These are my personal notes on the topic of law and grace.
There is a wide variety of thoughts going around in Christianity about the status of "law" since the inception of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Some say that since we're saved by faith alone, then seeking to "keep the law" in any way amounts to legalism and denying God's grace. Others say that a life of faith in Christ demands a fundamental change in the way we live our lives. Some atheists criticise Christians for not being distinguishable morally from a secular person (e.g. divorce rate among Christians being much the same as that for atheists).
It's a big topic to figure out exactly what apostle Paul meant about justification through faith and grace (especially in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians), in light of the many Biblical exhortations to a life of pure living and commandment-keeping.
Scriptures Challenging Law
Law in Old Covenant
Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29; Romans 10:5 God's laws are laws "Which if a man does, he shall live by them."
Deuteronomy 4:5-8; 5:28-33; 6:1-2,6-9,17-25; 10:12-13; 13:4; 32:46-47
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 The king must write a copy of the law, and be diligent to read it and live by it.
Joshua 1:7-9 Meditate on God's law day and night, in order to be able to follow it, in order to live successfully.
2 Chronicles 7:14
Nehemiah 9:13-14 God's laws are just and true.
Psalm 11:7 The Lord is righteous. He loves righteousness.
Psalm 19:7-13 (verses 12-13 speak of God's grace)
Psalm 103:17-18 Mercy on those who keep God's commandments.
Intent of law is to do good.
Psalm 34:12-16 quoted by 1 Peter 3:10-12
Proverbs says a lot about righteousness vs wickedness.
Isaiah 1:16-17 Intent of the law.
Zechariah 7:9-12; 8:16-17
Grace in the Old Testament
Genesis 15:6 Abraham's righteousness was through faith. Romans 4:3-6,9,20-25
Exodus 34:5-9 Moses sees God's goodness on the mountain.
Psalm 16:2 "My goodness is nothing without You."
Psalm 19:12-13 (coming after verses 7-11 which say the law is good)
Psalm 32:1-2 quoted by Romans 4:7
Psalm 51 is a remarkable psalm of repentance and calling on God's mercy/grace.
Isaiah 1:16-20 Forgiveness of sin that comes with repentance and obedience.
Isaiah 54:17 "...And their righteousness is from me," says the Lord.
Romans 11:1-5 quotes 1 Kings 19:18 "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Election of grace in the Old Testament.
Law in New Covenant
Matthew 5:17-20 Sermon on the Mount amplified many Old Testament laws and showed their spiritual intent.
Matthew 7:21-23 "Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!"
Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock."
Matthew 13:41 At the end time judgment, the angels will gather up "those who practice lawlessness".
Matthew 19:16-22 Commandment keeping still a condition in New Covenant. "But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
Matthew 23:1-3 Jesus endorsed the Mosaic law, while criticising the Pharisees for hypocritically ignoring the law and missing the point of the law.
Matthew 28:18-20 Apostles' commission: teach all nations to observe all Christ's commandments.
Mark 10:17-22 Keep the commandments. Jesus showed a greater depth of spiritual living ("sell whatever you have, and give it to the poor, and have treasure in heaven, take up your cross and follow me").
Luke 13:23-27 "Workers of iniquity" not welcome in God's kingdom.
John 8:11 "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
John 8:34 "Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin."
John 14:15,21-24 It is those who keep Christ's commandments who truly love Him.
John 15:9-17 Follow Christ's commandments centred on love.
Acts 5:32 Holy Spirit given to those who obey God.
Acts 22:12 Ananias was a good man, "devout according to the law", and having a good testimony with the Jews in Damascus.
Acts 24:14 Paul saw his faith as firmly based in Old Testament scripture--law and prophets.
Romans 2:1-13 Sinners will be judged by the law.
Romans 3:8,31 Faith doesn't void the law, it establishes it.
Romans 5:13,20; 7:1-12,21-25 The law highlighted the wickedness of sin, but also gave us condemnation.
Romans 6:1-2,12-23 Ongoing necessity to battle against sin.
