Does Stephen Flurry know what “saved by grace” really means? Is grace “conditional,” or is it “unconditional”? Are Christians “under the law”? This critique will carefully go over SF’s article, which was published in the November 23, 2007 Trumpet, and show what Scripture actually teaches on this subject.
Proper Biblical scholarship requires one, such as Stephen Flurry, to examine all the scriptural evidence that not only supports his position, but also requires an examination of evidence that indicates one’s conclusions are wrong, and adequately explains why that evidence does not contradict the conclusion of the author. Also, proper scholarship dictates that if one is doing a scholarly treatise on a Biblical subject, that one does not resort to using secular sources in order to prove a theological point or belief. One should be using theological sources in order to gather evidence in support of a theological belief. Stephen Flurry fails to do so on both these fronts, as the reader will soon see. (My comments are within the text. SF’s words will be indented.)
Begin critique: (SF’s words are indented)
Perhaps either you or someone you know has accused Herbert Armstrong of teaching that we obtain salvation through the law. The church he founded even claims that today. Mr. Armstrong himself answers the critics: “We do NOT obtain salvation through the law” (Plain Truth, May 1962).
This is nothing more than Armstrong double-talk. If not keeping the law results in one not being saved, then he is teaching one must keep the law for the sake of salvation.
As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8, salvation is by grace through faith. In Romans 6:14, he tells us we are not under the law, but under grace. No one can ever be saved by obeying the law—any law.
But the real question therefore becomes, “Does one need to obey this law in order to avoid losing one’s salvation”?
Now most people within the traditional Christian world would prefer that we end this article right there—enough said. “Salvation is by grace—that’s all we need to know!”
Stephen Flurry resorts to Armstrong tactics now, defining the opposition’s position with a straw man for the sake of knocking it down. There is more to know, more to understand regarding grace and law, and knowing Christ and Him crucified. Without such a scriptural base, someone like Flurry can come along and easily mislead.
But what exactly is grace? Have you ever really proved it? And did you know that God actually prophesied of a time when people would try to change the true meaning of the word “grace”? Let this be a challenge! Look up the scriptures. You might be surprised by what your Bible says.
If you wished to look up references in Scripture where God prophesied of a time people would change the meaning of grace, you might be hard pressed to do so. But making the accusation that others would change the meaning of grace does not excuse Flurry from doing so himself. As the reader will see, Flurry is quick to redefine other terms and words to suit his own purpose.
What Grace Does Not Mean
“Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you on the subject of our common salvation” (Jude 3, Moffatt). That was Jude’s original intent. But because of false leaders teaching a perverted gospel, he was compelled to exhort them to contend for the faith that was once delivered unto them.
Adding to the Gospel
And what was the nature of one of these perversions of the gospel? It was a teaching that those of the circumcision taught the Gentiles, who followed behind Paul, subverting the true gospel, and subverting the souls of the Gentile Christians, adding to the gospel a message of keeping the law, using much the same rationale as Flurry now does in this article: “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10). “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24).
Verse 4 describes the deception false leaders were bringing into the Church: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Flurry makes it sound like this is the only category of ungodly men who sought to deceive. It also gives the impression, intentionally so, that anyone who does not agree with him that one must keep the law is advocating lasciviousness, or lawlessness, an antinomian1 position. Those who proclaim what Paul and the others did regarding the spirit of the law, also addressed as the law of the spirit, are summarily dismissed as antinomian and advocating a sinful lifestyle. To those like Flurry, the spirit of the law is seen as being no law at all; it is perceived as being antinomian.
According to Thayer’s Lexicon, “lasciviousness” can be translated unbridled lust or licentiousness. Webster’s defines licentiousness this way: “marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness.” In other words, they were turning God’s grace into an excuse to disobey His law! As Lange’s Commentary states concerning this passage, instead of using grace “as an incentive to holiness, they employ it as a cloak of maliciousness.”
Notice Flurry references Webster’s dictionary for his article, using a secular source instead of a Bible dictionary.
Why would someone assume they can live a lustful, rebellious life contrary to God’s laws because of grace? Because most falsely assume that grace means saved. We are saved by grace, but grace does not mean saved. What then is the proper definition for the biblical term grace? If you are under grace, you need to know!
No Scriptural Support for This Belief
I know of no one who claims that grace means saved. But what is the condition, spiritually, of one who is “under” grace? Regardless, note now that anyone who speaks against the law is advocating a lustful, rebellious lifestyle. Those who advocate the spirit of the law are conveniently bundled into this grouping of “licentiousness.” What the reader needs to understand in this regard is that there is a big difference between “keeping” the law and “fulfilling” the law through love, and it is through the Holy Spirit that this love becomes the dominant force in the Christian’s life, and not the idea that it is the Holy Spirit that enables a Christian to keep the law, as Flurry brings out later. There is no scriptural support for this belief, and it is easily proven false when you ask Flurry or one of his followers if they now keep the law perfectly because of the Holy Spirit in them. It is as Paul said of those who were big on the law during his time: “For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (Galatians 6:13).
