Painting by numbers can be fun! It requires mostly patience and attention to detail. If you follow the steps, matching the paint to the numbers on the page, you can produce a beautiful painting. However, doing so does not make you an artist. You’ve only proved you can follow instructions! A true artist–a master–doesn’t need to follow step-by-step instructions. He’s not bound to those elementary guidelines. All he needs is some paint, a few brushes and a blank canvas. He sees everything in his mind and skillfully, creatively lays it down.
This illustrates the difference between law and grace in the Christian life. Some Christians go through life using the paint-by-number method. Yet the law is much more demanding. Our best attempts fall short. Even if we were able to obey every command (which we cannot), that would not make us truly righteous! Rather, it would merely demonstrate our ability to obey instructions. Christ is so much more than that. He is the Master! He is the very essence of righteousness, virtue and wisdom. We have the Master dwelling in us! He will guide us, not by the letter, but by His Spirit. Christ doesn’t simply enable us to be better law-keepers!
Christ fulfilled the law once and for all. He has moved us on from paint-by-numbers. We are no longer “under the law” (Romans 6:14). Every Christian is out from under the law’s jurisdiction because “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
The spiritual Christian, therefore, is no longer ruled by laws and commands; instead he is guided by wisdom. If we yield to the Holy Spirit, He will cause us to glean wisdom and instruction from the law–and from every page of Scripture–informing our conscience and heightening our ability to discern God’s will. We see the virtues, principles, and wisdom of God revealed in every command–even if the command itself no longer has jurisdiction over us as Christians. We see God’s heart revealed and we embrace His virtues from a heart of devotion and love. Laws expressing God’s moral virtues are fulfilled in us as we love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). Just as a master artist produces artwork far superior to a paint-by-number painting, the indwelling Christ guides our hearts through the “law of love” and causes us to far exceed the righteousness which the law prescribed.
We will make mistakes as we’re growing in grace. Yet, amazingly, the Master artist is able to incorporate these errors into His masterpiece. He declares us righteous while guiding us in the paths of righteousness. We would make a mess of it all, but GRACE makes all the difference! What a beautiful picture.