GOD'S VICTORY PROGRAM FOR US TODAY
"But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
What God is doing today for people of faith is unique and special. It's different than what He was doing in ages past as He dealt with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
Today, God is forming the church, the Body of Christ. He wasn't forming the church in the Old Testament and the church didn't start during the earthly ministry of Jesus -- though Jesus talked about building His church in the future (Matt. 16:18). The church began nearly 2,000 years ago after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when individual believers for the first time were baptized with the Holy Spirit into a spiritual organism, the Body of Christ. Understanding what this work of God means for us today is fundamental to living a victorious Christian life. It is fundamental to experiencing a dynamic, personal, and growing relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14)
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." (Rom. 10:4)
These verses make it clear that law and grace are two separate ways God has dealt with man. They also indicate that at the time the Apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans, a change had taken place. People who put their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins were now to live under a grace system, not a law system.
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)
In the Apostle John's gospel we see again that with the coming of Jesus Christ a change in the way God's people are to live in His kingdom had taken place. Christ had ushered in grace!
The two systems, law and grace, are two perfectly good systems God has used to direct, guide, and lead His people. Both are clearly found in the Bible, but they are very different. In fact, they're so different that they're totally incompatible with each other. Let's look at each system closely.
The law is a performance system. It's a system where the receiving of blessings is conditional and it's based on the proper adherence to certain standards and expectations. It's a system where the "if..... then" principle is the mode of operation. This is how God operated with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
"Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession." (Ex. 19:5)
"...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14)
If Israel lived up to the mandates set by God, then the promised blessings would be received. However, if they failed to obey the mandates, then curses and judgment would follow (Deut. 28:15-68).
"However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you..." (Deut. 28:15)
The law system is a system of conditional blessings. If the nation Israel followed God's commands, blessings would follow. If the people did not, they would face curses.
Now, let’s look at grace and how it works.
"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:23-24)
Grace is a free gift - it's an undeserved gift from God. Grace is a free gift system and it is just the opposite of the law system. It's a system of unconditional blessings. God's grace to us today operates solely as a result of the finished, all-sufficient work of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross and by His resurrection.
"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!" (Rom. 5:15)
Romans 11:6 clearly states the impossibility of these two principles, law and grace, co-existing:
"And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."
The Christian life will not operate properly if you're uninformed and it also won't work properly just because you or I want it to work a certain way that is contrary to God's Word. We experience the life God wants us to enjoy as we see ourselves as God sees us and understand what He is doing today in the age of grace. As believers, members of the church, the Body of Christ, we are not to live under the law or any other performance-based systems in order to get God to do something for us.
"Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Gal. 3:23-25)
As members of the Body of Christ, "we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Gal. 3:25). Can the word of God be any clearer? How can this truth from the Apostle Paul be missed? The main purpose of the Law of Moses was to show the Jews that they couldn't keep the law and, therefore, needed a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! Now that faith in Christ has come, believers today are not under the law program God gave exclusively to Israel.
Paul makes it clear that God intended for the law program to be temporary. During this time period the law was in charge and had a disciplinary function in dealing with individual Israelites and the nation as a whole.
In Gal. 4:1-7 Paul continues his explanation as to why the law is not binding on Christians. He uses the example of a child who's an heir of an estate being no different than a slave because he is "subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father" (4:2). This child period represents the time of the law's control. During this time, people were in bondage, slaves to the "the basic principles of the world" (4:3). In this context, "the basic principles of the world" means the legalism of Judaism and may also mean all the other forms of law living found in man-made religious rules and observances in the gentile world that were not part of Judaism (also in 4:9). Then "when the time had fully come" (4:4), which indicates that the work of the law required a particular length of time, God sent His Son.
Believers in Christ have now received "the full rights of sons" (4:5) and are no longer slaves. Paul is describing Christians as adult sons living in a new age. Now that we have full sonship status in Christ, the authority of guardians and trustees (the Mosaic Law) has ended. We no longer need the law to guide us, lead us, or discipline us. The law's guardianship ended when "God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts" (4:6). Our slavery to the law has ended! We have been set free from the authority of the law and Christ is now our teacher - and he teaches us about grace!
Because our relationship to God radically changed when we believed in Christ, we have the great joy and privilege to live under a new and better program through Jesus Christ - grace!
