The Difference Between Living Under the Law and Under the Gospel

Here is a summary of what the Bible teaches about the Law and the Gospel. As a Christian the Law has an entirely different use and purpose. (By “law” we mean any expectation or command from God.) Use this summary to answer the question that follows.

FOUR PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL:

Principle 1: The law is good. It brings sanity and clarity. — Psalm 119:7; 1 Timothy 1:8. (Legalists tend to make the law look bad, but it’s not the law that is bad, but the wrong use of the law by legalists.)

Principle 2: The law has no power to sanctify. I have a heart problem and can’t get better by continual practice. The law does not offer a substitute. I’m 100% responsible. It demands absolute perfection from you. — James 2:10.

Principle 3: The gospel brings power. It offers a substitute. We have “rightness” through Christ.

Principle 4: The tendency, in our daily lives, is to confuse the law and the gospel with the result that we lose them both. Each has its place.

I AM FREE FROM THE LAW: I am DEAD to the law and am no longer “under” it. It has no POWER over me.

  1. I am FREE FROM THE LAW’S CONDEMNATION and demand. It has no power over my conscience. My sins are paid for, and I have Jesus’ obedience. I need not look to the law to save me.
  2. I also need not look to the law to sanctify me. It is not my growth. I grow by faith, which results in obedience. I am FREE FROM THE LAW AS MY HOLINESS — Christ is my holiness.
  3. I am FREE FROM THE LAW BEING A MEASURE OF MY CLOSENESS TO GOD or my spirituality.
  4. I am FREE FROM USING THE LAW AGAINST OTHERS.
  5. I am FREE FROM THE PRIDE of keeping the law.

I DELIGHT IN THE LAW: The law is GOOD. It is not the law that died.

  1. The law REFLECTS THE MIND OF MY FATHER. It is a mirror of His righteousness. It teaches us what is right and wrong. It shows me the boundaries of His desires (but not the boundaries of His love).
  2. The law HELPS ME MEASURE MY PROGRESS. It shows me my sin (Romans 7:7), but it is an exam God doesn’t grade; given for my encouragement, repentance and trust.
  3. The law is a TEACHER REMINDING ME OF MY NEED FOR CHRIST. (The law is a power pump to bring up what is underground in my heart. It brings up from below.) It shows me how powerless I am to change on my own.
  4. The law is meant to DRIVE ME TO THE GOSPEL. That is where I find forgiveness, righteousness and power to live the Christian life.
  5. The law is a ROAD MAP SHOWING ME WHERE THE MINE FIELDS ARE. It tells me how to be protected and fulfilled in a fallen world.

“I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

In summary then:

  • I apply the law to my actions.
  • I apply the gospel to my heart.

LIVING UNDER SELF-IMPOSED LAWS . . .

  1. Means thinking my actions or things I do will make people like me.
  2. Brings a preoccupation with self
  3. Fosters an independent spirit.
  4. Will always be critical and judgmental.
  5. Creates high expectation (of performance) — of self and others.
  6. Means fears and anxieties control our life.
  7. Requires strength in ourselves to complete a task.
  8. Means we do not know how to love.
  9. Means we do not know how to forgive.
  10. Means we do not know how to bring others to Christ because we do not know how to bring ourselves to Christ.
  11. Destroys confidence in Christ’s ability to bridge the gap between God’s demands and man’s sinfulness.
  12. Determines worth by what we are doing.

or LIVING UNDER THE GOSPEL . . .

  1. Means believing there is no goodness in us to perform a single act of obedience without the power of the Spirit.
  2. Means believing our sins are forgiven, and we can then forgive others.
  3. Means accepting our position as sons/daughters without condemnation.
  4. Means knowing the power of the flesh (if given into) will bring internal conflict and conflict with others.
  5. Means believing we now have the Spirit’s power to love our neighbor.
  6. Means understanding there is a warfare with the flesh, the world, and the devil, but they are not greater than Christ.
  7. Means believing our life is under God’s sovereign control and that His will is good, acceptable and perfect.
  8. Means learning to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer to settle our problems and to have our needs met.

Which do you see most in yourself? Print this and circle items which you most see in yourself.

This article is based on material taken from the Sonship course published by World Harvest Mission. Used by permission.

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