The grace of God is most likely the most far reaching and comprehensive gift that believers can receive all due to the tremendous work of God in Christ. Yet, I believe one reason that so many believers do not achieve maturity is that they have never truly understood what it means to receive the righteousness of Christ. They find it difficult to allow the Holy Spirit to be their Guide because they are relying on another method to find their way. God's Word reveals two ways to achieve
righteousness with God. The distinction between the two is extremely important for believers to comprehend and understand. The Pauline Epistles reveal these distinctions, however, many believers pay very little attention to them due to a lack of revelation and faith in God's Word. This is not to be critical, but to show us that in the attempts made by most theologians for centuries to bring the freedom that Christ has provided has not brought the very freedom that they hope to achieve.
The two ways to obtain righteousness revealed to us in God's Word are law and grace. God's Word explains very clearly that they cannot occur simultaneously. If you seek to achieve righteousness by the law, you cannot achieve it by grace. On the other hand, if you seek to achieve righteousness by grace, then you cannot do it by keeping the law. This truth is tremendously important because many believers attempt to live partly by law and partly by grace. The Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6) In other words, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)
God's Word also reveals that trying to achieve righteousness by the law or the works of the law has a major stumbling block for every person, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Therefore, the law is a set of rules you have to keep completely and fully to be considered righteous in God's eyes. If you keep all the rules, all the time, then you are made righteous. Grace, on the other hand, is something we cannot earn or achieve by doing the works of the law. If you are working for anything or seeking to earn it, it is not grace as we see in the scriptures above. Grace is received only one way, through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God. The result of grace through faith is righteousness. Therefore, if you want to achieve righteousness, if you want to come into the maturity of God, you have to decide whether you are going to do it by law or by grace.
The verse that best describes grace is also found in the Pauline Epistles, "[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually
at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire],
both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight." (Philippians 2:13 AMP) Notice, grace is not something that is given to us so we can do whatever we want because we are not under the law but under grace. Grace, as it says above, is not our works, but God working in and through us giving us the the desire and ability to do His will. Keep in mind that God's Will is revealed in His Word. Unfortunately, many believers, out of maybe ignorance, personal hurt or some other reason see grace from this unbiblical perspective.
The crux of this is, every believer must choose to live either by law or grace, you cannot have it both ways. The Apostle Paul was speaking to people who had received the grace of God when he said, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Notice that law and grace are quite distinct, like to water and oil, they do not mix. Notice the implication here. If you are under the law, sin will have dominion over you. This is a very important verse. It teaches us two things. First, if we try to achieve righteousness by law, sin will have dominion over us. Second, if we want to achieve righteousness by grace, we cannot achieve it by law. I labor this due to the number of believers who try or have tried every imaginable way to achieve righteousness, such as, doing penance, fasting, giving money, saying long prayers, doing good deeds, giving up pleasures, confess sin over and over, fighting bad habits, self-denial, abusing their body. Some of these are actually part of the Christian life, but we must ask ourselves what is the motive behind doing these things. Again, righteousness only comes by faith in Jesus Christ.
As we grow in understanding in the fact that God has given to us, "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness" we will come to know without wavering that God is our Father; we are sons and daughters; we are in His family; we know He loves us and that we are not servants or sinners, but heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Therefore, I pray that you all "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)