Law, Sin and Faith

We know what sin is by the law and sin is the opposite of doing the law–“sin is the transgression of the law.”

Sin can be defined as not keeping God’s law. But let’s tie this definition in with another definition of sin–“for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

Sin can be defined as not having faith. Thus, sin is defined as not keeping the law, which is the same thing as not having faith.

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

Keeping the law and having faith work to the same end–doing what God says, doing righteousness. “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ.”

 The law is not of faith, it is of works, and no flesh is justified by works of the law. We are justified by faith. We can’t keep the law by works, but we can have faith.

What the law could not do, faith does by the Spirit who fulfills in us the righteousness of the law.

Law and faith are opposite approaches to the same thing–righteousness. The Law has the End, but cannot provide the Means. But this doesn’t mean the law is evil, but rather we are! That’s why God requires faith, which produces in us what the law requires, but cannot fulfill.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

3 thoughts on “Law, Sin and Faith”

  1. This post, and a recent discussion I had on another blog have me pondering this matter a bit more.

    “The Law is not of faith.”
    “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

    Put these two together and you have the law equaling sin, which is against the statement of Paul, “Is the law therefore sin? God forbid. I had not known sin but by the law.”

    Therefore, Paul must be speaking of the law in a certain role, when he says “the law is not of faith.”

    Add to this mix a statement of Jesus, “You have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith.” This one shows that the law IS of faith. After all, how can you “love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind” without faith? Faith works by love!

    How to reconcile these?

    One of the things associated with the 10 commandments on stone, is the Old Covenant. This was the people’s agreement to do everything that God said. This covenant leads to “bondage” (Gal. 4, Rom. 7), because it is like attempting to grow apples on a thorn bush. You can try, try, try, but it just never gets there…just like a slave laboring, laboring day and night, but never being free.

    God did not proclaim the law, however, to lead into bondage. He gave it as a schoolmaster to lead to Christ (Gal. 3). God gave it to lead to Christ, the people took it in a way that led to bondage. Two very different applications.

    I think some of Paul’s statements regarding the law must be seen in this light: the “law”, “works of the law”, “righteousness which is of the law” mostly refer to this old covenant approach to the law, which we must always guard against.

    But as long as Christians fall into sin, the law as a schoolmaster is still needed, to lead to Christ.

  2. Jeff,

    One more thought came to me after pondering this matter. We all know where Paul describes his life as a Pharisee (Phil. 3):

    “…touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

    He also goes on to call this “mine own righteousness, which is of the law” and calls it all “dung.”

    We know that Jesus had not much good to say about the righteousness of the Pharisees: “except your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). He also called them “hypocrites.”

    A hypocrite is someone who professes one thing, but lives another. Therefore, the righteousness Paul is speaking of here, which is “in the law” or “of the law” is simply hypocrisy, or sin. It is pretending to be holy while the heart is impure.

    Consider then this verse: “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:4 If you would put this verse and the previous verses together, you would get something like this:

    “The Spirit enables us to live a hypocritical, Phariseeical keeping of the law .”

    Clearly, this does not make sense. So again, I am forced to conclude that we must distinguish between two types of law-keeping, or two ways of using the law, that Paul is talking about: one of them by the flesh, and the other by faith. He uses the same terms to label both, and we need to be careful to distinguish which one he is talking about according to it’s usage.

  3. Pauls conception of law is much more intricate than most treatments seem. Another face tof the whole thing is the usage of the definite article in the Greek, the times where Paul refers to “law” and “the law,” this would also seem to have implications. There is a law of God that is not the Law of Moses.

    I think your point is perhaps the more crucial–our approach to the law, by works or by faith. Fine job pointing out the distinction using the Pharisees.

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