Here is where a lot of grace people get tripped up – we’ve all heard this:

“Are you a rapist, murderer, fornicator, thief or a liar? Then you need the Old Testament Law to control you, to keep you in check”. (Based on 1 Tim 1:9-10).
They will say that if you have the Holy Spirit you walk in grace – you don’t need a system of rules. And this is true. But then they look at the works/acts of the flesh and start judging by the law, saying that anyone doing those things is sinning unless or until they stop doing whatever it is.

Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In both passages, Paul is talking about the same thing – the works/acts of the flesh. The man who is not Christ’s and does not have the Holy Spirit is doing the works of the flesh. The works of the flesh are characterized by selfishness and doing harm. This is key. Love does not hurt and is not selfish.

Can we sometimes do hurtful things? Yes. We are human. But we are not doing works/acts of the flesh. We cannot. We are walking by the spirit. We don’t move back and forth between spirit and flesh depending on what we do. If we could, Jesus would have died in vain. We are in the kingdom and we are not doing the works/acts of the flesh. Try interchanging “works” and “fruit” as a way of seeing this.

Gal 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust [merely means desire – not something immoral] of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, that you may not do the things that you desire. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

He then goes on to say this:

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit.

We know that Paul plainly states that those who are in Christ walk in the light and the spirit. So, one doesn’t suddenly leave Christ when he commits one of the acts listed as works/acts of the flesh. Why?

I propose that we confuse the works of the flesh with sin, meaning when we see someone doing fleshly things, we see them as sinning. But it is not so. Sin is known by the law – the very law that was meant for those who were not good or right – the law that was the guide to lead them (and specifically the Jews) to Christ.

Well, guess what? Christ came. He fulfilled the law. The law was done away. We only know sin by the law. No knowledge of law, no knowledge of sin. The scriptures say we are dead to the law and dead to sin. We have no knowledge or relation to either, like a dead man. The law has no authority over the dead.

In fact, the law was only for the Jews anyway. Without the law, every person since Adam has conscience, and either uses it to try and do the right things, or ignores it and acts selfishly.

What governs our behavior now, in Christ? The scripture says that grace teaches us godliness. Grace is best defined as the divine influence of God in our hearts. The aspects of grace look a lot like the fruit of the spirit that is produced in our lives. We don’t obey the law to be good. We are good (righteous) because of Christ. Our goodness is His goodness.

So, when we see someone who seems to be still doing the works/acts of the flesh, we have to stop and see that person as one who is free from the law and condemnation. There is none to accuse. Like Jesus, we cannot accuse or condemn. (But don’t confuse civil law with the law of Moses. If any violate a civil law, they will pay its penalty.)

Jesus did away with the Jewish law, took away the sins of the world, and that system is over. Jesus paid the penalty of the Jewish law. He also paid the penalty of death that came on all men through Adam. It is finished. Ungodliness is to continue in the law, and grace teaches us to leave the ungodliness of the law.

Our “morality” is produced by grace. Grace does not prompt any to hurt, or to act selfishly. Love does not act selfishly nor does it hurt. Love is the chief thing. It is fruit of the spirit, and will endure.

If we can’t walk in love, without condemnation (law brings condemnation), we are not operating in grace nor listening to the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul means when he says trying to finish by law means we have fallen from grace. The mindsets that conclude in sin are not coming from grace.

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