James 2:12—Does the law bring liberty or bondage?

Problem: By James’ account, the law of God brings liberty into the Christian’s life, since he describes it here as the “law of liberty.” This appears to be in direct conflict with the Apostle Paul’s contention that the Law of Moses “gives birth to bondage” (Gal. 4:24).

Solution: James and Paul are speaking of two different laws. Paul is speaking of the OT Law of Moses, “the one from Mount Sinai” (Gal. 4:24). And James is speaking of the NT “law of liberty,” which Paul calls the “law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2) that has set us free from the law of bondage. As Paul put it, “what the Law [of Moses] could not do in that it was weak through the flesh,” nevertheless “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2–3). The Law of Moses was written in stone, but the law of Christ is inscribed by the Spirit in our hearts (Jer. 31:31; 2 Cor. 3:3–7). The two laws can be summarized as follows:

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.