"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14)
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." (Col. 2:13-14)
The law code that God gave to Israel is not for believers in Christ! It is not for the church! God canceled the written code, took it away, and nailed it to the cross! We have died to the law (Rom. 7:4) and all the commands that are part of the law.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1)
The "yoke of slavery" Paul is referring to is the law. The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. Now that Christ has set us free from the law, why go back and live by it again? Isn't that just plain silly? Yet, this is exactly what most Christians do! They've been taught that they need to strive to keep the Law and other rules in order to please God. This is false teaching that has countless Christians in legalistic bondage today! The truth is that just as we are saved by grace through faith, we are to live by grace through faith!
God's word tells us we have died to the law and are now alive with Christ. What a wonderful thing - to have Christ living in us and to be alive with Him! Trusting and resting in all that Christ accomplished for us at the cross and the work of the Spirit of Christ living in us gives the Holy Spirit the freedom to produce the Christian character in us and good works we have been created for.
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Gal. 5:16)
The godly character God wants to build in your life is produced by the Holy Spirit, not self-effort. Just as by faith, we trusted in Christ for our justification, we are to by faith, trust in Christ for our progressive sanctification. God wants us to trust Him to do the things in us He says in His word He will do.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal. 5:22-23)
"...filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:11)
God wants you to know and rest in the truth that we died to the law when we died with Christ at the cross. Only the life of Christ living in us and through us can produce the increasing godliness that we desire. This is God's way for us to experience real spiritual growth resulting in victorious Christian lives. Trust in God's grace program which we live under today (Rom. 6:14) which is all about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
"So, my brothers, YOU ALSO DIED TO THE LAW through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." (Rom. 7:4)
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:10)
When we read the Old Testament and see how God led and directed his chosen people, Israel, it's hard to miss that God is definitely doing something new today in the lives of believers as He builds His church, the Body of Christ. We see that God has a new program in place today and that plan has been in operation for nearly 2000 years! Now God indwells people of faith permanently and they are joined to a spiritual organism - the Body of Christ!
The Apostle Paul called this new program, the church, a "mystery" hidden from past generations:
"Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 3:2-6)
"Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things." (Eph. 3:8-9)
God instituted this new grace program, not because the law program was bad or didn't work, but because it was time for His wonderful, eternal plan of grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to come on the world scene. It was all according to God's perfect plan in God's perfect timing! Paul tells us the purpose of this "mystery" now revealed:
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Eph. 3:10-11)
It is clear from Paul that God's calling out of the church was a heavenly calling with heavenly purposes. Just as God has a plan on the earth through the nation Israel, He has a plan in the heavenly realms through the church, the Body of Christ.
Is God through with national Israel? No! Paul, writing about Israel in his epistle to the Romans, tells us that God's program for Israel has been temporarily set aside while He is forming the church:
"Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Rom. 11:11-12)
Later, Paul further drives home the point that God is not done with national Israel:
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" (Rom. 11:25-27)
It's hard to miss from these verses that Israel has a future -- and a very bright one! When Jesus returns to rule on the earth, Israel will not reject Him again. Instead, when Jesus returns to set up his kingdom, national Israel will repent, turn to Him, and be saved! The kingdom prophecies in the Old Testament will all be fulfilled as the King rules from David's throne on the earth.
As has been strongly emphasized here, it's clear from studying the Bible that God's program for Israel and His program for the church are two distinct programs in the outworking of His purposes that are all for His glory. Understanding the difference between God's program and purpose for the nation Israel and His program and purpose for the church is critical to understanding your Bible. It's also critical for correctly understanding and appreciating what God is doing today in the dispensation of grace as He forms the church.
Furthermore, it is foundational in avoiding confusion and frustration in your walk with Christ. Mixing these programs in trying to live your Christian will do just that -- confuse and frustrate you! That's why our ministry emphasizes the importance of properly understanding the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) and believe that dispensational Bible study is the key to accomplishing this.
The Bible shows us that God has progressively revealed himself to humanity through different dispensations, or administrations, which also involved God establishing relationships with people through covenants. God's wonderful grace is evident throughout the entire Bible -- both in the Old and New Testaments. However, His grace is so majestic and radiant through the earthly appearance, ministry, cross-work, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that it is accurate to designate the age in which we now live as a special and unique outpouring of God's grace to us!
What amazing grace! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ forever!
Stephen J. Moll
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
Grace Life Church
Proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God's Grace