Being Driven by the Law Versus Grace


External Compliance

Recently, I was driving on the highway and noticed a car streak passed me at 80 miles an hour in a 60 mile an hour zone. A couple of miles up the road, I saw an orange sign that read, “Construction Ahead.” As I passed the sign, I saw the same car that had passed me now driving at a meek 20 miles below the speed limit. Interestingly, there were two state trooper cars staggered over a mile carefully watching the traffic. The minute the two state troopers were out of sight, the driver resumed his 80 mile an hour course. The experience reminded me of how the law of God works when we try to obey it directly.

What results from a Christian’s attempt to obey the law externally is what has been referred to in ancient history as “eye service” (Eph. 6: 5-8). Eye service was when a servant or a laborer would only work diligently when their superiors were watching. When the superiors were not watching, the pretense of work was quickly dropped. The same thing happens when a follower of Christ attempts to obey rules externally without internal relationship. Their conscience only lasts as long as the law is in view. The minute the law is out of sight, they resume their unlawful behavior. This “doing the right thing” only when someone is watching is a tell-tale sign that we are being driven by the law and not grace.

Internal Excellence

Living under grace however has an entirely different motivation. It is driven internally by the love of God versus externally by obeying the law. Thus, when a person is living under grace, they do not need the law because they are living by the “law of love” (Mark 12: 28-31) and doing the right thing. Perhaps we can call this type of motivation “Internal Excellence” because it is occurring regardless of who is watching. This type of excellence is hidden and not stimulated by the external demands of the law but rather by the internal work of the Holy Spirit.

Could this be what it means to truly “walk in the Spirit?”

Romans 8:4 (NRSV)

So that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.