Some people emphasize Paul’s distinction between law and gospel so much, that they can’t see that law also exists in the New Testament.
Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom.
James 2:12 NET
Charles Hess created a list of the gospel as law:
- The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:2).
- Not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ (1 Cor 9:21).
- Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).
- NT laws written in the hearts of Christians (Heb 8:10; 10:16).
- The perfect law of liberty (Jas 1:25; 2:12).
To these might be added the “royal law” mentioned in James 2:8 as well.
In our verse above, James declares that we will be judged by this law. It’s not just a figure of speech. It’s a reality of Christ’s kingdom.
Even an evangelical commentator states this about the law of liberty:
This will be more severe than a merely exterior law, because it will judge the heart and the motivations. The absence of the article before “law” in the Greek emphasizes the nature of law” (my translation back into English from T. Carson, Comentário Bíblico NVI, 2140).
Perhaps James is explaining the greater righteousness that Jesus requires of his followers (Matthew 5:20).
Yes, we are saved by grace. Salvation has no basis in human merit. It removes religious law as a foundation upon which people try to prove their goodness before God. But it doesn’t remove the presence and requirement of the law as a part of the gospel. That just means that it’s always been necessary to obey God’s orders.
By this obedience, though, we don’t prove we are good. On the contrary!
Righteous God, thank you for your law in the gospel which brings us liberty. May we live according to yoru law in order to depend upon Christ for our salvation. Amen.