The Real Purpose of Law vs. Grace
We must realize that being confronted by the law is part of God's process. It is not something we engineer, i.e., set up a instruction course for new believers, with Course One being "The Law." It does not work like that. It is simply because we are all caught in separation, that is, living as if we are independent, self-relying selves, apart from God, who run our own lives. And in that condition, everything seems to be "outside" us. God is outside us. His law is outside us. The devil is outside us, and his deeds are outside us. That is what it is according to our consciousness. Everything is "over-against us," so to speak. So, for God to speak to us, and to begin to draw us our of our separated, "just-me," mindset, toward a union ("My Father and I are one") mindset, He must seemingly come to us as if out of that separation, and trigger something in us, by that separation, that puts us on the road to our real true lives, which are only found in Him as expressions of Him in union with us.
And that is where the Law comes in. The law is representative, in an outer way, of what God is like and what those who live in Him are like. Because of our separated consciousness, our first reaction to the law is to look at it and then back at ourselves, comparing ourselves with it. And we instantly find we do not measure up. God's standards are high -- impossible, actually -- but at that stage of the game we do not know it yet. We start to approach life in God the same way we barrel in on any project. Just acquire and master the right information, and we become successful. The tried and true formula for the world, and we think that will work in God, too! So we get big notebooks and big Bibles and take copious notes and underline or highlight half the New Testament.
We may believe wholeheartedly in "grace" at that point. But at the same time we read the admonitions of Paul or the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and we still cannot help but see them as separate from us that need to be added to us. And eventually, we will come to a brick wall. No one comes to Christ but by the schoolmaster -- the law. God ordains it. It is part of His system. His path.
God has a very distinct purpose for the law, and no one comes through to the Promised Land without going through the wilderness of the law. Everyone goes through it -- even while living unconsciously in grace. For instance, Abram & Sarai. Abram was already "righteous" by his believing the promise of God. But he attempts himself to make the promise happen (work of the law) by taking Sarai's maid, Hagar, in an attempt to obtain the heir through her. Paul even says later that Hagar points to the earthly Jerusalem, the covenant of bondage, i.e. the law. But God does not reject Abram through it. In fact, there is no record in Genesis of the Lord God even reproving Abram for this act of self-effort. Why? Because he is walking in God's righteousness, i.e. grace, even when he ignorantly commits an act of self-effort. He was at least trying to bring forth the promise of God, i.e. the Seed which should bless all nations.
Of course the Seed came through Isaac, when God appeared to Abram and changed his name to Abraham in his 99th year -- 14 years after the Hagar/Ishmael incident. Again, there is no reproof. All indications are that Abram had thought during all that time Ishmael was the promised son and his rightful heir. He was, after all, of his own body. Of his own seed. But he was a child of a bondwoman, not the true wife. In Abram's day even the child of the bondwoman could have been the heir had there never been a son by Sarai, but God said no. Suddenly God appears and renews the Promise, which Abram had believed 25 years earlier, changes his name to Abraham, and tells him he will have a son by Sarai, whose name now changes to Sarah.
But again, no reproof to Abraham. He goes through the experience of self-effort, the law, with God even promising an inheritance to Ishmael, by which he is brought to the Promise -- the birth of Isaac. Ishmael comes of self-effort. Isaac comes by Promise -- the gift of God.
My point is that both were necessary. There must be, for one thing, the contrast. And the contrast is not really about law and grace. Law and grace are really just two word-concepts that point to a greater and deeper issue -- the deepest issue there is: the law and grace issue is really about self-in-separation, or self-in-union.
Self-effort (acting by the flesh, the law) is not the root problem. Self-in-separation is the root problem, from which self-effort proceeds. So we must go beyond the "effort" to the self which attempts the effort. Nothing wrong with effort. It is just the self that generates it.
