I’ve heard many times that law and religion say “do,” but grace says “done.”
I understand the point, and in many ways it’s true. The law was all about do, but the law was never given to save anyone. It was a covenant between God and the racial nation of Israel to abide in the Promised Land. No one was ever saved by the law. Anyone who has ever been saved has been saved by the Gospel. Genesis 3, right after the first sin, reveals the Gospel—a seed of the woman will come and crush Satan’s head. People have always been saved by grace through faith. Jewish people of faith in the Old Covenant would endeavor to keep the law still as that was the terms of the covenant they were in. Unless they wanted to get wiped out, kicked out of the land and live in slavery, they kept the law.
Just a reminder: people got saved before the Mosaic Law existed. This is a big point in the Book of Galatians.
The New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant (read the Book of Hebrews for more details). The Old Covenant is gone. You don’t have to keep the regulations of the law to stay in the Promised Land. It’s over. You can keep those laws all day and the land of Israel is not going to flourish, especially since odds are you don’t live in the land of Israel. We are in the New Covenant. We are still saved by the Gospel. We are still saved by grace through faith. The New Covenant also has commands.
This is where most explanations of grace fall apart. Grace does say “done” when it comes to how God provides for your salvation—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing you can do to make a road to God other than The Way laid out in Jesus Christ.
But that grace was available just as much before the resurrection as it is now after the resurrection. No one can work their way into heaven. No one can impress God through effort. We need God Himself to intercede for us, which is what He does through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God and has always been in existence. Jesus Christ eventually became flesh and dwelt among us, died, and was raised again. This has always been and will always be the only way to salvation, in both the Old and New Covenant.
Here’s the big shocker: the New Covenant has things in it you’re supposed to do!
If you were a person of faith in the coming Messiah in the Old Covenant, you would demonstrate that faith by keeping the Law. Lay keeping did not save you. Lay keeping meant Israel could stay in their land.
If you are a person of faith in the already come Messiah who already died and rose again, you will demonstrate that faith by keeping the commands of the New Covenant.
Grace brings salvation and also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, so we live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Grace saves us through faith and also makes us Christ’s workmanship to do good works, which God has always wanted us to do.
How do you know you have God’s grace? Because it makes you do better things.
That’s the test. Works won’t save you. They can’t. They never have and never will. If you’re saved, you will do good works. Grace gives you enough from God (all things that pertain to life and godliness) to completely transform your life. Grace doesn’t just save you; it changes you into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
Often the illustration given for grace is about taking a test. The Law tells you to study and then take the test. Your grade will determine your salvation. Grace, however, gives everyone an A whether they studied or not.
Again, I understand the point and when it comes to salvation it has some truth to it. However, I fear it goes too far and makes people think that I don’t have to do anything at all ever and God just gives me A’s while I keep living it up in sin! Sounds like a good deal.
But if this is true, if I can do everything consistent with an F student and yet get A’s, in what sense is Galatians 6:7 true: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap.” If I sow an F, I’m guessing I’m going to get an F! If I sow to the flesh I will reap flesh results; if I sow to the Spirit I will reap Spiritual fruit. Paul commands Titus to tell his people to do good works that they be not unfruitful.
If, however, I’m told that grace means I don’t have to do anything, and can in fact continue to act like an F student, how do any of those verses make sense? In fact, why would God have written a New Testament? If you read the New Testament you will find many, many commands. Why? “Well, if you really want to be a special disciple you can do all that, but you don’t have to.” Are there upper tier believers, or are their just believers all called to grow into the perfect man Christ Jesus?
There is one kind of believer. There is one Gospel. There is one body. There is one Spirit. Believers may look different as far as their giftedness and the roles they are to play in the Body of Christ, but all of us are equally in submission to the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ.
Grace is not F students acting like irresponsible F students but magically getting A’s. Grace is taking F students and making them progressively into A students doing A student things. Grace transforms us into the perfect man Christ Jesus. If this transformation isn’t happening, if instead you find yourself still acting out F student traits, there’s a good chance you have not come into contact with God’s grace.
You don’t work yourself into being an A student to get God’s grace; you humbly recognize your failings (because God gives grace to the humble), and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His grace He will save you, and then that very same grace will begin to transform you, from glory to glory, into Jesus Christ.
That’s what grace does. It’s not F students getting A’s while they continue to be F students. It’s F students being transformed, taught, corrected, instructed, and trained into being A students.