What does “Under the Law” Mean?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In Romans 6:14, Paul wrote: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” This is one verse used by many to say that the requirements of God’s Law, especially the Ten Commandments, are no longer necessary. The key with this verse, and all verses, is the context.
In the next two verses, Paul wrote, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” One definition of sin in the Bible is transgression of God’s Law (I John 3:4). To clarify the phrase “under the law”, we must go to the other letters of Paul.
In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul wrote: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (KJV). If the phrase “under the law” in Romans 6:14 means obeying the Law, then Paul said in Galatians that Christ only came to redeem those that were obeying the Law. We know that is not true! Christ came to redeem all mankind (John 1:29, 3:16).
The phrase “under the law” means under the penalty of the Law. Christ was born under the penalty of the law to free those who were under its penalty – which is all of us! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Later in Romans, Paul wrote that the Law is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12-14). In Romans 8:7, Paul explains that the sinful mind is hostile to God’s Law and refuses to submit to it. Being under grace means that when we make a mistake, God is not going to stone us or strike us dead.
We have a grace period to learn right from wrong. We are not under the law’s penalty, but we are not free from its requirements because grace is not a license to sin or transgress God’s Law. Our goal and aim is to let the Holy Spirit guide us in obedience to the commandments of God. Since we are under grace, we are alive in Christ and enabled to obey the Law of Life (see also Deut. 30:11-15, I John 5:1-5).
Kelly McDonald, Jr. is the BSA President. You can visit his website here: kellymcdonaldjr.com