The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1 Cor 15:56
It can be very difficult for a Christian to believe that they are only under grace and no longer under the law. This is despite the fact that man lived without the law and therefore under God’s grace (Rom 5:13) for 2,554 years after Adams sin. Once you understand this, my hope is that you will believe the truth that a Christian is not under the law today. Thinking you are under the law, even when the truth is you are not, still leads to condemnation and guilt. The truth must be believed to be of benefit. This truth can sets you free.
Many Christians are fearful that preaching a grace alone message provides believers a license to sin. This is the same thing that people accused Paul of doing (Rom 3:8, 6:1, 6:15). The fear that too much grace will give people a license to sin is why the predominant message we hear in churches today is not a message of pure grace as Paul preached. It is a mixed message of grace and law. You are saved by grace but….. Paul told us mixing grace and law will not work. When we mix the message we are telling God we do not believe His message of grace falls short and cannot keep us from sin.
The Bible is clear, you are under either law or you are under grace. There is no middle ground. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Rom 11:6 ESV
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Gal 5:4 ESV
For the record, I am strongly against sin like Paul and I agree with him that grace is not a license to sin. However, I agree with Paul that going back to the law is the exact opposite of how the Bible teaches us to deny ungodliness and be transformed into the image of Jesus. I also agree with Paul that the only place sin lies dead is apart from the law (Rom 7:8)
What is Sin?
The breaking of God’s law is sin. The Bible tells us the law is the only way man can recognize and therefore be charged with sin.
In 1 John 3:4 it tells us that sin is the breaking of God’s law. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” 1 John 3:4 NIV. Therefore where there is no law, sin is not charged against man. (Grace is a place where there is no law.)
Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Rom 7:7 b ESV
What is Grace?
The absence of the law.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14, (Rom 7:1-6, Gal 2:19, Gal 3:11-12 to name a few)
For all who have sinned without the law, WILL ALSO PERISH WITHOUT THE LAW, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. Rom 2:12
Sin has no dominion over us as Romans 6:14 ESV states because “… APART FROM THE LAW, SIN LIES DEAD. Rom 7:8b.
From Adam to Moses Giving of the 10 Commandments – There Was No Law - Man Was Under God’s Grace – Sin is NOT Counted Where There is NO Law.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, BUT SIN IS NOT COUNTED WHERE THERE IS NO LAW. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. Rom 5:12-14
The above verses make it clear, after Adams disobedience that made all humanity sinners (Rom 5:19), man was NOT under God’s law until Moses gave the Ten Commandments. Sin was very present in the world, but the Bible clearly states that where there is no law sin is not counted against man. Since there are only two options in the Bible, under grace or under law, this is a clear picture of grace given freely by God. This will be the main focus of this article.
Side Note: Rom 5:14 points out that even though man’s sins were not counted against them, everyone still died as they do today. This was to make it abundantly clear that the problem of death came to all, not because of our individual acts of sin, but because of Adams one act of disobedience. To read more about this go here: http://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=181435 (Rom 5:12-19)
To start it helps to picture who lived from Adam to Moses, apart from the law, under God’s grace. If you are familiar with the Bible you will recognize that there were countless sins committed during this time. Go here: http://biblehub.com/timeline/#ot to see a Biblical timeline. We are reviewing 4,000 BC to around 1446 BC, 2,554 years, where man lived under grace and their sins were not counted against them.
During this time, the world was in its current fallen state and there was a lot of sin that was not counted against man. Just think of any individual sin we see today and it was there: murder, rape, lies, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, kidnapping and on and on. To name just a few: Cain kills Able, The Flood and Noah, Tower of Babel, Sodom’s destruction, Abraham marries his sister, lies about his wife twice, Isaac lies about his wife twice, Jacob steals Esau’s blessing, Josephs brothers sell him and lie to their father Jacob and on and on. Sin had gotten so bad in the time of Noah, after only 1,500 years, God basically wiped out mankind, not for their sin which he does hate, but for their benefit, to save mankind in the end, we will get to that. The fact that we see sin during this time of no law agrees with Paul: Rom 5:13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but SIN IS NOT COUNTED WHERE THERE IS NO LAW.
