WALK WITH GOD UNDER HIS GRACE AND MERCY ON THE CUTTING EDGES OF LEGALISM AND LICENCE
Christian life is like a drunk man on a horse… no sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right and vice versa [Martin Luther]. The physical laws that govern our universe are constant, unchanging and essential for life—but the unseen spiritual laws are just as important. Do we know them?
GRACE and MERCY are two words that are very often used in the Bible, so they are very important words to understand. A quick summary is: GRACE is getting what you don’t deserve, and MERCY is not getting what you deserve.
Let us try to understand this with an example: imagine a criminal who comes before a judge who condemns him to the punishment of death because the law requires it. And if then the judge takes the punishment instead of the criminal and dies instead of him.
The judge leaves his house and his money, his entire inheritance to the criminal. How do you think the criminal will live after that? Not only did he escape the punishment, but he also received an inheritance that originally, he never should have received.
This is exactly what Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ] has done for us, He took the punishment for us like the judge, this is MERCY. He left His house, money and possessions to the criminal this is GRACE – receiving what we don’t deserve.
GRACE and MERCY has been shown to all Christians throughout the world because of what Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ] has done for us. In the same way God calls us to treat others with GRACE and MERCY. Asking us to show love to those who don’t deserve it; and forgiving those who have wronged us.
When we live according to the gospel of GRACE and MERCY [in favour of] in Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ], there is always a risk that people who do not fully grasp it will think we are living in license. Why? Because the GRACE and MERCY of God [favour of God] results in liberty. And to some, this “looks” or “sounds” like license.
Of course, liberty isn’t license. Neither is it legalism. But what is the difference between these three? How can we be sure that we are walking in the liberty and truth of Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ]? This article will help us to examine and understand them better.
2.0 LICENSE – CREATION IS GOD
License or “lasciviousness” is a Biblical term. In fact, Jude shows us the possibility that people would turn the GRACE and MERCY of God into license: “Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace [favour] of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ].” (Jude 1:4).
License is nothing more complicated than saying that because all is forgiven, I can sin. It is saying that when Yeshua [Jesus] stamped my debt to God “paid in full,” that He was issuing me a license to keep on sinning. After all, if all my sin is permanently paid for, then why obey God? Why not sin, if grace covers it?
Most people who practice license have never truly seen they are sinners. They think Christianity is a religion, or a list of teachings to follow. They know little of real repentance and conversion. Thus, they say they believe, but new birth has never taken place (John 3:3).
License attempts to live without any rules. It perverts liberty with human standards of behaviour. It says, “I can do whatever I want. “What some people think is freedom is nothing more than license that leads to bondage. In Galatians we read the license of the flesh:
Galatians 5:13 For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:16-25 What I am saying is this: run your lives by the Spirit. Then you will not do what your old nature wants. For the old nature wants what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so that you find yourselves unable to carry out your good intentions. But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism. And it is perfectly evident what the old nature does. It expresses itself in sexual immorality, impurity and indecency; involvement with the occult and with drugs; in feuding, fighting, becoming jealous and getting angry; in selfish ambition, factionalism, intrigue and envy; in drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you now as I have warned you before: those who do such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things. Moreover, those who belong to the Messiah Yeshua have put their old nature to death on the stake, along with its passions and desires. Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day.
Galatians 6:8 Those who keep sowing in the field of their old nature, in order to meet its demands, will eventually reap ruin; but those who keep sowing in the field of the Spirit will reap from the Spirit everlasting life.
In Galatians we also read desire of the flesh:
Galatians 5:17 For the old nature wants what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so that you find yourselves unable to carry out your good intentions.
License produces the arrogance, unholiness and lukewarmness and lead us to commit sin through LUST OF EYE, LUST OF FLESH AND PRIDE OF LIFE. Adam & Eve were free to eat the fruits of all trees, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil but they failed to do so and separated from God by committing sin through these three types of temptations.
LUST OF EYE, LUST OF FLESH AND PRIDE OF LIFE that also led human beings to worship CREATION and pagan gods rather than CREATOR; and the license of the flesh and desire of the flesh became the top priority.
3.0 LEGALISM- THE LAW [TORAH] IS GOD
Legalism is a term not found in the Bible. The Bible uses the phrase “under the law,” which means that I try to use my rule-keeping to make myself righteous, or to maintain or enhance God’s attitude toward me. In a nutshell, I am walking in legalism when what I do supersedes what Messiah [Christ] has already done for me.
