Monday, November 21, 2022

Grace, Foolishness, or Legalism: Grace and Law?

 For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) Romans 5:17 AMPC

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...2 Corinthians 8:9a MEV 

 We've begun a series examining the practical aspects of living the Christian life under Grace. The premise of this study is in the form of a question. We are asking if we are walking in true Grace or foolishness or legalism in the practical areas of the Christian life. 

 We have looked at the areas of our understanding of the Christian Faith. We have looked at not throwing stones at others for their convictions. We have looked at what makes Grace so amazing and what diminishes it. 

 Today, it seems good to examine the Law and its place in the life of the Christian. Because the Gospel of Grace is misunderstood sometimes, the Church, the Body of Christ, sadly likes to incorporate aspects of the Law in their lives and ministries. Legalism, therefore, becomes a stronghold rooted in the minds of many.

 What's truly sad is how so many are oblivious to the amount of legalism in their thinking and approach to God. You may ask what about the foolish-minded and Law? The foolish understanding of Law and Grace can quickly be remedied by allowing the Scripture to have the final say.

 What I mean is, the foolish understand the stronghold of Law mixture, so basically they just dismiss any and all commands or any discipleship, or spiritual growth principles. If they ignore it all they won't have any stronghold of legalism. We have the commandment of Love in the New Covenant. We have principles of growth Paul laid out for us. These are not legalistic or burdensome. 

 Loving God and others is a blessing because we first know and understand God loves us and has poured out His Love upon us and within us. This answers the foolish-minded response to Law. Again the legalistic approach being such a stronghold needs much teaching so believers would gain a clear and unobstructed and uncorrupted understanding of the Gospel.  

 One mistaken concept the legalists embrace is that they see every single teaching of Jesus as a New Covenant principle. Not rightly dividing Jesus' words, they mistake the messages for the Nation of Israel, the messages to the lost, this world system, and His expounding and explaining the Law as commands addressed to us, the Church. Christ did speak New Covenant truths. Christ did speak to the Children of Israel. Christ did give warnings to the lost. Christ did preach the fullness of the Law. Which is why we must rightly divide His teachings.

 So when Jesus gives us the total weight of the Law, proving to all mankind our lost condition and need for a Savior, legalism draws the wrong conclusion. They claim Grace has a higher standard of conduct than Law. More clearly stated, they are saying under Grace there are stricter moral commandments than even the 613 commands of the Mosaic Law. 

 When Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, expounded on the Ten Commandments, He was showing Israelites and future peoples, both Jew and Gentile alike that God's standard is absolute perfection. He was revealing to whosoever has ears to hear, that here is the end of your proverbial rope. This is the end of your performance. Jesus was saying, Guess what! Your goodness, your conduct, your behavior, and your performance will never be enough!

 Grace brings us to a place where we truly see our broken and faulty condition before a thrice Holy God. No, not to judge, not to condemn, not to castigate, but to bring us to a place where we can fully receive Grace. As experts tell us, you can't save a drowning man who is still fighting. God gives Grace to the humble, those who have come to an end of themselves, that is, their efforts attempting to appease and please God in their own strength.

Throughout the Scripture we see God rejecting the proud but giving Grace to the humble. God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's. Abel offered it in Faith, which means he was humble before God whereas Cain was not.  

 Another mistaken concept legalism embraces, which in turn strengthens the rooted stronghold in their thinking, is their misunderstanding of the place the Law has today. Countless times I have encountered the legalists who respond to the proclamation of the Gospel of Grace claiming we as the Church are still under the Law because Jesus said He came not to abolish the Law. Therefore, they conclude the Gospel of Grace is a false gospel. Failing to rightly divide Jesus' words and actually ignoring the full passage, they cling to one phrase and ignore the complete text.

17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one dot or one mark will pass from the law until all be fulfilled.  Matthew 5:17-18 MEV

 Jesus truly stated He hadn't come to abolish the Law. However, let's actually read what He said. He said He didn't come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill. Jesus was foreshadowing His coming work of Grace on the Cross. 

 Grace doesn't say the Law has been abolished. Grace doesn't say because we aren't under Law we can now freely steal from our neighbors, lie, covet their possessions, and commit adultery. Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf, pouring out His Love upon us and within us. We don't need a list of do's and don'ts to walk in love with others. 

 By fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, Jesus met every requirement justice demanded. Jesus completed the work on our behalf. We can freely receive His Righteousness because Jesus' performance was perfect and provides us all the benefits of right standing, acceptance, and approval with a Loving Father. 

 Legalism produces the confusing and corrupted cocktail of Law and Grace mixture. Legalism says yes receive what Jesus did, but it's still insufficient to find perfect acceptance and approval with the Father. You are still required to meet the standards of the Law, of course, picking and choosing which of the 613 are relevant to keep and observe. 

  Grace says Jesus' work was enough. Grace says When He said it was Finished, He didn't say to be continued, to be perfected, to be completed by our works, our actions, our behavior, or our observance of aspects of the Mosaic Law. Grace says Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law on our behalf, therefore we are perpetual right standing and acceptance and approval before God our Father.

 In summation, let's stay with Grace. Let's fully embrace the Gospel and allow the truth of Grace to uproot any strongholds of legalistic thinking. It is done, Jesus is enough!

Image by succo from Pixabay 

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