The Theological Dilemma: Relationship between Law and Grace
Feb 28, 2013 3008
Breakfast Seminar – Friday 6th July 2001
Martin Luther said anyone that can explain correctly the relationship between law and grace is a true theologian. The problem is obvious, we know that God is a God of law, otherwise everything in the universe would be unpredictable. When we step out of our house in the morning we know we are not going to go up, we know what is going to happen. We expect the rain to fall, the sun to shine, and the seasons to come. God is a God of law, and as C. S. Lewis said long ago, there are two facts that believers and unbelievers come to understand quite soon: that they ought to behave a certain way but they don’t. So there is a moral law as well. Even the worst of men know more about duty than the best of men do. Everybody knows we should be kind, should be compassionate, should be thoughtful, should be pure, should be true, but doing it, that’s another thing. So this is not only a theological problem, this is a very practical problem for all of us. Because our ideals are like the stars, we plot our course by them, but we never touch them. We are aware that higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for his children. None of us come anywhere near approximating our own ideals, and anyone with a healthy conscience has it condemning him or her at least a hundred times a day. One of the great Reformers said I would die if I didn’t know the gospel because my conscience condemns me so many times.
So there is one aspect of law, we know what’s right but none of us reach it, we have a fallen nature. Imperceptively out feet turn towards evil, our minds turns toward defilement, fantasies spring up that we have to choke and say “that’s not of Christ”. Paul knew the battle when he said “the things I would I do not, the things I would not those I do. Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”. James could say ‘in many things we all offend’; Jesus could say “whenever you pray, ask for forgiveness, forgive us our trespasses”. So the New Testament takes it for granted that Christians are aware of law, are aware of the right way, but fall short of it to their constant chagrin, pain and penitence.
Then there is the matter of grace. You don’t really have to preach a lot about law because everybody knows something about law. A murderer knows he ought not, a thief knows he ought not, an embezzler knows he ought not, and the adulterer knows he ought not. But you do have to preach about grace because we don’t know grace naturally. Grace is a surprising revelation. The great Judge, the great Sovereign, the great King who knows everything about me, ought to punish me. He certainly ought not let me get anywhere near where he lives. But grace says that God does not reward us according to our sins or punish us according to our iniquities; that God is exceedingly kind and merciful, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin. You know the picture I like best is in Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount when he says God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. Now most of us feel very sensitive regarding ingratitude, we forget that when Christ healed ten lepers only one came back to thank him. Instinctively we know ten ought to, and we are all hurt by ingratitude. Yet here is a God who is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil, who sends his rain on the just and on the unjust, calls his sun to shine on the evil and the good. So the heavens above where the sun shine is for everybody and the sun so shines so that if there is only one person, provided you are not hiding indoors, you the one person get all the benefits of the sun.
The love of God is like that. All our sins are like a grain of sand compared with the mountain of the love of God, the grace of God. All our sins are like a spark falling into the ocean of the love of God. God is more willing to forgive our sins than a mother is to go and save her child from a burning building. But there is some incongruity in this: how can you be God and let them get away with it? How can you be righteous and tolerate me because I am not? So here is the incongruity between law and grace: how can the one God practice both, and to the same people?
Then there is a paradox in scripture, Christ can say in [tippy title=”Matthew 5:18″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/matthew/5-18.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]18 Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.[/tippy] ‘till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law’. Paul can say ‘the law is holy, just and good’. Jesus in summarising the two tables of the ten said on these two Commandments and these two laws hang the whole Bible. The two Commandments that he reduced to love he says ‘on those laws of love hang the whole Bible’. Well you don’t want to get rid of love or you will get rid of the whole Bible. But then you have texts that say “Christ is the end of the law”, “you are not under law”, “in his flesh he destroyed the Commandments contained in ordinances”. “If you try to be justified by the law you are severed from Christ”. So we have an instinctive moral dilemma, we have a theological dilemma. How can God be just and good and merciful at the same time? We have a biblical dilemma. So what is the way out of the dilemma? We begin the way by recognising that the word law in our English Bibles is applied to several different things and the one we instinctively thinks it means most, it means least. The word law is practically never applied only and solely to the Decalogue. The Decalogue, we are told in the Book of Exodus, has three different names: it’s covenant, it’s commandments and testimony. Only one of those names means the Ten Commandments, and the Ten Commandments only. There is only one word in the whole of Bible that means the Decalogue, and the Decalogue only. “You will put into the ark the two tables of testimony”. “I will write on the tables of stone the testimony”, “and they handed to the King the testimony”. The word testimony in Hebrew eduth means witness. It was a witness about the nature of God. The Decalogue describes God’s character negatively. The Decalogue enshrines the principles of loyalty the first one, worship the second, reverence the third, holiness the fourth, respect for authority the fifth, love the six, purity the seventh, honesty the eighth, truthfulness the ninth not bear false witness, and contentment the tenth, you’re not even to covet. The only law in the world that ever dealt with thoughts is the Decalogue, you are not even to think wrongly. And this is the one that shoots us down, most of us go through nine our of ten and say hey, I am not an adulterer, I am not a thief, I don’t blaspheme. But when we get to the tenth we are in trouble. We looked out the window this morning and saw our neighbour’s new car and said “boy I should have that car”. He shouldn’t have that thought, that is coveting.
