Summary: Are you living under Grace or Law or maybe a form of Graw or Lace?
The argument over Grace versus Law or a mixture like Glaw or Lace has been going on for centuries. That is to be expected because there was such a radical change between the Old and New Covenant it was bound to bring about controversy. The Jews who had been under the Old for so many centuries could not grasp a concept of God changing it. The Gentiles who had never been under it could not comprehend the hang ups the Jews had over having a new relationship with God without a lot of rituals. Besides, why in the world would you want to pass up a ham sandwich or be tied to so many rituals?
We see the conflict and merging pains of the Jew/Gentile church in Romans 14 and 15. Gentiles coming to the Lord’s Supper with a dish that was not traditionally washed with pork roast on it. Jews not touching even a good pot roast because they heard that Lycinius bought it at the vendor who got his daily rations from the temple of Zeus. Both eyed each other with suspicions. The Jews were bunch of Pharisees to Linus and Avril gasped at the blatant lack of holiness of those pagans in the midst.
Those chapters are often taught incorrectly and abused by people trying to justify some sin or get people to back off a “gray” area. Many times they are taught with an attitude of, “Weaker brother, grow up.” That was the title of an article in a major evangelical magazine some years back. Paul is saying in those chapters, “Stronger brother give up your liberty.” If liberty needs to be given up until a weaker brother comes to understanding and strength then so be it. If he never grows up, then for the sake of peace and love then surrender your liberty until death.
Nothing Paul spoke about in those chapters had anything to do with gray areas. Indeed, he was saying the Gentiles had it right in principle, but terribly wrong in practice. Indeed, all days are God’s days and all meats are lawful, but don’t force your liberty on the weaker brother. He also told the Jews to not judge the Gentiles. Indeed, if they thought the Gentiles were the weaker brothers than they were also to walk in love with them. Shoving a ham sandwich in the face of your Jewish brother shouting, “Eat up! You’re under grace” is not loving or the way to teach. Calling your Gentile brother a stinking law breaking pagan is not going to convince him to change his opinion of the ham sandwich or you. Loving, but truthful, dialogue and respect will go a long way.
All of this was going on long after the Jerusalem Council made its decree on what was required of the Gentiles. Four things were to be avoided; fornication, idolatry, things strangled and blood. That’s it. No other points of the Law or Jewish traditions, not even the Sabbath. That should be the last word on the issue for Gentiles. They had a chance to drop the hammer. Many of them were going about saying you cannot be saved unless you believe on Christ plus be circumcised and keep the Law. If James had pronounced that we should be pork free and living in tabernacles once a year then those who want to have Grace and Law merged would have some legal precedence. He said not a word of any of that and yet through the centuries the same questions and battles keep coming up.
We live in an age like many others because as one of my professors said, “Human nature has not changed since the Fall and will not change until after the Millennium.” Humans tend to be active pendulums swinging from one side to the other instead of finding balance. This is why we have those who are stuck in a dead orthodoxy and others practicing wildfire pietism. One cannot allow the Spirit to breathe His life into the Word of God so that letter does not kill and the other wants to dump all doctrine and sound interpretation for subjective feelings in the name of love allowing the Holy Spirit to have free rein. Sometimes the spirit that is having a free rein is their human spirit or even a dark spirit posing as an angel of light. God is a god of balance and the Word and the Holy Spirit work in tandem. The Spirit will never contradict the Word that He was a part of writing and the Word will never hobble the work of the Holy Spirit. It is very difficult to find balance these days.
All that leads us to Galatians chapter three, where Paul is actively resisting the Glaw they are seeking to bring about in the church due to some folks from Jerusalem teaching this error. These fellows show up in that century’s version of Armani suits with glowing pedigrees or degrees. People tend to gravitate towards that because they are taught to respect people like that. Unfortunately, many heretics and con artist can play the role and look the part. Paul, from a human perspective, had a hard time competing with that. He did not dress like a bum, but he would not have been a “dress for success” type. Many believe he was a short man and after all he had gone through he would have had many visible scars along with bad eyesight. The other lads waxed eloquent when they spoke and sounded very erudite while Paul admitted he was crude of speech. All this would have been the death knell for the average person’s ministry except Paul had the truth and He was handpicked by Christ. With that background, you don’t quit. He was likely better trained then some of the pretty boys that showed up, but he relied upon the Holy Spirit rather than his own pedigrees that he considered as dung.