Today I'll be finishing what I began yesterday on the topic of grace. Yesterday I discussed how we should respond to grace. Today I will be touching some on how not to respond to grace. This was the biggest obstacle to date that God had to show me to help my walk with Him. A better understanding of grace influences every facet of your life.
Galatians is the major book of the Bible that discusses grace, so I will be bringing up a lot of verses from there. Key to understanding what Galatians is discussing is the context of the book. The book of Galatians was an epistle of Paul's to the church at Galatia. The Jewish leaders in Galatia had told the new gentile believers that in order to be true followers of Jesus, they had to be circumcised. We're not sure how the news got back to Paul, but he wrote an adamant rebuttal in the form of the book of Galatians. In it, he discusses both what grace is, and what it isn't. We're going to hit both points.
First off, as I mentioned yesterday, the opposite of grace is works. Rom. 11:5-6 takes a step further than that though, and states that the election (scholars disagree on whether it is simply the election of the people of Israel or of all believers that Paul is discussing; however, the point is the same) cannot be a combination of both, but solely works or solely grace. It states, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
If we think any works are necessary in addition to grace, then we no longer believe in salvation by grace, period. It doesn't matter if you think it takes a huge sacrifice to gain salvation or if you believe it takes a tiny little work to save you; if you think it takes any work at all, you have rejected grace. By definition, grace must be undeserved, and thus non-dependent on your will to act, or failure to act.
This is why I believe it's a big deal, a much bigger deal than many Christians seem to believe when a pastor believes it is a cause to rejoice that people consider him a legalist. By it's very definition, legalism must be in direct opposition to grace. Here's a quick definition from the Internet for legalism, "dependence on moral law rather rather than on personal religious faith".
This quick quote I took from a website (http://carm.org/what-is-legalism) might help enlighten you on what this means. "This legalism can take different forms. The first is where a person
attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation. The second is
where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation. The
third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping
certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed."
But do we see the problem with this? In each of these, legalism leaves God out. It's about me, what I can do, what I have done, what I need to do, what I should do, with hardly any mention of God. Scarier, if this was true religion, I could do any of those things without God. Legalism is such a twisted form of religion that it actually removes the need for a God as Savior from the picture. I may need Him as a Creator, or a comforter, but from a legalistic mindset, what needs to be done is left up to me to be done on my own.
Read this verse from Galatians 2. V. 19 states, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." Then skip down to v. 21, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Think about that, 'cause that's pretty serious stuff right there. That's exactly what I said above. If one thinks his righteousness comes from his own good works, who needs Christ's sacrificial death on the cross? I'm doing just fine on my own, thank you! When we live a life centered on the works, on the law, on the rules, we miss Christ. It is only when we are dead to the rules, the applause for my personal greatness that I can truly see Jesus.
Why is legalism so serious? It blinds me to who Christ is, to my need for Him. Gal. 3:22-25 is an interesting portion of Scripture that speaks of this. "But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, ye were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Think about that for sec. The rules that legalism binds people to so closely are there for the exact opposite reason, to draw us to Christ through our failure to meet its demands. But once we find Christ, the relationship with Him makes the schoolmaster unnecessary. If we sit in a corner and just stare at the schoolmaster, we miss what the schoolmaster is pointing at. In the same way, if we stare at the law, at the rules constantly, and live a life oriented by rules, we miss the whole point. The whole reason for those rules is to point us to Christ. If we dwell on the rules, we miss the whole point. We miss the whole idea!
So as you go about this next week, think about that. Dwell on God's mercy, His grace. Never tire of it.