But the only word in the whole Bible that means the Decalogue and the Decalogue only is the word testimony and only then when it is associated with the things of the sanctuary. So when you come to the last book of the Bible in [tippy title=”Revelation 15″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/revelation/15.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” 5 After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple–that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law–and it was opened. 6 Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.[/tippy] it says the temple of God was open in heaven and it is seen there the ark of the testimony, in other words the ark of the Decalogue. If it is not used with the tabernacle it can have its more usual meaning of witness.
So the first thing we need to try and solve the dilemma is to try and get our definitions straight, and law in the bible has a number of other meanings besides the Ten Commandments. Jesus says, “it is written in your law ye are Gods” and he is quoting Psalms. He explained unto them all the things in the law, and the prophets and the psalms concerning himself, and there it means the Pentateuch. In the whole book of Galatians, law means the Jewish system of religion. If you are trying to become a Jew first in order to become a Christian, forget it, you are severed from Christ.
Then law is sometimes used for an impulse within me. I find another law in my members that when I would do good I do not, here it is a principle of evil. So we begin our solving of the dilemma by saying hey we must be careful with our definitions. Then secondly, when we come to the New Testament and find even in the same book contradictory statements, we must ask how can these contradictory statements be reconciled. So I can read in [tippy title=”Romans 7:12,14″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/romans/passage.aspx?q=romans+7:12;romans+7:14″ width=”auto” height=”auto”]12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.[/tippy], the law is spiritual, holy, just and good, and then he tells us in the context what aspect of the law he had in mind and he quotes the Decalogue. To Paul the Decalogue is one part of the law. He says “I hadn’t known sin but by the law, thou shall not covet, sin revived and I died” when he read the tenth commandment. So here he says law is spiritual, he means the Decalogue in this place-that is the aspect of law he is talking about, it is holy, it is just, and it is good. Then in the next chapter he says that when you are converted the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. Then in [tippy title=”Revelation 13″ href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/revelation/13.html” width=”auto” height=”auto”]1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to make war against God’s people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 10 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. 11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of everyone. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 It was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom. Let those who have insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.[/tippy] when he is talking about the duties of the Christians he quotes many of the commandments in the Decalogue: thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shall not bear false witness, and so on.
So Romans is very positive. Let me read you just one or two texts, very early in the book, to show that we mustn’t misunderstand Paul, who’s usually used against the law. Here in Chapter 2 he says ‘you are called a Jew, you rest in the law, you make your boast to God, you know his will, you approve of things that are more excellent, you are instructed out of the law, you are confident you yourself are guide to the blind, a light to them that are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes which has the form of knowledge and of the truth of the law. You the teachers know it, teachest thou not thyself, thou that preachest a man should not steal. Do you steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery. Do you? Thou that abhorrest idols, do you commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? So here is man who is most often used against the concept of law and that’s where we get the idea of antinomianism. Antinomianism is an old heresy known for centuries where many professed Christians have said there are no laws, love only. That is antinomianism coming from nomos law, anti law. So Paul is not antinomian, we will find later that he is against law when it is used as a method to get right with God, he is never against it as a standard. So let me repeat that verse: Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? So he says you dishonour God if you are careless about the law. Then in Chapter 3 the last verse, “do we make law void the law through faith? God forbid, we establish it.”
