Summary: If you think God has already done 99.999999999% of what’s necessary for you to be saved, and then it’s up to you to do the remaining .00000001%, then you don’t understand grace.
When I was younger I had brief dreams of being a Biblical Archaeologist. I thought it would be a glamorous job, and that I would unearth some exciting treasure like the Ark of the Covenant or something. So I was excited about an opportunity in college to travel to Israel and to participate in a dig at Beth Shan. After two weeks of back-breaking, tedious work under a hot sun using only a kitchen spoon and a toothbrush to sort through dirt inside a five foot by five foot square, I changed my mind about it being a glamorous profession!
But I know enough about archaeology from that experience, (and from watching the Indiana Jones movies) to know grave robbers are the bane of archaeologists. All across the globe, when archaeologists unearth a historical crypt or grave, they are often disappointed to learn grave robbers have long since looted many of the valuable artifacts.
In my opinion, there is a tragedy occurring that is far worst than anything grave-robbers can do. It is the tragedy of grace-robbers: And grace is more valuable than gold or silver. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul was in prison when he heard some false teachers were going around to the churches and teaching a doctrine that said Christians had to obey the Old Testament laws of God in order to be accepted. The theological label given to these false teachers was, “Judaizers,” because they were telling believers they had to live like law-abiding Jews before they could be real Christians. They were grace-robbers, and we have a new generation of them with us today. They stand in pulpits, teach Sunday School classes, write books, and fill the pews of every church. They would never call themselves legalists or grace-robbers, they just haven’t discovered the liberating power of grace. Because this is such a problem today, I’m going to devote four weeks to this series I’ve entitled: “Beware of Grace-Robbers!”
Let’s read the Bible’s warning found in Colossians 2:14-23:
“…having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore [TIP: Never start reading the Bible at a place where you read, “therefore.” Whenever you see that word, you have to be sure to read the verses preceding it. In other words you have to see what the therefore is there for!] do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
If you were here last week you remember we talked about what was nailed to the cross of Christ. In addition to our sin and shame, along with Satan’s power, God also nailed all the Old Testament regulations to the cross. That means we have been liberated from having to observe the hundreds of trivial Old Testaments regulations we read in books like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Remember, I said the moral law of God is still in effect: It is still wrong to murder, lie and steal. But the ceremonial laws of God have been repealed.
Although there are some grace-robbers today who insist we should still obey these obscure rules and regulations, most modern grace-robbers are those who have substituted a whole new set of rules like, “If you want God to accept you, you must go to church every Sunday, be baptized, give your money, read your Bible, and pray a certain number of times every day...”
Since I will be talking a lot about legalism, let’s start with a working definition: Legalism is the attitude that I can establish or improve my standing before God by my activities. It’s not an act–it’s an attitude. If you think there is anything you can do to either establish a relationship or improve your relationship with God, you may have fallen into the trap of legalism. In this passage, we are introduced to three insidious grace-robbers.