Law and Grace: Mortal Enemies
By: Dan Stone
Law and grace are mortal enemies. Religion asserts, "No, they aren't mortal enemies.
They can flow together, like the Missouri and Ohio rivers flow into the Mississippi,
and they become the Mississippi." Every place I've ever been in organized religion,
I've found that belief. But Paul was saying, "NO? They never flow together. They've
always been mortal enemies. They will always be mortal enemies. You can never marry
the two. And you have to make a choice, Galatians. Are you going to live under law,
or under grace?"
Paul wasn't saying that if they stepped back into the law, they wouldn't be saved
anymore. But he was telling them, "If you go back to the law, you're giving up the
way of grace. Now, let me tell you something about the way of the law, Galatians:
you have to keep it all." They couldn't just pick out the law they wanted to keep.
That's what I used to do. I'd pick out those parts of Mosaic Law, Sermon on the Mount
law, Baptist law, my personal law, and whatever other law I thought I could keep
at least some of the time. I didn't see that law and grace are mortal enemies. I
didn't see that you can't live under both.
It made sense to me to be religious. It made sense to be an external Christian, trying
to keep an external set of rules. I couldn't do anything else, because I had always
been an external person. So were you. We all grew up as external people, defining
ourselves in relation to other persons, things, and events that told us who we were.
That's why as new Christians we were so prone to asking external questions: "What
should I do?"There's no life in the law. The only thing the law tells you is what
you ought to do, but can't do. It will never relinquish its demand that you ought
to do it, because it's a divine ought-to; God gave it to Moses. We'll keep ourselves
under that divine ought-to, and the condemnation and death ministers (2 Corinthians
3), until we learn to live from the Person who dwells within us. Because there's
nothing in our flesh that wants to say, "I can't do it. I can't keep the law through
my own effort." Everything in our flesh says, "I want to try to do it, and with God's
help maybe I can do it."
Like my friend Burt Rosenburg says, everything in that program is designed for futility,
frustration, and failure. But they don't tell you that up front, do they? When you
sign up, no one makes this announcement:
WE'VE GOT A WONDERFUL PROGRAM HERE, THE
END RESULT OF WHICH WILL BE FUTILITY, FRUSTRATION, AND FAILURE! WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED
THE COURSE, WE WILL GIVE YOU A DIPLOMA, SAYING: "CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE FAILED!"
I remember talking to a group and proclaiming, "We have succeeded! In what? In failing!"
And everyone smiled. For we finally recognized that we had succeeded in what we were
supposed to do, which was to fail. "Everyone is telling us that we failed in what
we were supposed to succeed in. But the truth is we have succeeded in what we were
supposed to fail in. Now, we can get on with it. We can get on with what is true
life."We usually quote Galatians 2:20 apart from its context. It immediately follows
Paul's admonition to Peter concerning the law. When Paul said, "I have been crucified
with Christ," he was referring to his death to the law. Paul was saying, "The old
me died on the cross with Christ, and when I died, I died to trying to keep the law.
Trying to keep the law is living according to the flesh, with me and my efforts as
my point of reference. I died to myself as my point of reference. Now, Christ in
me is my point of reference. He is living His life through me."
As believers, we
no longer live under the law, looking to it to tell us what to do and not do, then
trying our best to do it. Instead, we live on the faith principle, the inner life
principle, of who really is our life-Christ. We trust that He directs us, opens or
closes doors for us, and speaks directly to us, giving us a message or whatever is
needed for the occasion. We trust that He is living through us. We may not feel it
at any given moment, but we live by faith that He is our life.