When you truly get hold of the message of the grace of God, it sets you free from sin, not free to sin. You will end up living holier than you ever would have out of legalism. You will serve God out of love, stricter and stronger than you ever would have, out of legalism.
gracetidings with Dr Doug Mamvura
It is this word of His grace “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance…” (Acts 20:32).
The gospel of Christ is the most basic, foundational message of the New Testament, yet it’s the most misunderstood, no wonder some believers think it gives people “licence to sin”. Today’s religious system is not preaching the same gospel that Paul did. It is now a different gospel that has been “smuggled” into the church (Jude1:4) which is laced with persuasive words of human wisdom” and also mixed with law. That isn’t the gospel at all.
Paul faced a lot of criticism when he preached this message of grace. When I get people criticising me for preaching the same message of grace, I know I am not the first one. It takes revelation to appreciate this gospel, no wonder Paul says he wasn’t taught it by man.
The book of Romans is Paul’s masterpiece on the study of grace, but the book of Galatians is his strongest teaching on the subject. Paul takes off the gloves and gets brutal in his teaching about the grace of God.
He went straight to the point in his letter to the Galatians and stated:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel”. This is the same cry that I have as I write this article, that some of us have turned to “a different gospel”. Paul used the terms “gospel” and “grace” interchangeably. The heart of the gospel is grace. Any deviation from that is a perversion of the gospel.
These Galatians hadn’t renounced Jesus as being their Messiah, but legalistic Jews had convinced them that they couldn’t be right with God by believing in only what Jesus had done. They were being told they also had to keep the Old Testament law for God to accept them. The same lie is being propagated today, except now it’s said we have to be holy, or unless we fast, God “will not move”. Please note, as I have said before, there is nothing wrong in fasting or being holy. The gospel does not start with you being holy or fasting. It begins with grace through faith and that is how we get saved.
In Paul’s day, the issue was circumcision. Today, the same legalistic message is being preached using things like prayer, Bible study, church attendance, and other actions of holiness as necessary actions for God to love and accept us. Faith in what Christ did for us is all we need, not our performance.
No one argues that we shouldn’t pray, study the word, go to church, etc. However, anytime it’s proclaimed that God is angry with us if we fail to do these things, it’s not the true gospel. That type of teaching puts the burden of salvation on us and opens us to the condemnation of the devil because we are bound to fail in executing these tasks with perfection and precision. This is what Paul called perversion of the gospel in Galatians 1:7. In verse 8, Paul made a very strong statement:
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed”.
I am sure the Galatians must have been shocked and thought Paul didn’t mean what he had said. Therefore, just in case anyone might have missed it the first time, Paul repeated his radical statement:
“As we have said before, so now I say again; if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians1:9). As I continue to meditate on the word of God, I am learning about the need to be very candid like Paul and not trying to be politically correct because this is how we end up compromising the word of God. There is no need for one to try and gloss over something that is not good. Even if you put lipstick on a pig, it still remains ugly. The truth should just be unpacked the way it is.
Paul went on to explain in the rest of the first chapter, that he didn’t get that revelation of this gospel from man, but directly from God. That is why he was so adamant. There was no room for compromise in the gospel.
In chapter 3, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for leaving the grace of Christ and going back to relating to God based on their performance. He also said they had been bewitched (Galatians 3:1). He reminds them how they had originally put faith in Christ alone and received all that God had for them through faith. So why had they gone back into legalism? This is the same question I am asking you my brother, sister, elder, pastor, evangelist, prophet or bishop.
Paul showed them that the real purpose of the law wasn’t to help them live a holier life, but to point our sin to us and bring condemnation. Amazingly, the average Christian has totally missed this fact and instead, embraces the law as a good thing. The law would be good if we could keep it. Unfortunately, none of us is able to keep the law and this is why we need a Saviour. On our own we are doomed.
James 2:10 makes it very clear that whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble on one point, he is guilty of all”.
What a radical truth, which those who preach legalism conveniently overlook. It’s not a matter of doing the best we can or doing better than someone else, it is all or nothing.
We have to be perfect or breaking the slightest commandment is like breaking them all. If we never steal, kill, or commit adultery yet fail to love God with all our hearts, souls and strength, we are just as guilty as the homosexual or murderer.
This means that no flesh can ever be justified in the sight of God by keeping the law (Romans 3:20).
The only way out of this challenge is through faith in Christ alone. It is by His grace that we are saved, not through the obedience of law.
Paul summarises in Galatians 5:1 and states that we should “stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
The yoke of bondage is referring to the law. He is saying don’t go back to trying to please God by adhering to the law. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).
Paul says in Galatians 5:2, “if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing”. In other words, if our trust is in something that we do to make us accepted by God, then what Christ has done will profit us nothing.
This is exactly what is happening in the lives of many people. They know about Christ and believe that He purchased their forgiveness of sins, but they think they have to obtain that forgiveness through some merit of their own.
So does this grace mean we can just live in sin? No. It means that God loves us the same even if we live in sin, (Romans 5:8) but Paul made it very clear in Galatians 5:13, that holy living is still the right way to live. “For brethren, you have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Grace doesn’t cause people to live in sin, it frees them from the paralysing effects of guilt and condemnation so that they can live holier accidentally now than they ever did on purpose before. The wages of sin is death. A true born-again believer who is exposed to the grace of God, will never condone sin.
The message of grace will transform the way you view God, the way you relate to Him and the way you receive from Him. I pray that we will all have this revelation so we can remain rooted in the true gospel and not believe the lies that the grace message gives licence to sin.
Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @dougmamvura