What Does "You Are Not Under Law but Under Grace" (Rom 6) Mean?

Are the Ten Commandments, the moral law, no longer relevant because Paul write sin Romans 6:14, "you are not under law but under grace"? Learn the answer.
Covenant Theology
Law
...

Has the Old Testament law been abolished?

The issue at hand is whether the Old Testament law has been abolished. There are many who teach that the Old Testament law has been completely abolished by the New Testament, and that New Testament believers are now under a "law of love," or a "law of grace," that has replaced the Old Testament Law.

This teaching states that only the parts of the Ten Commandments that are restated in the New Testament are binding upon Christians today, and that it is not biblical to divide the Old Testament law into three parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil/judicial, of which the moral part is eternal and universal and the other two parts were temporary.

For a defense of the threefold division of the Old Testament law, check out these articles:

  1. Scriptural Evidence for a Threefold Division of the Law (Old and New Testaments)
  2. The Threefold Division of the Law in the New Testament
  3. The Threefold Division of the Law in the Old Testament

Does Romans 6:14 teach that the Old Testament law has been abolished?

Some argue that Romans 6:14 teaches that the Old Testament law has been abolished, since Christians are no longer "under law but under grace." Here is what Paul writes:

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Let's examine this verse and its context to determine what Paul means when he says that we "are not under law but under grace."

Paul reverences the law elsewhere

First, let's take a look at what Paul has said about the law elsewhere.

Romans 3:31

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Romans 7:12

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Romans 7:14

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Romans 7:22

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,

We see that immediately after Romans 6, Paul speaks highly of the law in several places.

In one way, the law is bad, but in another way, the law is good

When we compare Romans 6 with the verses listed above in Romans 7, we recognize that Paul's view of the law is complex.

To reconcile Paul's negative view of the law in Romans 6 with Paul's positive view of the law in Romans 7, we need to understand that for Paul, the law is bad in one way, yet good in another

Rephrasing and clarifying Romans 6:14

The law is bad as an external set of rules, as it was during the Mosaic covenant, but it is good when by grace it is written on our hearts and we are actually able to live it out.

In other words, we are not under the law as an external set of rules that cannot by itself lead to obedience, but rather, we are under grace, which means the law is now within us, written on our hearts, and able to be obeyed.

The context of Romans 6:14

We know this is the correct view of what Paul is teaching because the context of Romans 6:14 is about conquering sin and obeying God.

Paul is not saying that in order to conquer sin and obey God, we need to get rid of the law completely, which would contradict Paul's reverence for the law in the other verses we have mentioned.

Rather, Paul is saying that we can only obey the law through grace, which transforms the law from an external standard that condemns to something written on the believer's heart that empowers the believer to "become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed" (Romans 6:17).

Conclusion

We cannot simply throw away the law because Paul does not throw away the law. Rather, we must recognize that Paul speaks about the law with complexity.

There is a sense in which the law is bad—as a purely external standard that we are under and cannot obey.

There is a sense in which the law is good—when through grace it is written on our hearts so that we may experience true liberty and obedience to God's commands.

Read More

Origin of the Threefold Division of the Old Testament Law
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
Reformers on the Threefold Distinction of the Law
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
The Threefold Division of the Law in the Old Testament
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
Scriptural Evidence for a Threefold Division of the Law
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
What Does "Christ Is the End of the Law" (Romans 10:4) Mean?
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
The Threefold Division of the Law in the New Testament
Covenant Theology
Law
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 19. Of the Law of God | 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
Law
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 7. of God's Covenant | 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
Covenant Theology
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 19. Of the Law of God | Westminster Confession of Faith
Law
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 7. of God’s Covenant With Man | Westminster Confession of Faith
Covenant Theology
Updated: a year ago