Dear ones, today I want to talk to you about legalism and grace. What do these terms mean? What does scripture say about it? I ask the Lord to take away our misconceptions and to shine His light on the Truth. May he type through me.
Titus 3:4-7 Amplified Bible (AMP)
“4 But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared,
5 He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.
7 [And He did it in order] that we might be justified by His grace (by His favor, wholly undeserved), [that we might be acknowledged and counted as conformed to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action], and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope.”
I want to talk to you as a fellow student. I have worn the many masks of legalism. It invades all areas of life and sucks away the joy until you feel dead inside. Let me clear up a misconception before we begin.
Grace does not mean sinning all you want with no consequences. And having standards does not mean you are a legalist. By all means, follow the speed limit, don’t murder, don’t steal. The difference between legalism and grace is found in the heart…not necessarily outward actions.
Grace- unmerited favor and mercy.
Romans 3:23-24Amplified Bible (AMP)
“23 Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.
24 [All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus,”
For more info on justification and the meaning of other important Biblical terms check out this post:
1. Emphasis on the letter rather than on the spirit of the law;
2. Belief in salvation by obedience to the law rather than by the grace of God or by faith;
3. Undue stress on legal details without balancing considerations of justice and mercy.
Legalism only demands that the law be satisfied.”
~Grace that Breaks the Chains pg 27 (originally taken from The Dictionary of Religious Terms)
- Legalism exalts man as god. The gospel of legalism says “I can earn my salvation.” “I can keep my salvation.” “I can please God on my own.” “I am good.” “I am righteous.”
- The gospel of Grace says “Jesus is my salvation.” “Jesus keeps me.” “Jesus is my goodness.” “Jesus is my righteousness.” “Without Jesus I can do nothing, but with Jesus I can do all things.”
- Grace empowers us to live right, through relationship with Christ.
- Legalism chains us to the impossible task of being good in our own strength. It inflates our pride when we do well. It brings us into the pit of depression when we fail.
Grace or legalism? Which is in your heart? Look at the root. Are you trying to earn God’s favor by your good works, or are your good works the result of your love relationship with God?
True Christians know that we are saved by grace, but even Christians can be legalistic. We know that grace through Jesus’ blood initially saves us, but then we think to live the Christian life we must try hard and do good works. Jesus saved us but we don’t expect Him to sanctify us. We look to our own strength. We think our good works will KEEP God’s favor. Dear ones, that is backwards. It is God’s grace that enables us to live right. It is the blood of Jesus that sanctifies us continually. We can not do it on our own.
Ephesians 2:8-9Amplified Bible (AMP)
“8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;
9 Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]”
“Man was never designed nor expected to keep God’s commands on his own, nor was strict adherence to law ever God’s way of making man righteous. It has always been by faith. Seeking to achieve right standing with God by religious performance would be like expecting a mirror to wash the dirt off your face. The purpose of the mirror is not to clean you, but to reveal the dirt. In the same way, ‘through the Law comes the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20), not the power to remove it.“
~Grace that Breaks the Chains pg 28
So often we miss the purpose of the law, because we miss the Person who made the law (meaning the commands given in scripture). The Law, the feasts, the Sabbath…everything was made to point to God, to Jesus. Even in the New Testament…Jesus’ teachings, the parables, communion, baptism, putting on the armor of God…all made to point us to Jesus. The law shows us that we are helpless without God. We are missing something. We are in desperate need of God. If we try to follow the letter of the law so we can be good people or even to earn God’s favor, then we have missed the point.
James 2:10Amplified Bible (AMP)
“10 For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it.”
The Bible makes it clear that we as humans are unable to completely keep the law. We will fail. So why did God give us commands if we can’t keep them? Friends, God is good. He loves us. He wants us to see that He is what we are missing. Humans need God’s help to live. We need relationship with God. We can not be righteous, but Jesus can be righteous for us. Jesus sacrificed Himself so His blood will cover our sin. Truly without God we are naked and in the dark, with no way of turning on the light and clothing ourselves. Only God can turn on the light and clothe us. God gave the law so we would turn to Him for help. So we would realize we are not god. We were never mean’t to live independently from God. We were never mean’t to do everything in our own strength.
Galatians 3:24-26 KJV
“24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:3 Amplified Bible (AMP)
“3 Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”
Acts 13:38-39 KJV
“38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Romans 3:19-20 Amplified Version
“19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God.
20 For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character].”
Romans 5:19-21King James Version (KJV)
“19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Legalism is a deceptive tool of the enemy. Legalism appears to be holy, but it is rotten to the core. Do you seem good on the outside but inside you are dying? Is your church a hateful place with no life in it? Are you losing members to the world? You might be legalistic. You see Legalism may seem to work for a bit. When you parent a child with an iron fist and no grace, they may be compliant for awhile, but inside legalism will spawn rebellion, bitterness, and defeat. Legalism simply does not work.
I get it. Some of us are scared of grace because we’ve seen the term misused. The world and carnal Christians have used “grace” as a way to excuse all manner of sin. Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone who said “Hey, don’t judge me.” The subject of grace has been horribly abused and so many misunderstand the meaning because of that. Dear ones, please don’t miss out on the power and goodness of Jesus’ grace. When someone truly accepts God’s grace they will live a beautiful empowered life through it. Abiding with Jesus by His grace enables us to live righteously. We will want to obey his commands because we love Him. Perfection won’t happen until Heaven, but our desires will be to follow Jesus.
Romans 6:13-15King James Version (KJV)
“13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.“
Romans 7:5-7King James Version (KJV)
“5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
What separates legalism from grace is our position. Where do we operate from? Do we operate in the Spirit or in the flesh? Are we in Christ or not?
Romans 8:2-4King James Version (KJV)
“2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The Spirit is not some mystical force or a drug that gets you high. The Spirit is a PERSON. The Spirit is God. We walk in the Spirit by spending time with Jesus. So we see that Grace and living in the Spirit all comes back to relationship. The law means nothing without relationship. Its job is to point us to relationship with Christ.
Galatians 5:17-18 KJV
“17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
Hebrews 7:19 KJV
“19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”
Hebrews 10:1 Amplified
“For since the Law has merely a rude outline (foreshadowing) of the good things to come—instead of fully expressing those things—it can never by offering the same sacrifices continually year after year make perfect those who approach [its altars].”
What is a better hope? What are the good things to come? Jesus answers them both. He fulfills the law. I enjoy the Biblical feasts (like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles), but I know that celebrating them will not help me earn God’s favor. The purpose of the feasts are to point us to Jesus. I enjoy the celebrations when I use them as a way to think of Christ and fellowship with Him. There was a time in my life that I saw the feasts in a legalistic way. It’s funny because I completely lost my joy during that time and began to dislike the feasts. They became burdensome to me. Have you ever done this with God’s commands or spiritual disciplines?
Let’s get in the New Testament shall we. Maybe your devotion time or how often you pray has become a burden because you believe these things will make God like you more? Maybe you feel that when you sin or skip church etc… that God all of a sudden dislikes you? Dear one, I’ve been there. Legalism can come into any denomination and it can invade any area of your life. I have seen legalism take over my parenting. I have seen it take over my self esteem…whether as puffed up pride or insecurity (which is just pride in another form). Legalism takes our eyes off of Christ and puts it on ourselves.
Basically this is what Satan did when he tried to overthrow God. He kept saying “I will” “I will”. Satan put his focus on himself and his power. He said in his heart that he did not need God. Then he fell and came to Earth where he convinced humanity that we do not need God. But it’s a lie. We were made by and for God. We are diseased without Him. We are cursed without God. The only cure IS God. Jesus Christ came to be your cure. He is God the Son, a part of the God-head (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 3 in one, the Trinity). Dear Christian, you were not saved so you could do it all yourself.
We must give every bit of our lives to Christ. We must have relationship with Jesus and operate out of that relationship. We must walk in the Spirit. It’s simple. Be with Jesus. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Get to know Him. I pray we won’t miss this simple yet profound truth. I’m there with you. Please pray for me as I pray for you. God wants to be known. He loves us.
God bless and remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover
This is only part 1. Go to the website for all parts.