That is not an easy question to answer. At first I am tempted to say that there is no such thing as law coexisting with faith. By its very nature law demands perfect obedience and we as human beings are imperfect as law keepers. Because of this, the only thing law can do when one breaks it is condemn the law-breaker. The Judaizer’s mistake was thinking that salvation in Christ required the keeping of the law of Moses in addition to having faith in Jesus. Paul wrote to the Judaizers in Galatia and tells them; “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” ( Galatians 5:4). They had become victims of the trap they themselves had set.
Paul further writes in Galatians 3:23, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” He adds in the next two verses: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian …” (Galatians 3:24-25). In these verses he compares the state of the Jews to that of children being escorted to school by a slave (guardian) who had the responsibility of seeing that the children arrived safely at their destination. The law, then, was a system of slavery. It did not give freedom. It could not give freedom because it could only condemn when one strayed from the right path. It could not answer the need for a clean conscience because it could only produce a sense of guilt.
It would be inconsistent with the state of the Christian to go back under the slavery of law. We have been made free. Paul tells us in Gal. 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” To attempt to be justified by law would be to renounce our freedom in Christ in exchange for a sense of guilt and condemnation.
On the other hand, there is no such thing as living by faith and not being under law. The question is; what kind of law is the one who has faith under? The only possible alternative is to live under the law of Christ. James calls this law the perfect law of liberty. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). Also “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty” (James 2:12). In the 8th verse he defined that law: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” The “royal law” is the law of the king. The king is Jesus – he is the Christ (which means king). The king’s law is LOVE.
This “royal law,” the law of Christ, is not a code of law, a listing of “dos and don’ts.” It is a principle of action that is applicable in every situation of life. Jesus called this a “new commandment” in John 13:34; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Then he adds in vs. 35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” He didn’t say that the world would know his people, his church, by the way they worshiped or the way they organized themselves. He didn’t say his people would be known by how faithfully they kept a long list of “essentials.”
What is the difference? The Judaizers (and those who claim we are under a system of law today) make that law a means of justification or salvation. Judaizers are good at condemning people because that is the nature of their religion. Their religion is a religion of law. If you don’t do the law you are damned. If you miss one of the “essentials” regarding worship you are damned. If you are not baptized for the right reason you are damned. They do this because the law leaves no room for grace and we are saved by grace through faith, not by works of righteousness which we have done (Ephesians 2:8-9). They are not good at loving because they are too busy judging and condemning.