Grace of the law versus grace of Christ

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” (Einstein)

If eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (in the day ye eat thereof…) has resulted in the curse of sin and death, then a message based on the knowledge of good and evil (the ‘gospel’ of forgiveness of sins) cannot free us from this curse!

Christ then becomes of no effect unto you, whosoever of you expecting righteousness by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

From the root language, Paul says that we render Christ inactive (Greek: katargeo) when we expect righteousness by the law. If Christ is inactive, then we become outside the grace of Christ. What does Paul mean by “expecting righteousness by the law” and what should we understand by “the grace of Christ“?

The common view among ‘Bible-believing’ Christians is that Paul is talking here about how we can become free from guilt (righteous) before God, which would be to our salvation. Paul would then see in ‘law’ and ‘grace’ two ways in which we could achieve our righteousness before God. On the one hand by keeping God’s law perfectly – in our own strength – which is impossible or on the other hand by believing that Jesus fulfilled the law for us and that Jesus’ righteousness becomes our righteousness by faith.

The idea on which this view is based is that man’s iniquity – because of God’s holiness and justice – would have led to a separation between God and man. Man would have become ‘evil’ by nature (original sin) through the Fall, so God does have to keep himself at a distance from sinful man. As a result of our sins, we load God’s wrath upon us, and we can only be saved from our guilt – and thus from eternal punishment – by believing that Jesus offered His life as a sin offering for the forgiveness of our sins. Once we are freed from our guilt, it then does not matter if we break God’s law again, for we can ask for forgiveness again and again on the basis of the sacrifice Jesus allegedly made.

This view of reconciliation is called, for short, ‘penal substitution’. I wonder if this approach does justice to what Paul intended. Or rather, I should say that I do not believe that Paul intended it that way. I am going to make an attempt – using other statements by Paul – to show where I think it goes wrong.

But before faith came (the faith of Christ), we were kept under the law, being shut apart from the faith (the faith of Christ) which should afterwards be revealed.” (Galatians 3:23)

Paul says here that the Jews were taken into protection (phroureo) by the law. Thus, ’the law’ cannot be just about the commandments, for they led to the very thing that one had to be condemned for not being able to keep the commandments in a perfect way. By virtue of the sin offerings that were brought, one received forgiveness of transgressions and thus acquittal from the judgment of the law. This system of the law provided protection because through the sacrificial service one received grace under the law to continue to live. So when Paul speaks of ’the law’ (as protection), he is talking about the whole system of the law, and this system looks like this:

Law → transgression → guilt → sin offering → forgiveness / grace → prolongation of life.

This is the righteousness of the law. Moses therefore rightly says, “Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:5) and Paul is repeating him: “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law: that ’the man who doeth those things shall live by them.’ ” (Romans 10:5). So there was grace even under the old covenant, albeit in a limited way. As long as the people of Israel living under the law of Moses maintained the system of the law, they received God’s grace and could live in peace for as long as it lasted. As soon as the sacrificial service stopped, things went wrong.

The system of the law “was a figure for the time then present in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, which could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Hebrews 9:9)

Although this lawful system – which led to righteousness under the law – had a certain degree of glory (2 Corinthians 3:7,9), the sin offerings were unable to bring man’s consciousness to perfection. Righteousness under the law does not bring us into the Light; our consciousness remains darkened. No matter how much one sacrificed, it did not bring about a profound and lasting change, resulting in falling into error again and again. Now, the scope of the grace (righteousness) of the law does not go as far as the grace (righteousness) of Christ. We can see the grace brought by the law as a foreshadowing of the grace of Christ. However, the grace of Christ extends much further, namely to complete redemption from the curse of sin and death, through the actual passage from darkness to Light.

So the law and righteousness based on the law were temporarily given as protection until the coming of Christ. And then Paul says, after the grace of Christ was revealed: if we still continue to expect our righteousness on the basis of the law (read: the system of the law with the sacrificial service), then we render Christ inactive and are outside the grace of Christ.

Let me reiterate the system of the law with a small addition (in bold), to show where I am going.

Law → transgression → guilt → (sin) sacrifice of Jesus → forgiveness / grace → prolongation of life.

One more time Paul: if we expect righteousness on the basis of this legal system, then we render Christ inactive and are outside the grace of Christ. As long as we believe that Jesus is our righteousness (in us) because he would have fulfilled the law for us, there is still righteousness based on the law.

You read it correctly, the message of forgiveness of sins through the sin offering that Jesus would have brought through His crucifixion is based on the legal system of the old covenant. It is the old wine being poured into old bags. That is why Paul calls it a ‘different’ gospel, which is not a gospel. The true gospel is based on the unconditional grace of Christ and not on the system of the law.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him, that called you into the grace of Christ, for another gospel. For this is not another; but there are some who trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6,7)

The message of the old covenant, the forgiveness of sins, does not lead to complete redemption from the curse of sin and death and therefore does not lead to eternal life. Until our consciousness is completely cleansed from thinking in good and evil, the curse of sin and death will continue to reign in our lives. On the contrary, the ‘gospel’ of forgiveness of sins based on the law feeds thinking in good and evil, so it continues to play a role in our consciousness.

Paul does not mince words:
But should we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which ye have received, let him be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8,9)

As long as we expect our righteousness based on the system of the law (forgiveness of sins on the basis of a sin offering), we render Christ inactive, and that causes the curse of sin and death to remain in effect in our lives. It does not bring us out of darkness into Light. We are then still outside the grace of Christ. The message of the kingdom (the young wine), no matter how powerful, will have no lasting effect. The old bags will eventually tear and the young wine of the kingdom will run away.

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 10:5)

The righteousness Paul is talking about is the cleansing of our consciousness from dead works (the reckoning of good and evil). Once our consciousness is cleansed of this, we will be truly freed from the curse of sin and death. This righteousness the legal system is not going to bring us, regardless of whether the sin offering is an animal (bull or goat) or a human being (Jesus).

The question that now arises is: what then is the joyful message of the gospel, if the message of forgiveness of sins is not the gospel proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth and later by Paul?

The answer is simple. The gospel of the kingdom is the only true gospel. It is the young wine that Jesus poured. As long as we mix this gospel with the message of forgiveness of sins, by pouring it into old sacks, the gospel loses its power. For then we go back to the system of the law, to the flesh.

This only would I learn of you: Did ye receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? … He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth He it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2,3,5)

Paul is clear, the system of the law (the commandments and the sacrificial service) constitutes the ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:6), because it does not lead to complete redemption from the curse of sin and death. As long as we expect our righteousness from the law (forgiveness based on a sin offering) we live outside the grace of Christ and are still subject to the curse of sin and death. Sin will then still pay out the wages of physical death (Romans 6:23).

We will have to leave all that has to do with law, sin, guilt, punishment and judgment – or the knowledge of good and evil – behind us like garbage. And that includes our interpretation of the Bible. Our consciousness will have to be completely cleansed of these dead works if we are to enter the kingdom of God. And that is precisely what Jesus calls us to, “Renew your mind, for the kingdom of heaven is within you!

How can we completely cleanse our consciousness from dead works? This can only be done through the message of radical grace and unconditional love. God did not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God does not reckon with the knowledge of good and evil! That we did come to believe this is by far the greatest lie the ‘serpent’ has presented to us.

We humans are created in God’s image and likeness. Christ is the true identity of every human being, whether we are aware of it or not. Since God does not reckon with good and evil, this has never changed! Truly nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! We are and remain divine by nature, sons and daughters of the Most High, and that applies to everyone. Our knowledge of good and evil and all its consequences have come to lie like a dark blanket over this reality, and this has rendered ‘Christ in us’ inactive, causing us to lose sight of God’s radical grace – not counting good and evil!

The joyful message of the kingdom is that the kingdom has always been in us. Christ in us is our hope for glory. All humanity constitutes the body of Christ. God’s righteousness, liberation from the curse of sin and death, we receive by believing in it and not by sacrificing an animal and certainly not by human sacrifice! That is why it is written:

In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure.” (Hebrews 10:6)

Through the mystery ‘Christ in us’ – that which Jesus of Nazareth revealed to us – God wanted to put an end to the system of the law. The system of the law was aimed at symptom relief, but in all the centuries that the old covenant was in force, the sacrificial service did not lead to redemption from the curse of sin and death and therefore did not lead to eternal life.

The Spirit of life will only come to ‘resurrection’ in us through faith in the radical grace of Christ, outside the whole system of law and sacrificial service. We must repent of this religious system of thought, by holding the flesh (the old man) for ‘dead’ (not only of ourselves, but also of everyone else) and putting our faith fully on Christ in us, the new man, our true divine identity. By repenting in this way, we cleanse our consciousness, which will bring Christ to ‘resurrection’ in us and we will become fully aware of Christ – in exactly the same way as Jesus of Nazareth – and become manifest as Sons of God (m/f). This will lead to redemption from servitude to impermanence, to which we are subject because of the curse of sin and death, and ultimately to our glorification, putting on a glorified body, with which we will enter the kingdom of God to live forever.

The gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of Christ, is the gospel completely purified of the leaven of the law; the leaven that sours the whole dough and renders it powerless. Once we start pouring young wine into new bags again, the resurrection power of Christ will be released in people.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth, ….” (Romans 1:16)

Paul calls our body a temple of the Spirit. Once the covering of the law is removed we see in our own holy – as in a mirror! – the glory of the Lord (Christ in us). Every person is by nature the glory of the Lord! We are by nature as Christ as Jesus of Nazareth is. Once we begin to see this, our physical body will change (metamorphose) into the image we have seen in our own holy from glory (the holy within us) to glory (the holy of holies within us), through the Lord who is Spirit (Christ within us). And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! Complete freedom from the curse of sin and death and therefore eternal life! (after 2 Corinthians 3:17,18)

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