Romans 13:8-10 Law is founded in love.
Romans 10:5 reiterates Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29 which say God's laws are laws "Which if a man does, he shall live by them."
1 Corinthians 5:1 alludes to Leviticus 18:6-8.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 alludes to numerous OT laws.
Galatians 2:17-21 Living in faith, we must turn from sin.
Ephesians 2:2 Despite the context of grace, unbelievers are described as "sons of disobedience".
1 Corinthians 5:1-13 Exhortations re sexual immorality.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 Law is made for lawless people.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 Affirmation of Old Testament as foundation of New Testament.
Hebrews 5:9 "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."
1 John 2:3-6; 3:4-15,22-24
1 John 5:2-3 (following verses affirm faith in Jesus Christ)
1 John 3:4; Romans 7:7 Law defines sin.
2 John 1:6
Revelation 12:17; 14:12 God's true people are those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ".
New Covenant: Law Written on Hearts and Minds
Law's intent is love of God and neighbour
Genesis 2:16-17; Exodus 16:4-5,20,28 Some laws were simply to test obedience to God.
Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 11:45; 20:25-26; Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23 Some laws for us to learn to trust God's sovereignty, that he is our lawgiver, sanctifier and saviour.
Leviticus 19:17-18 Love your neighbour as yourself.
Matthew 22:36-40 Two greatest commandments.
Romans 13:8-10 All commandments are summed up in "love your neighbour as yourself".
Galatians 5:14 All the law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."
1 John 3:23 Belief in Jesus Christ is central to obedience.
Weightier Matters of the Law
Spirit Versus Letter
Matthew 23:23-28 Pharisees engaged in law-keeping minutiae, but ultimately were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. "Strain out a gnat and swallow a camel".
John 4:23-24 The Father is seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth.
Romans 2:29 "but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God."
Romans 7:6 "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter."
Romans 8:1-17 Live by the Spirit, not the flesh.
2 Corinthians 3:6 "who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
Sabbath-keeping churches are sometimes accused of being legalistic. It is possible that we might be legalistic, however, the solution to legalism is not lawlessness. Rather, we must love the spiritual purpose and intent of God's good laws.
Law is Good
Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29
Psalm 19:7-11 (then the following verses 12-13 affirm grace)
Hebrews 8:8 Fault was with the people, not the law.
Law of Moses a Burden?
Acts 15:10-11,28 What was the yoke on the Gentiles neck that they couldn't bear, nor the Jewish fathers?
Matthew 11:30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Matthew 23:4 "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
Luke 11:46 And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers."
Galatians 3:10 Curse of the law.
Galatians 6:13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law...
Hints "Law" Sometimes Means "Covenant"
Law Can't Save Us
(Justification Not Through Law)
Because the law defines sin, it brings a penalty and not salvation.
John 1:16-17 "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
Romans 3:9,19-28; 4:15; 5:13,20
Romans 7:5-13; 8:3-4
Galatians 2:14-21; 3:1-5,10-14,19-24 The law brings a penalty, not salvation.
However Galatians 3:25 remains a puzzle.
Philippians 3:9 (nor can our own righteousness save us)
1 Timothy 1:8-11
Beware of Self-Righteousness
Luke 18:9-14 Parable of Pharisee and tax collector.
Philippians 3:3-11 Paul could boast "in the flesh" and the "righteousness which is in the law", but it was worth nothing without Christ.
Revelation 3:14-17 Self-righteousness of Laodiceans.
We're Saved by Grace not Works
Ephesians 2:5,8-10 Key scripture.
Luke 18:9-14 Parable of Pharisee and tax collector. Repentant tax collector was the one who was justified.
John 6:28-29 Believe in Him sent by the Father.
Acts 15:10-11 Is this anti-works, or anti-something-else?
Romans 3:19-28; 4:1-8; 5:1,12-21; 10:3-13
Romans 6:14 You are not under law but under grace. (yet read that verse in the context of verses 12-18)
Romans 7:24-25 Even the Apostle Paul saw himself as wretched, in need of salvation from his "body of death" through Jesus Christ.