The Greek word for “grace” in Jude 4 can mean benefit, favor, or gift. Webster’s further defines “grace” as mercy or unmerited pardon. Another definition could be forgiveness.
Again, Flurry resorts to secular sources in order to “prove” a theological belief. Here is part of how the Holman Bible Dictionary defines grace:
“Undeserved acceptance and love received from another. Although the biblical words for ‘grace’ are used in a variety of ways, the most characteristic use is to refer to an undeserved favor granted by a superior to an inferior. When used of divine grace toward mankind, it refers to the undeserved favor of God in providing salvation for those deserving condemnation. In the more specific Christian sense it speaks of the saving activity of God, which is manifested in the gift of His Son to die in the place of sinners.”
Definition of Grace Should Coincide with Scripture
The entry that covers the subject of grace covers a bit over two pages of text in this dictionary. If the reader truly wants to understand grace, read this and other articles that go into depth on the subject instead of taking the easy path of just accepting what Stephen Flurry has to say on the subject. As Scripture declares, “there is safety in a multitude of counselors.” (Proverbs 11:14) Also, you would be well served to write down or copy every passage of Scripture where the word grace is used, then read each passage in context, seeing if your belief regarding grace coincides with what Scripture declares. If passages appear to conflict with what you believe or what Flurry declares, you have your work cut out for you.
Jude says this kind of grace is “of our God.” It’s not something we have, like most assume. It’s God’s grace. It is a quality that God expresses toward us. Paul often began his letters by saying, “Grace be unto you [the brethren], and peace, from God our Father” (1 Corinthians 1:3). Grace is a free gift. It’s the benefit, mercy, pardon, and forgiveness God extends toward us. But why do we need God’s grace? 1 John 3:4 says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” John wrote this book around a.d. 90 during the last days of the apostolic times. Had the law been “nailed to the cross,” surely he would not have defined sin as “breaking God’s law.” For an abolished law could never define sin!
Flurry doesn’t bother to mention that the passage rendered, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” in italics is translated from the one Greek word, “anomia” usually translated iniquity or lawlessness. Furthermore, the context is ignored, for the very next verse sheds a great light upon the point being made: “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
Dead to the Law
One must remember that much of Scripture and the writings of the apostles were written from the perspective of the Jews (Israelites). The law was seen as the embodiment of the understanding of sin, but even Paul brings out that sin was in the world before there was the law. In any event, when examined from the Jewish perspective, one’s sins could only be taken away if that which condemned them was removed, no longer able to condemn them. Paul explains in his writings that the (Jewish) Christian is dead to the law, and dead to sin (Romans 7:4,6; Galatians 2:19; Romans 6:2; Romans 6:11).
I would also mention that one of the methods of sliding something by people is to cover several issues in one paragraph, as was done here.
Grace is a free gift. But does he bother to define here what this means? No, because he is going to contradict this statement later. A free gift is something given to you without strings attached, without requirements on your part. If it is free, it cannot be taken back because the one who gave it to you later decides he changed his mind. But you can reject this free gift. How?
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).
Of course, this “justification” gets redefined also, but the context makes it plain that it has to do with one believing they have to keep points of law, for whatever reason or rationale, such as circumcision, which is what one needed to do in order to enter into the old covenant. Were Gentile Christians required to undergo circumcision, thereby making it “legal” for them to keep the law? No. Were they required to “keep the law”? No. They were saved through faith. law had nothing to do with their salvation.
The next item to cover in that busy paragraph is about the law being nailed to the cross.
What happens when either party to a covenant dies? They are no longer bound to that covenant. Jesus was the God of the old covenant, and Flurry cannot deny this, for other beliefs he teaches are dependent upon that belief. Did Jesus die? Yes. Paul uses the marriage covenant in Romans chapter 7 to explain this. Can you be held to the conditions of a marriage covenant where your mate died? If you remarried, are you guilty of committing adultery? According to the rationale of Flurry and his church, yes you are! You are still bound to keep the conditions of the law, such as the Sabbath, using such Scriptures as 1 John 3:4, taken out of context and poorly translated, in order to convince you it is so.
And if it were not enough that God in the personage of Jesus died, but that the Jewish Christian, who was under the law, dies to the law through baptism in order to now be bound to Christ and not Christ and the law, which is spiritual adultery! Read the opening verses of Romans 7 and understand.
