There seems to be a lot of confusion amongst most Christians regarding the verse which quotes "we are no longer under law but under grace". These words tend to get wrongly quoted to mean that we no longer need rules within the church but should trust our experiences of the Holy Spirit within us, instead. They consider that rules and Law are the same thing and both lead to legalism, which the Christian should avoid. They, therefore say that we should be selective in what we read or how we interpret.
Clearly the scriptures DO teach us that "the letter kills (ie, legalism kills) but the Spirit gives life" (more details on this later) but rules or instructions about how to be disciples are completely different from legalism or keeping the law. This article will explain what "we are no longer under Law, but under grace" actually means and prove it doesn't mean what a lot of Christians think it means.
The misinterpretation of those verses is the thin end of the wedge leading to a growth of apostasy within the churches because many are now ditching the Word of God in favour of their experiences. This is why I write this article to encourage us all to study the Bible, be Bereans, check these things out and so save ourselves from the slippery road into apostasy. By the way, I don't reject experiences provided they are scriptural and measure up with the Bible. John told us to "test the spirits to see whether they be of God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1)
I believe the Lord has called me (according to 2 Tim 2:15) to be a workman rightly dividing (handling) the word of truth. Therefore, I will share the real meaning of the text just as God taught me.
Let us first look at the whole context of “we are no longer under law but under grace” found in Romans 6:14. Paul was speaking about the condemnation and hell judgement that the law of Moses brought to us. He said that before the law was given he would not have been aware of his sinful nature and its tendency to yield to temptation, but because the law was given (since the time of Moses) it revealed to him how sinful he was.
Paul goes on to say that the law of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from that law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). So, never again does the judgement, condemnation of the law hang over us (showing us our sin leading to spiritual death), because we are living in the grace (unmerited favour, mercy, forgiveness) of God which gives us Spiritual life, release and liberty within us. We are set free from God's judgement and the fear that that brings.
Although, we now have now become transformed within, this does not mean that we do not need to follow guidelines. We still follow guidelines or commandments in the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t follow the Mosaic law of works in order to receive God’s salvation as it has been already given by GRACE. As our sins have been washed away, the Holy Spirit now lives in us enabling us to live under the new covenant with ability to submit to God and to His laws of the new covenant.
Paul is referring to what it was like before grace came - before Jesus rescued us from the consequences of the Law. When Paul talks about the law of sin and death he is talking about the result of trying to obey the Law. The Law highlights to us how sinful we are (whenever we try to be obedient to the Law). It also results in our spiritual death when we fail. So, it is a law that brings about sin and death in us. We cannot (in our own strength) fulfil it. This is why Paul cried out "who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to Jesus!".
We talk about the laws of physics eg law of gravity. There is a principle (or condition) and a consequence. If you drop a heavy object it will fall. The condition "if you drop a heavy object" and a consequence "it will fall".
So, this could also be read (but means the same thing):
"the condition" of 'disobeying the Law or sinning, gives a "consequence" of death (spiritual death)". However, the "condition" of being in Christ Jesus brings "consequence" Life (spiritual life). The law of life in Christ Jesus (because of continuous forgiveness and cleansing) through the power of the Holy Spirit, sets me free from
that other law (principle) which works spiritual death in me. James 1:13-15 explains even clearer the principle (law) of sin and death as follows:
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
If Paul was really saying that there are no longer any laws/rules to follow, he would not have then listed a lot of rules/guidelines etc to all the churches - especially to the Corinthian church. If he is saying we are no longer to follow rules, then what he said afterwards would be a contradiction. As all scripture is inspired by God and NOT contradictory it means that Paul was not contradicting himself.
This means Romans 6 to 8 must have been referring to the Mosaic law (Old Covenant) only when he said that we are no longer under it (which resulted in spiritual death). However, we are now within the New Covenant of Grace with different laws of life and freedom but we are now empowered by the Holy Spirit who enables us to follow them. So the guidelines and rules within the New testament lead us to spiritual life and vitality and not to death, but (as you can see) there ARE rules!
This is what it means to read in context, ie compare scripture with scripture to arrive at the true meaning of the text. So for example when Paul said that women should not teach or have authority over men and that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives he means just that. Paul refers to unseen spiritual forces that would seek to divide and destroy God’s work, so there MUST be order and guidelines within the church and within relationships – God is not a god of confusion but a God of peace. You cannot apply "we are no longer under law" to these guidelines because that verse refers to something else as stated above.
You may ask me to show in the Bible where it says that all revelations should be measured against the Bible. Although there are many places, I think this is surely the strongest proof. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New King James Version)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is the completed WORD OF GOD. The Bible is “is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” Psalm 119:105 and (as quoted above) is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Why? that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In other words, the bible has everything we need to base our lives on. We do not need extra biblical revelation as the Bible is the complete Revelation of God to man. Paul said that if anyone preaches a different or contradictory message to the one already given by those inspired by God, (ie the inspired apostles) they should be rejected.
Therefore, all teaching, prophecies, revelations should be measured and weighed up against scripture. When Jesus said my sheep hear my voice it was in the context of recognising truth from error. They will recognise false teaching because they keep His Word. Jesus said, To the Jews who had believed him:
"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (NIV)
If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NKJV)
It doesn’t say if you abide in your experiences but if you abide in my Word and abide in the vine ie abide in Jesus. Whatever way you look at it, our experiences MUST measure up to the Bible and come after receiving the truth not the other way round ie experiences should not determine truth. The Bible does have plenty enough experiences quoted (including the context in which the experiences happened) for us to use as a guide for our experiences today.
There is another false teaching around today which misquotes the verse "the letter kills but the spirit gives life" to confirm that experiences are more powerful than reading the Bible. Actually, this verse is not saying that. Let us get it into context by first quoting the full verses:
2 Corinthians 3:6-8 “who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?"
Paul is making a distinction between the Old Covenant written on stone and the New Covenant that is presented inside us by the Spirit. The old (the law) brought death, because no one could keep its directives, whereas the new brings life through the life-giving Spirit.
The letter (the law) killed because no one was able to keep it. It made us guilty, while the New Covenant sets us free from the condemnation of the law. The law was fulfilled in the only person who could have fulfilled it, the God/man Jesus Christ. Now we have the spirit of God inside us all because of this new covenant that is superior to the old covenant."
I will now quote another verse to prove this further: "the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword" Heb 4:12. This shows that there is LIFE in the words (it is breathed by God) certainly not dead but alive. With the Spirit of God within us, the words of the Bible come alive within us. Let us not be carried away by those who would keep us from reading the Bible in preference to experiences. These people are deceivers who do not want you to find out the truth for yourselves.
The Bible can be trusted and used to base our lives upon, please now click on the next shortcut link to read another article which was written to show why depending upon on experiences for guidance is a dangerous thing
Are Our Experiences More Important In Our Christian Faith Than knowing Him through His Word?