HomeOpinion & AnalysisLiving by the law and by the grace of God

Living by the law and by the grace of God

A law is a rule binding on a community. In any given species, whether of humans, animals, birds or insects, there is always a regular arrangement of things that fosters some peaceful co-existence to promote orderliness. An absence of law and order brings disorder in any group of creatures with something in common. Rules manifest themselves in every aspect of the daily activities within each of the groups. Things like who is in command, who eats first, who protects, who mates and a host of other dos and don’ts are always at play. These are the general guidelines every member within each of the groups is supposed to abide by even if those rules are unwritten. Each species of creation has its own government. Authority sets the law.

Sunday word BY PROSPER TINGINI

An absence of authority leads to disintegration of society. Cohesion is broken and the group ceases to exist. The kingdom of God was the first to form government, with God as the authority setting the rules. The first divine creations of a man and woman were given a rule to abide by, ie, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” Some people proclaim that rules are meant to be broken, just like how the serpent advised Adam and Eve, to eat of the fruit. There were consequences that followed, including death. There is normally an extinction that accompanies a total collapse of laid-down rules. Survival is thus based on the observance of the law. An individual or creature that does not want to live by the laid-down regulations is either ejected from its society or voluntarily abandons others to live in solitude. Alone, survival is not guaranteed. It’s a dog-eatdog situation where only the fittest survive. The rest are doomed and perish. Survival will thus then depend purely on the grace of God. Life hangs in the balance and only the Lord’s grace can save it. A very few fortunate ones will live to see the next day. We are not guaranteed of the Lord’s grace.

A small section of our Christian community claims that they can live by the grace of God alone, outside of God’s law, yet they live inside of it and abide by laws of their community, or of the state. This is total disrespect for the Lord, making God a non-entity. They thus put man above God. No wonder why He once wiped out mankind off the face of the planet, save for Noah and his family (Genesis 6-8). In his mercy and divine favour, He sent His begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save mankind from His wrath. His grace, exercised on that one occasion of Christ carrying the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, may never be repeated again. It is His prerogative. Are we, therefore, to live in sin, outside of the law, on the assumption that all our past and future sins are already forgiven? Are we to live by the grace of God alone?

In the scriptures, Jesus rarely touches on the subject of grace, but of faith. On multiple occasions, he talks about the commandments of God, the law. Even to the Pharisees, who boasted of the knowledge of the laws, he castigated: “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandments of God, in order to keep your tradition!” (Mark 7:9). This today applies to the Christian born-free sects who reject the law, so that they can free themselves in order to perpetuate their immoral practices. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus continues to condemn this lot; “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy of you, when he said: ‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from me; in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts (manufactured laws) of men.” By placing their requirements above the divine laws, these sects are setting themselves above God. Grace is a privilege from the Lord our God which he is free to exercise at any time, at any place and on anyone. It should not be treated as an automatic entitlement. Grace is reserved for a chosen select. Joseph, Jacob’s son, did not contest for the position of prime minister in Egypt. Peter didn’t invite Jesus into his boat. Paul did not repent of his sins, of barbaric acts against the Christians. But the divine favour, mercy and grace of God and of Jesus Christ located and found them all.

In Leviticus 18:4-5, God spoke: “You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and ordinances, by doing which a man shall live (have eternal life). I am the Lord.” Whenever the Lord our God ends by say, “I am the Lord”, He is putting a signature to His words, which can never be erased by man or woman.

In various books of the New Testament (Matthew 19:16-20; Mark 10:17-20 and Luke 18:18-21), our Lord Jesus Christ was asked the same question by various individuals: “Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?” Each time his answer was the same: “Keep and follow the commandments of the Lord our God.” The route to eternal life is the law. For every species of creation to survive, it has to be guided by a set of rules and regulations.

The conversion of Saul from a persecutor to an enforcer of Christianity is a classic example of the Lord’s grace at play. Its magnitude raised the grace of God to new levels. Paul’s gospels magnanimously always speak about grace, since he had a personal experience of it. He was a living witness who had to spread its message. Unfortunately, some of his words are now misconstrued to mean as if grace outlaws the law, and as if grace replaces sin. In the confusion of his teachings, mankind is scattered in faith.

While he advances the doctrine of grace, Paul also asks and answers: “Are we to sin because we are not under the law, but grace?” He then answers: “By no means!” (Romans 6:15). He again reasons that the law is the cause for sin, hence he “preferred” to live outside the law. Why then talk about sin when you are not under the law? This indeed is a maze of confusion, personal thoughts. He then proceed to say: “For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good.” May the grace of God save his soul! In Romans 7:14-17, Paul admits to his own confusion: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal (of the flesh), sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.” This is exactly what happens to people who do not conform to rules and regulation, people who live outside of the law. They became confused and they lose direction.

Fear of the law scares people from the law. They then seek refuge in the Lord’s grace, hoping God will somehow exercise His grace upon them. Paul again laments: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members (flesh) another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:21-23)
From one domain into the other, Paul hovers from one system of belief to another, a wanderer. He speaks about this in a letter to the Corinthians: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law, I became as one under the law — though not being myself under the law — that I might win those under the law. To those outside of the law, I became as one outside the law — not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ — that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak.” Corinthians 9:20-22) Indeed, Paul really needed the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prosper Tingini is the president of the Children of God Missionary Assembly. Registration in progress for those who wish to undertake Bible Studies or train as Ministers of Religion. Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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