Grace Teaches Us to Live Godly

Justin Johnson

The law taught right and wrong as to children. The Bible calls the law a schoolmaster, tutor, and a governor (Gal 3:24). It told you what to do, and what not to do. Who can forget the many thou-shalt not’s of the law?

The law threatened sinners with severe punishment. It gave sin and crime the justice it deserved.

For this reason, people feel that without being under the law sin would run rampant. This motivates sincere people to put up the Ten Commandments in public places to remind others that “thou shalt not”, or else.

This is the reason every dictator and tyrant has for placing their subjects under stringent rules with fear of punishment. Without the law, they say, there would not be order, peace, or obedience.

Without this fear, they think, many more people would sin and do wickedly. But would they?

The Reason for Good Behavior

The law is weak to change the desires of the flesh (Rom 8:3). Consider those who do not act in sin only out of fear of physical harm. They still secretly harbor sinful thoughts, desires, and wicked imaginations.

Jesus condemned this type of hidden sin in his law teachings of Matthew 5 where he reached beyond just the letter of the law and into the very thoughts and desires of wicked men.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” – Matthew 5:22

Under the law people are careful not to get caught with their sinful desires. The result was hypocrisy, secret sin, self-righteousness, and white washed sepulchres: clean on the outside, but inside filthy as slime.

At its worst, the law is like the animal and the whip: the only reason people obeyed was fear of pain. If there was any other reason to obey, then the law would be useless except as a reminder of what was right.

A More Excellent Way

There is a more excellent way of teaching obedience, righteousness, and godliness. That is by the grace of God.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” – Titus 2:11-12

This is contradictory to the thinking of most men that think the whip and fear of the law is the only way to administer righteousness to mature sons.

Even some who teach God’s grace do not think it is a proper means by which to teach godliness, but view it as an unwanted necessity for salvation. Though grace is what saves you, these grace legalists think the threat of the law must be used to keep grace in check.

Just like those who are admittedly under the law, they think without the law grace would turn into licentiousness and rampant sin. This gives the law more responsibility than God intended, and it robs God’s grace of its power to reign over sin (Rom 8:11).

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. “ – Romans 5:21

What Grace Teaches

Contrary to the slanderous cries that grace is a license to sin (Rom 3:8); grace actually teaches righteousness and godliness without the law.

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;” – Romans 3:21

Just as grace teaches that by the law no man can be made righteous, it also says that grace does not make men sinners. On the contrary, grace frees men from sin (Rom 6:7).

Under grace there are many reasons for obedience that are not motivated by the fear under the law. Here are only a few:

– For the sake of our Lord who deserves all glory (1 Cor 1:29-31)
– It’s what spiritually mature people do (1 Cor 2:14-16)
– We are God’s building, the quality of the material determines the strength of the building (1 Cor 3:9-16)
– To be faithful (1 Cor 4:2)
– We are members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 6:15)
– Our life is not our own anymore (1 Cor 6:19-20)
– To win souls (1 Cor 9:27)
– Good behavior edifies (1 Cor 10:23)

Notice all of these reasons are found in 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians forgot what grace taught about righteous behavior. Paul wrote them a long letter to gently remind them (actually it was a strong rebuke). He did not use the fear of the law:

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Rom 8:15

We are made righteous in Christ (Rom 5:1), and made into servants of righteousness (Rom 6:18). The law was not made for a righteous man (1 Tim 1:9). We don’t need the law for righteousness, we can be motivated by God’s grace to do right.

The law was needed for doctrinal children who did not yet understand the manifold wisdom of God. Grace is the motivation of good works for the mature in Christ.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

(For a longer list of reasons for good behavior under grace see our Corinthians study, specifically the outline for part 24)

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Published: May 26, 2012
Last Modified: June 13, 2017
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