The Law, Our Tutor

The preacher said “We all start out life naked and hungry, and it goes downhill from there!”

Thankfully, the way we were born again in Christ has more of a basis for optimism! Colossians 2:6 draws an important comparison between the way the Christian life begins and how it should express itself in discipleship.

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” The Living Bible paraphrases this, “And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.”

How does conversion to Christ compare with abundant Christian living? Consider here the role of God’s law in this process.

Law and grace in conversion

Life in Christ begins as a response to the need which is exposed by the law of God. To appreciate the good news of salvation in Christ, the sinner needs to recognize the bad news of condemnation outside of Christ. Paul summarized the verdict of God’s law upon the human race:

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:19-20).

The law served as a tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). There may not always be a conscious awareness of the verdict of God’s written law, but there is also the verdict of the inner law of one’s conscience (Rom. 2:12-16).

When the sinner admits that he/she cannot save himself, then he/she is a candidate for God’s grace through the gospel. Paul continued, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23,24). Repentance and faith puts the believer in Christ, with all the blessings that are found in Him (Eph. 1:3).

This free salvation cost Christ everything, but it is given to us freely! Entrance into new life is apart from any meritorious works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9; See Titus 3:5,6; Rom. 4:5). Good works, however, are the evidence of Christ’s live in us: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Law and grace in Christian living

Now back to our initial topic–comparing entrance into Christ with the way to abundant life in Him. The “exchanged life” is usually appropriated by the believer after he/she is heartbroken over personal failure in attempting to live for Christ in their own resources. Consider the way the seventh chapter of Romans describes the birth pangs of the abundant life. After describing our vital union with Christ and our calling to reckon this true (Romans 6:1-14), Paul delineates how the self-life is unable to accomplish sanctification though the law of God (Rom 7:1-25).

The believer’s “old man” was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6); he now has a regenerate human spirit (the new man). In Christ he “delights in the law of God in the inner man,” yet the flesh contains “no good thing” (Rom. 7:22,18). Using the example of the tenth commandment, the apostle testifies that this external law “slew him” (Rom. 7:7-11); he could not live in victory. Try as he did in his righteous attempts at obeying the law, Paul finally hoisted the white flag: “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:23,24).

This giving up of self-effort opens the door for God’s resources for abundant life in Christ: “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 7:25-8:2).

In Christ we are free from the law’s condemnation! We have the liberating privilege to live according to a higher law–“the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The life of Christ can be expressed through us if we confess our inability to fulfill God’s written law through our self-effort. Instead we must surrender and trust in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

F. B. Meyer wrote,

“We perceive what physical life is when a child comes bounding into our room in a very ecstasy of health and joy. We know what intellectual life is as we see the mind developing under the process of education … But above all these there is life which is resident in Jesus Christ, stored in Him, abounding in Him, which He longs to communicate to every soul that trusts in Him … This more than outweighs the down-pull of the self-life. The law [principle] of that life makes us free from the law [principle] of sin and death, for it has mastered death and the grave.”[1]

The law of sin and death is like the law of gravity, pulling us down. Like gravity, our flesh is still present in the Christian’s life and reacts to the pull of temptation. Yet the law of gravity can be superseded by the law of aerodynamics. The Wright brothers persevered with this conviction and we have the advantage of air travel today!

Similarly, the law [principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus can lift you toward holy living in spite of the tug of the law of sin and death. You can spiritually “fly” by depending on the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 40:31). As Galatians 5:16 puts it, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” So “spread your wings” by continually yielding to God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will. Trust fully in Christ to live His life through you. Then you can testify with Paul, “… it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Fellow believer, as the law of God served as a tutor to lead you to Christ, so let it lead you from the despair of Romans chapter seven into the joy of Romans chapter eight!

Our Father, we remember the sting of conviction that came to our souls when we realized we could not keep Your Holy law. We are too familiar with the cry of despair, “who shall deliver us from the body of this death?” We thank You that in Christ we are under grace. Guide us to fully depend upon the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. In Your merciful name, amen.

[1] F.B. Meyer, Our Daily Walk, p. 25.

Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for non-commercial use if used as written with credit given to the author and Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).

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