It amazes me how that the church completely rejects the Bible’s teaching that the just shall live by faith. The church has no problem believing you are saved by faith, but once you teach that we must live the same way we enter the Christian life, legalist call this ‘disobedience’.
Legalism attempts to force Christians to choose between believing in the grace of Christ and obedience, as if these two are opposing forces. This is a false teaching. The Apostle Paul said it best when legalist persuaded the Galatian church to submit back under the law when he said, “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, do you now think you are perfected in the flesh?” He goes on to explain that it is the hearing of faith that transforms their lives, not turning back to the law.
In order to create conflict, legalists are telling the church that believing in God’s grace through Christ is equal to disobedience. We supposedly must choose between grace and obedience. The truth is, obedience IS trusting in grace. When the law-minded religious community came to Jesus and ask what they must do to do the works of God, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Christ] whom He [God] sent.”
God didn’t change His mind after the cross. This is still the work of God, that you believe on Christ. Everything comes through Christ. Nothing comes through human effort. The just shall live by faith – not – the just shall live by the law or by works.
Here is a typical response I received. Similar arguments often come from legalistic believers in the law. As you read this, ask yourself, “Do these scriptures undermine grace?”
This was posted in response to the article, The Myth of Hypergrace:
Let’s let the Scriptures Speak for themselves. 1 john 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Matthew 5:16-19 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 24:46-48 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Does 1 John 5:2-3 teach that God is pleased by works and not by faith in the grace of Christ? If anything, this shows why scripture should not be taken out of context. This builds on what John said in 1 John 3:23
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
The commandment is not to return to the law, but to believe on Christ, and out of a heart that is receiving by faith, we have the love of God (which is agape) and through the love we are abiding in, we also express agape toward one another. Man is incapable of agape love outside of the Spirit. Man’s love is called ‘philia’ love in the Bible. Agape love is the love of God that is poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
Legalism takes a passage that places our trust in Christ and transforms it into a law that trusts in what we do for Christ – or think we do for Christ.
Now let’s look at the next objection from Matthew 5:16-19. The answer is actually in the objection. Jesus indeed says that the law will not pass away until all is fulfilled, but in verse 16, He clearly says, “I have come to fulfill the law.” If Jesus has fulfilled the law, are we now going to count the blood of His sacrifice as a common thing and do despite to the Spirit of grace, and try to fulfill it ourselves? (See Hebrews 10:29).
This question is also answered in Romans 8:4
The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Verse 2 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. The Bible calls the law ‘the ministry of death’ (see 2 Corinthians 3:7). Romans goes on to explain that the mind on the law is in the flesh, but the mind in the Spirit (which is the mind on faith in Christ) creates life. After explaining that the mind stuck in the law is the mind in the flesh, verse 8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” People try to make it sound like those who are in the flesh are those who are committing adultery and other sexual sins. Not so. The mind that is not in the Spirit by faith is in the flesh, no matter what the person is doing or not doing.
This is further affirmed by Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The law is strangely absent from this promise. Other than the law of faith, which is to trust fully in Christ. Man desires to have a share in his own salvation because it gives him glory. But God said, “No flesh shall glory in my presence.” You cannot make God owe you salvation. You can’t make God owe you a reward. Your obedience cannot put God in debt to you. Obedience without faith is actually disobedience, for we are rejecting the gift of God’s righteousness, and trying to usurp glory for ourselves by substituting our righteousness in God’s place.
To the claim that grace-believers are teaching people to not obey the law, I refer back to Jesus’ words. He came to fulfill the law, and we who walk in the Spirit by faith have fulfilled the law in Him. We are doing the works of God because we believe in Christ, who was sent to fulfill the law AND redeem us out of the debt of the law.
To those who trust in the law, I refer you to Galatians 5, which warns that those who submit to the law are a debtor to keep the whole law – not just a modernized version of the law that fits our lifestyle. I also refer you to James 2:10, which warns that if you keep the whole law, but stumble on one point, you are guilty of all the law.
Why is it so hard for legalists to see that the law is not a merit system, but a condemnation system? If you fail once, you are guilty. There is no blessing. There is no reward. There is no honorable mention. The law was intended to make every person guilty (Romans 3:19-20) so we were driven to Christ. If you trust in the law, you are not trusting in Christ, but yourself. And the Bible says that your flesh IS the weakness of the law. You are the weak link. That is until you enter Christ, who fulfilled the law, which none of us can do.
Finally, let’s look at the misconception of the meaning of Luke 24:46-48. This does not point to your ability to keep the law. It is not a man-dependent religion. It all points to Christ, not our ability to become Old Covenant keepers. Forgiveness is through Christ, not obedience to the law. It can’t be obedience to the law, for we just discussed that one offense nullifies any obedience. That is the nature of law. A good man who breaks the law is a law breaker in the eyes of the law. No one can point to all the good things they have done as a defense for their crime in a courtroom. Their good means nothing. They broke the law, and the law demands condemnation and penalty.
This is through Christ. And the word repentance has nothing to do with keeping the law. To repent means to change the mind. Your mind was once in the flesh, but when faith came, you were invited into the Spirit. The mind in the Spirit is life and peace, but the mind in the flesh is death. Repentance means to change the mind from the flesh to the Spirit – which means turning from anything else (religious or anti-religious) and turning to faith in Christ alone.
According to the Bible, you and I have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness by God’s divine power through Christ.(See 2 Peter 1:3) What is not included in all things? Is there anything other than life and godliness? It is a call of faith. Christ has accomplished all things, and all things are given to those who will believe and receive by faith. Righteousness, godliness, holiness, the fruit of the Spirit and all other things are gifts of God through Christ.
Romans 4:4-5 makes it clear that grace is freely given through faith, but unattainable through works. The moment you try to earn grace, it becomes your debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.
The natural mind scoffs at grace, and to that mind the Bible says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is no surprise that religion hates grace, for the Bible says, “The natural mind cannot understand the things of God and cannot receive them, for they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are trusting in their own works and righteousness scoff at the grace of Christ, for the natural mind cannot understand how grace drives out sin. They don’t understand how a life that has been freed from the law will do by nature the things that are in the law, and do so without fear of condemnation or a legalistic rule demanding submission. Grace frees us to walk according to our new nature, but legalism calls us to take our eyes off Christ, and return to the same type of system that couldn’t succeed through human effort.
When the natural mind encounters grace, it rages. It does so because the fleshly mind is threatened by anything that does not build its glory. Or as the Apostle Paul said about those who were trying to bring the church back under the law. They don’t keep the law, but they desire you to be under the law that they may glory in your flesh. In other words, the flesh feels glorified when it persuades others to submit to the form of religion it is drawing self-glorification from.
The truth is, we are all receivers of God’s works as we trust in Christ. Anything we do for God is a rejection of what God has done for us. But by faith, we are transformed into Christ glory as we behold His glory. By faith, we enter the Spirit where the life of the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. Only then will our outward behavior reflect the righteousness of God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But we have the promise, walk in the Spirit (which is walking by faith in Christ) and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.(Galatians 5:16) That’s a promise the law cannot fulfill. Compare that to Romans 7:5, which says the law stirs up the passions of the flesh. Faith and grace stirs up our life in the Spirit, and legalism and law stir up the flesh. Which is more likely to produce obedience?