The word “grace” appears 18 times in the Old Testament. It appears 125 times in the New Testament. A striking change. What accounts for this? The apostles tell us. John said that “the law was given through Moses, but grace…came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Paul declared that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14, 15). When the covenants changed, then, the circumstances under which humanity serves God changed. The age of grace arrived. But what are the implications? They are many, but let’s briefly address just one. “Under grace”, there is power.
The law revealed sin (Romans 7:7), but granted no power to conquer it. The faithful could fight, but with very limited success. Paul explains their predicament in personal terms: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18, ESV). Frequent frustration with the flesh was the order of the day: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do...O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 24). The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Sin had dominion over those “under the law.”
Under grace, things have changed: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). In this dispensation of grace, God has now empowered Christians by means of the Spirit. Believers are “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16), so that “…by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). As it says in Galatians: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16).
This is not say that Christians are never going to sin: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Galatians 5:17). The flesh remains a factor. Still, under grace, by means of the Spirit’s aid, the battle against sin will be marked with more successes than it would have been under the law. Christians, in other words, should sin less than their old covenant counterparts:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4, ESV).