Our Old and New Testaments in the bible are very representative of the dichotomy we find in our dialogues about Law and Grace. Both the Old and New Testament are covenant relationships offered to humanity by a God trying to reconcile His holiness with man’s sinfulness. The difference is that, in the Old Testament, God was operating with people who did not yet have the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. In contrast, the covenant of Grace in the New Testament is now available to those who receive Jesus as Lord of their heart and the Holy Spirit as Lord of their soul and body. Grace is offered to the people who submit to be led by the Holy Spirit in every area of their lives. The bible says that these are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
But both these covenants are God’s perfect plan to reach out to a people in the condition they found themselves in. With the law, God had to appeal to them on the basis of the “fear of punishment” (thou shalt not…or else a curse). It was a law established to bring justice to a wicked world. (Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10).
However, in the New Testament, God is able to appeal to His people on the basis of the “love of virtue” and the blessing promises (the beatitudes) that rewarded these virtues. (“Blessed are those”…) This covenant relationship is available and established in any person who accepts Jesus and the Holy Spirit as their supreme guide in every area of life.
This new covenant brings freedom from sin and it’s consequences. But with this freedom comes a higher expectation and responsibility of following not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. In this covenant, there is an understanding that these are two sides of the same coin. For you can’t satisfy the spirit of the law if you are breaking the letter of the law. But the spirit of the law is a more complete and efficient measuring stick for behavior because at its center is a desire to surrender to and uphold the love of God and others first and foremost. (This is the desired motive and intent of every action.)
By contrast, the letter of the law could be satisfied while still maintaining a corrupt selfish heart. For proof just take a look at Jesus’ statements to the pharisees who were corrupt spiritual leaders at the time. They endeavored to satisfy all the requirements of the letter of the law and at the same time often totally missed the spirit of the law entirely by hurting and keeping in bondage the very people they were supposed to be serving! The underlying motive for most of these leaders was power and prestige…not loving sacrificial service.
So think of the Old and New Testament as two covenants written to two different creations…the “Old”, born of sinful Adam, and the “New” born of the spirit of Christ. But they are all the same consistent “Love Letter” from a Holy God endeavoring to restore both conditions of a mankind that was broken by sin and is now redeemed by His Son. One side of the coin is based on the law and the fear of breaking it to stay in good stead with a Holy God. The other side is based on grace, the love of its virtue and the rewards and blessings that accompany a life submitted to the Lordship of Christ and His Spirit living in us!
Want to learn more? See you Sunday at 10am!