Romans 9:30-33 Jews pursued righteousness through the law, not through faith, and stumbled over faith in Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:19,21 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. ...
Galatians 3:1-14 (nor by law)
2 Timothy 1:9
2 Timothy 3:15 (then following verses affirm works)
Titus 3:5,7 (then verse 8 affirms works)
1 Peter 1:10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,
Works Still Important
Matthew 3:8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Matthew 16:27 Reward according to works.
Matthew 25:14-30 Parable of the talents -- God expects us to live a life of bearing spiritual fruits of righteousness.
John 3:19-21 He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
John 10:32 Jesus did many good works.
Acts 9:36 Dorcas was full of good works and charitable deeds.
Acts 26:20 repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
Romans 2:6 which quotes Psalm 62:12 Reward according to deeds.
Colossians 1:10 Walk worthy, fully pleasing Him, be fruitful in every good work.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
1 Timothy 6:18 Rich people should do good, to be rich in good works.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (follow on from verse 15 which affirms both Old Testament scriptures and faith in Christ!)
Titus 2:7 show yourself to be a pattern of good works.
Titus 2:14 zealous for good works.
Titus 3:8,14 be careful to maintain good works (follow on from verses 5,7 which affirm grace)
Hebrews 6:1; 9:14 Repentance and cleansing from "dead works".
Hebrews 10:24 Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.
Hebrews 11 Faith chapter is full of works.
Hebrews 13:21 May God, thru Christ, make us complete in every good work, doing what is well pleasing in His sight.
James 2:14-26 Faith without works is dead. Abraham was saved by faith, but also works. Genesis 22:16-18; 26:5
James 3:13 works and conduct.
1 Peter 1:13-17
1 Peter 2:12 Our good works should be a witness to unbelievers.
1 Peter 3:9-13
2 Peter 1:5-11
1 John 3:16-23
Revelation 2:23; 20:12-13 future judgement according to works.
Revelation 2:26; 3:21 Keep Jesus' works until the end. Overcome.
Revelation 2:23; 22:12 Jesus will give to every one according to his work.
Active Response to Grace
Genesis 15:6 (grace to Abraham) leads to Genesis 18:19; 22:12,16,18; 26:5
Psalm 103:17-18 The mercy of God is on those who keep His commandments.
Matthew 3:8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Romans 4:1-3; Galatians 3:5-9 (Abraham's faith was accounted to him for righteousness). Yet then Hebrews 11:8-19; James 2:20-23
Romans 6:1-2,12-18 Don't let sin rule over us.
Romans 8:3-4,12-14 Live and overcome by the Spirit. Put to death the deeds of the body.
Romans 12:1-2 Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11,15-20 We must turn away from the unrighteous acts, which are sin.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Run so that you may receive the prize.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1 Don't be unequally yoked with the world.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 War by the Spirit; cast down every stronghold of the flesh; bring every thought into captivity.
Galatians 2:17-18 While we seek to be justified by Christ, we must not sin. We must destroy those old things, otherwise we are transgressors again.
Ephesians 4:1 Walk worthy of the calling.
Ephesians 4:17-24 No longer walk the old way or live as the old man. Put on the new man.
Ephesians 5:8-9 Walk as children of light.
Philippians 1:9-11 Be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:27 Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Strive for the faith.
Philippians 2:12-13 Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. God works in us to will it and do it.
Colossians 1:10 Walk worthy, be fruitful in works.
Colossians 2:6 Walk in Christ.
Colossians 3:5-10 Put off fleshly lusts; put on the new man.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 Walk worthy of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 Live pure lives; abstain from sexual immorality and lust. God called us to holiness not uncleanness.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God...
2 Timothy 2:19 Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Titus 2:11-14 We must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and be zealous for good works.
Titus 3:5,8 Be careful to maintain good works.
Hebrews 3:15-4:2 The Israelites failed to obey because they lacked faith.
Hebrews 4:11-16 Let us be diligent to enter that rest.