Freed from Condemnation of the Law
So when Flurry states that John would not define sin with a law that had ended, the context is being ignored regarding the removal of sin in relation to Israel. If you are dead to the law, and dead to sin, you are no longer answerable to that which defined sin for you. You are freed from the law, freed from sin, and freed from the condemnation of the law:
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
In Romans 6:23, Paul said the wages, or payment, for sin is eternal death. Furthermore, as it says in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned.” So for breaking God’s law—for sinning—we all deserve eternal death. It was for this reason that Jesus Christ had to die. He came in the flesh for the very purpose of death so that His shed blood might erase the death penalty for our past sins (Romans 5:8).
Law of the Letter and Law of the Spirit
It would be easy to conclude that the Ten Commandments, as well as the rest of the law is “God’s law” for all mankind, but it is not “God’s law” for Christians as revealed by Paul in Romans 7. Two laws are described: a law of the letter, and a law of the spirit. The law of the letter is also called the law of sin and condemnation, whereas the law of the spirit is referred to as the law that leads to life. Furthermore, nowhere does Jesus Christ refer to the covenant law given at Sinai as “God’s law.” Rather, he refers to it as either Moses’ law, or the law of the Jews.
One other observation regarding Christ’s sacrifice. It covers all our sins, and not just past sins. The comment regarding past sins only is designed to produce fear in people regarding their future behavior regarding sin, ignoring the fact Christians are dead to sin. The Christian is a new creation, no longer subject to the law. The Christian is no longer living a lifestyle of sin. This installation of fear and phobia regarding sin serves a legalistic ministry well in keeping people under their control and keeping their checkbooks open to them. A Christian is freed from sin and the law. (Romans 6:7; Romans 8:2.)
Now notice Ephesians 1:7: “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Grace, as defined in this scripture, is God’s willingness to forgive us of our past sins, not His willingness to change or abolish His law. The very fact that Christ had to die proves the law was not abolished, because a penalty had to be paid! Think about it. If abolishing the law was the only prerequisite for God to forgive us by grace, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die. But Christ did have to die because God will not allow sin to go unpunished.
No Longer a Need for the Paidagōgos
Again, Flurry refers to the law of Moses as “God’s law.” The fact that this law was a covenant law, and that the only participants in that covenant were God and Israel goes ignored. Can you be held to the conditions of a covenant you were never a party to? Can you be held to the conditions of a covenant you died to, and can anyone be held to a covenant God was a party to where God died? No, no, a thousand times no. That covenant law indeed ended so that it could no longer condemn anyone who comes under Grace.
That law was temporary, until faith came and was restored by Christ. Once Christ came and paid the penalty for transgressing that law, that covenant in that regard was fulfilled, satisfied, and over with, even as a covenant you make with a finance company to acquire a car or a home is finished once the contract/covenant is paid in full. Flurry would have you believe the covenant continues after the conditions and requirements are fulfilled.
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:23-25).
Flurry would tell you that even when you are no longer under a schoolmaster, you don’t throw away what you learned from a schoolmaster. But this isn’t talking about a schoolmaster/teacher. This Greek word, paidagōgos has no English equivalent. A paidagōgos was one who was usually a slave of a household who was entrusted with the safety and rearing of a child of the Father of the household. This paidagōgos would even accompany the child to his lessons given by a teacher. The paidagōgos also administered punishment if the child misbehaved. But once the child became of age, in this analogy when the person becomes a Christian and is led by the Holy Spirit, there is no longer a need for the paidagōgos.
We are Complete in Christ
The Christian doesn’t need the law to lead and guide him or her now. He/she is complete in Christ2, now led by the Holy Spirit. But what does it imply in regards to the Holy Spirit when one like Flurry insists you have to still keep the law? The Holy Spirit is not enough; you are not complete in Christ.
How We Obtain Grace
While grace is a free, unmerited gift, it is conditional. God requires certain things of us before we receive His grace.
Here is where there is a great divergence with what Scripture actually states. Grace is unconditional, given to the one who has repented, and Flurry’s definition of repent, quoted again from Webster’s secular dictionary, is not the Biblical definition.
It might be easier to understand grace then in this context by understanding not so much the “how” but rather the “when” we receive grace. We receive it when we believe the gospel, and in every example in Scripture where the gospel was preached followed by people receiving the Holy Spirit, we find no declaration one must keep the law. On the contrary, we see the opposite in Acts 15.
Grace Not Free if Conditional
But if grace is conditional, then it is not free and unmerited. Conditional means there are requirements to comply with, so that it is no longer a gift. If it is no longer a gift, then it is no longer grace, but, as Paul stated, payment for something earned:
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5).
Jesus said that unless we repent, we will all perish (Luke 13:3, 5). Let’s go to Webster’s again to make sure we understand the terms. Repent means “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life; to feel regret; …to change one’s mind.” Repentance is turning from sin.
