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Grace, Legalism, and God’s Law: What Does It All Mean?

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Grace, Law, and Jesus

 

The Gift of Grace

 

Salvation, or eternal life is the greatest gift we can receive, a generous gift to an undeserving people. Yet even this gift is made possible by another: Grace.

Grace is that beautiful gift given by a loving God, a God whom came and saved His own people through His sacrifice on the cross.

Grace is also very much misunderstood in the Church.

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Some teachers of the Word focus far too much on God’s Grace, some focus more on following the “rules” and become entangled in legalism. Neither approach is what God intended for us, as well each carry serious dangers.

 

Taking a closer look at Grace

 

Some teach grace almost to the exclusion of the importance of obeying God’s Word, hence obeying God. While God’s Grace is important and needs to be taught, other fundamental truths need to be taught with equal time.

Lets say that when Jonny was growing up his mom was possessed of much grace towards her child, and mom made sure Jonny knew this fact. Mom although very loving towards her son did not spend much time teaching Jonny the importance of following the rules, and the repercussions of not doing so. So what do you suppose Jonny’s attitude was towards obeying the rules and even having a healthy fear of consequences for wrong actions?

This is what is happening to those exposed to the teaching of “hyper-grace” or even from being taught the doctrine of God’s Grace without enough teaching on sin and the need to repent.

Just as the child who has a permissive although loving parent often has little understanding of the consequences of their actions, or simply chooses to ignore them embracing the “I can do as I please attitude”…the same can occur in the Church body. Too much preaching and teaching on grace and not enough teaching on sin and its very real consequences can produce a mindset of: I can do as I want, after all I will be forgiven. This is abusing God’s Grace to us.

Hyper-grace teaching will even go so far as to teach that we need not worry about our sins as they are forgiven anyway, and that we need not confess them to God. Even more shockingly some will teach that Jesus own teaching may be safely ignored…His teaching was pre-crucifixion so does not apply. All untrue, unbiblical, dangerous, and a warped theology.

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Consider the following: 1 John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin——–So these verses are telling us it DOES matter how we live, they tell us that we are indeed forgiven our sins, with a condition: we must walk in the light not the dark.

The Apostle Paul taught to live holy lives, not live how you please with no thought to your actions. These teachings fly directly in the face of biblical teaching.

  • Sin and the confession of it, 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
  • Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin
  • Matthew 6:9-12 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread.And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors

As believers in and followers of Christ our sins are forgiven us, all of them…even those we will yet commit. Think of it this way, one sin is all it takes to receive the fruit of sin, death. (Romans 6:23) Does anyone really think they can confess every single sin they have ever committed to God? I submit to you that this is not possible!

Still that being said, God desires that we confess our sins. One cannot set aside what God says to do in His Word. If it was not important to confess sin to the Lord, He would not have ensured that this was placed into Scripture. Confession is good for healing; King David found this out as he wrote in Psalm 32. James tells us to confess sin. Paul speaks of it and why it is necessary; godly guilt leads to repentance, worldly guilt leads to death.

  • Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer
  • James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another,and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

 Legalism

 

The other side of the coin is legalism. Legalism teaches the need for absolute following of the rules often including yet even more rules (like the Pharisees) that are man made and not part of the Gospel of Christ.

Are we to follow God’s rules? Of course we are, yet we are not under law but grace!

Legalism teaches to the exclusion of grace that the rules must be followed to obtain salvation and grow in faith. This teaching leads people down a path not ordained by God. The law was given to identify sin, to lead us to the cure for sin…Jesus Christ.

Following a bunch of rules does not save us, Jesus does. Colossians 2:20-23

People get confused sometimes and this all sounds like two different and apposing messages coming from the same place, it is not.

How would we know what is wrong unless we are told what is wrong? That was part of the purpose of law. The other purpose of law was to lead us to the fulfillment of the law: Christ. Galatians 3:24 John 1:17

Are we supposed to follow God’s laws? Matthew 5:17-18 Yes we are. Some of the Old Testament laws still apply, do not kill, do not steal etc. Some of the law no longer applies because Christ fulfilled it, such as the laws concerning sacrifice. Other things are debatable, Romans 14 has a lot of good teaching on this. (Legalism allows no other viewpoint, that is in itself sinful).

 

Tying it all together

 

So how do we know what applies and what does not? Well, what did Jesus say about this?

Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

If we endeavor to love the Lord above all else, obviously this will change our actions and our attitude towards others. If we follow the second command to love “thy neighbor” neighbor being all other people, then just as obvious we will do others no harm.

So basically, following these two most important commands (says Jesus) we really have no need of the law anyway. Perfect love harms no other. Asking oneself a few questions before taking any action pretty much takes care of everything.

  • Will this harm anyone else in any way?
  • Will this reflect badly upon God?
  • Will this harm my relationship with God?

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast

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About Greg Holt

About the author: Greg is a strong believer in Jesus Christ and is also a political analyst and author.  By day he is a self-employed non-emergency medical transport driver, as well as being an author and blogger.  His articles are first published on True Conservative Pundit and Inspirational Christian Blogs, and from there the articles are widely published on many well-known conservative websites.  If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so leaving all links intact and crediting the author and the website that the article appeared on.  Greg is the author of the newly released book: Spiritual Darkness is Destroying America and the Church.  Subscribe to my daily newsletter, and join hundreds of daily readers and receive news and relevant commentary. Follow TCP on FacebookGab, Spreely, USA LifeTwitterPinterest, and Social Cross

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