Hebrews 11:4 etc — notice faith leads to action.
Hebrews 12:1-4 We must "strive against sin".
James 1:21-27 Be doers of the word (not hearers only, deceiving ourselves).
James 2:17 faith results in works.
1 Peter 1:13-19
2 Peter 1:1-11
1 John 3:3 Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself.
1 John 3:4-9 Since Christ came to take away our sins, we turn away from sin. He who sins is of the devil.
We Must Do What Is Right
Be Righteous as God is Righteous (Law Describes Godly Righteousness)
Genesis 17:1 God told Abraham to "be blameless".
Psalm 119:172 "...all Your commandments are righteousness."
1 Peter 1:13-16
2 Peter 3:11,14
1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-11 Walk in light as God is only light (but also acknowledge our sins).
1 John 2:29
1 John 3:1-10
3 John 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
It's not enough to "commit our hearts to Jesus". We must repent of sin.
2 Chronicles 7:14
Proverbs 28:13 He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
Malachi 3:7 "...Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the Lord of hosts...
Matthew 3:2-12; Luke 3:7-14 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 4:17 Jesus preached "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Mark 1:15 Jesus preached "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Mark 2:17 Repent of sin.
Mark 6:12 Disciples went out preaching repentance.
Luke 15:17-24 Parable of prodigal son—son's repentance (even though the word "repentance" is never used).
Luke 24:47 Apostles' commission: preach repentance and remission from sins in Christ's name to all nations.
Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21
Acts 26:20 repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
Romans 2:4-5 The goodness of God leads us to repentance.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Corinthians' godly sorrow led to repentance.
1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-2 Especially 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Hebrews 3:7-19 Don't be rebellious toward God. Beware the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 6:1 "Repentance from dead works" is listed as one of the fundamental doctrines.
2 Peter 3:9 God's will is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Revelation 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
We are saved from what?
Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Matthew 1:21 Jesus will save people from their sins.
John 1:29 Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 8:31-36 Jesus frees us from slavery to sin.
Romans 3:21-25 justification, redemption, propitiation, pass-over of "sins that were previously committed"
Romans 5:8 "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:9 saved from wrath
Romans 6:4-7 "Old man", the old sinful way of living.
Romans 8:1-11 Life of the flesh, including sin.
Galatians 5:16 desires of the flesh.
Colossians 1:21-23 Christ came to save us from wicked works.
Colossians 2:11-15 Our trespasses, resulting in the handwriting of requirements against us.
Titus 2:14; 3:3 We are redeemed from lawless deeds. We were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures...
1 Peter 2:24 Christ bore our sins so that we can "die to sin and live to righteousness".
2 Peter 1:4 Escape corruption in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:9 Cleansed from old sins.
Jesus died to save us from sin and from the penalty of death due to sins. Sins are defined by the law, and the need for Christ's sacrifice shows the ongoing seriousness of sin, and the ongoing penalty for sin according to the law. We should be zealous to flee from sin since Christ died to save us from it.
Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:13-14
Ezekiel 14:12-23 God's righteous judgment on a land for its sins.
Ezekiel 18:30 Judgment according to a person's ways.
Matthew 12:33-37 Judgment according to our words, which are a window into our hearts.
Matthew 10:15 Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment.
Matthew 11:20-24 Tyre, Sidon, Sodom in the day of judgment.
Matthew 12:41-42 People of Nineveh, queen of south will rise up in the judgment and condemn the Jewish religious leaders of Christ's time.
Luke 3:17 Jesus will clean out His threshing floor, gather the wheat into His barn, and burn the chaff.
Romans 2:1-16 Sinners will be judged by the law. Therefore, repent.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Our works will be judged, whether they have been physical or spiritual.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
Hebrews 6:2 "eternal judgment" is listed as one of the fundamental doctrines.
1 Peter 1:17 Judgment according to works.
2 Peter 2:9 Punishment on the unjust on the day of judgment.
1 John 4:17 (aside)
Revelation 2:23; 20:12-13; 22:12 future judgment according to works.
