The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Nine: Under Grace

This lesson is a continuation of the word under Lesson Eight, Freedom From the Law. Believers are now freed from living by law, which means living by a legal principle. If we are to be overcomers, it is imperative that we have a clear understanding of what it means to be freed from the law, yet under grace. Some key concepts regarding this topic are covered below.

Law and living to law versus grace and living to God.

Being “under law” involves man’s efforts to carry out God’s will, which is specified in definite commandments. Through these commandments, man is given knowledge of right and wrong and expected to do the right. Man attempts to carry out these commands by means of his own energy and ability (the “flesh”).

A person “under law” lives to the law, serves the law, and is bound to the law (Rom. 7:2, 4, 6). His focus is upon that law, and his righteousness before God is dependent upon his carrying out of those commandments. The “law” characterizes the Old Testament relationship of man to God.

Being “under grace” involves the living union of the believer with Christ by means of the supply of the Holy Spirit. A person living under grace is receiving and experiencing Christ as his life and life supply (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 2:20-21; 5:4). The believer experiencing grace is focused upon the living person of Christ. He longs for Christ and seeks after Christ in his spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Such a person has an inner reaching out to Christ in a very dependent, trustful and needful way.

By experiencing Christ as his very life, the believer then serves God in his spirit, not by outward law keeping (Rom. 1:9; 7:6). The believer living under grace is spontaneously righteous in his living before God by the operation of Christ’s life (Rom. 8:2, 4). “Grace” characterizes the New Testament relationship of man to God. Paul testified that, “I have died to the Law, that I might live to God” (Gal. 2:19).

The law and independence versus grace and dependence.

The legal principle requires man to carry out commandments. A person living under law must know the law and then must obey it. So, man’s knowledge and man’s effort are both required. This type of situation fosters man’s independence from God. Can you see in this what seems to have been typified by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden? To live by such knowledge simply means that if one only knows what to do then one can do it. Thus man can be righteous by his own efforts and is independent from God.

As an illustration, imagine a nine year old girl who decides that she is now going to be independent in her living. In her independent attitude, she has decided she knows how to take care of her own living and is able to do so. When she wakes up in the morning, her independence means she will no longer look to her parents for her living. So, she will have to find her own breakfast, instead of it being prepared by her mother. Next, she will have to find a way to keep warm and be sheltered from the weather, since she has decided not to depend upon her parents. She moves outside and begins to discover the challenges and discomforts of such a decision. As the day goes on, she understands more and more how difficult it is for a nine year old girl to take care of herself. Just as she was designed to be under the care and nurture of her parents, so man was designed to live by the supply of God Himself.

In contrast to the legal principle, the tree of life signifies complete dependence upon God for one’s very life. It shows that man has no life unless he comes to that tree and partakes of it. Jesus is the tree of life for us today. Unless we come to Him and take grace from Him, we have no life, no way to do anything.

The way of grace is one of utter dependence upon God. No matter how much knowledge we may have, that will never enable us to live righteously before God. When we live under grace, we live in a moment by moment dependence upon Him. As we do, God supplies us with His Spirit (Gal. 3:5; Phil. 1:19). Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

Grace is much more than unmerited favor.

The New Testament word for grace is charis (Strong’s #5485). Although its meaning is popularly taught as “unmerited favor,” the meaning of the word takes on other characteristics in many New Testament passages. I agree that we have been saved by grace, which grace includes God’s unmerited favor. Yet, our present experience of living under grace, a living wherein we are freed from the dominion of sin and from the yoke of the law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:1, 4), includes much more than being in a state of God’s favor. As we can see from the following passages, such a “grace living” points to our living union with the risen Christ.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:16). This verse speaks of a receiving of Christ’s fullness, something of His person, in the way of “grace upon grace,” that is, experience upon experience.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Rom. 16:20). This verse is experiential. Grace here speaks of a supply of Christ’s presence and empowerment.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Here is Paul’s testimony that the life he lived and the work he was able to accomplish was not of himself, but of God. Here the term grace simply stands for the experience and power of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. The aspect of Christ’s life that is emphasized in this passage is His strength for service.

“For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12). The credit for Paul’s uplifted human conduct is here given to “grace,” which must mean the power of the life of Christ. The aspect of Christ’s life that is emphasized in this verse is His holiness.

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9). Here we see that grace is nothing less than the power of Christ in our lives. The aspect of Christ’s life that is emphasized in this verse is Christ’s ability to overcome the negative circumstances in human experience that tend to depress and overwhelm us. Praise God that we do not have to be defeated by the tribulations of this world!

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” (2 Tim. 4:22). I believe these two sentences speak of the same thing.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This wonderful verse shows us that grace is something subjective, dispensed to us from God Himself on the throne. Such grace enables us to overcome in the time of our need. According to the context, the “time of need” would indicate our need for strength to be victorious when tempted or tested. This grace must be the supply of God’s Spirit dispensed to us (see Gal. 3:5).

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28, KJV). It is by the power of God’s grace, the enabling of His Spirit, that we can serve God acceptably.

There are other passages showing the use of the term “grace” as pointing to the realization of our union with Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. You may want to research this more with your concordance.

The Old Testament contrasted with the New Testament

In our comparison of “under law” and “under grace” it will be instructive to see how the old and new covenants are contrasted in Scripture.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the House of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ’Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:7-12)

Here the contrast of the two covenants with Israel is seen. However, the Gentile believers already share this promise of the new covenant. We are sharers in it as children of promise (Rom. 9:4-8; Gal. 4:24-28). It was established with the church at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:26-29).

The epistle to the Hebrews was written to contrast the old way of Judaism with the new way, which God has inaugurated through Christ’s sacrifice. The old covenant of the Law consisted of the written tablets of commandments, which God’s people were supposed to keep. The Law is something external. The Jews were required to obey those commandments written in stone. But, the new covenant is something internal. Now, the laws of God are written into our minds and upon our hearts. He has imparted the laws of His ways into our being!

This contrast cannot be overstated. It is further elucidated by the declaration in the passage quoted above that there will no longer be the need to teach others to know the Lord (by the written commandments), because now, under the new covenant, each believer has an innate ability to know God Himself. God has imparted Himself into us, and His laws have been inscribed upon our inward being. Of course, we grow in this experience of learning His inward laws as we grow in Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

In our contrast of “under law” and “under grace” we used the contrasting terms of independence and dependence. Now, we must add to these two more very important terms: external (going with law), and internal (going with grace).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)