It seems that there is a lot to say about grace and holiness and their relationship in the life of a believer. I think that I have begun to establish that the driver is grace. Grace is the foundation of true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, grace is inextricably linked to holiness and its progressive development in the life of the saint. Today we will begin to take a look at law and grace and how they affect and relate to holiness. I think we can assume that holiness is a function of the indwelling spirit within us. In this understanding we should look at what Paul has to say about the effect of law on people. In second Corinthians 3:6, Paul explains that the letter of the law, that is the written law kills. He goes on to explain that the Spirit gives life. How you ask? The Spirit gives life through the gospel of grace. So then, it is safe to assume that the written law brings death and that the Spirit of grace brings life.
With this in mind let’s take a look at Romans chapter seven.
(Romans 7:18-25 NASB) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (19) For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (20) But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (21) I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (22) For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (23) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (24) Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
The above scenario is especially pertinent if one is operating from a legal constitutional reading of scripture. It becomes far less applicable if one is operating from a redemptive reading and interpretation of scripture. This is the main reason that Jesus and his first century followers adopted a redemptive hermeneutic that was Jesus of Nazareth centric. It is also why they redefined the phrase word of God from Torah to gospel and Jesus the living gospel. Jesus was not the living Torah. Rather, Jesus was the living gospel… he was the gospel incarnate.
So then, how does this relate to Romans 7? Much in every way; I believe that Paul was thinking of personal holiness and godliness when he wrote the seventh chapter of Romans. He was saying that when one simply applies a read and do approach to scripture that it will ultimately result in failure. While depending on personality types, (some people are naturally addictive and some are not) all people will fail with a read and do focus to the law. This is whether it is the Law of Christ or the Law of Moses. I should also mention that the Law of Christ and the Law of Moses are merely two expressions of one Law… God’s Law.
Simply reading and doing will not work with any of God’s laws and especially the Shema. One cannot possibly love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their strength by reading and trying to perform it, nor can one love his/her neighbor as him/herself. The more they want to the less they will be able to unless the grace of God is in control promoting a genuine, supernatural, spiritual love for God and neighbor.
It should be obvious that not only are grace and holiness not mutually exclusive, but in fact they are mutually inextricable.