Let’s try turning to a Bible dictionary, and see how repent/repentance is defined theologically:
“Repentance: Change of mind; also can refer to regret or remorse accompanying a realization that wrong has been done or to any shift or reversal of thought. In its biblical sense repentance refers to a deeply seated and thorough turning from self to God. It occurs when a radical turning to God takes place, and experience in which God is recognized as the most important fact of one’s existence.” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2003)
Turning Back to God Was not Turning to the Law
Again, all one needs to do is list out and study the examples where repent and repentance are used in Scripture to see the truth of this. Nowhere is repentance in the New Testament used in the context of sin; turning from sin. What helps us understand and define repentance is found in Acts 11:18:
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Repentance was something that God had to grant to the Gentiles. Did God need to grant anyone the ability to turn from sin? No! So what dynamic is at play here? Prior to this, no Gentile could turn to God, for to the Jewish Christians, the call from every prophet was for them to return, or turn back to God. Gentiles were excluded from this ability or possibility. Turning back to God was not about turning to the law. The law was there to show them they were constantly turning away from God:
“Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee” (Deuteronomy 31:26).
God had to make it possible for Gentiles to turn to God, repent. The conversion of Cornelius demonstrated to the Jewish Christians that God had indeed granted repentance to the Gentiles.
Belief Demonstrates Acceptance by God
But let’s make sure we place the last nail in this coffin of repentance being turning from sin. Examine the narrative where Peter preached to Cornelius and his friends and household, and see if anything was said regarding sin and the law. Conclusion? Nothing, absolutely nothing, to even remotely indicate their repentance was about turning from sin. They believed what they were told, and they heard the gospel preached by Peter. Their belief demonstrated their acceptance by God and God giving them the Holy Spirit so that all parties present would understand salvation through faith only:
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
Why then does Flurry insist on a definition found in a secular dictionary? By defining repent as turning from sin, the case can be made that one needs to turn to that which defined sin according to his theology, the law, and not God.
David said, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David was pleading with God, asking Him to mercifully extend grace—to forgive him of his sins! That is a profound turn from sin.
No, it was David turning back to God after straying from Him. The law showed him he was straying by his actions.
Acts 3:19 says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Having your sins blotted out, or receiving grace, only follows repentance and conversion. Conversion means change: a conversion to a new and different way of life.
It is What Christ Did For Us
Conversion is, as the word implies, being changed from one form to another; in this case becoming a true son (or daughter) of God now through the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian. Our sins are blotted out because we have had Christ’s blood applied to our sins. It is what Christ did, and not what we do by our own efforts, trying to keep the works of the law.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Now we are sons of God, and no longer slaves to the law.
Prior to baptism, the Bible says we must repent, or change, and believe in, or accept, Christ’s shed blood as payment for our death penalty (Acts 2:38). God then extends His grace, as the baptismal ceremony symbolizes, washes you of your past guilt, and imparts His Holy Spirit within you, which is the power we need to live according to the Spirit—to convert to a new way of life.
Teaching that Insults the Holy Spirit
Is it Christ’s blood we believe in, or Christ? In all false Christianity, Christ is marginalized to some degree. In the Armstrong theology, Christ was relegated to the position of a mere messenger of the gospel, the gospel not being about Him. Along with this, it is also common to marginalize the Holy Spirit in order to negate the witness of the Holy Spirit. In the case of Flurry, the Holy Spirit becomes an insufficient guide through our Christian lives. The Holy Spirit is not enough, the law must also be followed as a guide and rule in our lives also. This teaching insults the Holy Spirit, which Flurry denies being a person, but rather some impersonal force instead. Can a force speak? No, yet we see examples in Scripture where the Holy Spirit did.
This kind of repentance is very different from what you hear in religion today. Most believe repentance merely means to be sorry for what you have done. In David’s repentance in Psalm 51, notice verse 11: “take not thy holy spirit from me.” He not only abhorred sin enough to throw himself on God’s mercy, asking for grace, he understood the importance of God’s Holy Spirit as the agent required to change from a sinful way of life—to remain under grace.
Again, Flurry redefines the opposition. There is always a subtle attack on the beliefs of others, redefining their beliefs, and disparaging them in order to convince their followers to reject anything others may have to say on any particular subject. Is this an honest method of Biblical Scholarship?
Shall We Continue in Sin?
Imagine a judge who extends grace, or a pardon, to a criminal who has cried out for mercy after breaking a law, and then instructs the criminal to go out and continue breaking that same law! Does that make sense? Of course not. Yet this is the reasoning of religious scholars today. Just accept the blood of Jesus Christ and continue right on sinning. Let’s turn to the Scriptures to understand.
Resorts to Human Rationalization
Now he resorts to human rationalization as a proof, instead of Scripture. Can a judge extend grace? No. A person is either found guilty, or found innocent. In our cases, our lives are hidden in Christ; we take on His righteousness. So, with this understanding, can Christ be held to the law, again, because of us? No.
