Legalism Can't Earn God's Love
No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are (Acts 15:11).
The first debate within the church centered on the requirements for salvation. It came to a head at a council meeting in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas maintained that it was by grace through faith in Jesus for both Jew and Gentile. Believers who had belonged to the party of the Pharisees believed that the Gentiles “must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses."
Peter gave the final word. He was the one qualified to do so. He was on the scene when the Holy Spirit was given to the Jews on the day of Pentecost. He was there when the Spirit was given to the Samaritans (Acts 8), and he was there when the Spirit was given to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God did not discriminate or show favoritism. He showed that he accepted both Jew and Gentile in the same way — by giving His Holy Spirit.
So Peter asked a question: “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Legalism was what these former Pharisees were pushing. They wanted these Gentiles to earn God’s love and acceptance through the keeping of the law. As Peter pointed out, this was a yoke that neither Jew or Gentile could bear.
Unfortunately, the debate has continued. Legalism still haunts the Church. This shouldn’t surprise us. We are all natural-born legalists, a trait we inherited from Adam and Eve.
Sin and our fear of punishment tell us that we need to do something to be accepted by God. It is this fear that drives most of our legalistic activities and keeps rules and regulations as the path to right standing with God.
It is time to learn that legalism is a yoke we cannot bear and realize that our relationship with God is by grace through faith in Jesus from start to finish.
Legalism does not open heaven’s doors. It does not earn God’s love and acceptance. That is a free gift that comes by grace – and grace alone – extended to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Let go of legalism and fully embrace the gift of grace. You will experience a joy like no other!
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