So we have Paul in one book saying we have established the law by the New Testament faith, another book Colossians, another one Ephesians he says God has abolished the law of commandments contained in the ordinances. So Paul, how do we reconcile you? We reconcile it by the expression I used earlier. The New Testament and Paul in particular is against law as a method of salvation. We are no longer under law as a covenant. Israel never really was because when God gave them the Ten Commandments he also gave the sanctuary and the sacrificial service, there was a mercy seat over the Decalogue, they brought animals, the blood was sprinkled, they were forgiven their sins, so it never really was a way but because we are all born Pharisees we do try to earn our way, we want to get brownie points. Look what I have done this morning Lord, I could have left that undone, but I have done it, more than required of me, see, please note it.
We are all born Pharisees, it is instinctive to us, it’s intuitive. That’s why we so quickly defend ourselves, no one can accuse us of something without our quickly coming up with a rebuttal. I speak from first hand experience. It is instinctive to us, we are Pharisees, we have to hold on to this vision of ourselves as very good, not like other men. The oldest joke about Luke 18 is when we read the Pharisee saying I am not like other men, but all of us are, even saying “well I am glad I am not like that Pharisee”. We are his brother. So the law was never given after the fall, after rebellion against God, law was never given to make man right with God. The human heart has always tried to follow the legal way, it is an easy thing to do, don’t commit adultery, don’t commit theft. It seems easy, but we forget the Decalogue only names the worst transgression of the principle, Christ exposed that when he said ‘who ever looks on a woman to lust after has committed adultery’ he showed that the law reaches the thoughts. When Karl Barth read that he said ‘thereby he made all of us men adulterers’ and Christ said ‘whoever hates his brother in his heart is a murderer’. But in our first look of law we say that is easy, I like that, I can get to heaven that way. Until we get to the tenth, and then that shoots us down, but by the time we have reached ten we are so sure that we are right we skip over it. But the tenth commandment says that you are not even to think wrongly, you are not to desire anything that is not God given, that’s pretty tough. So I am suggesting that the reconciliation in the New Testament, and in Paul’s writing in particular, is that the New Testament and Paul are against using law as a way of salvation. That’s why Galatians again and again rebukes people that are using the way of law, and the strongest verses occur here. I am reading the 5th verse, “I Paul say to you to be circumcised Christ will profit you nothing I testify again to everyman that is circumcised he is a debtor to the whole law, Christ has become of no effect unto you, who ever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace”. So if you are trying to be justified by law you have fallen from grace. Using law in its broad sense it is the Jewish system. There is nothing in the Decalogue about circumcision but Paul refers to it 12 times in Galatians. But the principle is the same whoever by being good hopes to get right with God has missed it, you have blown it. We can never get right with God by being good. That is so important, I have to come just as I am in my filth, and dirt and weakness, my covetousness, my lust, my gluttony, my anger, I have to come just as I am, without one plea but that his blood was shed for me, Lord I come. So the New Testament is against law as a method but it is very much for it as a standard.
Whole books have been written in the last forty or fifty years on this issue. In my library I suppose I have works of half a dozen scholars taking different sides. But a very fine scholar John Barclay of the University of Glasgow said what many people have failed to notice is that Paul, as he grows in knowledge and experience, becomes clearer and clearer in the battle he has with the Pharisees. Galatians is all about people trying to earn salvation by ceremonies of the Jewish law. Romans majors on the moral law, it is mainly about the Decalogue issues in Romans. When you come to Philippians, Paul is so clear. “Not as though I have already attained but I follow after, not as though I was already perfect”. So here is a man who says there is only one way I am ever going to make it, not by law but as a sinner. You know he is just waiting for the axe to fall when he wrote Philippians. It is one of his prison epistles, he is going to die, it’s not as though I am already perfect. So Christians always liked the thief on the Cross. Nothing in my hands I bring. Spurgeon said that so often that one of his listeners said we are sufficiently informed at to the vacuity of your hand. But Spurgeon did right to repeat it, because we all think we are doing something for God, we are giving God something when we turn down an invitation to evil or do something good. But nothing more. All of us are like the thief of the cross to the last day because we have nothing to offer. We can’t go on any of his errands because I stumble when I walk. The bible talks often of the Christian walk, but a walk is nothing but a continual interrupted stumbling, and that is the Christian walk. The most mature Christian on earth has to say, ‘I am constantly stumbling and falling, failing in speech and action to represent Christ, falling and rising again, despairing and hoping’. The most mature Christian in the world has to say that. And that’s what Paul meant when he “said wretched man that I am”. Paul wasn’t committing adultery, he wasn’t killing, he wasn’t stealing, he wasn’t blaspheming, he didn’t worship idols; but he said, I don’t love God enough, I don’t love my fellow men enough, I am not full enough with praise, I am not full enough of gratitude, I am not spiritual enough, the world is too close to me, it temps me too much, I should be dead to it, by the cross of Christ there are three crucifixions. The crucifixion of the son of God, the crucifixion of myself as crucified with Christ, and the world is crucified under me. But Paul said I don’t feel it, I am tempted, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life, there is a tug, there shouldn’t be a tug, wretched man that I am. So the New Testament is against the law as a method. We are never good enough to earn salvation, we are all to the last day like the thief on the cross. But the New Testament is very much for law as a standard. So when you read, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law, Christ goes on to talk about the commandments of the Decalogue he is saying that a Christian must maintain these as a his ideals toward which he struggles, and despite many a stumble and many a fall, he doesn’t kill the law, it remains, it is as stable as the heavens because it is a representation of the character of God. We can’t get rid of that, all the commandments are what God is, he is purity, he is truth, he is honesty, he is love. So we can never get rid of them but we must get rid of our wrong attitude in thinking that we can earn anything. We are beggars to our last breath.
