Legalism

The Grace of God

(About this series)

Chapter III — The Grace of God

BY REV. C. I. SCOFIELD, D. D., EDITOR “SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE”

Grace is an English word used in the New Testament to translate the Greek word, Charis, which means “favor,” without recompense or equivalent. If there is any compensatory act or payment, however slight or inadequate, it is “no more grace”—Charis.

When used to denote a certain attitude or act of God toward man it is therefore of the very essence of the matter that human merit or deserving is utterly excluded. In grace God acts out from Himself, toward those who have deserved, not His favor, but His wrath. In the structure of the Epistle to the Romans grace does not enter, could not enter, till a whole race, without one single exception, stands guilty and speechless before God.

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Legalism & Galatians Part 3: Adoption

Portions of the epistle to the Galatians have been used in a manner that breeds confusion and misunderstanding regarding legalism, grace, sanctification, and Christian living. It’s a pity, because the epistle speaks powerfully and clearly on all of these topics. The book’s teaching on adoption is an especially potent message for our times, carving a clear, joyful—yet responsible—path between the opposite errors of justification by works (legalism) and sanctification without works (antinomianism).

But that’s not all. The reality of believers’ adoption as God’s children not only answers the extremes of legalism and antinomianism, but also counters other common errors. Here, we’ll consider two additional errors as well as the two opposite extremes.

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Legalism & Galatians Part 2: Law, Liberty & The Flesh

In a previous post, I asserted that popular confusion about law, grace, and the Christian life is often partly due to misunderstanding what was happening in the Galatian churches and what Paul taught to correct it. I argued that the Galatian trouble centered on their understanding of justification and its relationship to Mosaic Law, and that they were led astray by unbelievers who, in reality, cared as little for the Law of Moses as they did for the gospel.

Seen in this light, the epistle does not encourage sweeping rejections of effort and struggle in the Christian life, nor does it provide a basis for excluding firm boundaries against sin (often termed “man-made rules”) in Christian living.

But loose ends remain. Further study of the letter not only resolves the remaining issues but also clarifies common points of confusion such as the distinction between conscious self-discipline vs. “the flesh” (or the non-biblical term, “self-effort”) and the difference between slavery to the Law vs. obedience to Christ.

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Legalism & Galatians: What Was Going on in Galatia?

Loathing toward legalism (and perceived legalism) is commonplace in today’s evangelical ministries, including those of fundamentalist heritage, and Galatians often plays a prominent role in how we think about legalism and Christian liberty.

But liberty is often misunderstood, and overreactions—as well as under-developed reactions—to legalism seem to be a growing problem. It’s no coincidence that the Galatian error, and Paul’s remedial teaching, is also often misunderstood. The result is that a letter that has great potential to help us with our present-day understanding of law, grace and liberty ends up contributing to confusion instead.

So the question in focus here is, to paraphrase the title, what was the Galatian problem?

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The Tightrope of Separation: False Starts

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read the series so far.

False starts

There are several false starts that we can make in the matter of separation. There is no doubt that God has called us to a position of separation. The question is how and in what way? There are several false responses that have been devised by man.

The first response is asceticism.

There are those who have said that Christians are not of this world and so they must get away from the world completely. Those who advocated this are called ascetics and they became hermits, went to monasteries, caves, deserts, and the wilderness. They said they had to get away from man and pleasures in order to be separate unto God. That however was a complete distortion of Scripture because we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Scripture has told us to witness to, live before, and seek to reach men for Christ. After ascetics arrived out in the deserts and caves they discovered they brought the world with them because the sinful impulses exhibited in the world were also in them. Satan appealed to their pride, self, and false motives even when they were alone, and the world manifested itself in them. Wherever we go we take the sinful impulses exhibited in the world with us. Asceticism is not the answer.

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