By Grace Alone: Thoughts On Biblical & Aesopian Views of Law and Grace

Law and grace are two of the key elements about which Christian scholars debate incessantly. Although Christians live under the saving grace of the Lord through the death and resurrection of Christ, the law is not completely inapplicable. In Aesop, the law plays a pivotal role, while grace is considerably less frequent. Unfortunately, when it comes to fables and parables, Christians and unbelievers alike often make the same mistake concerning the differentiation between these two types of stories, and they erroneously place them in the same category.

Let’s Begin Slowly:
When addressing the relationship of law and grace for Christians, one must first define what “law” and “grace” are referring to respectively. For believers, the “law” represents three distinct sets of rules. First, there is the moral code by which everyone must live, and this moral code can easily be summarized in the renowned Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Fortunately, the moral code is a code which is still obeyed today, despite the difference in time periods. Secondly, believers recognize a ceremonial code, which encompasses all of the sacrificial and religious laws related to the temple and its ceremonies. However, since Christ came as the perfect and final sacrifice for all sin (Matthew 9:13), Christians believe that the ceremonial set of laws is not relevant to today and is, therefore, not obeyed. Finally, the third set of laws is called the civil code, and this set includes all of the laws regarding the everyday life and diet of the Israelite nation in the Bible. Due to the fact that civil laws are merely circumstantially obligatory as per each individual nation, this set of laws is also deemed by Christians extraneous for modern national use. Now that the term “law” has been successfully defined, and it has been clarified as to which set of laws are utilized today, the term “grace” must be elucidated next. As commonly defined by believers, “grace” refers to more than simply “getting what you don’t deserve.” The word embodies the entire doctrine that through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, individuals receive forgiveness for all of their sins and embrace the everlasting salvation of the Lord. Because Christians live in faith, under the blood of Christ, grace is the primary principle that governs their lives. The law is merely the tool that demonstrates a believer’s sin to him, as Paul asserts in Romans 5:20 and 6:14. Christians are not ruled by the law, but are subject to the saving grace of God. Thus, the relationship between law and grace for Christians is that the law makes them realize their sin and imperfection, but the grace of God brings them to repentance and ultimate communion with the Father.

Law and Grace

A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
In addressing the second point of law and grace in Aesop’s fables, one must keep in mind that most of these fables, and indeed Aesop himself, came from a time period before the first advent of Christ. That being clarified, these fables may teach moral lessons by which individuals should live, but they are far from the ideal Christian reaction to every situation. For example, in the fable of the Ants and the Grasshopper, the ants’ response to the starving grasshopper’s pleas for food hardly measure up to the ideal Christian response to those in need. Despite the fact that the grasshopper was starving because of his folly and laziness, the biblical response to the poor would be to aid them, showing the love, care, and grace of God, not let them starve as a consequence for their lack of diligence. In Aesop’s fables, readers not only witness this blatant rejection of helping the destitute, but the evil characters are punished time and again without grace, forgiveness, or even the slightest hint of redemption. Although the laws and rules in Aesop’s fables are extremely beneficial to apply in maturing a society and individuals in general, grace is a key ingredient to every successful system of law. If there was no grace in the world, in truth, if there was no grace with God, all of humanity would be non-existent by now. Fortunately, there is grace and favor to be found with the Lord, if one believes in Christ, His death, and His resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Regrettably, Aesop’s fables exclude such images of grace, love, and redemption, leading solely to the development of a merciless and selfish society. Thus, Aesop’s fables do not present a God-honoring balance of law for edification and grace for forgiveness, but present a world ruled by laws and regulations alone.

Difference Between Parables and Fables:
Commonly, readers of Aesop’s fables make the mistake of categorizing the collection under the same heading as the parables of Christ. Now, although both fables and parables seek to teach a moral or lesson via a well-crafted metaphor, parables have a deeper and more hidden lesson to teach that may only be deciphered by one who is in a relationship with Christ. In fact, there are three primary ways by which readers can distinctly differentiate between fables and parables. First of all, fables utilize the imagery afforded by talking beasts and plants, while parables never do. Secondly, fables usually teach no more than an obvious moral lesson about exemplary character qualities that one should possess such as kindness, gratitude, or diligence, while parables, on the other hand, often offer deeper meanings of spiritual significance. For example, the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), while it does not teach a moral or character quality that the reader should possess, it does provide wisdom for an evangelist concerning the spiritual nature of the individuals that might be present and listening to the preaching of the gospel. Additionally, the parables of Christ usually encapsulated prophecies concerning Israel. Thirdly, while fables can be easily understood because they bring context within the story, parables are more difficult to decrypt because they rely on the real-life context of the moment in which they are told. Thus, although both fables and parables are closely similar in their rhetorical and dramatic structure, they are not the same, and therefore, their titles should never be used interchangeably.

So, Law or Grace?
As demonstrated above, the relationship of law and grace for Christians pivots primarily on grace, while the law merely exemplifies believers’ sin like a teacher leading individuals to repentance (Romans 3:20). Through faith in the redemptive actions of Christ and God’s grace, Christians establish the law, not abolish it (Romans 3:31). While Aesop’s fables accurately convey helpful morals and life lessons, they portray too much merciless judgment and not enough love, grace, and redemption of the sinners. Parables and fables should not be mistaken for each other, as both are structured similarly but function differently. In the end, then, the law is only a part of the more magnanimous story of redemption, which is full of the grace and love that the Lord has for those who believe in Christ.

Law Grace

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