God’s Grace or Legalism?

God's Grace

What happens when God’s grace and legalism are at “war”?  What does God’s grace and mercy mean for us?  Is sin today the same as yesterday?  Is it ok for us to walk according to what we want or how we feel?   Sins and consequences of sins: these are some topics that Dr. Jim talks about to help Christian singles stay focussed on God’s Word and His love.


Grace or legalism – which is correct?

The subject of emails to me seems to run in patterns. Several emails have been received recently that relate in one way or another to whether we should be guided by those who say God is all grace, or those who propose that God is demanding and legalistic. What is interesting to me is the motivation ‘behind’ why one chooses to either submit to the ‘grace’ or ‘legalism’ theory. It appears that they want to live life by their definition and find a way to justify that action.

God’s grace is an awesome gift that God gives to us. I recall the example between grace and mercy that I heard many years ago. Grace is when God gives us something that we do NOT deserve. Mercy is when God does not give us something that we do deserve. Each of us ‘deserves’ eternal separation from God (called death) because of our own personal sins. However, God has chosen before the foundation of time to provide a way of reconciliation for our sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. His ‘mercy’ withholds the death we deserve, and His mercy gives us eternal life through His Son – which we do not deserve. (Read 2Timothy 1:9-10.)

God’s grace is an awesome gift

My dear friends, God has always been and will always be the same. Hebrews 13:8 states that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.’ Conditions or cultures have not changed forcing God to change. There are no new sinful conditions that dictate a change in God’s principles.

God is fortunately a God of grace and of law. In His role as ‘law’, He calls sin a sin. The Bible clearly states that there are consequences to our sins. God is also a God of love and grace. 1John 1:9 tells us ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ Please note that the criteria BEFORE forgiveness is the fact that we must admit that what we have done is sin and confess it so. Confession is not a mumble jumble of certain words. It is a repentant heart, deeply sorry for the action and with a commitment to turn around and not do it again.

I suggest to you that it is incorrect to lean to ‘all’ grace or lean to ‘all’ legalism. Either definition is restrictive of who God actually is.

He calls sin a sin

How does God’s grace and legalism play in divorce?

How does this most often surface in the lives of single adults? It usually comes to play when one is doing something or considering doing something that the Bible states to not do. Example: Matthew 5:32 is a frequently quoted scripture. It reads ‘But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.’

Let me spell it out in black and white. If one divorces for any reason other than unfaithfulness, they must remain unmarried and focus on God to restore the marriage. IF they marry again and do not follow God’s Word and allow God to work in their lives, it is sin – an action clearly different that what God instructs in the verse above.

Dating And Marrying A Divorced Person.

That sounds legalistic one might say. My definition of legalistic is one who takes God’s instructions void of grace. Allow me to show you this in the example I have laid out.

If one who has divorced for other than unfaithfulness and chooses to marry again, it is sin but not the unpardonable sin. God will forgive if asked to do so. However, what is often forgotten is that God’s forgiveness does NOT remove the consequences for the sin. The consequences are different and that is for the person and God to work out. I have found it to never be consequences that were foreseen or wanted.

Why would one want to walk outside of God’s love, blessings and protection?

Focus on God’s Words and His love.

No where in the Bible does it say that we should walk according to what we want or how we feel. To do this is what the Bible calls walking in the ‘flesh.’ Has the flesh ever served us well?

I encourage you to drop labels for patterns of thought and focus on God’s Word and His love. There is a wiser path to living in this world than the one that so readily makes itself available to us. Ask God to clear the fog in your own understanding and guide you to the peace and joy that He hungers to give to you.

God’s forgiveness does NOT remove the consequences for the sin

Dr. Jim
Author of “Guide to Successful Online Christian Dating”

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Comments
  • Ron J says:

    While Dr. Jim has some balance between law and grace – and kudos for the attention to it – he’s missing the heart of the point which is the Gospel. By saying “I don’t recommend that you lean to either grace or legalism, he is suggesting that we should lean on both our own ability to obey as well as God’s grace. But the bible teaches that we cannot earn anything with God by our own obedience and effort. That’s why Jesus came as the second Adam and fulfilled the law on our behalf by living a sinless life. Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded, then in his death took our sins upon Himself once and for all. It is a final act, it is finished, a Gospel that echoes through eternity.

