John 1:16-17 is a misunderstood verse usually used to say that grace replaces the law. It’s easy to see how people could think that, but let’s look a little deeper from another perspective.
The Bible is one story, not two. God is the same today as He was then–perfect. He’s not a mean tyrant in the OT and a nice guy in the NT. His mercies never change. His grace was rich through both testaments!
The law is not the opposite of grace and truth. (Most Bible studies completely skip over the word truth). Grace and truth did not begin with Christ but found their perfect union in Christ. After Moses received the law Moses Exodus 34:6-7 explains:
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.‘ “
God forgave sins like worshiping golden calves (a type of today’s calves would be materialism). God is ready to forgive us and give us a clean slate when we come to Him in repentance (I John 1:9).
John 1:17 explains God gives us one blessing after another. The law (instruction) is a gift of God’s grace, as is Jesus Christ an even greater gift. This is not a statement of “law versus grace” but rejoicing in “grace upon grace” A picture of God showering us with His grace in the past and promises to continue in the future.
Did Grace Replace the Law?
The idea that grace replaced the law began in the second century. The first section of this book explains how the Early Church left their Hebraic roots. During the second century, Marcion, a heretic who twisted Paul’s writings, caused a radical opposition between the Law and the Gospels.
Marcion suggested the entire Old Testament be omitted from the cannon. He broke away from the Roman church in 144 and set up his own very successful group. Polycarp referred to Marcion as the Son of Satan. Marcion believed the God described in the Old Testament was cruel, so he refused to acknowledge the God of the Old Testament but embraced the portions of the New Testament that expressed God’s love.
Marcion created a reduced version of the New Testament consisting of Luke and parts of Paul’s letters–purposely leaving out all Jewish interpolations. Marcion’s legacy lives on. A study of Marcion and his immense influence on Christian leaders in church history is highly advisable to anyone serious about studying God’s law.
Roy Blizzard summed up the law, as it is used in the Bible, in these two sentences:
“The idea of law in Hebrew is not something that,
if transgressed, is going to get you zapped.
Torah [Law] is instruction, that if followed, will enrich
one’s life, if ignored will diminish it.”
The Nine-Fold Purpose of the Law of God
Ron Mosley’s book The Spirit of the Law sums up the purpose of the Law
- To teach the believer how to serve, worship and please God [Psalm 19:7-9; Acts 18:13, 14].
- To instruct the believer how to treat his fellow man and have healthy relationships with him [Leviticus 19:18; Galatians 5:14; Galatians 6:2].
- To teach believers how to be happy and prosper here on earth by manifesting the power and authority of God’s reign in their lives [Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Luke 12:32].
- The Law was given, not to save, but to measure man’s deeds both toward God and his fellow man, straightening out all matters contrary to sound doctrine [I Timothy 1:8-10; II Timothy 2:5; I Corinthians 6: 1- 12; I Corinthians 3:13; Romans 2:12; Revelation 20:12, 13].
- The Law is a schoolmaster showing that we are guilty and then leading us to Christ our Messianic justification [Galatians 3:21-24; Romans 3:19].
- The Law gives us both the knowledge and depth of our sin [Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 7:7, 8; Luke 20:47 – greater damnation].
- The Law reveals the good, holy, just, and perfect nature of God and serves as the visible standard for God’s will [Romans 2:17, 18; Romans 7:12; II Peter 1:4].
- The Law is to be established or accomplished by our faith, therefore, it is called the Law of faith [Romans 3:27; Romans 3:31].
- The same Law today is written on our hearts, and through God’s Spirit we can delight and serve the Law of God [Romans 7:6-25] (Mosley 1996).
Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep MY commandments.”
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