Saturday, 9 February 2013

Grace doesn't supersede the Law, the Spirit does.

I may be wrong, and please tell me if I am, but I think a lot of unnecessary heat and light is created in Christendom, from the headline confusion between law and grace.

You will hear not a few Christians say something along the lines of "We are not people of law, we are people of grace." (Nods of smiling agreement all round.) But this is a confusion of categories, like saying "We aren't car drivers, we are capitalists."

One is a personal disposition, the other is an energizing force. Of course the two are intimately connected - like thoughts and actions, but they are not the same.

Grace is a personal disposition. Law an energizing force.

The reason we get confused is that one is primarily seen in the Old Testament, the other in the New and so we assume that one supersedes the other. Grace supersedes the Law. Job done. And then we wonder why we come unstuck later.

So how can we do it better? How do we unscramble the categories?

We say this: Wrath is superseded by Grace. The Law is superseded by the Spirit.

God, in Christ, meets sinners like you and me with not with wrath, but with grace - a personal disposition of unmerited favour. He washes us clean of all our filth and impurity, raises us from death to life and puts his in his family, filling us with his Holy Spirit.

It is then this Holy Spirit - the energizing person and power of God who lovingly conforms us to the image of Christ. Pruning off all things that don't reflect that image and cultivating all the things that do.

The Church then reflects all that it has received from God to the world. How do Christians welcome non-Christians? With Grace. How do they disciple them should they one day submit to the Lordship of Christ? By the Spirit of God.

Please, hear me, I'm not trying to create a two tier Christianity - the grace of God and the Spirit of God are intimately connected like thoughts and actions, you can't leave one behind for the other, it won't work. But I fear that in confusing / fudging the categories as outlined above, then at best, spiritual inertia and cultural entropy await us.

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