The law exposes self-effort, which is not really solved until we see that Christ in the self is the answer. Not the self discovering something, still separate from it, called "grace," but by the discovery/revelation that we are now this unified self, Christ and I as one self, grace being the chief attribute of that relationship, but grace meaning much more than unmerited favor. Grace is just another word for, "I will be a well of water springing up into everlasting life in you." Grace is just another term for, "So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
To be born of the Spirit is ultimately to realize that we in the Lord are not two, but one, and we ourselves in our humanity as outer expressions of the One Who is our inner life. As branches on a vine, but in that vine/branch relationship, the branch is but a branch expression of the Vine. It has no separate life of its own. And the Life, effort, grace, spirit, that proceeds through the vine into the branches to bring forth much fruit, is but One life in all the branches, the Same life, manifesting in many forms and branches. That is the key. We have no separate self-hood, but only find not just the source of "effort" in God, but the source of Self in God also.
That is the ultimate purpose of the law. The law IS separation. It testifies that we are separate, by the "shoulds" and "oughts" it demands of us. The law says, "You are not, and you should be ...." And when respond to the law by agreeing with it, that we "should" or "should not" do or be something, we are testifying to the lie that we are still separate from God, and not dead to sin, contradicting Romans 6:2 and Romans 7:4, and that Christ's work is still lacking in us. By the law, the devil deceives us that we can ADD TO the work of Christ already done, and gain by our efforts the righteousness of God and do His works. So we make a great effort to become like Christ, finally hitting that impenetrable brick wall, and falling on our faces, saying it is impossible, hopefully, which then enables the true life that we always have been since we came to Christ, really, to come forth. We must grow into a consciousness of this fact, and the law is just what does it. So it is absolutely necessary. Without that confrontation with what we essentially "are not," we cannot come into the solid fixing of who "we are!"
Oneness of self is found in the will. Jesus said, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me." He had only one will -- the will of the Father. That is union. No separation. Distinction in office and manifestation, but no separation inwardly. The only time Jesus exhibited a temptation to a separate will was in Gethsemane -- and He rejects having a separate will -- he denies it by saying, "Not my will, but thine be done." So in Jesus there was no separate "my" will. Only a will unified in the Father, One Will, One Life, One Person, expressing and manifesting, by the Son and the Cross of the Son ("Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth"), through everything and everyone in creation.
We cannot make this happen in ourselves except finding by the Spirit a "nothingness" of will in ourselves, and the faith that now God's will is our will, and we have, by faith, no separate will from Him. We join Jesus' word regarding Himself, making it ours as well: "My meat is to do the will of Him Who sent me, and finish His work." Now let us also note this: oneness of will, which is where oneness originally occurs, still cannot produce the outflow of the life of God in us. As Paul said, "For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." (Rom 7:18). That is where the Life of the Spirit comes in, Romans 8, which we will save for a later discussion.
So then we appreciate those who are still out there in their wilderness of the law, knowing that by that the Father is working in them to bring them to the end of themselves through self-effort, that they might come to know Him in union. They are still under the grace, because they believe in Him. Yes, they are temporarily diverted, but they have to walk through a huge howling wilderness, in the middle of which is the Mountain of the Law, in order to go across and get to the edge of the Promised Land.
They are being made into who they are by that journey. One way to see the children of Israel and their journey across the wilderness is as a type of our life's journey. The generation that is "cursed," and cannot ever enter the land, we note, is the generation born in Egypt -- in the separated consciousness of independent, self-effort self. It was born under the devil's rule. That is the consciousness of self that cannot approach the mountain, in which mountain Moses, who knows union and grace, can walk up and down and be in the midst of the fire and smoke at the top. They are flesh-self, self-effort self, and of course when they get to the edge of the Promised Land they cannot go in, and are only conscious of themselves as grasshoppers, rather than living out of the provision and strength of God. That false consciousness of self cannot help itself. It MUST be that, for it cannot really stand in God. "No flesh shall enter my presence."
So they are rightly sent back into the wilderness for another 38 years. And then at the end of that 38 years, that generation has all perished in the wilderness -- just as Moses' false sense of self perished in his 40 years in the wilderness before the Burning Bush -- now they have been conditioned by the wilderness -- the law -- to finally enter the land. You might say, well, that generation has died. Yes, it has, but a new generation, not born in Egypt, but born in the wilderness, has now taken its place. This new generation never knew the separation and self-effort of Egypt, but as a type of the new self, the self united in Christ as one self with him, that generation walks across the Jordan, under the leadership of Joshua (also a type of Christ -- Moses as the lawgiver who cannot go into the land because he offended in one point), and they walk across the Jordan ON DRY GROUND and begin to take the land, to "possess their possessions."