    It is all Jesus, which is God living and working through Christ – He has done it all! Therefore we MUST lean on his grace and his mercy, not on our own effort – that’s why He’s the Rock, we don’t just lean to Him, we STAND ON HIM. For Paul makes it clear in Romans that even our best works are dung, filthy rags. Why? They fall short of God’s perfect law of love.

    Furthermore, we are not under the law (as stated in Romans). Today’s Christians have adopted a modern do-it-yourself brand of Christianity which tries to put stock in our own effort as followers of Christ, as if we have anything virtuous that we can add to the cross. This is all clearly laid out in Romans and again in Galatians where the church was trying to please God by keeping the law. They had accepted Jesus, but then brought back the law, and Paul rebukes them. The law isn’t just circumcision, but any attempt at keeping God’s moral code.

    The law brings death, why? Not because it’s the Boogie Man, but because we CANNOT keep it – for all have fallen short… That’s why we cannot “lean to it.” The grace of God in Christ brings life and peace with God, by cleansing us of our own unrighteousness, and it’s the only thing we can and should “Lean to.”

    As far as our own actions and sin are concerned, we never move from grace to law, never from mercy to our own acts of obedience – we are under grace because it is the only safe place, our own attempts at obedience fall short and will send us to the Lake of Fire.

    Should we ignore the law? Asks Paul in Romans… certainly not! But our relationship with the law has changed, since Jesus has fulfilled it on my behalf it no longer has the sting of death, or the fullness of power over me, and so now the law becomes a guide in which how I should live. It is a blessing not a curse, for I am no longer under the curse of the law (Romans 4) By standing on Mercy and grace, I can now look to the law in the way I should go, while never having the illusion that I somehow meet the law’s demands. This is where my gratitude is born, knowing I fail miserably to keep the law, yet Jesus has declared me perfectly righteous. For I simply cannot keep the law as a fallen creature of Adam, as I am “Born in sin.” having a sinful nature imputed by Adam. But the good news is that Jesus imputes His righteousness to me through the cross.

    The RIGHTEOUSNESS we obtain is an IMPUTED righteousness through Christ. That imputation is what covers the sin handed down (imputed) by Adam’s sin (Again laid out in Romans) Therefore, I look to Jesus as the foundation I stand on, He who is mercy, though my sins be scarlet, He has made me whiter than snow.

    By receiving his mercy and accepting his gift of total salvation, the debt is settled. I can now live under grace. Not striving to earn any good thing from God, but receiving it in Christ. So that all I do is out of gratitude, not a work. Only when I accept that my works of obedience fail, and am standing wholly on the works of Jesus Christ do all my own good works become born out of gratitude. It is a NO CREDIT system. All credit is imputed by Christ and his glorious death.

    Dr. Jim does well to balance law and grace. He just misses the point that the Gospel is all grace and the law only brings death, therefore he misses the place in which we should place our trust. Law and Gospel are not to be mixed, they are two separate and opposite things/categories; (read Luther’s commentary on Galatians for more) the law shows God’s righteousness and what perfect obedience looks like, but only condemns me since I cannot keep it. The Gospel is God’s grace exhibited through Christ’s living that perfect obedient life on my behalf. We should not strive to keep what Christ has done for us. We live under Grace, not Law which Paul goes so far as to call the “new law of grace.”

    But this misunderstanding is prevalent in the American Church today as traditional theology is all but abandoned unless you go back to Luther’s writings or to a Reform Church that understands the whole of scripture, so I can’t blame the good doctor for this misunderstanding, he gets closer to the truth than most who make no distinction between law and gospel at all in effect turning gospel into law – which only heaps a heavy burden on one’s shoulders.

    (I apologize for such a long post, I didn’t have time to edit it down)

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