The Bible declares that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. It also reveals that He gives every good and perfect gift and there is no variableness or shadow of turning. He gave us the Law in the Old Testament through Moses and He gave us grace in the New Testament through Jesus Christ but He is the same God (John 1:17). Being under grace does not mean there are no laws, that we are anti-law, or that we are lawless. There is evidence that there is an Eternal Moral Law of God that existed before the Law given to Moses (Laws in Eden Genesis 2:16, 17; Laws after the Flood Genesis 9:5, 6).
God has always used laws and always will to reveal His will, regulate life, and rule (administer) in the affairs of the world. God’s laws are always for our good. They do not take away good but rather they take away and keep us from evil. Like the laws in the Garden, “… freely eat … do not eat…,” God had Adam and Eve’s best interest in mind. The heart of God is in His laws and that is why even though the Christian is not under the Law of Moses it is described in the N.T. as being holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). God’s laws set us free but freedom does not mean against the law (anti-law) or lawless.
If you do not understand God’s Eternal Moral Law and the proper use of the Old Testament Law in the New Testament, you cannot understand legalism or lawlessness. Legalism and lawlessness are two extremes at opposite ends to a balanced view of God’s Eternal Law. The term legalism/legalistic is not found in the Bible, but the serious error that it describes is. It is the deadly error of teaching salvation or justification by mans works or keeping the Law. A requirement that you add to the Gospel and impose on others is legalism. It can be adding anything (any of our work) to God’s pure grace and finished work. We must let the Bible define legalism (Acts 15:1-10; Galatians 2:16, 21; Romans 3:20).
The reason is there is the danger of going to the other extreme which is lawlessness. Modernistic hatred of Biblical absolutes, authority, and holiness causes liberal believers to use the label “legalist” but it is a cover for their lawlessness (or claim a liberty but use it as a cloak of maliciousness to hide bad behavior). Often when we contend for the faith, we are called legalistic. As a label “legalism” is a convenient handle to bash anything loose living people do not like.
There are still laws that God uses to reveal His will, regulate our life, and administer in the affairs of men on Earth. Aside from the Law God gave Moses, there are many things called laws:
1. Laws in Eden (Genesis 2:16, 17).
2. Laws after the Flood (Genesis 9:5, 6).
3. Laws that communicate God’s moral law repeated in the NT (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 9:7-11).
4. Laws in the N.T. that are principles or spiritual laws (forces, powers, influences).
a. Law of conscience (Romans 2:14, 15).
b. Law of faith (Romans 3:27).
c. Law of the mind (Romans 7:23).
d. Law of sin and death (Romans 7:21, 23, 25; 8:2).
e. Law of the spirit of life (Romans 8:2).
f. Law of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7).
g. Law of liberty (James 1:25).
h. Law of love (James 2:8).
i. Laws of ordained authorities (man’s laws; Romans 13).
5. Laws revealed in nature, Creation, or natural law (Romans 1:19, 20).
6. Law of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 2:3).
As you can see, we are not lawless.