Grace or Law?
As incredible as it may sound, there are those who oppose the
teaching of grace. Surprisingly, it is from pews and pulpits that these men arise, wagging
their fingers at those who have crossed over into a life of grace.
The interesting thing is they would never admit that
they reject grace. The word grace shows up in their literature and
on their church signs. They warn their followers against wild grace,
and encourage a more balanced approach to grace. They are quick
to use the phrase cheap grace, as if there were such a thing.
Beating the drums to a century’s old argument, they sound the
alarm that radical grace will become nothing more than a license to
sin. Paul was compelled to answer this very accusation.
Before going any further, let’s define legalism. Legalism involves
asking the believer to do something in order to grow and be blessed.
It amounts to a list of duties given as a prerequisite for the Christian’s
maturation and fruit-bearing. The result of legalism is bondage. The law based
believer has forgotten Paul’s question to the Galatians. “Having
begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
My Uncle Leland kept an old bull named “Jug-Head” in his barn.
A hayloft stood above his pen with a small hole in the floor. As kids, we
would stand over the hole, tossing hay down on the massive creature.
Our purpose was to irritate the fire out of Jug Head. We loved hearing
him snort deeply, paw the ground, and charge the walls of his pen.
It was exciting to stand over the hole and look down at him. The
opening was just big enough for us to fall through, which added to our
excitement. Walls and gates restrained Jug Head, giving us a false sense
of control over the beast. We knew that with one small slip through
the hole, we would be at Jug Head’s mercy. Take the fences down and
disaster would reign; however, fall through the hole, and the ferocious
bull would certainly put an end to our lives.
Within every Christian is a Beast called the flesh. The legalist has
adopted strategies for dealing with this dilemma. According to his
mindset, concentration on the commands of scripture terrifies Jug
Head, maintaining a consistent prayer life quiets the bull, and staying
busy in service leaves no time for him. By these measures, the Beast
is kept at a safe distance. But the Jug Head within us all is neither
threatened nor deterred by these activities; in fact, he’s right at home.
Grace, in their minds, must be “balanced” with obedience to the commands of scripture. Their
goal is to restrain Jug Head with strategies and methods. But does the Bible say, “we are more than restrainers in Christ,” or “we are more than conquerors in Christ?”
Those who teach law lay out well-designed strategies for the
establishment of progress toward spiritual adulthood. From their
perspective, every angle of sanctification is covered, producing a foolproof
pathway to advancement in spiritual matters. But it is through His life in us that we conquer, not by our efforts and strategies.