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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Law and Grace


Among careful students of the Scriptures an church history, regardless of their theological bias, there has always been general agreement that if there is any outstanding characteristic term in Christianity, that term is "grace". In much of the New Testament this term becomes almost a synonym for Christianity itself. Thus in some of the Pauline epistles there are benedictions which mention "grace" alone, with the implication that this term covers everything in the Christian faith, and that if we have "grace" nothing else is needed.

As to the meaning of the term as used in the New Testament writings, there is also general agreement. Grace is the unmerited favor of God in Christ. Salvation by grace, therefore, is not of ourselves, not of works, but the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). And if Christian salvation is by grace, then it is not of works; "otherwise grace is no more grace" (Romans 11:6). 

Much of the controversy which has attended the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace has arisen about the place of the "law" in relation to the Christian believer who is saved by grace. This was true in the days of the apostles, and it has likewise been true down through the centuries of church history. This was the subject of discussion in the first church council recorded in Acts 15:5, 11. It was also the occasion of the writing of Paul's sharpest epistle, the letter to the Galatian churches. This is an endless battle, but every generation in the church of God must meet the issue for itself.

Various motives - some good and some evil - have raised the issue. Recently it has been raised by teachers and writers with the best of intentions. These men have been grieved and disturbed by the failure of Christian people to live the kind of life the Word of God expects of those saved by grace. As a remedy for this distressing condition in the churches they have proposed that we turn back to the law. We have failed, they argue, because we have not laid upon the members of the churches the "obligations" of the "moral law". The path of success in both the Christian life and the work of the church, they say, will be found in getting the Christian people to see that they are still under the "moral" law of God. It is quite astonishing to find how widely that this opinion is held and advocated.

Although I have always held some very decided opinions in this area of Christian doctrine, the present situation has led me to restudy the entire subject of the law in relation to the Christian believer. The results of this study are presented here with the sincere hope that both the writer and those who read may find the path of truth as revealed in the Word of God.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 2 - "The Law in New Testament Usage")

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