Author: Ron Graham
In this study we look at the relationship between faith and obedience —faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to God’s law. These two principles go hand in hand. There is no conflict between them. Faith and obedience are in complete harmony. Each depends on the other for its validity.
There is a sense in which we rely on faith and not on works of law —but be careful to understand this correctly.
We should all realise that we have sinned against God’s law. We fall short of the perfect glory and light of God. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, 1John 1:5,8). Because our works of law are imperfect, we cannot rely on them to make us right with God. To be justified (made right in God’s sight) we must have faith in Christ.
Though we do our very best to obey God’s law, this is not sufficient to save us. Even Cornelius, with all his goodness, still needed to be saved. (Luke 17:10, Acts 10:1-5, Acts 11:14, Galatians 3:9-13)
There is, therefore, a sense in which we are justified by faith "without works of law". The expression "without works of law" means that we are without a record of perfect obedience to God’s law such that we can boast of our works and think that they are sufficient to justify us before God. Paul refers to this when he says that boasting is excluded. (Romans 3:27-28).
Through the ages, God has given different laws to different people. But the same principles have always been true:
These principles were true from Creation until Christ came, and will always be true until he comes again.
At its crux, salvation is God’s "free gift". We rely not on our own imperfect righteousness, but on the generosity of God based upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22-24,28, 1Peter 3:18, Philippians 3:9).
In this sense we are justified "without law" and "through faith". We rely not on our own imperfect righteousness, but on the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Having said that we rely completely on Christ, we must also say that faith in Christ does not mean ignorance and disobedience of God’s present law. Surely, one who wanted to live by faith without law would be as much a fool as one who wanted to live by law without faith (James 2:20).
We do not eschew God’s law, rather we eschew sin. We rely upon God’s law, endeavouring to keep it more perfectly, especially as God’s law has now been trimmed to the bare minimum, and we are grateful for the simplicity of the new covenant (the gospel) under which God now judges us and all mankind.
Surely there is no true faith in Christ without an eager effort to "fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). That effort, that "obedience of faith", is the way of salvation (Romans 1:5). We cannot be saved by faith alone without obedience to law, any more than we can be saved by obedience to law alone without faith in Christ.
Such is the darkness and confusion about reliance upon God’s law, that many would see conflict and contradiction in the main points of this lesson. They would think that reliance on God’s law is tantamount to reliance upon ourselves, and that reliance on God’s law is the antithesis of reliance by faith on the Lord Jesus. They would say, "Ron, we agree with your first two points wholeheartedly, but in this third point you have contradicted them". However there is no such contradiction. Rather there is harmony, for God’s law comes from Christ, not from ourselves. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, then we put our faith and trust in his commandments. He himself said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15, 1John 5:3).