We clearly see God’s grace protecting Cain when he killed his brother Able. Gen 4:15 If Cain had been under the law he would have been put to death.
Pointing out the obvious, if there was no law during these 2,554 years, man could not have been righteous, right with God by keeping the law, as some claim must be done today.
Yet the Bible talks about those who are righteous (right with God). During this period we see revealed a person the Bible calls the Father of Righteousness, Abraham. We also see others God calls righteous, even Abrahams nephew Lot who committed some very sinful things, slept with his daughters, pitched his tent towards Sodom, offered his daughters to the men of Sodom to do as they wished, etc. All of these people committed sins, but since there was no law, sin was not counted against any of them according to Romans 5:13.
I reiterate that Abraham, Lot and Noah or anyone else before the law, could not have been right with God by law-keeping because there was no law. Yet these three men were declared righteous by God. Their Righteousness was credited to them because by faith they believed God. It is interesting to note that Abraham believed God when God told him he would bless him greatly. This is the same thing God is telling people will happen if they believe now in Christ. When a person believes someone, they heed their advice and direction as we see several of these people doing with God. In other words, it will not help you to believe THAT Jesus is God. You need to put your belief IN Jesus as your savior.
And he (Abraham) believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Gen 15:6 ESV
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Heb 11:4-7
and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 2 Peter 2:7
Note: The term righteous means right with God. In the New Testament, the same Greek word shown HERE is used for the words just, justified, righteous and righteousness.
The righteous (those who believed God) are the only ones God did not wipe out during the flood (Noah and his family) or in Sodom (Lot and his family). Since there was no law from God during this time, we have learned these designations cannot possibly have anything to do with their record of law keeping. They did sin, but their sin was not counted against them since they were under grace.
Think about this: The Bible teaches a person who by faith believes God is called righteous; this would mean that those who do not believe God by faith are the one designated as unrighteous.
God Rescues the Righteous
In Noah’s time when man was not under the law, we see that Noah and his family are righteous, the only ones left who believe God. The unrighteous, those who do believe God, perish. If there had been any additional righteous people left on earth, they too would have been in the Ark.
In the time of Sodom where there was no law from God, we have learned “the righteous” means those who believe God. We see Abraham negotiate with God for the righteous. In Gen 18:22-33, Abraham gets God to agree not to destroy Sodom if there are only ten righteous people in Sodom, ten people who believe God. In the end two angels are sent to remove righteous Lot and his family from Sodom. Obviously, there were not ten people left in Sodom who believed God. Lot and his family were the only righteous ones, the only ones who believed God in Sodom. Lot may have been the only one who believed, but God in his great love for mankind allowed Lots family members to come. God even offered to let the two men betrothed to Lots daughter to escape, but they laughed, did not believe God and did not leave with Lot.
Would you consider the flood and destruction of Sodom God’s punishment for their sins? Well it cannot be wrath from God for breaking the law since there was no law. “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.” Rom 4:15
The fact that during this time God was not counting man’s sins against them, is further confirmed by the following verse which states that Jesus death only redeemed those who transgressed the law of first covenant, the Old Covenant law of Moses. The verse is excluding those who lived before the law of Moses, a period of grace when sin was not counted against man. This time is when many great men of God lived. Abraham and Noah for example and even Moses before he gave the law. We know these men are in Heaven from the Bible. The fact that Jesus only redeemed people from sins under the law of Moses, further confirms that before the law of Moses, under grace, sin was not held against man.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Heb 9:15
If you understand that God’s laws without exception, have as their spirit “love.” It gives us insight the flood and Sodom’s destruction. From the Bible, we learn there is no doubt that evil and wickedness were out of control during this time but we also learn something else very important. If you consider evil like cancer that had almost devoured the entire human race, you begin to understand why God had to do something. Everyone was going to die at some point; God just brought things to an end quicker which the creator has the full right to do.
The critical point here is that only a handful of people who believed God were left in the time of Noah and Sodom. Everyone else had gone astray into unbelief; soon there would be no one to bring the Messiah through so that man could be saved. God desires that those who will believe have a chance to believe. God’s actions like God’s laws are all based on His love for us as a whole (John 3:16).