Legalism uses rules to govern every aspect of life and tries to legislate spirituality with “dos and don’ts”. It says rules are LORD and perverts the holiness of God with human rules that leads to produce arrogance, oppression, inconsistency and hypocrisy.
The issue is this: Where is my faith? Not my “on paper” faith, or my “said” faith, but my real, operative, daily faith. Is it solely in Christ for salvation and for daily living? Or is my faith really in my works—in myself—in what I do and what I think I am?
There is an amazing self-deception about legalism. Most legalists usually say, “It is all by God’s grace, but God requires obedience for His grace.” Incredibly, this statement demonstrates exactly what legalism is! God cannot “require” anything for His grace. That is why it is grace! It is free. There are no conditions or requirements.
Obedience is not a requirement for grace, it is the outcome of grace. Until we see this, and understand why, we are never going to see the truth. Notice how legalism is at the opposite end of the moral spectrum from license. Legalism is attempting to be righteous by works, and license is claiming righteousness without works.
Sometimes we get confused When we read on the one hand in Romans 6:14-15, “For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not under legalism but under grace [favour]. Therefore, what conclusion should we reach? “Let’s go on sinning, because we’re not under legalism but under grace”? Heaven forbid!;
And on the other hand in Romans 3:25-31 “God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated God’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [with neither punishment nor remission] the sins people had committed in the past; and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yeshua’s faithfulness. So what room is left for boasting? None at all! What kind of Torah excludes it? One that has to do with legalistic observance of rules? No, rather, a Torah that has to do with trusting. Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by God on the ground of trusting, which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands. Or is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is indeed the God of the Gentiles; because, as you will admit, God is one. Therefore, he will consider righteous the circumcised on the ground of trusting and the uncircumcised through that same trusting. Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah.
In Romans 7:12 apostle Paul writes, “So the Torah [LAW] is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good”. It helps to make oneself righteous, or to maintain or enhance God’s attitude toward him or her. But TORAH [LAW] itself cannot make the MAN HOLY, SACRED and GODLY, because TORAH [LAW] is not GOD.
In Matthew 5:17-25 Yeshua [Jesus] said, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not murder,’and that anyone who commits murder will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment; that whoever calls his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing!’ will be brought before the Sanhedrin; that whoever says, ‘Fool!’ incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of Gei-Hinnom! So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift. If someone sues you, come to terms with him quickly, while you and he are on the way to court; or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer of the court, and you may be thrown in jail! Yes indeed! I tell you, you will certainly not get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not commit adultery.’But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you sin, gouge it out and throw it away! Better that you should lose one part of you than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom. And if your right hand makes you sin, cut it off and throw it away! Better that you should lose one part of you than have your whole body thrown into Gei-Hinnom.
4.0 HIS GRACE– CREATOR IS GOD
Liberty gives enough instruction to direct life without strangling it and says Yeshua [Jesus] is LORD. Under His Grace [in favour] we receive holiness and liberty through the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control [Galatians 5:22-23].
The commandments of God are not restrictive but protective. Liberty means you are free to live a moral and responsible life. What is real Christian liberty? “…where the spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty [2 Corinthians 3:17].
Moreover, in 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 we read, “Yes, till today, whenever Moshe is read, a veil lies over their heart. “But,” says the Torah, “whenever someone turns to Adonai, the veil is taken away.” Now, “Adonai” in this text means the Spirit. And where the Spirit of Adonai is, there is freedom. So all of us, with faces unveiled, see as in a mirror the glory of the Lord; and we are being changed into his very image, from one degree of glory to the next, by Adonai the Spirit.”
It is the reality that nothing we do determines anything about our standing before God. Salvation is a free gift, given by God’s grace and received through faith in Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ]. Liberty is freedom from sin and its penalty—but also freedom to obey God out of simple love for Him.
No person can give themselves the ability to obey God for only love’s sake. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and will grow to dominate us the more we walk with Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ].
In 1 John 4:16 we read, “Also we have come to know and trust the love that God has for us. God is love; and those who remain in this love remain united with God, and God remains united with them.”
“Rabbi, which of the mitzvot [commandment] in the Torah is the most important?” Yeshua the Messiah [Jesus Christ] told him, “‘You are to love Adonai [LORD] your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah [commandment]. And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot [commandments].”- Matthew 22:36-40.
Further in Romans 13:10 apostle Paul says, “Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fullness of Torah.” Here is the critical point – It is not that by keeping the ten or all 613 commandments that I CAN LOVE. But if I LOVE, I will seek to keep the ten or all 613 commandments and will walk with GOD under HIS GRACE and MERCY.