God has rules. The Bible is full of them. But many Christians today aren’t fans of using ‘rule/command/demand’ terminology because, after all, aren’t we under grace? Aren’t we free from “the Law”? Isn’t the righteousness of Christ all that matters?
I love grace—love, love, love it. I am so glad that my salvation doesn’t hinge on my ability to keep all of God’s rules. I’d be up a creek if it did! And thank God for Christ’s righteousness that covers me—I can’t stand before God in my own! But grace isn’t supposed to be the means by which we get around the rules; it is actually the means by which we can now, from the heart, strive to obey God with increasing success.
When he penned his letter to the Romans, Paul’s desire was to make it crystal clear that in no way could anyone, anywhere, at any time, ever be justified by “keeping the rules.” We are utterly unable to obey God perfectly and attain the righteousness we need. We can only be made right with God by faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Period. That’s it. However, Paul also makes it crystal clear that God’s moral commands are not something we are “free” from or can toss to the side because we are now under grace. The moral commands—do not kill, do not steal, do not covet, do not commit adultery, etc.—are still there; it’s just that our status before God is not dependent upon how well we keep them. Our status before God is based upon the finish work of Christ alone. But good legal standing with God is not the end of the gospel story! The Holy Spirit has been unleashed from Heaven and poured into the hearts of all who are justified by grace. He creates desire in us and therefore enables us to walk in the commands of God.
By our faith we don’t flee from God’s commands, but we uphold them (Romans 3:31) and they are not burdensome to us (1 John 5: 2-3). Not burdensome. You guys, God doesn’t dish out rules because he is some tyrannical maniac who finds satisfaction in exercising control over us. He is our builder and designer and understands us more deeply than we understand ourselves. He knows, better than anyone else, what is best for us and what is bad for us. He knows in what situations we will thrive and in what situations we will bring harm and destruction to ourselves.
The heart of faith knows the commands of God are given in love and meant to lead us into a life of joy and flourishing.
God knows that the love of money, the desire for power, gossip, covetousness, self-centeredness, sexual immorality, and all other works of the flesh sow seeds of death into our lives and the lives of those we love. This is why he demands (not insists) that we flee from these things and, by the power of the Spirit, embrace his ways. His ways bring joy, peace, and sanity to our lives. How many of us have experienced the consequential chaos of living outside God’s good rule? How many of us have walked in the rotten fruits of our fleshly lusts and pursuits? A great many of us, I assume. The hard and narrow path of loving God and walking in his commands can be difficult because our flesh violently resists it, but it is the path that leads to life (Matthew 7:14). And by the grace and Spirit of God poured out through Jesus, it is a path that those who have faith can walk.
Believers, the forgiveness we’ve received through the gospel is an invaluable possession. Day in and day out we should shout praises of gratitude for it. But equally invaluable, and often overlooked, is the power we have received through the gospel to desire God’s ways and walk in them. Grace both forgives and empowers redeemed sinners. Not only are our slates forever clean and our souls forever wrapped in the righteousness of Christ, but our hearts have been made new and are filled with the power to live an increasingly righteous life.
The ways God instructs us to live our lives, do our work, handle food and alcohol, and interact in our relationships are the best ways. They will result in our peace and happiness and flourishing. So let’s walk in them! Let’s plug our ears to the lies of Satan and the whispering seductions of our flesh and, for our own good, obey the life-giving commands of God.