In Romans 5:21, Paul writes, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness [obedience to God’s law] unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Because of Christ’s shed blood, we are under grace.
Flurry feels he now has the right to declare our righteousness as being obedient to God’s law, again redefining the law of Moses as such. But is this truly what Scripture says?
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
Obedient to the Faith, Not the Law
Christians are obedient to the faith, and not to the law:
“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
“By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5).
“But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).
Once more, Flurry claims it is because of Christ’s shed blood we are under grace.
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9).
Yet notice the very next verse in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Not even traditional Christianity would say that we should continue in sin. Yet they all would insist on discontinuing the law! But what is sin? According to what John wrote almost 60 years after the death of Christ, “Sin is the transgression of the law”! Shall we then continue transgressing the law because of grace? “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (verse 2).
The Spirit of the Law
Those who are focused on the letter of the law are incapable of comprehending the spirit of the law, and how sin, or wrongdoing, relates to the spirit of the law. For instance, the law says, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” If we try to understand this from Flurry’s perspective, he is stating that, if there were no such law, Christians, who have the very Spirit of God in them, would begin following after false gods! He is also making the accusation that a Christian, with the very Spirit of God, would go about committing all sorts of atrocities, simply because there is no longer a written code forbidding those actions. Christians, under this scenario, would be going about murdering people simply because there is no law against it. Or is there? What of the spirit of the law? If the law is fulfilled through love, then the spirit of the law is violated when love is violated. Do people go about murdering those they love? No, for murder comes about from a spirit of hatred, not love. The Holy Spirit within a man is a Spirit of love. By insisting (as Flurry does) that Christians adhere to the letter, it actually results in the rejection of the spirit of the law. Once more, the spirit of the law takes a back seat to the letter, when it should be the other way around.
One who is truly a Christian—who possesses the Holy Spirit—will now be following a godly lifestyle, and no longer a sinful one. If Paul was upholding the law as Flurry claims, then there would have been no need for Paul to have even stated what Flurry quotes regarding a sinful lifestyle.
Paul goes on to describe what baptism symbolizes. When we are put under the water, we are symbolically buried with Jesus Christ. When we come out of the water, we walk with Christ in “newness of life” (verses 3-4). Living a new life means change.
Living a new life means we are no longer living the old life. The old man is crucified with Christ. The new man lives in Christ; his life hid in Christ. And if the Christian happened to be one who was under the old covenant, this baptism signifies their death to that covenant, freeing them from that covenant and all its requirements:
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Delivered From the Law
Flurry gives this a loose paraphrase in order to not risk people making the connection between dying in Christ, and thereby being freed from the old covenant letter of the law.
“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6).
This is so easy to understand once you comprehend the spirit of the law. But to those who have been deceived into believing they must keep the letter of the law, this passage is misunderstood and dismissed.
Notice verse 11: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The wages of sin is death. Christ paid for our penalty. But symbolically, our old sinful ways die at baptism because of grace.
To Flurry, this is all symbolic, and as such, is not true literally. But it is a reality; the old man is replaced with the new nature. We are no longer in bondage to sin:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6).
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9).
New Man Not Subject to Sin or the Law
The new “man” is not subject to sin. The new man is not subject to the law. But this concept is nearly impossible to grasp for one who has bought into legalism.
The new man is no longer motivated by the spirit that motivated the old man, and this is one reason why the law in the letter is no longer applicable. That law was made and tailored for carnal mankind, in this case, the children of Israel who were a stiff-necked and rebellious people. Flurry lumps Christians and carnal people into the same boat, as it were.
Now notice the very next verse: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (verse 12). The story flow in this passage makes the meaning obvious. After we repent, get baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit, we ought not to let sin reign in our bodies! Living a new life means a life of overcoming sin by yielding ourselves to God (verse 13).
Verse 14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Understanding the definition of sin and the aw makes this verse completely clear. The law is the Ten Commandments—God’s law of love. Sin is breaking, or transgressing, that law, which brings with it the penalty of death. We are “under the law” when we are transgressing against it. In other words, we are under the penalty of the law—death.
Focus on Christ, Not the Law
Flurry’s theology is one where a Christian focuses on living a life of overcoming sin. The focus is on sin and its avoidance, instead of focusing on Christ and living a Christ-like life. By keeping the focus on sin and its avoidance, the hapless follower of Flurry is constantly living a life of fear and worrying about whether they sinned. There can be no spiritual growth under these circumstances.