God’s destruction of humanity in the flood was to protect a remnant of believers so that when the time was right, Jesus would have a believer to come into the world through.
Those who died in the flood and Sodom were not under the law so the law could not condemn them but they were dead because of Adams one act of disobedience as these verses state.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned (because of Adams one act of disobedience) from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. Rom 5:12-14
In Romans, Paul says that he did not know sin but by the law. This would mean that those before the law, did not know sin, in the same sense that Paul did not know sin, before he knew the law (Rom 7:7). Jesus went to those who had perished before the law, those who did not know what sin was like Paul, and preached the righteous for the unrighteous, which is the gospel. He preached to them so they too would believe and be saved from death that Adam let into the world.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 1 Peter 3:18-20
The truth is grace was always God’s plan for humanity. The spirit of all of God’s laws being love (Read Here) were given to protect mankind from each other’s fallen nature and arouse sin so we could be taught our need for a savior.
So then, the law was our guardian/schoolmaster until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. Gal 3:24
In this verse, we see that when the law came, it aroused sin and gave it power.
But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. Rom 7:8 NLT
In the following verse, we see that when the law increased sin, the trespass. Grace abounded all the more. This means that even though God’s law increased sin, God’s grace that was already there abounded even more to handle the increased sin.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass (the trespass that was there but men like Paul could not see apart from the law), but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Rom 5:20 ESV. God made sin obvious to man so he would see his need for a savior. God is amazing and loves us greatly.
I firmly believe that any person who has placed their faith in Jesus for salvation and is born again is looking for a way out of sin, not for a way into sin. If you are looking for an excuse to sin and think grace may be a license for you to sin, you my friend are not saved. God will not be fooled by imposters who believe that Jesus is the savior but do not believe in Jesus as their savior. To make it clear, I am against sin completely. Sin kills, steals and destroys from those who sin and the victims of sin. It is simply that the Bible does not teach us that we should go back to the law to stop sin. The Bible teaches us that we do not want to be caught dead under the law. (Review 37 Bible Verses Here) God tells us that grace and the understanding that we are forgiven much is what teaches us to deny ungodliness and to love as God does, thus fulfilling the spirit of the law (Titus 2:12, Luke 7:47, 2 Peter 1:9) The spirit of God’s law is much higher than the letter of God’s law. The spirit of all of God’s laws is love. (Gal 5:14 Rom 13:8-10) The Letter Kills the Spirit Gives Life, How to Stop Sin
Man was under grace for roughly 2,550 years from Adam to when Moses gave the law. The problem God wanted to deal with mainly was the death that had been let in the door by Adams disobedience (Rom 5:17). That is the only thing God warned Adam would happen before his disobedience (Gen 2:17). None of those who died before the law of Moses were held accountable for their sins (Rom 5:13), which were many. Where there is no law, there is no transgression according to God. Before the law of Moses, humanity had gotten to the point of where there were virtually no believers left as evidenced by the handful of people saved from the flood and in Sodom. God stepped in many times in the Old Testament to protect a remnant of believers as he did with Noah. God's actions which may on the surface seem like massive punishment to humanity, were actually the love of God. He moved those who died in the flood from one location to another where Jesus eventually preached the gospel to them after He died - 1 Peter 3:18-20. This was the only way to save humanity from destroying themselves by cutting themselves off from God forever. If he had not, there would not have been a believer to bring Jesus into the world through when the time was right. The law of Moses came purely to make humanity aware of their sin, stop their mouth from justifying, guard them, teach them and lead them to the savior. (Gal 3:24-25)(READ HERE) God brought the law to bring the knowledge of sin and break the hard heart preparing the way for the gospel to be preached. God is giving every person who will believe a chance to believe. Once we came to the savior who had overcome death for us, the sins we committed under the first covenant law of Moses were forgiven (Heb 9:15). We are then designated as sons of God, removed from under the law of Moses and placed under grace (Rom 6:14). Grace is the same place those from Adam to Noah lived. Sin is still existent where there is no law, but where there is no law transgressions are not counted against man. What an amazing God we have!
For apart from the law, sin lies dead. Rom 7:8b ESV
Read many more articles about the New Covenant and who we are in Christ HERE.