Law and Grace by Alva J McClain

The question of the Christian’s relationship to the Law plagues any interpretive system. For the Non-dispensationalist, the whole Law applies to the believer with the exception of the sacrificial system. For the dispensationalist, however, the question is just as challenging. Jesus himself reiterated many aspects of the Law in his teaching, especially the Ten Commandments? Each generation asks the question, “Is the Christian under the Law?”

It should be obvious that three answers to this question are possible. The first is an absolute Yes. Believers are under all aspects of the Law accept that which Jesus fulfilled according to Hebrews. This position is held by Christian Reconstructionists, for example. The second option is the opposite end of the spectrum: absolutely not. A third option that has been set forth is that believers are obligated to keep the portions of the Law which Jesus taught and that are recorded in the Gospels.

Two words before we move further. First, none of the people advocating for any of these answers are dealing with the doctrine of salvation. All would agree that salvation is the same in all of these situations. The question is how is the believer to live his Christian life in the world. Secondly, if one advocates that the believer is not under the law it does not necessarily follow that he is advocating for some kind of antinomianism.

McClain, in his short treatise, Law and Grace, answers the question of the relationship between the Law and the believer. He begins by stating this premise: The Old Testament Law cannot be divided. That is, some would break the law in to Civil, Ceremonial, and Moral categories. Then, they say that when Christ fulfilled the Law, he fulfilled the Ceremonial laws, while the Civil laws only pertain to national Israel. Thus, the believer is under the Moral laws, namely, the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

McClain concludes, albeit briefly, that the Law is undivisible. If it is indeed indivisible, then it is impossible that the believer today is under any aspect of the Law. Being “under the Law” as McClain explains, is that the believer is required in some way to obey the commandments of it, and if the believer fails, to receive the penalty of the Law. The Apostle Paul makes a clear distinction in 2 Corinthians between the Ten Commandments and the Christian life during the dispensation of the Church. The letter is not written with ink, but with the Holy Spirit. It is not written on stone tablets, but on the heart. The letter of the Law kills, while the Spirit gives life. From this passage alone, it seems clear that the believer is not under any part of the Law, including the Ten Commandments.

Though his tone demonstrates a little too much frustration at times, McClain presents a well-written and clear presentation, albeit it brief. It is definitely worth reading as part of a conversation pertaining either to dispensationalism or the Christian life.