The Two Laws – Which One Are You Living By?
God has always given us a choice, to either live by faith in Him and in His provision for all of our needs, or to attempt to live apart from Him and fill our own needs. Those who have the Spirit in them are to live by faith and are held accountable to the Law of the Spirit, while those without the Spirit in them can only live by works and are held accountable to the Law of Works. The problem occurs when people who are accountable to the Law of the Spirit think they are still held accountable to the Law of Works.
What happens when people sin who have the Spirit of God living in them?
How does God treat their sin?
What does it mean to love God in your heart but give in to sinful actions?
What is the purpose of all Christians?
The purpose of all Christians is to call everyone to obedience to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Whoever obeys and has faith is “righteous” in the sight of God.
Romans 1:5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake.
Faith means entrusting our entire well-being to God, which is reckoned as righteousness by God.
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[e] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Faith is not just for ourselves, because faith that is expressed outwardly in god-like actions reveals to others the trustworthiness and goodness of God, brings glory and honor to God, and draws others to faith in God. Faith is contagious.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
What happens when we don’t have faith? It is called sin. Romans 14:23 says “everything that does not come from faith is sin”. We think of sin as breaking the law, but sin is missing the mark of entrusting our entire well-being to God. Sin – not trusting Him – causes us to act as though we deny the trustworthiness and goodness of God. This actually leads others away from God.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and unrighteousness of people, who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 2:24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
How did we get away from God’s original command?
It started in Genesis in the Garden of Eden. There were 2 trees – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Adam and Even initial lived completely by faith in God – they trusted Him for the provision of everything in their lives. They walked and talked with him on a daily basis. There were no rules, other than to stay away from one tree, and they were fine with that – until Satan drew their attention away from all that they had in God to the one thing they were not allowed to have. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would make them like God, so they wouldn’t need God. They would determine right and wrong for themselves, and act according to their view of it. In other words, they would make up their laws and live by them.
Next, in Exodus 20:18,19, God originally asked the people of Israel to come to His mountain and worship Him, without an intermediary between them and God. This scared them, and they told Moses to go in their place, find out what He wanted from them, and then they would just obey His rules. They didn’t want a personal relationship with Him, only a set of laws that they thought they could obey without requiring His help.
Trying to be “right” with God by obeying rules is called “self-righteousness” – trying to make yourself righteous apart from God in the way that YOU choose to be righteous. But true righteousness only comes from doing what GOD says makes you righteous, which has always been trusting in Him for everything.
This is like Naaman, the captain of the army of Aram, who sought healing for his leprosy, but got angry when Elisha told him to wash 7 times in the Jordan river instead of wave his hand around. Naaman originally wanted to achieve his cleansing in the way HE wanted, not the way God wanted. Luckily, his servant talked him into obeying the simple command that seemed so ludicrous and inadequate.
In the time of Jesus and Paul, Israel had exchanged a relationship based on faith in God for an existence based on obedience to a set of written rules. They even wrote more rules to explain His laws – a rabbinic EXPANSION called the Talmud, and prided themselves on keeping all those rules, which were even to supersede the Torah (the 1st 5 books of the bible). (Erubin 21b: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah (Old Testament).” ) God knew they were not completely keeping His laws, so they were only fooling themselves. God still considered them law breakers, because when you choose to be made “righteous” by a set of laws, if you break just one law, you are a law breaker, and you can’t go back and fix that.
But reading Romans 2, I can see how people would think God still judges us by our performance of the law.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Paul’s sentences sound like he is telling everyone you can be declared righteous by obeying the law – which is basically true. But in Romans 3, he makes it clear that no one can obey the law perfectly, so therefore, no one can be declared righteous by obeying the law.
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Only one Person can obey the Law perfectly – only God. The entire point of the law is to act in a way that expresses love for God and man in a practical way. The first four (4) of the Ten Commandments are all about loving God while the second six (6) are about loving others. And trying superficial obedience to the written laws is not acceptable. Obedience to the letter of the law (going through the motions of fulfilling the rule) without fulfilling the spirit of the law (having the motivation of sacrificial love for the benefit of God or someone else) is worthless.