Being under the law does not require such a convoluted rationale. If you are under the law, or under a law, such as the laws of the country you reside in, you are subject to them and their penalties should you transgress them. A Christian is not under the law is no longer subject to that law. The Christian is dead to that law and dead to sin. In Flurry’s theology, you are not really dead to that law, and you are not really dead to sin. You are seen as still being bound to the law—required to keep it in order to not sin. It is a vicious cycle. You are only not under the law if you don’t transgress the law.
Understand. The Christian dies to the law—the old covenant—in order to now be bound to Christ. The law is described as being like a mate who dies, or rather you die, so that you can be free of the law and now free to be bound directly to Christ and not bound to Christ through the law. There is Liberty in Christ, and it is liberation from the law; that which could only condemn those who were under the law.
Grace and Law are Mutually Exclusive
And also understand this about covenants like the old covenant. You cannot be held liable to the conditions of a covenant where you were either never a party to said covenant, or if you or the other party to said covenant dies. Flurry wants to resurrect you to the law for the sake of control, for the sake of feeding his own belly. Did you think that deceptions would be easy to spot? It is those who seek that find, and not those who read an article by a wolf where you don’t go through the trouble of studying whether those things are true or not. Will you list out those scriptures that contain the word “grace?” Will you see the relationship between grace and law, and discover the two are mutually exclusive? Or are you going to agree with Flurry, because “it sounds right?”
Christians Not Under the Law
Today, if we repent and become converted through the Holy Spirit, we are not under the penalty of the law, but under grace, because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Christians are not under the law, period. This construct that says you are not under the penalty of the law is not scripturally based. There is no scripture that says Christians are not under the penalty of the law.
In verse 15, it’s as if Paul anticipated some to misinterpret his words. After saying we are not under the law, but under grace, he asks, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
And why does Paul make this declaration? Because some thought their Christian liberty meant they could indulge the flesh and violate love. Paul makes it quite plain Christians are not to do so:
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 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. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:1-15).
Notice where it says: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” This bondage was the law; the old covenant. Read Galatians 4:21-5:1 for collaboration. Galatians 5:1 states:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Flurry is intent on entangling you with this yoke of bondage, employing all the tricks of his theological trade to do so, and neglecting proper methods of Biblical scholarship.
It could not be more clear. God’s merciful grace does not give us the right to live contrary to His law, the Ten Commandments. The plain, undeniable, biblical facts are these: If we think we can save ourselves by our own works, Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21). On the other hand, if we think Christ did everything for us and that we can continue to sin against the law because of grace, Christ died in vain! Read Jude 4 again.
Law of the Spirit Leads to Life
Christ did not require Christians who were Gentiles to first become Israelites in order to become Christians. “His law” for Christians is not the letter of the law; it is the spirit of the law. “His law” is the law of the spirit that leads to life, and not the letter of the law, that even Jesus referred to as Moses’ law, which leads to death. Read Romans 7 again.
We can’t save ourselves. Neither can Christ do everything for us. But if, after accepting the blood of Jesus, we submit to God and His laws, Christ’s life in us through the power of the Spirit can save us! (Romans 5:10).
Flurry would have us divide our focus between God and “His laws.” You are the servant of the one you serve. If you serve the law, then you are the servant or slave of the law, and you have made the law your god.
There is one other thing here that is very subtle in its deception; that it is the power of the Spirit that can save us. It is not a matter of “can” save us, but “has” saved us, for the Christian is described in Scripture as already saved. And let us not forget that it is Christ who saves. The Holy Spirit in the Christian is the earnest of our salvation—the proof and seal of it.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Obedience Through the Spirit
Jesus Christ died in our stead so that we could obey God’s law according to its spiritual intent and serve righteousness instead of sin. “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” (Romans 8:3-4). God wants His law of love, summed up by the Ten Commandments, to be fulfilled in us—not abolished. For that reason He sent His Spirit, because not only have all men sinned, but the carnal man by himself simply cannot overcome sin.
Keeping the Law Does Not Fulfill the Law
The law is “fulfilled” through love. But Flurry blurs the distinction between fulfilling the law and keeping the law in the letter. Keeping the law does not fulfill the law. Keeping the law is a matter of complying with the law, regardless of the condition of one’s heart. One who has hatred for another can refrain from murder, but hatred is still in the heart. With the Holy Spirit, one can have love even for an enemy, and there is no danger of one murdering another under this condition. The letter of the law becomes a moot point.
He now redefines the Ten Commandments as being God’s law of love. This is far from the truth. If it were a law of love, then it would reflect this. Instead of a commandment that says to honor your parents, it would say instead to love your parents.
And what does this construct do to the Two Great Commandments? Christ said all the law hung on these two commandments. Flurry’s declaration concerning the Ten Commandments has all else hanging on them, which would include the Two Great Commandments.
