4.8.1 The law of Christ–grace

In his elaborations concerning the righteousness that results from faith, Apostle Paul cites passages from the Old Testament prophets, namely Isaiah 28: 16 and Joel 2: 32. He writes: "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'" (Romans 10: 10-13). With regard to the gospel, the Apostle emphasises the unity of the old and new covenants.


The New Testament awareness that all human beings are sinners is already present in the Old Testament: "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight ... Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51: 4-5). The situation of the sinner can hardly be expressed any more bluntly. Here we detect nothing of the supposed superiority of the law-abiding over the godless. Thus already in the Old Testament, there were some who recognised their need for redemption.


Isaiah 49 to 56 can also be understood as an anticipation of the gospel's message of grace. We read in Isaiah 53: 4-6: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ... The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed ... And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."


Even as the old covenant already contained references to the gospel, so also in the new covenant, reference to the law is part of the proclamation of the gospel. Serious analysis of the law and its new interpretation can be found in the gospels as well as in the letters of the Apostles.


This is not a matter of repealing the law, but rather of its proper understanding, which was only revealed by the gospel of Jesus Christ: "... since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans 3: 30-31).


Christ is both the fulfilment and the goal of the law. Thus, the understanding of the law as the path to salvation has also come to an end (Romans 10: 4-5).


While in the old covenant it was assumed that the law would lead to life and to the overcoming of sin, Apostle Paul made it very clear that it merely led to the recognition of sin: "I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said: 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7: 7).


While the Mosaic Law, on the one hand, is intended to make human beings aware of the fact that they are sinners, it also provides instructions for righteous conduct. Jesus Christ summarised the enduringly valid and necessary content of the Mosaic Law with His commandment to love God and one's neighbour (Matthew 22: 37-40).


Accordingly, the "law of Christ" draws upon important elements of the Mosaic Law–namely the requirement to love God and one's neighbour (Deuteronomy 6: 5; Leviticus 19: 18)–and emphasises their basic functions. This context again makes clear both the conflict between, and the interconnectedness of, the law and the gospel.


The devout of the old covenant expected that the endeavour to fulfil the Mosaic Law would lead to the overcoming of sin. This was impossible to achieve, however. It was only in the "law of Christ" that overcoming sin became a reality.


Pardoned human beings are justified before God. The sinner's justification is a result of the sacrifice of Christ: "Therefore, as through one man's offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5: 18).