God provided the law to the Israelites because that is what they asked for. But the law also showed the Israelites that no matter how hard they tried to be good enough without God, they could not succeed without doing it His way – entrusting their entire lives to Him and living in personal communion with Him. In the same way that Elisha told Naaman that there was a specific way to be saved from the leprosy, God had a specific way for all men to be saved from judgment and hell. It is to trust in God’s provision for all areas of our lives, including the payment for our sins through Jesus’ sacrificial death.
So, if no one will be declared righteous by obeying the law, how can we become righteous?
22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. — 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
Righteousness (originally known as “rightwiseness”) is always acting according to the revealed will of God for us – in other words, acting as God would in every situation. Our knowledge of God’s law can only make us conscious of our own sins by pointing out how we fail to act like God – it doesn’t do anything to help us obey God. Therefore, we were doomed to never be considered “right” with God through our own actions, and would have been held accountable to pay for every sin we have ever committed.
Since we were incapable of attaining righteousness by our own actions, God made a way for us to be considered “right” in His eyes – in the past, present and future. It is through faith in Jesus – by trusting that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our past, present and future sins, and simultaneously having God’s Spirit come to live inside of us and act through us as God would act from hereon out. God accepts our faith in Jesus’ atoning death, and our continued faith in His existence and goodness as righteousness, in exchange for us not being able to act perfectly righteous all the time.
This is also known as justification, and it has been described as “just as if I’d never sinned”. It means the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as Judge, pronouncing that someone who has not formerly been righteous is now considered righteous. In vs. 24, it actually means that we are continually being justified by our faith in Jesus’ payment for our sin. Justification comes from faith, but results in righteous actions.
We know for sure that God’s requirement of righteousness through faith in Him predates His giving the law to Moses. It even came before Abraham was given the command of circumcision, which was supposed to be an external sign that the Israelites trusted God. Abraham believed that God could and would do as God promised, and therefore God considered Abraham as righteous, even though Abraham had been disobedient and was a liar.
Romans 4:3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.
10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
So the bottom line is that we are trained in this ungodly world to think that being good means following a set of rules and regulations – both religious rules and societal laws. “Do this and avoid this you will be considered a good girl or a good boy”. But that lie keeps us apart from God. This mindset of having to make ourselves do certain things (and avoid certain things) in order to please God is what keeps us distant from God. God wants intimate, daily communion with us and continual trust from us. His goal is not for you to figure everything out on your own without Him.
What does God give us to enable us to obey Him?
Adam chose to trade trust in God’s provision for Adam and Eve for self-reliance upon Adam’s own determination of what is good and what is evil. That resulted in Adam’s spirit dying, making him unable to communicate any longer with God, and eventually led to Adam’s physical death.
All generations of man from Adam to Christ were born with a sinful nature that relies upon itself instead of on God, as well as with a dead spirit, so man can’t communicate with God. Having to obey the law only made man’s quest for righteousness harder. The law actually made us want to sin more. The carnal body and mind only know lust – getting things for itself. The law told us what we could not do and could not have, which made our mind and body want and focus on what we could not do and have. We were an instrument of sin, meaning that sin “played” us, and we did whatever selfish thing we wanted.
But once we placed our faith in God’s provision for all of our needs, we were considered righteous even though our actions weren’t righteous. Therefore, we no longer needed the law – we were already righteous. Without the law taunting us with all we couldn’t do and have, our intense desire to do the wrong things to get stuff for ourselves dropped away, especially since we could trust God to provide for all of our needs.
Additionally, Christ’s redemptive death made a way for man’s spirit to be re-born, so man could communicate with God and receive God’s eternal life through God’s Holy Spirit living inside of Him. God’s grace (God’s divine empowerment in our lives that allows us to respond to Him) now enabled a Christian to choose to obey God’s Spirit, whereas before, man did not have that option. He only had his flesh to guide him.
Romans 5:5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, since we now have God’s own power within us helping us obey Him, He calls us not to be an instrument of sin – mastered by the sinful thoughts left over in our carnal minds, and not to let our body’s selfish cravings rule us. Instead, we are to offer every part of ourselves, submit ourselves to God as an INSTRUMENT of righteousness. That means that God “plays” us and the resulting actions are righteous. He speaks to us what we should do, He empowers us to do what He instructs, and as we obey what He says, we live by faith, and continue to be considered righteous.
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?