Paul addresses a heresy in his letter to the Galatians. The question is, do we properly understand the meaning of what he was saying to the Galatians? We have to "read between the lines" to discern the issue he was addressing.
Galatians 1:6-8; 3:1 They were turning away from the grace of Christ to a different gospel. A perversion/distortion/replacement of the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:10-12; 5:11 This "different gospel" was one more appealing to people than the true gospel of Christ. Galatians 5:11; 6:12 Gospel of Christ on the cross suffered persecution, apparently from those supporting the "different gospel" connected with "circumcision".
Galatians 1:13-15,23-24 The gospel of Christ clashed especially with Judaism (of which Paul formerly was a chief advocate).
Galatians 1:16; 2:1-2 It's something to do with the gospel going to the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:3,7-9 Circumcision is a key issue.
Galatians 2:4 Issue described as liberty of Christ versus bondage that is somehow connected with circumcision.
Galatians 2:7-9,12-15 It appears that "circumcision" is connected with the "Gentile" issue. "Circumcised" are Jews, "uncircumcised" are Gentiles. Circumcision is not just an action, but an intimate part of the Judaic identity that sets them apart from Gentiles. Romans 4:12 uses phrase "those who are of the circumcision", apparently to mean the Jews. Romans 3:1-2 appears to use circumcision as a metonym for being a Jew. Romans 2:28-29 says that circumcision of the heart is what is truly important.
Galatians 2:9 James, Cephas and John accepted Paul's calling to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:14 Something to do with "compelling Gentiles to live like Jews".
Galatians 2:16 Something to do with justification through the "works of the law" versus "faith in Jesus Christ".
Galatians 2:15-16 Those who were natively Jews acknowledged their salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ, not works of the law.
Galatians 2:16; 3:11 uses word "justification".
Galatians 2:17-21 Rehearsing Jewish believers' concept of doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ, in relation to sin and law. Difficult to understand statements about law.
Galatians 2:21 Crux: is salvation through the law or through Christ's death?
Galatians 3 elaborates law versus faith.
Galatians 3:1 Jesus Christ was central to a truth that some were not obeying.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeems us from curse of the law.
Galatians 3:2-6,14 Promise of the Spirit received by faith.
Galatians 3:14,26 Salvation for Gentiles is also through faith in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:14-17 Promise of salvation through faith, originally given to Abraham, is completed in Jesus Christ (New Covenant?).
Galatians 3:15,17 speak of a covenant (Abrahamic it seems). Galatians 3:17 speaks of "the law which was 430 years later" — which is at the giving of Old Covenant.
Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5,21; 5:18; Romans 3:19; 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 speak of "under the law". What is it? Putting it all together: Old Covenant. Galatians 4:24.
Galatians 3:26-29 Salvation through faith has no favouritism according to identity; it's available to all without prejudice or distinction. It seems the New/Gentile issue saw Gentiles as needing to come to God (be a "seed of Abraham") through Jewish law-keeping within the construct of the Old Covenant.
Galatians 4:5-7 seems to imply that Gentiles were also "under the law" and redeemed by Christ. This seems to imply "under the law" means "in bondage under the elements of the world" not "under the Old Covenant". This seems to contradict 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. What's going on?
Galatians 4:3,8-10; 5:1 What is this bondage about? Puzzling. Especially since Gal 4:4-5,21 are again talking about "under the law". I have heard in the past that "elementals" are a gnostic teaching. But Ellicott's commentary says it means "elements/rudiments of religious teachings". That seems to fit context better.
Galatians 4:17 "They" teaching the false doctrine seem to want to exclude the Galatians by it.
Galatians 4:21 Galatians desiring to be "under the law".
Galatians 4:21-31 clearly comparing two covenants — of bondage and promise. It seems remarkable that the Old Covenant is described as "bondage".
Galatians 5:1 "yoke of bondage", while Galatians 5:2-6 is again talking about circumcision, attempting justification by law.
Galatians 5:4 seems key—they were attempting to be justified by the law, rather than by Christ.