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This week’s SS lesson brings out the wonderful balance of the gospel. I will never forget the night long ago now, that I was at the bedside of a dying saint. Her pastor told her over and over to rest in Jesus and His love. While she was dying she would smile a gentle smile when the pastor mentioned Jesus. As the pastor told her to rest in God’s grace, he never mentioned once all the wonderful works this lady did for the church and community. She died that night clinging to the cross alone. Yet she did do many wonderful things while alive, not to be saved, but because she was saved!
While we can never earn salvation by our goodness, we must not get the idea that the robe of righteousness which Jesus gives us to wear is a cloak to cover un-confessed sins. In Zechariah 3, Joshua has his filthy garments removed before the robe of Christ’s righteousness is put on him. While Joshua could do nothing to make himself clean, God could and did.
Thursday’s lesson deals with two extremes, cheap grace and legalism. I would like to share some comparisons I put together a few years ago to help us understand this important topic.
First, the Gospel Versus Legalism:
Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.
The Gospel: God provided a sacrifice to obtain OUR love. Romans 5:10-12: “ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the cross enables the humans to love their God.
Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to be saved.
The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus. John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.
The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus. Isaiah 53:4-6: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.
The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.”
Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.
The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences. 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”
Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.
The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2 :8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Legalism: Me plus Christ.
The Gospel: NOT I, BUT CHRIST. Galatians 2:20: “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Legalism: Self- centered. Obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.
The Gospel: God- centered. Obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory. “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11
Legalism: All about pride and rewards.
The Gospel: All about love and humility.
The Gospel Versus Cheap Grace
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Inspiration tells us that at the end of time every wind of doctrine will be blowing. Even in the days of Jude, He tells us, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…” Jude 4. So, how can we tell the Gospel of grace that Jesus and Jude talk about from the lasciviousness or “cheap grace” that has ”crept in unawares” ? Let’s take a look:
Grace: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people FROM their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Cheap Grace: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people IN their sins.
Grace: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Cheap Grace leaves out verse 10.)
Grace: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2: 11, 12
Cheap Grace: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, we can only deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly, NOT in this present world but after the Second Coming of Jesus.
Grace: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” Romans 1:5
Cheap Grace: By whom we have received grace and apostleship….
Grace: “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Cheap Grace: The UNjust shall live by faith. Note: The just are those who are obedient and right with God. Paul says they maintain their obedience and relationship with God by faith. That is how they stay just. If faith and grace covered those who continue to live in disobedience, then Paul would have to say the UNjust shall live by faith.
Grace: “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” Zechariah 3:3-4 Note: In the genuine gospel the angel is instructed to take away the filthy garments before the clean garments are given. God’s grace is not a cloak for sin.
Cheap Grace: Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, I will cover your filthy garments with white raiment.
Grace: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Hebrews 5:9
Cheap Grace: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all who just believe.
Grace: “[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
Cheap Grace: [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, even if they continue in the flesh.