An understanding of the grace of God and His everlasting love for all His creation is gathering power around the world.
It is a beautiful thing to see.
People are being set free from bondages in many forms, the greatest of which is fear as was produced by their adherence to religious rules and regulations. Many are also being freed from anger and despair.
All these are being brought into the glorious freedom of being able to love as they are loved. Understanding and having the experience of being loved without conditions—without being dependent upon their good behavior being greater than their bad—is giving them permission to live as God originally intended.
However, as has been true since the time of Jesus with Judas,
there is danger lurking in the shadows.
Even as the apostle Paul wrote in more than one letter, a return to the legalism of law-keeping is at the door, ready to crash through the slightest opening and steal this wonderful freedom.
Many of our teachers in this current “grace movement” have sounded the alarm, and many followers have also picked up the call. Everyone wants the message to remain pure—without adulteration.
Any admixture to the pure grace teaching is seen as dangerous, because it truly is such.
As a result, though, there is also danger in the watchfulness.
There has been no clear definition of what is meant by “law.” For many, it has boiled down to the place that any suggestion of something that should be done is now labeled “law” and given the curse of anathema.
Let’s think this through for a few moments.
Is it law in opposition to grace when you tell your child, “Do not play in the street?” Does “pure grace” lean completely on the Holy Spirit to direct the child?
When the doctor says, “You should exercise more,” do you reject the advice because it came from an attitude of “law” as a requirement?
“Guard your heart…” (Pro. 4:23) is a straight out imperative. Do we ignore it because it is written as a command?
Yet in our “grace camp” there are those who seem to bristle at any phrase, statement, or even innuendo which appears as “law.” Requirements are out, they say. “I don’t HAVE to do anything.”
On the surface, that is absolutely correct. You do not HAVE to do anything. But, that is nothing new. You were never under any requirement. You may have chosen to obey whatever, but the choice was always and still is yours.
So, that is not the issue here.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest, or most important commandment, He quoted Deuteronomy and gave the two “love laws” of God and neighbor. However, we tend to either miss or gloss over the full quote from the fifth book of the Bible.
In Mark’s account, neither did Jesus miss the full quote. It begins with a command—“Hear, O Israel!”
Some have pointed out that there is no word for ‘obey’ in Hebrew. The word we translate as ‘obey’ is the word for ‘hear.’
This is what parents mean when they scold their child with “You’re not listening to me!” The child knows that they are ‘listening’ and can repeat every word you just said. What they are not doing is obeying.
This is where it gets a little sticky.
We don’t want to be told to do anything by anyone. That is the current mantra of many in the “grace movement.” However, it was in our DNA long before we came into grace. It is at the heart of any and all of our rebellion to anything in any form.
What are we to do? How do we respond? How do we avoid, then, any mixture of law in our message of grace and love?
There are no easy answers.
It may appear to be a conundrum, but we are not impaled on the horns of a dilemma if we will simply take time to think.
It has been fashionable for a few years to claim that the Decalogue as given by Moses was not “The Ten Suggestions.” In reality, though, they are—in a manner of speaking.
The so-called Ten Commandments are written in the indicative mood, which means they “indicate” something. They indicate how the believer acts.
Instead of reading “You may not,” read them as “You won’t.”
One who loves will not steal or tell lies or commit adultery. It doesn’t enter into their mind. They are not focused on what they should or shouldn’t do. It simply IS.
There are many in the grace camp who would do away with any part of the Bible that seems to indicate a ‘law of requirement.’ (Yes, there are some who have done away with the Bible altogether. This is not for them.)
James, the Lord’s brother, is credited with having written the letter that bears his name. His words are often put in contrast over against the words of the apostle Paul as if James is an outright legalist and should be ignored by any who are coming into grace.
(Did you notice the irony there? “…should be…”)
Is he a legalist?
Is it not possible that we read his words with a jaundiced eye?
When James writes, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” do we ignore
Pro. 4:23 on the basis that James is a legalist and I have no requirement to be a doer?
Many will say, “I refuse to be brought under any form of law.”
Is that really where we want to stand?
When Paul was arguing against allowing the law, he was opposing legalism. He was against any exercise of effort on our part to be “right with God.”
In this we should stand firm.
Legalism is the law of requirement to make one righteous.
When Paul writes that we should “speak the truth in love,” (Eph. 4:15) is that not a command? Should we avoid that because it is written as a law? Or, should we not rather view it as it is—a principle.
We use the term “law of gravity” which means there is a principle of gravity which must be considered if we want to do certain things.
LOVE is just such a ‘law.’ It is a principle by which we operate. “Speaking the truth” is an indication of how love will look in that situation. “Being at peace with all” is an indication of what love looks like in the world.
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Is this a legalistic command which should be avoided?
If we have the correct words without the corresponding actions we are nothing but a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
The so-called commands of the New Testament are basically indicators of what love looks like. Use them as a benchmark to mark the level of your growth in love.
Let us get over our fear of mixture in the grace message, because fear has torment and is not a part of love.
Let us begin to hear with ears that are tuned to what is being said, not necessarily how it is being said. As humans, we are limited in our language—especially those of us who speak the English language with all its limitations of a multitude of definitions for a single word.
We are love personified,
there is no fear in love.