I ran across an excellent quotation that puts this false dichotomy of Law versus Grace into perspective. What makes this quotation interesting is its source. You see, it comes from one of the more progressive commentaries on the Bible, the World Bible Commentary, and disappointedly, many modern Seminaries and Bible colleges recommend this multi-volume work as the ultimate and most up-to-date Bible commentary in existence today. and published in 2001. Duane Christensen, the editor of the volume on Deuteronomy, is anything but a conservative leaning person or an apologist for Israel and the Jewish people. He was trained in MIT and Harvard . . . so I do not think I have to say much more. Professor Christensen talks about an undeniable reality that the Lord has shown him about the Old Testament and he wants other Christians and serious students of the Bible to benefit from it. He wrote:
“The popular view that identifies Law with the Old Testament and gospel with the New Testament will certainly not stand up against a careful reading of the book of Deuteronomy as G. Braulik has shown. To understand Deuteronomy, one must recognize God’s prior grace to sinners; that is, the priorty of gospel (grace) over law in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. Though Deuteronomy stresses that obedience to God’s Torah is essential, it even more strongly emphasizes that such obedience is dependent on the grace of God . . .”
Let me clarify what he said: God’s grace is contained in His Law, and the Law demonstrates His grace. His law and His grace are inseparable and each one is based on the other. One without the other is like talking about the Messiah and the Holy Spirit as being mutually exclusive. To even think that Yeshua or the Holy Spirit could exist and function without the other, or that Salvation is the exclusive work of one and not the other is ridiculous and defies every Biblical tenet of just who God is. Remove the work of the Holy Spirit and our Salvation cannot exist. Remove the work of Jesus and our Salvation cannot exist,either. We can certainly talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit separately, study them, discuss them in isolated fashion, and even apply different terms and characteristics; but cannot separate them. God, over and over again, says that He is Echad, one—a divine unity that cannot be broken apart.
So it is with Law and Grace. We certainly can, to a degree, identify the somewhat unique purposes and attributes of each, but we can no more choose between Law and Grace (or law and gospel) than we can choose between the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. One brother and I were discussing this subject at length some time ago, and I told him that it occurred to me that the mainstream church had become so willing to do exactly that, saying that for a Believer to simply determine that they will be obedient to God’s Word is now called “legalism.”
So take this as a reminder of the context of this study (and all the Scripture, for that matter) that Grace is at its center and that the Laws are connected to, and built on, and dependent on God’s grace. In God’s economy without Grace, there can be no Law.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome