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Balancing Grace with Law?

May 16, 2011

The first question I want to ask you is this: Is it okay to take something less than pure?

Today, most believers tend to “jump” between covenants. If they feel they are not worthy, feeling very lousy, they go back to the Old Covenant and obey the Law in order to please God. If they are in a good mood, they put themselves back in the New Covenant, the grace of God. Let me tell you this: WE CANNOT JUST PICK WHAT WE LIKE FOR ANOTHER COVENANT!

When Jesus died, He brought an end to the Old Covenant and that marked the beginning of the New Covenant. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord, we become part of the New Covenant. We are already under Jesus’ will and testament in the New Covenant. We cannot take bits and pieces and pollute the New Covenant.

Need for balance?

I’m sure you heard the following statements (made by believers) before:

“Preaching pure Grace leads to a careless life.”
“Taking the Law off gives people a license to sin.”

The reason that believers would come up with such statements is that they think that there are some Christians who are discipline and mature enough and that they don’t sin but there are some younger, new or “weaker” Christians that may sin and they need to learn certain aspects of the Law.

Concern: “Weaker” Christians do not have “maturity” to handle such freedom.

Therefore need to “balance” Grace with Law to warn against the perils of sinning.

They think that they need to come up with rules and regulations in their lives but they forget that we have been delivered from the Law and the Spirit of the Lord lives in us in which He leads and guides us.

Grace Brings About Godliness

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. (Titus 2:12)

What is it that teaches us and for what?

The grace of God, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly. (I will be repeating this sentence quite often to show EMPHASIS)

When people talk like that (previous statements in ‘Need for Balance?’), they forget what the Bible says. The Bible never says that the grace of God will leas us to sin. The Bible says that the grace of God will teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. So you want to listen what other people say or what the word of God say?

Sometimes we also forget that the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our right standing before God. The Holy Spirit has come to convict us for our righteousness in Him! When you know that you are holy and clean, you don’t want to go near unholy things.

The Holy Spirit completes the transforming work in the life of a believer. (Philippians 1:6) So don’t be fooled by what people says around us. Go back to the Scriptures! It is the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and because of the teaching of the grace of God that we may be able to live soberly, righteously, and godly in our life in this present age!

Why Cannot Mix?

Grace is unbalanceable! The moment you balance grace with human works or human responsibility, it stops being grace.

What is grace?

Grace is the unmerited favour and it is not something that you do. You cannot balance unmerited favour with merited favour. 

It is only by the finished work of Jesus and that’s all! Otherwise, it is my works trying to finish the finished work of Jesus. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

New Wine and New Wineskins

Matthew 9:14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

John the Baptist was known as the last prophet of the Old Covenant.

Jesus’ disciples were just not measuring up: Why are they not doing what religious people do?

Implication: “We keep the rules and are therefore righteous, so why don’t You and Your disciples keep the rules?”

Jesus’ time with His disciples: like a wedding. He’s the bridegroom, and they are the guests.

When the bridegroom is there, we don’t talking about fasting. It is a time of joy and celebration, isn’t it? It’s really ludicrous to go to a wedding dinner and fast! What Jesus was telling them was:

“Hey, you don’t recognise who is in your midst. I am in your midst. The Son of God, the Saviour of the world. the One who would die for the sins of the world and the One that causes you to be righteous forever by the shedding of My Blood. You don’t recognise that I am in your midst. And when I am in your midst, you don’t have to fast for your righteousness.”

He thus spotlights the One they are trying to discredit, who is breaking their precious rules.

Matthew 9:16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.

You cannot repair the old, damaged garment by simply adding the new, unfinished cloth to it – result would be something even more damaging. The new piece of cloth will shrink and that will cause a bigger tear to the whole piece of cloth.

New, unfinished cloth = His plan of salvation by grace

Old, torn garment = condition of Judaism distorted to produce their own self-righteousness.

The Lord gave them the Law to the Israelites but over the years, the Pharisees in their eagerness to show their zeal and at the same time, unable to keep up with the Law and distorted it so much si that now there so many glaring holes in that garment now. And that if they cover it with the New Covenant then that doesn’t work. God is doing a new thing in Jesus. The New Covenant is not the Old Covenant patched.

Matthew 9:17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The old is still incompatible with the new.

Now you begin to understand why people are so afraid of the teaching of grace. It is because it is the new wine. It would destroy and burst the old wineskin. It would destroy all the concepts of praying.

Some people say:

“You must pray very hard, then God can hear you.”

If we adopt this, then we are no different than any other religious system in the world.

Others say:

“You need to fast so that God can hear you.”

There’s nothing wrong about fasting. If the Lord ask you to fast, by all means go ahead. But if you fast in oder to gain favour from the Lord and to enable the Lord to hear you then you are still in the old wineskin.

The new wine of the gospel of grace would destroy those trapped in their rigid, religious ways. The new wine can only be contained in the new wineskin of the Church, a grace-based community.

Luke 5:39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’

Not that the old is better, but that people think the old is better.

Why do they want to go back to the old wineskin?

The old wine gives you comfort. There’s so many rules. You must wake up in the morning, pray and after that, read the Bible. There are rules to govern you. You feel safe within the rules and that’s why they want to go back and said that the “old is better.” Warning: do not resist change, overvalue the old or find false security in it.

“old” = palaios = something whose time has passed, lost its usefulness or is worn out.

As far as our standing before the Lord is concerned, we know that in the old wineskin, we can never attain the righteousness that qualifies us to stand uncondemned without guilt before the Father. The Old Covenant had lost its usefulness.

Galatians: Example of Mixture

What happened to the churches in Galatia?

– Influenced by Judaistic legalism.

– Added to the New Covenant’s gospel of Grace the practices of the Law of the Old Covenant (Circumcision – to put yourself under the Law)

– Adopted a practice of observing the days, months, times, and years.

– Growth process was stopped and Christ was not “formed in them”.

As a result, works of the flesh predominant instead of the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatianism = mixture of covenants.

The intermingling of teachings about God that contain part grace, part law. From Paul’s severe tone in the epistle, this was very serious issue for him.

Paul’s views:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel —7 which is really no gospel at all. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! So now I say this again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The Galatians did not even make a stand against the Judaistic legalism. Paul said clearly it is really NO GOSPEL AT ALL!! Paul pronounced a double curse on those who preached a different gospel. There is only one gospel. The gospel is Jesus who died for our sins.

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

There are many people who wanted to be an associate saviour but there is only one Saviour of the world. In the same way, we all tend to add or contribute a little bit more to the gospel. But the gospel is so simple. There is only one Saviour of the world and His name is Jesus!

Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Gal 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God —or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?

Galatians 4:30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will  never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”

Paul took an example of Abraham’s time.

Abraham, by his own effort, bore a son named Ishmael, a slave woman’s son. He also had a son named Isaac, the son of promise, The two sons cannot stay together. The instruction that was given  to Abraham was to get rid of the slave woman and her son. You cannot live by Grace and by the Law.

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Christ died for us to set us free from the fact that we need external restrain on our lives instead of living by the Spirit in us. We don’t need a cage to stop us anymore. We can choose not to go beyond because of the Spirit of God in us.

Galatians 5:13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.

Many of those who tell us that you need to obey the Law and do this and do that to be more holy and sanctified and so on. They themselves are not there yet!

Today we are also facing the same pressure like what the Galatians faced:

“Yes, you are saved by grace, but now you have to start living a holy life by keeping the Law.”

The same thing when John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were always trying to point out to Jesus. Sometimes we come up with good intentions. Because of their lack of understanding, it may come up with good intentions. They really want you to be more holy but they are choosing the WRONG way, the WRONG method and the WRONG path.

You are going back to the Law again. What is the Old Covenant?

Obey and expect to be blessed. Fall short and fail, there is guilt, condemnation and expectation of punishment.

What is the New Covenant?

It is not because of our obedience but because He obeyed. Jesus obeyed and He took the pain. Because He took the pain, we don’t take the pain anymore. Jesus took the curse and became the curse so that today we won’t be cursed. We will be blessed instead!

What man calls balance, God calls mixture.

To God, wrong believing is far worse than wrong behaviour! Right believing always leads to right living.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

If we know who are in Christ, that we will affect how we behave sooner or later. If your spirit is clean inside you, sooner or later, your spirit will influence the way you think. It will influence the way you act. The Bible says:

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...

How does your mind renew?

If you believe you are not right and you try to make yourself right, you will never be right. If you think you are not completely right because of what Jesus has done for you, that you need to add something to it, then you will never be right.

Laodicea and Lukewarmness [With reference from Paul-ine Theologian (hischarisisenough.wordpress.com)]

Revelations 3:15-16 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Lukewarmness = apathy or lack of zeal?

– Better to be on fire for God or coldly opposed to Him than be halfhearted in the middle.

Three problems with interpreting this verse in terms of zeal:

1) Zeal is subjective

What is hot to you may be lukewarm to someone else.

2) Zeal implies God’s acceptance of us is based on our performance

– Things we should do, or rather things we aren’t doing enough of.

Performing to be acceptable to God = self-righteousness in disguise.

Defining lukewarmness in terms of performance implies some middle ground when it comes to our acceptance. But there is no middle ground.

3) Jesus says we’re better off cold

Jesus said either hot or cold is good. If referring to enthusiasm, why would He say it’s better to have none than have some?

Lukewarmness is not about human zeal.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.”

Something they were doing made them lukewarm and unacceptable. What was it? Lukewarmness is about mixing some things. Two good things in the Bible that, if mixed, ends up bad: law and grace.

The grace of God is good, but what about the law?

Romans 7:12 “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”

The law is good because it leads us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). It shows that we can never be qualified because of the Law. The law has no power to make you righteous and good, but it will reveal your need for a Saviour, Jesus Christ.

How do you dilute the power of the law? 

By lowering God’s holy standards to attainable levels of human performance. The Pharisees are very good in that. Jesus exposed them completely through the Sermon of the Mount. The Pharisees brought the standards down. Example: On the Sabbath, you cannot do work. But when they want to do work, they make another law so that they could do work and therefore circumvent the law.

How do you negate the unmerited favor of God?

By trying to earn it through observing the commandments and other acts self-righteousness. When we mix the two covenants, we are bringing both of it to destruction. That is why Jesus said if you out new wine into old wineskin, it will destroy both of them.

Laodicea’s problem:

Not complacency, but trying to attain through human effort that which only God can do. The problem was far more serious than a poor attitude. They were trying to make themselves righteous. They negated what Jesus has done on the cross.

God never makes us sick but it’s possible for people to make Him feel sick! Jesus said the Laodicean church’s lukewarmness made Him nauseous:

Revelations 3:16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

Grace + Law = a toxic mixture far more poisonous than the Law on its own.

It leaves us burdened with guilt and shame in our attempts to please God.

Legalism = any belief that any part of salvation is based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Mixture (legalism + grace) = anything extra to be more saved, holier, fit for the kingdom or entitled to inheritance and reward of grace.

Only Christ’s righteousness entitles us to salvation and our inheritance.

1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God —that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

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