All of that process must be. We don't engineer it, as I said above. But God sees to it. We cannot help responding to the law in self-effort, because that is who we believe we are. Therefore we must be confronted by the law. We must think we can do it. We must go through the wilderness of failure of trying to do it. We must come to that end of ourselves as separate selves, finally arriving at oneness, union, with the Life within us, so that we are not separate in ourselves trying to be something, but unified in ourselves as "I AM," that Christ might now be expressed by us.
That is the purpose of the law. So we see the Father having His will here. We get people out of it when we can, and leave the others in it for their appointed time.
One more word about this false consciousness of self I have mentioned. One person, considering that "self," wrote me that he was finding in himself all sorts of corruption, self-attention, jealousy, pride, etc. That is not an uncommon approach to our self-life. But ultimately, we must find our way through that myriad of lies through to the truth of who we really are.
Though we may have thought our whole lives we were imprisoned inside this wall of hopelessly self-centered self, and that if we were ever to get out of it would take years of effort, years of dealing with every little foible, idiosyncrasy, tendency, the real truth is that it is as simple and quick as this: Boom-shakalackala boom-shakalackala, you're released! (I hope you get my humor -- I'm trying to tell you that "POOF!", your captivity is over!)
That stuff is not real. That false consciousness of self is not real. That's the whole deal with it. We think this caricature the devil has sold us as our own identity, which for short we call "independent self," is us, what we've become, who we've been. But that's really the lie of the whole thing. It is a false thing. It has no life. We are not that. Once seen for what it is, it falls away into the nothingness it always has been, quicker than the Wicked Witch of the West melts in The Wizard of Oz!
Listen, this Romans reality is really the truth. We have died with him in baptism, the old everything that we were, and we rose new beings in His resurrection, being raised by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead. The instrument of my humanity, my whole being, is now an instrument of righteousness (Rom 6:4-11). When Christ died and he became sin for us, we became the righteousness of God in him.(2 Cor 5:21)
It only awaits our saying, "Oh my, Lord, look what you've already done and I've missed it!" You were made righteousness in Him when you came into His kingdom, and from the eternal side of things, you were in Him Who was slain before the foundations of the earth. Your life has always been hid in Christ in God. It has only awaited your arrival to claim it.
All those things you see about yourself -- that's not the new man. That's a confession of an old man. You are not any of those things. It is a lie that you are any of that.
You are complete in Him. That means that spirit, soul and body have been made whole, by virtue of Him Who has come to claim you wholly as His dwelling place. What was wrong with you was your former master, whom you no longer serve.
The key to this whole life is faith. Christ has completed His work. See it whole now! That is faith.
Your life is Christ. Your "self" is not about protecting itself. Your self is not corrupt. Your former self was corrupt, but that self no longer exists -- it died in the death of Jesus. So who is saying you are naked?
Your true self is united to Christ, and he is none of those things. Your true life is even now complete in grace and oneness.
So I encourage you to realize that old self died, and all its attributes to which you are still confessing are yours, died with it, and has been replaced by a new master, indweller, and nature. Before you and I were of the nature of wrath, but now we are partakers of the divine nature, and we have everything there is to have pertaining to it, as the apostle Peter affirmed.
When an accusatory voice tells you you are corrupt, or out for attention, have questionable motives, you don't have to listen to that anymore. The source of Who you are, and your real identity, is in Christ, a new creation, all things new, and therefore you live in the motives of God, the love-for-others-drive of the Father. He is your source, not some non-existent former wisp of a ghost self! Live in the glory and freedom of the LIVING GOD, and not in the lower strata of separated self concerned only for itself, consumed with itself, whether it be its righteousness or its sin.
Begone with that false self. That isn't you and doesn't run you. Christ "runs" you!
You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth! Believe it!