Christian Living

Rebellion: Legalism v. Grace

I have declared myself a rebel.  I don’t take that back.

However, it’s important to clarify something here.  I was counseled to be cautious as I revel in this “rebellion” to remember the warnings of Scripture.

It is in the heart of the definition of what rebellion is that I call myself a rebel.

The key is found in what the heart of our rebellion is based upon.  In 1 Samuel 15:23, the Lord warns those who are rebellious:

For rebellion is as the sin of divination,  and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord…

I bring up this verse as it was brought up to me, as a caution to all of us rebels.  The basis for our rebellion must be as those who are throwing off a focus on the external, facades, legalism, and “religious-correctness”.   Our rebellion must be against that which is based in man’s failed wisdom and the legalism that results from that.  In no manner am I encouraging us to throw off the Truth of God’s Word, Who He Is, or what He calls us to. 

Legalism:  a dependence on moral law and the development of extra-Biblical rules in which one finds their spiritual confidence and assurance.

Legalism – This is what I rebel against.  This is the lifestyle that so many fellow believers find themselves enslaved to.  This is what I’m calling us from!

As manifested in my upbringing and in those that I know and love, legalism has made its presence known in the addition of extra-Biblical rules including but not limited to strict dress requirements, head coverings for women, Bible translation requirements, limitations on musical instruments and styles, the drinking of any alcohol, the viewing of any movies within a theater, and judgement for those who have differing beliefs.  Within this legalistic view, any straying from those extra-Biblical standards is seen as rebellion.  However, those standards are not found in the heart of the Truth of God’s Word but rooted in man’s fear of failure, the prison of guilt, and a misunderstanding of the character of God and the grace He offers to his children.

This is not a new struggle.  In fact, In Matthew 23, Jesus addresses the Pharisees and their focus on outward demonstrations of “obedience” and their judgment of those who did not follow the rigid standards they had added to the Old Testament Law.

In Galatians 2, we read that Peter leaned towards legalism in his ministry and called some Gentile believers to circumcision (part of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants).  This is the same issue that was addressed in Acts 15.  That covenant was fulfilled in the Messianic covenant, the sacrifice of Christ.  Paul confronted him on the addition of an extra-Biblical rule that Peter was saying demonstrated true repentance and belief but which was far from something that Jesus had asked of his disciples.

Colossians 2 is also a wonderful reminder as well of the heart of Grace and the inability to gain any favor with God through the actions we demonstrate:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. … And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

He goes on to beg for us to walk in the freedom we have in Christ and not in the “elemental spirits of the world”:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Grace: God’s unmerited favor.

Grace – This is what I’m relishing in. This is where I’m finding my freedom.  This is what I’m calling us to!  In reading for this declaration, I discovered John MacArthur’s article “What is Grace?”  In fact, from this article, I found an even more beautiful definition of Grace: “the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.”

It is that understanding of my own state before Holy God, my lack of deserving, my inability to earn any favor before Him that finds me on my face reveling in the beauty that is salvation, the power that is Grace.  It is that gratitude that leads me humbly through my life as I walk, throwing off all illusion that any work of my own might accomplish any manner of favor in His eyes.  It is that gratitude that reads and understands the Love and Mercy He demonstrates continually throughout Scripture, and it is that gratitude that finds me holding fast to a single Truth, that which is clearly stated through passage and principle of the Word.

This understanding removes all guilt, decimates my ability to add my faulty wisdom to the Holy Wisdom of God’s Word by adding extra-Biblical standards, and leaves me singing of His amazing Love.

 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

Rejoice with me, my fellow rebels!  For Love has come and because we are now seen through the Righteousness of His Son, there is no fear of punishment.  We are perfected in love.

1 thought on “Rebellion: Legalism v. Grace”

  1. This is so good. Our family has spent far too long in churches with (and I’m not going to sugarcoat here) staunch legalists who want everything so-so and perfect. Hair, dress, school, movies, music, who you socialize with, etc. It got to the point that the other families who we fellowshipped with didn’t ever talk to anyone outside of our church, ’cause you know, they weren’t like us! Where is the ministry and loving like Jesus would in that?

    This past year has been so blessed, after God showed us how much it all was just a facade and totally ridiculous and unnecessary, it’s been amazing to see how much God can now work through our family. The direction we’re going in – the rebellion of sorts – I’m excited! Not because we are at all moving AWAY from Him, but instead we are RUNNING TO Him, and it comes with a world of peace and grace that rules and regulations could never earn.

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