I want to close by giving you an illustration. I am going to look at the letter to Philemon. Here is a great illustration of law and grace. You know this is the little book just before Hebrews, and you probably know the story behind it. Paul is in prison, he is visited by a runaway slave. The runaway slave has robbed his master in Colosse, and he said I will put as much distance between me and my master as I can and I am going to live it up, I am going to paint Rome red, and he does but the money runs out. The prodigal son comes to himself, and he loses his friends, the sun goes down, his money is gone. So here is a penniless thief, a slave, in Rome and then he meets a Christian slave. The Christian says I want you to meet somebody. We are going to prison, we are going to have an interview with a prisoner, his name is Paul. And Paul brings him to Christ and so the prisoner says listen, I have got to confess to you, I can’t hide it, I am a runaway and I am a thief. Paul says, “who is your master”. “Philemon was my master”. Paul says “Hold it, God is in this thing, I know him, I introduced him to Christ as I have introduced you to Christ”.
Paul says, “what do you think you should do?”, and the slave says “I should go back, but he can put me on a cross.” Runaway slaves were often crucified. Christians had slaves so they dealt with them better. Paul said he won’t crucify you, I will give you a letter.
This epistle is the letter and I just want you to observe a few verses of it. First of all he greets Philemon and his wife and talks about grace and peace and by the way that is always the order in the Bible. You never get peace and grace, you can only have peace after you have received grace, and grace is nothing but God’s active undeserved love in operation. So when we receive that active undeserved love, then we have peace. So grace and peace. Chapter 20:4: Paul says “I am praying for you”. Chapter 20:5: “you have a good reputation, love and faith”. Chapter 20:6: “I am praying this will continue”. Chapter 20:7: “You are cheering all the saints”. Now notice Chapter 20:8 onwards. And here is the bishop, the Pope of the first Church if you like, and notice his language: “though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin that what is commenced, I could tell you what to do, yet for love sake I rather beseech thee. Being such a one as Paul the aged. He was about ten years younger than me but much more worn out. He had done much more. Now he is nearly half way through the letter and for the first time he mentions the runaway and he doesn’t say “I beseech thee for thy runaway slave”, he says “I beseech thee for my son whom I begotten while I am under lock and key. I have become a father. Your slave has been born again, he is a new man, don’t treat him as though he is the old man. Onesimis which means profitable. Paul makes a joke out of the slave’s name. A little joking makes things go down easily. I know a man who said he has never been stressed in his life. How I envy that man, he is the opposite of me, I react quickly to stress, but that man is always joking and perhaps the two go together. Paul makes a joke he says “in time past is to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and me”. In other words time past he has not lived up to his name. But now he will, now he will if you let him. “Which in time past was unprofitable and now profitable. Whom I send again now therefore receive him, that is my very heart”. Be careful how you deal with a slave, you’re dealing with me; he is mine, he is my son, this is my heart, I am trusting you with my love. “Whom I could have retained with me that he might have ministered unto me in the bond of the gospel. Remember Philemon, you are not doing much for me. I am in jail you are in Colosse, you have freedom, I am a jail-bird, what are you doing for me? But this runaway, he has done a lot for me and I could have kept him here. In thy stead he might have ministered onto me in the bonds of the gospel. But without thy mind I would do nothing”. You see we hate to be coerced. One of the problems with husbands and wives, the husband thinks he is being coerced or the wife thinks she is being coerced. We don’t like being bossed. We even resent God’s authority because we are sinners, so Paul says “without my mind would I do nothing, I am not bossing you around Philemon, this is a plea”, “that thy benefit should not be of as it were of necessity but willing”, and after all that is all God expects. If I go to church struggling all the way I might as well have stayed at home, if I count every penny that I put in the offering I might as well not give