation from the Lord. He rejects the idea of distance. A believer also rejects futurism. The person under law tends to put the promises and provisions of God in the future. That is separation from the Lord, too. The believer under grace brings the future into the present by his faith. He believes that all that God has promised and provided is for now.

Can you hear the declarations of the Lord in the Scriptures? The Lord Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). And He wants to fulfill it in you! He that is in the bosom of the Father wants to declare Him to you, that you may receive His life in fullness. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. John 1:16.

Copyright © 1996 by Henry DuBose