Christendom today has varying degrees of understanding concerning the law dispensation and the grace dispensation. The Old Testament generally represents the law dispensation (including the prophets). The New Testament brought in a dispensation known as the dispensation of grace which came through Jesus Christ. Howbeit, some Christian churches mingle the law and grace which causes confusion. Romans 10:4 states: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Therefore, the true Christian church must by necessity be a New Testament church in doctrine and practice.
Where confusing comes in is when doctrine is based on scriptures that has not been rightly divided. Rightly dividing the scriptures means that all scriptures relative to a given subject must come into play to explain the context of a doctrine. In other words, when basing a doctrine on one lone scripture without the full meaning of all other scriptures on the subject at hand, one can resort to misunderstanding and consequently be led into a false doctrine. The following scriptures from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus when taken alone can lead one into mingling the law with grace.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17).
The key to a proper understanding of the Matthew scripture lies in the scripture from Romans that we used above. The key phrase is “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.” Christ did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill. Fulfilling the law means making it complete. The law could not be complete (perfected) until one could and would live out all its principles completely and fully without sinning. No mortal was ever able to do that. The scripture verifies this by stating: “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one: (Psalms 14:2, 3). Psalm 53: verses 2 and 3 states the same thing.
Christ was the only one that could and the only one that did live out all the law to the complete satisfaction of God the Father. Therefore He fulfilled the law in the perfect life that He lived as He walked among men. By doing so He became the only available perfect sacrifice that could pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. By fulfilling the law He made its purpose complete in that one was found that was in perfect obedience to the heavenly Father. Therefore, the righteousness of the law that no one but Christ could live up to became the righteousness by faith, which was the righteousness God was looking for all along. Now we can become righteous in the sight of God, not by the works of the law which failed over and over again but by faith in Christ alone.
It is no wonder that John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In the interest of a more complete understanding of this biblical principle we will refer you to Matthew chapter 17 and verses 1-9. We will quote verses 4 and 5. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. (5) While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” In a nutshell in his unharnessed zeal, Peter was saying, “We will live under the law of Moses, under the Prophets, and under grace which comes through Christ.” God spoke the divine truth from Heaven that the time of the law and prophets had their day and was now fulfilled and the only acceptable way was through faith and obedience to His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul explains the principles of the law and grace in contrast in Galatians 3:19-26. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed (Christ) should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (20) Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. (21) Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, (see the verses form Psalms above) that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. (24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, we now can live under the righteousness which comes by faith and not that intended by the law which was never accomplished by any human except through the one and only lone person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
Since without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6) no one can be justified (declared guiltless in the sight of God) except by faith. This was the great eternal truth that Martin Luther espoused that started the great reformation period of human history. He realized as do all true born again Christians, that a works based religion (law) cannot make one acceptable with God. It takes a faith based belief (living under grace) to do the job. Therefore, the Church of God of the Bible must by necessity base its doctrine and practice on the New Testament with the whole Bible rightly divided.