it, it is only the willing gift that is accepted. “Perhaps he therefore departed”, he doesn’t say ran away what a nice tactful word he has gone on a journey. “Perhaps he therefore departed for a season, you know it is only temporary Philemon, God planned his going away, to get converted and come back. You should have done it Philemon, and you should have told him that, perhaps therefore he departed for a season you should receive him forever. Free him, don’t crucify him, forgive him and make him free, not now as a slave”. The word servant really meant slave. But above a slave, “brotherly love”. He’s putting the screws of love and mercy and gratitude on the slave master. You are going to love him more than me if you do the right thing, if you count me there for a partner. Here is the climax, if you count me your mate, receive him as myself. Isn’t that a wonderful line? “If you count me therefore a partner receive him as myself. If he has wronged thee or oweth thee ought, then put that on my account, I Paul have written from my own hand, I will repay it”. He doesn’t say I am about to lose my head, maybe he means in the next world. Martin Luther says ‘me thinks we are all God’s onesimis. All of us in this room are in God’s providence. We have all run away from God, we have all stolen from him. I think of the early years of my youth absolutely carefree, doing what I like unless I was going to be hurt as a result. You just give God a chip, a bit of the shavings of the wood, you go to church on Sunday as I did and that’s it. You have paid your dues now you can get back into fun. We are all rebels, we are all thieves, we have all stolen from God, none of us were born Christians, we all went our own ways, we all used our talents as though they were ours, we have all used our time as though it was ours, we have all used our money and material things as though it was ours, we didn’t know we were stewards. So Martin Luther says we are God’s inisimis, we have run away from him, we have robbed him. But now we have come to Christ, whom God counts as a partner, and Christ takes our hand, brings us back to God and says to the father, “you count me a partner, so receive this sinner as myself. Whatever he or she has done to wrong you, I paid it on the cross”. Isn’t that a beautiful picture, that is the climax, if you count me therefore a partner, receive me as myself. That’s what Christ says to the father about every sinner, you count me a partner, receive him, receive her as though it was me.
That’s the wonderful thing about the Christian Gospel, we are all counted as righteous as Christ is, though I am up to my eyebrows in mud from slipping. We are all counted as righteous as Christ, that’s what the New Testament gospel is, that is imputed righteousness. He was counted as a sinner, treated as one, that I might be counted as righteous, treated as one, being counted as a sinner didn’t make him one and when I am counted as righteous it doesn’t make me righteous. I am the same old guy except now the spirit has come and I have a new motivation and a new power if I choose to cooperate. Then in Philemon 20:21, “I have confidence in thy obedience, I know that you will do more than I say, you won’t just forgive him, you will free him, and then this last Machiavellian thrusts. Prepared in a lodging I am coming to visit you, Philemon, and as soon as I say, “how, are you? I will have one other question, how is Onesimis? So he is really putting the screws on in the gentlest kindest most loving way. Philemon, you had better do what I am suggesting because you’re going to be the first visit I make when I get out of this place, so prepare me a lodging. And then he finished it off, he finishes with grace appropriately. That is a little letter about law and grace, Onesimis has broken the law, he has stolen, he belongs to another master, he is a thief and a runaway but grace comes in and for someone counted as a partner the law breaking has passed over. It says in Romans that God might be just and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. How can God forgive sin and yet be just? He chose a way of forgiving sin that changes my heart and makes my direction just, not my achievements.
Sinners are now in harmony with the law they had broken. By feet and hands they still fall short of it but the heart is now in harmony with it. So by faith, do we abolish law? God forbid, we establish it. We say with Christ, “I rejoice to do thy will, thy Law is in my heart. So Philemon is a great illustration of how to solve the dilemma, the paradox between holiness, law, and mercy and grace. The cross is the symbol of the solution.