Summary: A discussion of Law and Grace

Lesson by Pastor John Skaggs

Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

P. O. Box 1447

Claypool, Arizona 85532


Date: 11-16-03

Text: Galatians 2:11-21

Topics Addressed in this Lesson

(A discussion on Law and Grace)

Are You a Legalist?

Have you ever noticed how a certain mind set or behavior can creep in to your life unnoticed? It may be something of little consequence like a change in the foods you enjoy. Perhaps you have hated Artichokes since your childhood but recently you tasted one and found them delicious. Maybe you’ve always been even-tempered and gentle but the person you see in the mirror now is touchy, irritable, and angry. Your family has known of the problem for some time but you are surprised with the reality of it, when did this happen? Similar things happen in our spiritual lives. Perhaps when you were first saved you were diligent to defend yourself against sin. But now, that, once forbidden behavior, has its own room in your heart. It moved in slowly, unnoticed, but it is there nonetheless. It was a subtle invasion, it came in through the back door with no fanfare, announcement, or slamming of doors.

In the spiritual world, legalism is like that; it often sneaks into ones life without one being aware that its taking place. Its not so much that Christians set out to mix law and grace, so as to deprive themselves of peace and joy, rather, they just kind of find themselves in the depressing world of legalism and they don’t recall the journey. Likewise, the God fearing, Bible teaching, preacher doesn’t set out to do his flock harm by corrupting the Gospel with the law but many end up doing exactly that by unconsciously mixing law and grace in their teaching.

I am thinking of a frame of mind that creeps into the lives of many true Christians robbing them of rest, peace, and joy. I think of the person who has trusted in Christ for salvation but after a time believes he must do more than trust Christ if he hopes to make it to heaven. These folks use the language of grace and would never say that trusting Jesus was not enough but their feelings and actions betray “a legalistic frame of mind.” They are driven toward better and better performance, not out of love for God, but out of fear that they may not do enough to get into heaven.

The professing Christian who is a legalist fights against sin in his life, denies himself many pleasures, keeps himself from bad company, attends church, and helps the poor, IN ORDER TO MAKE OR KEEP GOD HAPPY WITH HIM. He may or may not be conscience of his working for heaven. This is legalism.

The professing Christian who understands and lives by grace also fights against sin, denies himself many pleasures, keeps himself from bad company, attends church, and helps the poor, but he does so for an entirely different reason. This person does NOT work to make God happy with him, he works because God HAS forgiven his sin and MADE him part of the family of God based on the works and righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ. THE CHILD OF GRACE LIVES AND WORKS AS HE DOES OUT OF GRATITUDE AND LOVE FOR THE GOD WHO HAS GIVEN HIM SALVATION APART FROM HUMAN WORKS, BY FAITH IN CHRIST. This is grace.

The difference between law and grace for the unbeliever is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. The difference between law and grace for the true believer is the difference between realizing joy, peace, and assurance of salvation as compared to living with no assurance of heaven, no joy, or peace on earth.

Let’s begin our study of this important subject in Galatians 2:11-21 NASB.

"But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I (Paul) opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. {12} For (because) prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; (That is, he enjoyed their fellowship with a clear conscience, sharing meals with them, eating when they ate and what they ate. In other words, Cephas no longer felt bound by Jewish dietary laws, he was now a Christian, free from the law.) but when they came, (the Jews from James) he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. (He feared what the Jews would think, say, or report about him to others. Next we see the effect of Peter’s actions on the Christian Jews in the congregation) {13} And the rest of the Jews (who had also been enjoying fellowship with their Gentile brothers) joined him in HYPOCRISY, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. (Barnabas knew better but he was silently, quietly, subtly, pressed into this sin against the grace of God by Peter’s example) {14} But when I saw that they were not STRAIGHTFORWARD ABOUT THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL, (the truth is, it does not matter what you eat or drink, food has nothing to do with ones salvation) I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you (now) compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

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