“Because the carnal mind [of man] is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (verse 7). Notice why man’s mind is against, or hostile to, God. Because it’s not subject, or obedient, to God’s laws! All have sinned! So God sent His Son, as the ultimate act of grace, to be offered as a sacrifice for your sins and mine.
Redefines God’s Law for Christians
Romans, chapter seven, is where Paul just finished explaining the difference between the law of sin and death, and God’s law of the spirit. But Flurry continues to redefine God’s law for Christians as being the law of sin and death, the law of the letter.
The carnal mind is the mind that is devoid of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is described as also being a law; the law God places within the Christian.
But there’s more! God’s plan does not stop with the blood of Christ. Man’s mind is hostile to God because it’s not subject to His laws; but notice the last four words of Romans 8:7: “neither indeed can be.” We need help to live according to the Spirit, because apart from God, we can’t! So for those who repent and accept the blood of Christ and then get baptized, God freely offers His Holy Spirit, again according to grace.
To repent from sin not only means you regret doing it, it means you determine, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, to stop sinning. This process is called conversion. Through conversion, a Christian is actually able to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Grace is more than just God’s forgiveness upon those who repent. Those living “under grace” are also striving diligently to obey God’s commandments by the power of the Holy Spirit. Growing in grace means striving, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to overcome sin.
Holy Spirit is Our Guide, Not the Law
Nowhere is it written that the Holy Spirit enables a person to strive to obey the old covenant law. That is not the function of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads the Christian into all truth. The Holy Spirit is the guide for the Christian, and not the law.
God’s Word Is Truth
Carnal man has his own definition for grace. To religious scholars, it is defined as the permanent condition of a Christian, similar to being “saved.” Yet the very nature of this definition allows you to reason around the law of God and to excuse sin. “No-law” deceivers must turn their backs on literally dozens of Bible verses which command law-keeping.
Flurry now attacks religious scholars in order to discredit them as sources of useful information. Once so disparaged, the follower of Flurry is less likely to check up for themselves whether the things he claims are true or not. Is this proper Biblical scholarship?
And note his use of the term “No-law” deceivers. Is the spirit of the law—no-law?
In the next paragraph, we see the “shotgun” approach to Biblical Scholarship that Armstrong was noted for.
Jesus said, “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). In Romans 7, Paul not only calls the law “holy” and “good” (verse 12), he said, “I myself serve the law of God.” James wrote that if you offend the law in one point, you are “guilty of all” (James 2:8-10). John said if we say we know God, but do not keep His commandments, we are liars (1 John 2:3-4). For those who reject the Old Testament, these are New Testament verses, most of which were written long after Christ died!
Lifting Words Out of Context
The first statement, lifted out of context from Matthew chapter 19, is where Jesus was talking to a man who was under the law. The man stated that he had kept the law from his youth (since before the age of accountability). The conclusion of the narrative is that, even though he had indeed kept the law, he was not destined for salvation after all!
James 2 is where James uses the law as a means of explaining how the law of the Spirit—the law of Liberty—works regarding love. Whereas, if one broke even one point of the entire old covenant law that one was guilty of the entirety, seeing as it was a covenant. Likewise when a Christian shows partiality, giving preference to people of position and wealth, then despises even one person, the Christian is guilty of breaking the law of Liberty, seeing as the Christian failed to show proper love and respect for one person.
In the next proof text, dealing with “His commandments,” Flurry just assumes that the commandments God requires of Christians are the same commandments God, through Moses, gave to Israel. It needs to be understood Moses’ role in that covenant, being the moderator of it. This is why it is referred to as the law of Moses, and why even Jesus Christ referred to the law as such. When it comes to the New Covenant, Jesus Himself is the moderator of that covenant, as contrasted to Moses being the moderator of the old. It was Moses who ratified the old covenant, thereby binding the two parties to it, Israel and God. Christians were not a party to that covenant, and to conclude these commandments are God’s in relation to Christians is actually a violation of that covenant!
Be honest with yourself. Would God allow the violation of His law because of grace, when it was the violation of those laws which necessitated the death of His Son in the first place? If you still say yes, then how do you explain the verses listed above? Believe your Bible, not men! God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
Sin Was in the World Before the Law
Careful you don’t end up believing Flurry at the expense of God’s Word. It was because of sin that the death of Jesus as the propitiation for all our sins was necessary, and there was sin in the world before there was that law. Flurry would have you believe the law was in effect and force before Sinai, which is a case of not being honest with Scripture.
“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20)
“For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13).
Gentile converts came under grace from the condition of not being under the law as compared to the Jew who was under the law
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
The Law Served its Purpose
So to answer Flurry’s question above, the reason the Law is done away3 is, it served its purpose; to hold people under sin and convict people of sin until such time Christ came and opened the way once again for mankind to live according to faith in Him, and no longer be captive to the Law:
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 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. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:19-25).
