Two Ways to Righteousness:
In this study, the word law refers to religious law. In other words, we will be studying law viewed as a means of achieving righteousness with God.
Romans 10:4 - "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
In that verse, Paul is telling us that the moment a person believes in Jesus Christ, that is the end of law for that person as a means of righteousness.The law will endure as part of God's word forever. The law will be part of Israel's history forever. But this is the end of the law as a means to achieve righteousness with God.
The Law refers to the Law of Moses.
Ephesians 2:15 - "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace..."
The commandments are the direct requirements of prohibitions (Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit adultery etc.). The ordinances are the way of living that works out the commandments, certain deeds you had to do and certain procedures you had to follow, such as restoring lost property or bringing an appropriate offering to the house of God.
Romans 2:14-15 - "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another..."
It is not the Law that is written in the hearts of the Gentiles. It is the work of the Law. The Law for a Jew presses the issue of personal responsibility and personal guilt. Inside a Gentile is something like a law court. In this court the thoughts of the Gentiles are either accusing them or excusing them, and their consciences are as judges. Therefore, the work of the Law will do for a Gentile what the Law of Moses was designed to do for a Jew.
So what is grace?
A good definition of grace is "that which is freely given by God and received by faith, without being earned or deserved."
We cannot earn it. We can never deserve it. Anything that we can earn or deserve is not grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 - "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Grace is normally received by faith, as seen in the above scripture. Grace has nothing to boast about.
Therefore, there are two ways to righteousness. One is by following the Law. One is by receiving grace. If something is of law, then it is not of grace. And if something is of grace, then it is not of law.
John 1:17 - "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Grace and law are absolutely distinct.
Romans 6:14 - "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
If you are under grace, you are not under law. You cannot be in both conditions.
Romans 10:5-6 - " For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)"
The Law is clear. If you want to be made righteous by the Law, then you must do everything the Law says all the time. If you can accomplish that feat, then you do not need grace. But, if you cannot be justified by the Law, then you must accept grace or not be justified at all.
The Law says, "This is what you have to do and to keep doing it all the time." Grace says, "Someone else has done it for you."
What this means is there are two kinds of religion in the world. One is a religion of law and works, the other is a religion of faith and grace. One is the religion of Cain (law and works) and one is the religion of Abel (faith and grace). (If you don't know the story of Cain and Abel I urge you to read Genesis 4:1-15 right now.)
Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. Cain brought an offering because it was something he decided to do. Abel received God's word and Cain refused God's word. If we seek through our own works to establish our own righteousness, we are refusing to submit to the righteousness of God, which is by faith. Abel offered a sacrifice that acknowledged the need for propitiation for his sin. (Propitiation is a sacrifice that cancels sin and satisfies the wrath due from God toward sin.)
Through faith in His blood, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for sins we have committed. Abel offered a propitiation and, in so doing, he acknowledged that there was a gift that needed to be propitiated. Cain did not offer a propitiation. There was no sacrifice, no death and no shed blood. He brought the works of his own hands - the fruit of the earth. In Genesis 3:17 God cursed the ground of the earth when He cursed Adam and Eve. Therefore, Cain offered God the fruit of something which was cursed. Abel's sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain's was not. Your relationship to God is either one of acceptance or rejection.
Abel's religion produced a martyr. Cain's religion produced a murderer.
Scripture indicates that in all of Christendom there will be two groups. Not Catholic or Protestant or Methodist or Baptist. One is the Bride and one is the Harlot. Everybody who survives to the end of the age will be in one or the other. Abel's religion produces the Bride. Cain's religion produces the Harlot. In Revelation 17 and 18 you can read about the Harlot, an elaborate false religious system.