What is the Difference Between Law and Grace?

What is the difference between the law and grace in the Bible? What is the purpose of the law and can a person be saved by keeping the law? Is salvation a free gift?

What is the Law?
The Old Testament laws are found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
In total, the Old Testament law consists of 613 commandments inclusive of the Ten Commandments.
The Old Testament law is also known as “the Torah” or “Law of Moses” or the “Mosaic Laws” because God used Moses as His prophet to communicate these 613 commandments to the people of Israel.
So in the New Testament scriptures, when the phrase “the law” is mentioned, it is mostly referring to the Old Testament law or the Mosaic laws.

The law is divided into 3 categories: the Ceremonial laws, the Civil laws and the Moral laws.

The Law also has 4 major purposes.

  1. The purpose of the law is to communicate God’s holy and perfect standard for righteous living
  2. Another purpose of the law is to define sin and reveal man’s sinful nature, and the extent of how humanity falls short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness.
  3. The law reveals to us the consequences of living in sin or in rebellion against God
  4. The purpose of the law is to lead us to the foot of the cross; to Jesus Christ

Galatians 3:24-26 says: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis Added]

1 Timothy 1:8-11 says: Now we know  that the  law is good,  if  one  uses  it  lawfully,  understanding this,  that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and  profane,  for  those  who  strike  their  fathers  and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice  homosexuality,  enslavers,  liars,  perjurers,  and whatever  else  is  contrary  to  sound  doctrine, in accordance  with  the  glorious  gospel  of  the  blessed  God with which I have been entrusted.

The Bible says that all mankind are sinners. Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
This means that we are all guilty of breaking God’s laws or commandments. The law itself is evidence that we are sinners or lawbreakers because we cannot keep or obey God’s laws.

Galatians 2:16: Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. [Emphasis Added]

So the law cannot save us. The law cannot deliver us. The law can only reflect our flaws and imperfections. The law is like a mirror that reflects our sinful nature but it cannot save us from our sins.
We also cannot trust ourselves to keep the 10 Commandments because we cannot obey them perfectly. We have all broken them already (James 2:10-11).

So although the law is good and holy (Romans 7:12), the law reveals the sinfulness of man and no human being will be justified or saved in the sight of God by the works of the law (Romans 3:20).
The ultimate purpose of the law is to bring us to the foot of the Cross. The law brings us to the realization that we need a Saviour – Jesus Christ.


What is Grace and Why Do We Need It?
Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Grace is God’s undeserved kindness towards mankind.  Part of God’s nature is that He is a gracious God. Salvation is by grace in the sense that humanity does not deserve to be saved. The reason why we do not deserve salvation is because we are sinners who have broken God’s commandments.

We are just like the murderer, the thief or even the rapist who deserve to go to jail for committing crimes. We are guilty.  We are not innocent before a perfect and holy God.

Our sins are crimes and they are a stain before a just and holy God. Therefore, if it were not for God’s grace (or undeserved kindness), we would all deserve to go to hell, because we are all lawbreakers.

However, thanks to the grace of God, the Lord has given us the gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ who paid for our sins on the Cross (John 1:16-17).
The Bible tells us that the law came through Moses. However grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17)

Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast  [Emphasis Added]

Titus 3:5-7 says the following about Christ: He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis Added]

We cannot be saved by keeping the law – and this is why we have God’s grace made available to us.
God’s grace has enabled salvation to become a free gift received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore God’s grace ensures that we are not saved by our own effort or work, but instead the redemption is obtained because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Romans 3:24-26 says we “are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” [Emphasis Added]


Is Grace a License to Sin?
No! Grace does not give people a license to sin or to disobey God’s moral laws. Our understanding of the true grace of God will lead us to a life of godliness instead of lawlessness.

When we appreciate God’s grace and what Christ did for us on the cross by giving His life for sinners, we will respond by wanting to live a godly life.

Titus 2:11-12 says: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, [Emphasis Added]

Therefore the grace of God will never allow the true Christian believer to be deceived that he/she has a license to sin. Instead true grace teaches us to be godly and obedient to the word of God.


The law is good and holy. However the law cannot save us. The purpose of the law is to reveal the holiness of God and how sinful we are before the Lord. It reveals that sin has consequences and therefore we need a Saviour.

Therefore the law must bring us to Jesus Christ who paid for our sins on the cross.

Grace is God’s undeserved favour towards humanity. Grace reveals that in spite of our sins, God is willing to save us from the consequences of our sins and give to us His salvation and eternal life as a free gift through placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

Part of this article was excerpted from The Genuine Christian by Stewart Kabatebate

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