Is he then under grace to steal? Can he steal gracefully ?
“What then shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?” “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” No Christian is under grace to break the fourth commandment any more than he is under grace to break any other, but men misapprehend the meaning of the expression “not under law, but under grace”.
Let us illustrate: Here is a man guilty of murder. He is condemned to die; but a merciful governor interposes, and pardons the culprit. He is now under grace. Does that mean he has now received an indulgence to murder ? Rather, are not gratitude and love to his benefactor new incentives nevermore to break the law ?
“Not under the law”; Now a man must be either under or above the law, and he who is above the law is above the Lawmaker.
It is a common concept that all unconverted people are “under the law” whatever being “under the law” may mean. As to the idea that the expression “Ye are not under the law” refers to freedom from its requirements, or at least freedom from the requirements of the fourth commandment to keep the seventh day Sabbath, it must follow that the expression “under the law,” means obligation to obey it, seventh-day Sabbath and all. Therefore, it would be a sin for an unconverted man to break the Sabbath, while for the converted man it would be no sin at all. In other words the Lord holds the sinner responsible for his transgression of the commandments, while the saint is at liberty to transgress them at his pleasure, and no condemnation rests upon him! It would seem that the absurdity of such a conclusion would prevent anyone form adopting such a concept. Consequently, we must look for some other meaning for the expression, “Ye are not under law,” and we assert with all confidence that its meaning, as used in this place is “Ye are not under the condemnation of the law”. The rest of the verse shows that this is its true meaning. Read the whole passage: “ye are not under the law, but grace.” The contrast is between being under the law, and being under grace. What is grace ? It is unmerited favor; and to be “under grace” would signify to be under unmerited favor. But why is an unmerited favor granted unless the one who receives it is under condemnation? It is not an act of grace to permit one to live who has never forfeited his life, but it is an act of grace to grant life to one who has brought himself under the condemnation of the law in transgressing it.
It is true that “there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” but as it is the law which condemns the sinner, it is the righteousness of the law which must be fulfilled in him, in order that he may be free from its condemnation; and so we read: “for what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
It is sin, the transgression of the law which has placed us “under the law”, under its condemnation; but it is the grace of Christ which has liberated us, made us free from condemnation. The law condemns the sinner, The grace of God releases him from condemnation. It releases him, not to sin again, but to fulfill in him the righteousness, the requirements, of the law. Now to what extent can the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in the sinner? Only to the extent of his ability and knowledge; and his failure to meet the requirements of the law on account of his lack of knowledge is not imputed to him as sin, but in its place he has imputed to him the righteousness of Christ. Christ has met the requirements of the law in all its length and breadth, to its fullest extent, Sabbath and all. And when His righteousness, his doing of the law is imputed to the sinner, it can be truly said of him that he is “not under the law, but under grace.”