Permissible Not Beneficial

Grace is obviously something hard to comprehend most of the time, and even harder when we bring in the law also set down in the Bible. We are told both that the law is fulfilled by Jesus, but that none of it is removed, and even more so that grace covers our sin, that is us disobeying or breaking God’s law.

My favourite passage to remember that helps me se some way through the fog is this one:

““All things are permissible,” but not all things are beneficial.”
1 Corinthians 10:23

Why does this help me? Because it reminds me that although we are covered by grace, we should be attempting to live well and loving God. The law is there in the Bible, and whether you interpret it in one way or another, its presence suggests a particular way to live in order to obey God. However, the purpose of the law is often misinterpreted; many will feel that law is constructed in order to control, but this is not what we see in God’s word.

So much of the law is put in place to protect the vulnerable, those who might be oppressed or exploited. For example, laws of sabbath protected those who might otherwise be forced to work day and night, those who would drown in debt without a jubilee, those who would otherwise be tempted to give up their rest and their time of worship in order to get ahead in the world.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV

When we think of actions we might take in our lives, choices at our fingertips everyday, we are offered a cornucopia full of great and harmful paths. I believe that God leads us with law and grace for our own safety, but when we do stray away from His will we are forgiven our trespass. This frees us from fear, the guilt placed on us by sin, and releases us to a potential in life. We will be guided, but never forced. We have the free will to make our own decisions, but suggestions are given to us by one who loves us and wants the best most beneficial outcome for us and His people.

It is also worth mentioning the other side of this: that works, although not required, are gifts that we give to God out of love for Him:

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
James 2:17, NKJV

Actions may be forgiven despite not being good, but avoiding good altogether suggests a lack of faith. In all of this the aim is to follow God, to think before we act, to stick as closely to His will as we can. We are freed by grace, loved by God, but it is for our own good that we obey the law.

And just in case my explanation of the law above isn’t enough for you, let’s stick with Jesus’ own priority:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40, NIV

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