We are such silly, irrational creatures sometimes! We complicate the simplest things. There’s water, for example. Ask for a drink of water, and the question comes back: “Still or bubbly?” How about water from the tap? Most everyone in the developed world has indoor plumbing, and no city could survive if its tap water was undrinkable. The water sold in bottles is from a tap, for crying out loud! And now they’re saying that refilling the plastic bottles will give you breast cancer. If that were really so, then they wouldn’t sell it in plastic bottles to begin with. P. T. Barnum would have loved to see the pigeons we’ve got today: “Egress! This way!” Suckers!
Matters of faith, like water, are really the simplest concepts that exist. From the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!” Grace, from that moment, is freely given to all mankind—it’s the ultimate “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But just as the GOJF card does you no good if you don’t pick it up and use it in the game of Monopoly; if you don’t accept the salvation and power of grace, it will do you no good in eternity.
Some people (sincere people) read the Old Testament and realize that they are Commandment-breakers (aren’t we all?) and they add the law to grace, hoping that it will help them to make real and lasting changes in their lives. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Adding human effort to God-given perfect grace makes grace of no effect. Take a look at Galatians 3:16-18:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (emphasis mine).
This is that famous chapter that begins: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” The Galatian church is the only church that Paul did not give a friendly greeting. He warmly greeted the Corinthian church, and they had issues of incest and drunkenness during Communion.
Mixing law and grace is the reason why Paul confronted Peter for refusing to continue eating with the gentiles when some prominent Jewish believers arrived (well, that and hypocrisy – Galatians 2:11-13).
Some church leaders worry about people using grace as a license to sin. Actually just the opposite is true. The person who genuinely loves God and is filled with the Holy Spirit, following Jesus may sin from time to time, but the desire to continue in a lifestyle of sin melts away. John explains how this works in the short book of I John. Will some use grace as a license to sin? Of course, but those people clearly don’t know God—and they never did or they wouldn’t continue in a lifestyle of sin. Don’t throw out grace just because some people understand it all wrong.
We’ve got to quit complicating the simple things of God. You can have grace, in which all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven forever by the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Or you can have the law. But remember that if you choose the law, you’re saying that you are capable of keeping the whole law. It’s tantamount to saying to Jesus: “No thanks! I’ll get myself into heaven.” (Psst! Here’s a hint: you can’t!)
Grace is amazing! And God is good!