The Significance of Freedom in Grace
Grace abounds! And it has set free the Jews as well as the Gentiles. Ellen T. Charry in her essay “Grace and the Law of Christ” states that it is through grace that the Gentiles were able to be brought into Israel on equal footing with the Jews through faith in Christ.1 We can see Charry’s statement supported in Galatians 2:15-16 where Paul addresses his audience with a very profound comparison that neutralizes all barriers, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Where Grace & Law Collide
In Mathew 5:17-18 Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
At the time Jesus said, “I have come to fulfill them,” the law was not yet fulfilled. Referring back to Charry’s essay she states that grace according to Paul is not the defeat of the law but the means of its metamorphosis in Christ.2 The metamorphosis occurred on the cross where Christ bestowed his grace upon us through suffering for our transgressions, and thus being perfect, He perfectly fulfilled the Law. The “law” of God through Jesus transforms the law of God through Moses. I guess one could say that it was at the intersection of the cross where grace & law collided.
Paul’s agenda, which was also the task bestowed upon him, was to lead the people from the premetamorphosed state of the “law” (before the cross) to the fully metamorphosed state which took place on the cross. He accomplished this by re-shifting their placement of justification. Paul urges his audience, in Galatians, to find their justification in Christ alone, thus diminishing the need for justification in the law. This movement of justification from Mosaic law to Christ can be found in Galatians 3:24-26: So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. Paul is not opposing the law, nor is he being contradictory to the law in anyway. What Paul was doing was re-shifting his audience’s placement of justification to its rightful and Holy place – within the loving and gracious arms of Jesus Christ who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 [ESV])
To simplify and quickly conclude this section, I found this explanation on “justification” from Monte A. Shank’s study on Galatians 5:2-4 “In Light of the Doctrine of Justification.”3
“The means of justification was the blood of Christ.” Justification is not something believers strive to earn. Instead it is received by God’s declaration of the sufficiency of a historical event, which was Jesus’ death on the cross. When sinners receive Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as payment for their sin, God declares them justified.”
Sin no more! (John 8:11)
Although we have found justification in Christ, keep in mind that justification in Christ is not a free license to sin. Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
I want to close with another reference from Ellen T. Charry, as I found her study quite fascinating:
At least when speaking of Paul and Mathew, one cannot simply say that the gospel abrogates the law. Their point is not that the grace of God trumps the law. Rather, in Christ God has radically transfigured the law in an abundantly gracious act that brings Jews together with Gentiles as the one people of God, a people able to lead godly lives by God’s grace in Jesus. God’s grace is the possibility of a radically transformed social and moral order.4 — Now that is beautiful Grace!
1. Charry, Ellen T. 2003. “The grace of God and the law of Christ.” Interpretation 57, no. 1: 34-44. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 20, 2015).
2. Charry, Ellen T. “The grace of God and the law of Christ.”
3. Shanks, Monte A. 2012. “Galatians 5:2-4 in light of the doctrine of justification.” Bibliotheca Sacra 169, no. 674: 188-202. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 21, 2015).
4. Charry, Ellen T. “The grace of God and the law of Christ.“