and the Christian
"Not Under the Law"
When we come to Paul's teaching on the law, we note the following
1. The law not only exposes sin, but restrains the outward expression
of it (Rom. 2:14, 25).
2. The law discloses the glory of Christ (Rom. 5:18, 19; cf. Matt.
3. The law exposes sin (Rom. 7:7) and teaches men their need of a
Rescuer (Gal. 3:19 f.; Rom. 10:4).
4. The law is the only infallible rule of practice for the believer
(Rom. 13:9; Eph. 6:2; etc.).
5. The believer delights in the law of God (Rom. 7:22). (Notice that
James calls the law the "law of liberty" [James 1:25]).
Our particular point of interest is Paul's teaching on the place
of the law in the existence of the believer. It is often pointed out
that Paul says Christians are "not under the law, but under grace"
(Rom. 6:14). Some assume this means that Christians are free from
all obligation to keep the law. There are several reasons why this
interpretation cannot be accepted:
1. This interpretation takes no notice (apparently) of the context
in which the statement of Paul comes:
(a) Romans 6:15, from which the fourteenth verse is detached, repudiates
in the most emphatic manner any suggestion that grace gives license
to laxity of life. Grace delivers us from the dominion of sin and
therefore establishes and promotes the opposite of sin (for man is
not left in a vacuum), namely, righteousness. Deliverance from sin
means deliverance to righteousness. We have become "slaves" of righteousness
(Rom. 6:18, R.S.V.; cf. v. 22). Sin is the transgression of the law
(1 John 3:4). Righteousness, therefore, must be seen as conformity
to the law.
(b) The wider context of chapter 6 makes it clear that Paul is here
concerned with deliverance from the practice of sin (vv. 1-23). Paul's
great affirmation is that grace has set us free from being bound to
transgress the law (i.e., sin), which is another way of saying, Grace
sets us free to keep the law (vv. 2, 7, 14, 22).
(c) "Under the law," in this context, means "to live under the terms
or conditions of the law." Every person born into the world is under
obligation to keep God's law perfectly as the condition of life with
God. The Christian has met this requirement in Jesus Christ. As we
said previously, Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf. As Christians,
we are not "under [the obligation to keep] the law" for our acceptance
with God. Christ has already done this for us, and we have received
it as a free gift (i.e., we are living "under [the conditions of]
grace"). It is a grave blunder to interpret Paul's "not under the
law" to mean that the Christian may now live lawlessly.
2. Those who deprecate the law fail to notice the wider context of
(a) If Paul thought of himself as released from obligation to the
law of God, how could he, as a believer, confess, " . . . I consent
unto the law that it is good . . ;,l delight in the law of God after
the inward man . . . Rom. 7:16, 22; cf. v.25. Paul pronounces himself
wretched (Rom. 7:24), not because he is obligated to keep the law,
but because he falls so far short of reaching its standard.
(b) In Romans 13:8, 9, Paul cites five precepts of the Decalogue
as relevant to the behavior of the Christian. The emphasis falls upon
the fact that love fulfills rather than negates these precepts. The
law defines what love is in the rough and tumble of daily existence.
(c) In 1 Cor. 9:21, Paul unequivocally states that he is under the
law in the sense of humble obedience. Paul, the Christian, asserts,
" . . . I am not in truth outside God's law, being under the law of
Christ" (N.E.B.). The implication here is that Paul's relation to
Christ places him inside God's law as one for whom the law has application.
3. Those who see no application of the law of God for the believer,
fail to take with sufficient seriousness the clear testimony of other
parts of the New Testament (see John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John; 2:3-5;
3:21, 22, 24; 3:3-10 Rom. 3:31; Matt. 5:19).
John 14:15 If ye love
me, keep my commandments.
John 15:10 If ye keep
my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept
my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
1 John 2: 3-5 And hereby
we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that
saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar,
and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him
verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are
1 John 3:21, 22, 24 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have
we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him,
because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing
in his sight...
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in
him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which
he hath given us.
1 John 3:3-10 And every
man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is
pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin
is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested
to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in
him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known
him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness
is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is
of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this
purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the
works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;
for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is
born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children
of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither
he that loveth not his brother.
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid:
yea, we establish the law.
Matt 5:19 Whosoever therefore
shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men
so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever
shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom
It is amazing that some
will still deprecate the law of God in the light of such clear teaching
as this. One of the common errors is the failure to give concrete
content to the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25). We tend to think
of these as removed from their practical expression in the trench-warfare
existence of the believer. We romanticize, we idealize, we sentimentalize,
and all the time fail to see these fruits with a concrete and practical
content! The content is spelled out in the ancient and ever-relevant
law of the Most High God.
4. Those who speak of no obligation to the law in the Christian life,
do not understand the nature of the gracious intervention of God in
the life of the converted. The Holy Spirit not only creates a hunger
and thirst after righteousness in the believer's heart (Matt. 5:6),
but He also fills the believer with "the fruits of righteousness"
(nonselfish) work takes place only when the law is kept by those who
are already God's children. Hence, the keeping of the law is the mark
of gratitude from the glad son rather than the fearful servant.