The Law meets Grace and Truth

Scripture Reading

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them,] the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:17-20

Mosaic Law

The law mentioned here refers to the Mosaic Law as delivered to Moses by the Lord and it is frequently referenced in great detail throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Moses presented the law to the Israelites as recorded in this passage, “And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel.” [Deut. 4:44] This law became the covenant the Lord set before them as noted further, “And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.” [Deut. 5:1-2]  While the law initially consisted of what is known as the Ten Commandments as documented in Deut. 5:6-21, over time it evolved into what became known as the Jewish Torah, inclusive of some 613 separate commandments!

…whosoever shall do and teach [them,] the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19b

Jesus and the Law

Moving forward to the time of Jesus and his earthly ministry of teaching, preaching and healing, the rulers of the law, better known as the scribes and Pharisees, were often reprimanded by Jesus for making the law more about traditions, ceremonialism and externalism. In other words, they were more interested in making an outward show of things instead of changing inwardly from a spiritual perspective. As shown below, Jesus did not hesitate to call out these hypocritical rulers with rather stern comments noted in this passage of scripture.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [Ye] blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. [Thou] blind Pharisee, cleanse first that [which is] within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” [Matt. 23:23-28]

The Heart of the Matter

Contrast this condemnation now with the Old Testament when the Lord made provisions and blessings conditional upon adherence to the Mosaic Law, “…If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, [and] if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.” [Deut. 30:10] Take careful note of the last points. The latter part of that verse was the point Jesus was making to the scribes and Pharisees in that obeying God’s commandments should come from within the heart and soul. This is where the law starts in meeting grace and truth.

…if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

Deuteronomy 30:10

Consider also that King David wrote about how God’s law should reflect upon the inward person, “The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul.” [Ps. 19:7] David further noted this inward motivation toward God’s law in another passage of scripture with the same emphasis, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.” [ Ps. 40:8] It is often said that faith is a heart thing far more than mere intellectual acknowledgement of facts.

Inward Change

In the Old Testament, it was very clear from the Lord to the Israelites that he was not simply interested in outward expressions of the law but desired it to come from love, “But the word [is] very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” [Deut. 30:14-16] The change therefore is to be within one’s heart versus someone’s mere mental aptitude or worse, from a begrudging adherence to the law.

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.

Psalm 40:8

Transitioning back to the New Testament, the ministry of Jesus continued to echo this same message of inward desire toward the longstanding law, “What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” [Luke 10:26] Matthew also recorded additional comments from Jesus to encapsulate the law in this regard, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matt. 22:40] The love of God and inward desire to obey him is indeed where the law meets grace and truth from the heart.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,

Luke 10:26

The Law Points to Jesus

Moving along from here on this Bible study on grace and truth, Jesus further referenced the law to his disciples after he had risen from the grave. This gave more credence to the validity, accuracy and merit of the law, “These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:44-47]

Paul also wrote about this same connection of the Old Testament law to the coming of Jesus as the Christ, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into [his] lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and [out of] the prophets, from morning till evening.” [Acts 28:23]

For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 1:17

Grace and Truth

Let us now transition to a crucial juncture made by Jesus between the Old Testament law and the kingdom of God, “The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached.” [Luke 16:16] The apostle John then expressed this same distinguishing point between the old law in contrast to grace and truth, “For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” [John 1:17]

The contrasting distinction to the law is grace and truth through Jesus Christ and that a person’s righteousness, or right standing before God, did not come from the law, rather it came through faith as Paul wrote to clarify, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” [Rom. 3:21-22]

Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe:

Romans 3:22

Justification in Christ

Paul goes on to further reinforce this premise, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” [Rom. 3:28] Paul also indicates that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled through our faith walk, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” [Rom. 8:4]

This is the contrast between the gospel of grace in comparison to people who were attempting to establish their own self-righteousness through the law. They failed to realize what Jesus accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection as Paul wrote about in this passage, “For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” [Rom. 10:4] Christ is clearly where the law meets grace and truth. People are not justified in what they do but in what they believe and to be justified before God is paramount to understanding grace and truth.

Paul’s letter to believers further clarified this point of justification before God “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” [Gal. 2:16] As Paul embellished upon this distinction, he based his position on the most poignant and pivotal point leaving little room for further debate, “if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” [Gal. 2:21]

For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Romans 10:4

Examples of Faith

A tremendous amount of scriptural references were provided in this Bible study around the law meets grace and truth and rightly so, given the law’s depth and complexity, its rich history among the Israelite people and its apparent contrast to the teaching and preaching of Jesus. Let us conclude though by making it very clear that faith has always been where the imputation of righteousness from God takes place; it has never differed through time and history. On this point, Hebrews records no less than sixteen well known figures from the Old Testament, who by faith had it accounted to them as righteousness from the Lord [Heb. 11:1-40]. Notable people such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all listed in the hall of faith.

To close off this study on the law meets grace and truth, it is important to always know that Christianity is a religion, or rather a relationship with Jesus, based on faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and it is through this faith, or belief, where new life takes place in believers. For it is noted, “…without faith [it is] impossible to please [him:] for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” [Heb. 11:6]

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this study called The Law meets Grace and Truth, why do you think the Pharisees placed more importance on their traditions than God’s law?
  2. In Matt. 23:23, what were the three weightier matters of the law Jesus said were more important for obeying the law?
  3. From the section Jesus and the Law, fill in the blanks – . “Even so ye also outwardly appear ___________ unto men, but within ye are full of __________ and __________.” Hint – Matt. 23:28
  4. In the section, Inward Change, what are the two commandments that the law hangs upon?
  5. What person does the law point to in fulfillment of grace and truth?
  6. If righteousness does not come from the law, then it comes by faith and belief in Christ. True or false?
  7. Are there areas in your life where grace and truth should become more important than obeying self-imposed laws?

WORD GUIDE – * (jot and tittle – the smallest part ) * ( Horeb – the mountain where the Ten Commandments were given by God) * (tithe – offering to God) * (sepulchres – tomb) * (iniquity – sin) * (nigh – near) * (remission – pardon, forgiveness) * (behoved – was necessary) * (expound – explain) * ( deeds – works) * (justified – in Christian terms, means to be declared innocent or guiltless, commonly phrased as just as if I had never sinned)

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