The Law Pointed the Way to Christ
You can argue semantics all day long, rationalizing how one can be under the law, but not under the penalty—an impossible concept—or you can believe Scripture for what it plainly says: The law was added because of sins; there was sin in the world before there was that law. The law held the people captive until the seed, who is Christ, was to come, and He did indeed come. With His coming came faith—real faith—revealed by Christ. The law was there to point the way to Christ, to bring people to Christ in order to be justified by that faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the law. It has served its function.
At the beginning of this article, I quoted Mr. Armstrong as saying, “We do not obtain salvation through the law.” That is absolutely true. Salvation cannot come by the law—any law. But here is the rest of Mr. Armstrong’s quote: “We do not obtain salvation through the law—we observe the law through the process of conversion.
here in Scripture does it say one observes the law for the sake of the process of conversion? Conversion is not a process4, it is the result of faith, the result being God places His Spirit in the individual, thus converting him (or her) from being a carnal, sinful child of Adam, to a child of God!
Flurry cannot come up with a single Scripture to support what Armstrong said. But notice how he treats what Armstrong says as if it were infallible truth just because “Armstrong said it.” It’s easy to see that what Armstrong says carries more weight than what Scripture says or doesn’t say.
The law has nothing to do with it. If anything, the law can all too easily become a hindrance.
It is failure to understand this important distinction which is the cause of much misunderstanding upon the whole question.” It is true that we cannot become a Christian without grace. Neither can anyone be saved without God’s grace. But the question is, can one remain a Christian and receive all the benefits of God’s grace while continuing in sin? God forbid!
Dead to the Law and Dead to Sin
And what happens to you if you continue in the law? You will continue to transgress against it, thereby sinning, and requiring the sacrifice of Christ again, and again, and again. But you can only sacrifice Christ once. The solution is stated in Scripture: the Christian is dead to the law and dead to sin. They have absolutely no control or sway over the Christian’s life now. And seeing as the Christian is led by the Spirit of God, the person no longer lives a lifestyle of sin and separation from God. Yes, the Christian occasionally slips up, but it is no longer the habit, the custom, of one whose life is now hid in Christ. As long as the Christian is led by the Spirit, and living by faith, he or she can no longer be condemned by that law. Through the Spirit we “fulfill” the law through the love of God shed upon the Christian by the Holy Spirit. The quote above by Armstrong words things in such a way so as to make the accusation that a Christian, without the law, would continue living a lifestyle of sin, despite the fact the Holy Spirit now dwells in him. This is not a proof; this is an accusation against true Christians, who are led by the very Spirit of God.
Living under grace means living according to God’s Spirit in humble obedience to His laws. By living a life without sin, Jesus Christ set for us an example which we are to follow (1 Peter 2:21-22). Are you willing to follow in that example—to strive diligently to keep and obey God’s every command? That’s the only way we will ever truly be under God’s grace.
If living under grace means to live in obedience to the law of Moses, then where is the scriptural citation? It does not exist.
And is 1 Peter 2:21-22 saying we are to follow the law, because Christ did, or is this about something else?
“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:18-23).
We follow in Christ’s steps in regards to being persecuted for our beliefs by responding as Christ did.
A Need to Understand Galatians 4:21-5:1
In this article, we see accusations leveled against those who refuse to come under the law, who refuse to keep the law, despite all the rationales put forth by Flurry and Armstrong. The spirit of the law was relegated to being antinomian—lawlessness. If you were to but examine Galatians 4:21-5:1 and truly understand what it is saying, it is talking about those of the New Covenant being persecuted by those who hold to the old covenant, and a command by Paul to cast out those of the old covenant persuasion. Those today of the old covenant persuasion seek to convince you they are right concerning that law, and boldly make accusations in that regard.
God’s grace is free and unmerited. None of us deserve it. We only deserve death. But make no mistake. If we are not willing to change our lives and serve righteousness through the Spirit, God will never extend His grace upon us. May God help us understand so that His grace will be upon us!
It is the Spirit that Changes Us
It is not the Christian who changes his or her life by keeping the law, but God who changes the Christian’s life by imparting the Holy Spirit to them. It is the Spirit that changes us, and not us. In this way, God justifies the ungodly. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). I strongly urge the reader again to do a study on grace by going over the context of all passages where grace is found in the New Testament. There is much Flurry did not discuss regarding grace and law found in the Scriptures, which he should have if he were honestly examining the subject.
By William Hohmann (former WCG member; graduate of Ambassador College)
Exit & Support Network™
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” ~Romans 11:6
The Sin Question (by William Hohmann)
1 The word antinomian means “anti” (against or contrary to) and “nomian” law; therefore, against law, or lawlessness. Read: The Sin Question.
4 Conversion is not a process; it is mind control that is a process.
Back to Grace & Law (many articles)