In our day just as in the past many are claiming that grace and law are antithetical to one another, but this claim will not hold up in the light of a careful reading of the Scriptural text. We need to realise at the outset that we can never earn our salvation by keeping the law, and that is not what the law was intended for in the first place. Throughout the Bible salvation has always been by God’s gracious act of redeeming his people.
The Law was given to a redeemed people: We will fail to understand the true function of the law if we do not recognise that the law was given to his people that he had rescued from bondage in Egypt. By bring them out of Egypt he formed them into a nation, the Israelites could see God’s hand in their liberation, and it is in this context that God gives the law to his redeemed people not as a way of earning salvation but as a way of life. Throughout the Ten commandments we see how God valued relationships both with himself and with others. these relationships were to be good and wholesome. God is to be worshiped as the Holy One of Israel, and his people are to relate to one another in the light of his holiness. This is why Paul in Galatians can approvingly quote the law as away of life and round on those who teach it as a way of salvation. Paul maintained that the law was good and righteous, and yet he made sure that no one thought they could earn salvation by keeping that law. Jesus himself taught that the law was good, one has only to read the sermon on the mount to see that he had a very high view of God’s law.
The problem of Legalism in the Church: We find legalism is prevalent in many parts of the body of Christ and what is truly fascinating is that legalism seems to be more of a problem for those who deny that the law is to be our moral compass, therefore in the absence of absolutes they invent their own rules. I was raised in a group that was very legalistic and yet its official position was that the law did not apply to the believer. I have seen this time and time again very diverse groups theologically but all denying that the law is a way of life invent their own rules. Some of them are not drinking alcohol,not dancing, not going to the cinema, the list could go on. Whereas if the Ten Commandments had been seen as God’s requirements many of these legalisms could have been avoided.
The problem of antinomianism: On the other hand there has always been a small minority in the Church who have claimed that because we live under grace it does not matter what we do. This shows a very selective use of the word of God because even those portions of scripture that spell out the nature of salvation by grace then go on to spell out the life the believer is to live in the light of that grace. Paul’s letter to the Romans is an example of this. The Bible is intolerant of antinomianism because the teaching of Scripture is that grace transforms the believer’s life.
Conclusion: When we look carefully at the word of god we can see how the writers saw the law as an act of god’s grace. When we read Psalm 119 carefully, we will see that the psalmist rejoiced in God’s law, in fact he regards it as the way of freedom and the guide to live the holy life we need to regain this emphasis today.