Geaux Therefore

Law and Grace

By Travis Milner

The trees rushed passed the windows as the train hurried through the south Louisiana countryside. I sat quietly engrossed in my complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels when a gentleman tapped me on the shoulders. 

“Are you studying the Law of Moses or the Doctrines of Paul?” 

A few seconds passed before the question registered in my mind. He had seen my Bible and - rightfully - assumed that I am a student of some religious training. My answer of “both” was met with a disapproving head shake and curt response. 

“You have to choose one or the other, brother,” He said. “You can’t stand on the fence.”

With that, our abrupt conversation ended, and he continued to the back of the train. “How odd. What is his point, exactly?” ran through my head. I believe his question exemplifies a wider problem in the evangelical realm. Often, we are prone to live as though law and grace are so far removed from the other, that in order to study one, you must do so at the expense of the other and the two shall never meet. 


The deadly trap of many well meaning ministries lies in the two extremes of legalism and license: law without grace and grace without law; however, even in the middle, cries of legalism are levied upon those who seek to uphold a high standard of morality while licentiousness is charged against those who exercise their freedom in Christ. This is the conundrum many find themselves in because we have divorced grace from law. I do not mean to say that we find our salvation in following the Law of Moses, but that grace devoid of the law ceases to be grace at all. Why the desperate need for grace if the law means nothing?

To answer the man from the train’s question, the teachings of Paul are not in contradiction to Moses’ teachings. The teachings of Paul, rather, are Moses’ teachings expressed in the light of Jesus. Paul himself says he does not seek to overthrow the law (Romans 3:31), those who do the requirements of the law will be justified (Romans 2:13), and that according to the law, he himself is blameless (Philippians 3:6). The law does not merely tell us how we are supposed to behave, but provides the roadmap in which one’s relationship to God might be restored. David rejoices in the giving of the law (Psalm 19:7), and Jesus claims that the law will never be abolished (Matthew 5:18). 

Where the law, however, provides the system in which man might be restored to his Creator, it can never be satisfied by human effort. The law, according to Paul, was weakened by sin and unable to save. Only Christ is able to do what the law cannot (Romans 8:3). Christ’s work on the cross is not the abolishment of the law, but its fulfillment (Romans 10:4). The great act of grace is not in the destruction of the law. No, grace satisfies the law on our behalf. We do not live a life divorced from the law. Rather, ours is one of law fulfillment in Christ. 

We see then that the giving of the law is not devoid of grace, although insufficient. For the law paved the way for Christ. Law and grace are not two agents acting independently of each other, but are rather two hands pulling broken and sinful human beings back to God. 

Travis Milner is currently pursuing an MDiv at NOBTS and works in Public Relations as a graphic designer.

The thoughts above do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of NOBTS.