The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:14: “For you are not under the law but under grace.”
How to interpret exactly what this means has caused some confusion among many Christians. When discussing the Law of God versus the Grace of God, we often hear: “I’m not under the law” or “I’d rather err on the side of liberty than on the side of legalism.” Yet these statements belie a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between Law and Grace.
When many Christians speak of “grace” or “Christian liberty,” they are often advocating a license to sin or an “anti-Law” view (known as “antinomianism”) that is clearly condemned in Scripture. Likewise, when many Christians speak of “the law” what they are referring to is not the moral Law of God, but a system of legalism or traditions devised by men. This confusion has arisen due to a lack of basic definitions. We have the twin heresies of legalism (on one hand) and antinomianism (on the other) which have appeared in the Church as counterfeits to true Law and true Grace.
Legalism can be defined in two ways: (1) That obedience to the Law is the means by which we are saved; or (2) When rules or traditions of men are instituted as a standard of righteousness. The idea that man is able to keep the law under his own power and please God is biblically false. Salvation is a gift of God and we are saved by God’s own choosing; not our own.
When we say, as Christians, that we are not “under the Law,” scripturally, we can mean two things: (1) We are not under the Law as a means of obtaining salvation; and (2) We are not under the condemnation (or the curse) of the Law.