The Price of Law

There are two things that have to be taken account of in communicating truth. Not merely should there be certainty that it is truth from God, but that it must also be suited truth to those whom you address. They might have needed it all, but they were not in a condition to receive it; and the more precious the truth, the greater the injury, in a certain sense, if it is presented to those who are not in a state to profit by it.

Supposing persons who are under law*, what would be the good of bringing out to such the hope of Christ’s coming, or of union with Him above? There would be no room for such truths in such a spiritual condition. When persons are still under law, not knowing their death to it in Christ’s death and resurrection, they require to be established in the grace of God for growth. There requires to be first the understanding of the complete putting aside of the law, and of our introduction in Christ into a new place and atmosphere altogether.

The Lord had many things to tell the disciples when He was with them, but they were not able to “bear them,” nor understand them, then (Jhn 16:12). Likewise the writer tells the Hebrews that they had “need of milk and not of strong meat” (Heb 5:12): “for every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe; but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:13, 14). But they needed to be taught “the first elements” (5:12) over again; yet the Epistle was written not long before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Nothing hinders the progress of saints so much as legal principles*. The Corinthians had not been long converted, so that their ignorance was not surprising. But the Hebrews had been many years saved, and yet they were only occupied with the alphabet (first elements; basics—NC) of Christianity. So that the real reason which hindered these Hebrew believers was, that they did not enter into their death to the law*, and union with the Lord Jesus in glory*. They were not even steadfast on the full foundation of Christian truth—the complete, eternal putting away of sins in the Blood of the Savior. They were not above the condition of spiritual babes.

The soul that has to do with the law never realizes its deliverance* from the power of sin; on the contrary, the law, merely detecting evil, and not raising the soul above it, leaves the man powerless, miserable and condemned (Rom 7). Some people talk of “a believing sinner,” or speak of the worship offered to God by “poor sinners.” Many hymns indeed never bring the soul beyond this condition. But what is meant by “sinner” in the Word of God is a soul altogether without peace, a soul which may perhaps feel its lack of the Savior, being revealed by the Holy Spirit, but without the knowledge of redemption.

It is not truthfulness to deny what saints are in the sight of God. If I have failed in anything, will taking the ground of a poor sinner make the sin to be less, or give me to feel it more? No! If I am a saint, blessed with God in His beloved Son, made one with Christ, and the Holy Spirit given to eternally dwell in me, then I say, “What a shame, if I have failed, and broken down, and dishonored my Father, and been indifferent to His glory! But if I feel my own coldness and indifference, it is to be treated as baseness, and to be hated as sin*. Whereas, to take the ground of a poor sinner*, is really, though it may not be intended, to make excuses for evil.

- Wm Kelly

Poster’s opinion:

*”who under law”: That is, in their understanding but not in their actual state, if they are in Christ (Rom 6:14). Being within the category of a Covenant of Law (Israel in the prior dispensation after the grace Abraham was in, which was prior to the Law for four hundred and thirty years – Gal 3:17) intends an agreement between the children of Israel and God, in that to be in fellowship with Him required obedience to His ordinances. This assumes the pre-established union which they had from His Calling to them, for where there is no union there can be no fellowship (but the inverse is true, there can be union without fellowship). Union establishes salvation and fellowship establishes growth in the union.

The Law Covenant involved agreement between man and God; the Grace Covenant involves agreement between God and His Son, in that God would raise the Lord Jesus from the dead after He suffered and died for man (Heb 13:20), which now is the sole means of union with God in the present dispensation, thus it obviously remains a matter of differentiating between the two Covenants.

*”legal principles”: attaining a right standing due to meriting it by obedience (law), instead of obedience manifesting that a right standing has been attained other than by merit.

*”they did not enter into their death to the law”: that is, did not yet understand this principle, even though their position and condition became so upon their faith in Christ.

*”union with the Lord Jesus in glory”: nor did they yet understand their present place with Christ, even though He is not on earth, but in glory (in heaven – Eph 2:6).

*”never realizes its deliverance”: one can be delivered from condemnation (as one is upon faith in Christ) and yet not understand it fully. There are many truths within Soteriology that require time to understand, but this does not void the believer’s standing in them, i.e. one does not need to understand the full meaning of eternal salvation to be eternally saved, for it is not by explanation that faith operates, but just by believing the truths concerning attaining salvation. This is similar to one who is “living in the Spirit,” who desires, but has not yet learned, to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).

*”hated as sin”: (Luke 14:26) and John 12:25: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life (his old self; old man or sinful nature) in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil. . . .” (Pro 8:13; Amos 5:15).

*”the ground of a poor sinner”: Scripture’s usage of the word “sinner” is never in reference to a child of God and I believe this is because it is defined as one who, not merely sins (as all do), but one who because of the Spirit within (Gal 5:17), never sins willfully nor does so out of desire to sin, i.e. “sinneth not.” Though saints still sin, it is done against the will and desire, which answers to Paul’s awareness as a “captive” (Rom 7:23), e.g. against his will; unlike those sinning willfully and not against their will.

It must be mentioned here concerning the meaning of Paul’s admission of being the “chief” of sinners (1Tim 1:15), which in my understanding is a humble confession concerning his past. Which could properly intended “of whom I was chief,” for to intend was instead of “am” would conflict with Scripture’s references to the word “sinner.” A note of what I believe to be significant, the Greek meaning in this usage can design the intention of “I was”; had or have been:

Lexicon :: Strong's G1510 - eimi





ā-mē' (Key)

Part of Speech


Root Word (Etymology)

The first person singular present indicative; a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb

Dictionary Aids

Vine's Expository Dictionary: View Entry

TDNT Reference: 2:398,206

KJV Translation Count — Total: 146x

The KJV translates Strongs G1510 in the following manner: I am (with G1473) (74x), am (55x), it is I (with G1473) (6x), be (2x), I was (with G1473) (1x), have been (1x), not tr (7x).

Outline of Biblical Usage

to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

AbideAbove anthology: