Legalism Says Do – Grace Says It’s Done
Last week, after I posted my video titled “Legalism Does Not Make You Holy – It Just Makes You *Appear* Holy”, I received some push back from a few readers. It seemed that the main concern was that my message could cause young believers to take advantage of God’s grace. In other words, it felt like I might be giving believers a license to sin. I completely understand this concern, so let me explain further before we look at today’s passage in Galatians.
The message of the cross is that we do not earn our salvation.
We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
No one disagreed with me on that. But there was still a concern that I did not make a strong call to the obedience of believers.
So let me add that when we get to Galatians 5, we will see Paul call on believers to walk in the spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. He will list many sins that are evidence of unbelief and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2 & 12-14:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?…12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Paul asks- Should we sin so grace may abound? No!
And so we see that the Bible is clear that after salvation – which comes through Christ alone, we are called to not let sin have dominion over us and the motivation for obedience is God’s grace – NOT the law.
There is still no place in the church for legalism.
Our motivation for obedience must come from God’s love and grace.
Some of us grew up in homes where maybe your dad left or maybe you had a dad that felt impossible to please and you never felt good enough or maybe your husband has left you. Sometimes when these sorts of things happen, we put our human relationships on God. We take those experiences and apply them to God and we feel like we can’t be loved unconditionally, so we start working to earn it, earn it, earn it.
You are a daughter of God.
Thank him that he is not like those people! He is a perfect father.
We do not have to win God’s approval.
God does not want us trying to earn his love. He wants us to believe his love for us and be secure in that.
Let’s look at how that is further played out in our reading this week in Galatians 4.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Paul says that Jesus was sent to redeem those under the law, so that we are no longer servants but rather a son and heir.
It is his Spirit inside of us that allows us to cry out to him as Abba, Father.
When you remember the story of the Prodigal Son, you might remember that when the son had finally squandered all his wealth and he began to be in need he said:
18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
The Prodigal son decided he would return to his father as a servant but how did the father respond?
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
The heavenly father did not treat the prodigal son as a servant – he treated him as a son!
Most of us believe that God loves people but are you always confident that God loves YOU?
God knows you and he loves you and if you aren’t secure in that, you will spend your life trying to earn it.
In Galatians, Paul says you already have this love relationship, so why do you live like slaves trying to earn his favor when you can’t. We used to be like the slave before we came to Christ but now we are free and receive the full rights of a son.
Galatians 4:7 says as children of God, we are heirs with him.
Consider that as children of God, we have a a great hope of an inheritance waiting for us in heaven.
1 Peter 1:3-4 says:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
As children of God, we have eternal security through Jesus Christ and we do not have to earn it.
Isn’t that amazing!
Shouldn’t that change the way we love God and live for him?
As a daughter of the King of Kings, your relationship with God is secure.
He is your Abba, Father. Do not seek security in other things. Rest in his love because as you learn to rest, you will grow closer and closer to him. And the closer you are to him, the more your heart will desire to honor and obey him.
And so that brings me back to where this blog post began — Our walk with the Lord is not about rules, it is a relationship.
Legalism says – do.
Grace says – it is done.
We do not have to earn our righteousness – that is being self righteous BUT we do want to strive to do what is right and good out of an over flow of our love for our Abba, Father.
You are a daughter of the King of Kings. Live like it and shine for him!
Keep walking with the King,
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Dear Courtney, I did not get the message that you could be giving new believers license to sin at all from your previous message! I thought you were quite clear on the subject, but I guess we all interpret things differently. I actually book marked your post on legalism because it really helped free me from my own struggles with striving, understanding full well by what you said that we obey out of love for what has already been done for us, and not legalism. Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you that it really touched me and I’m thankful. I’m really enjoying this study on Galatians! God bless!
A superb explanation! As someone who feels terrible guilt and inadequacy when I sin, this explanation is very helpful. Thank you!
Please help me! If i believe in Christ I will be saved and should have eternal life. But if Paul says if you sin you will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. So even though I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior but if I still sin I will go to hell?! A sin can be even a bad thought, I can’t control what thoughts may pop up in my head, so my question….just because I believe in Jesus Christ and I commit a sin I will go to hell?? I was told to confess my sins so I will be forgiven, but if I’m about to be killed by accidentally walking in front of a bus and my last word happen to be a cuss word then I don’t have time to confess my sin so I will still go to hell? I struggle every day wondering if I’m believing in Jesus in vain because I can’t be perfect!
I’m sorry you are struggling with this issue, and I hope I can help. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are sealed with His Holy Spirit and belong to Him and you will not go to hell if you commit a sin.
I’m not sure which scripture verse you are specifically referring to, but we all sin on a daily basis, even as believers. This is “missing the mark” so to speak, as opposed to living a life of unrepentant, perpetual sin, which is the sin I believe Paul is referring to. This is the kind of sin you would see the world, or unbelievers, continuously living in with no regard to God. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). After we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God makes us a new creation in Christ and we become the righteousness of Christ, “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Although believers are considered the righteousness of Christ, this does not mean we will not continue to wrestle with our sin nature, and continue to “mess up”, so to speak, until God calls us home. But we have an advocate before God, Jesus Christ, who forgives us as we continually confess our sins, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8). I think the book of 1 John will greatly encourage you regarding this matter, so maybe you can read that. Pray and ask God to help you understand the truth that you belong to Him and that, although we do as believers continue to miss the mark on a daily basis, that does not affect our salvation. Of course our desire is to live to please Him and daily walk in His ways by the power of the Holy Spirit, but we do mess up.
When Jesus died for the sins of the world, it was for every sin ever committed, past, present and future. If your last thought, word or action right before you die is sinful, you will not go to hell because of that. That sin was already nailed to the cross when Jesus died for you (see Colossians 2:13-14). Remember, as a genuine believer, you are the righteousness of Christ in God’s eyes now. Your faith is definitely not in vain!
I hope this helps and can bring you some comfort. I will be praying for you!
Its ok Courtney….you said nothing wrong. You basically said the exact same thing Paul said. Legalists just get mad when they hear the truth and the simplicity of Gods Word.