Nothing in life is free!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Just because something is free to you doesn’t mean it didn’t cost something. The greatest thing in life is Christian salvation and it is absolutely free. But it cost Jesus His life.
Salvation is by grace. But some people want to hold Christians hostage. We call them legalists. Legalists either want you to obey certain rules before you can be a Christian, or they make you obey certain rules after you are a Christian. That is the difference in Christianity and every other religion. Most religions are based on what you do for their god. Christianity is based on what God has done for you. It is the difference between a religion of grace and a religion of law keeping.
Legalists always cause trouble. They emphasize that salvation is by faith plus keeping rules. In Corinth some were teaching that a believer’s faith is perfected by obeying the law of Moses. Even today we have a groups of ‘evangelical’ Christians who encourage people to obey the laws of Moses.
One group is called ‘The Hebrew Roots Movement.’ This group celebrates the Jewish holidays, like Hanakkah and Passover. They don’t eat pork or shellfish. They worship on Saturday and use some of the apocryphal books. They call Jesus, “Jeshua” (His Hebrew name). Many of them don’t attend a church, but have church in their home. This can be dangerous because it is contradictory to New Testament teaching. For one, nowhere are Gentiles commanded to keep Jewish laws, including the 10 Commandments. For another, the law cannot save you or even make you a better person.
Legalism is very popular since human nature enjoys achieving religious goals instead of simply trusting Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work. It is much easier to measure religion than true righteousness. Legalism has a way of inflating the egos of people. When you emphasize the grace of God you must tell people that they are sinners and cannot save themselves.
How did can we refute the doctrines and practices of legalists? The same way Paul did – by showing the surpassing glory of the ministry of the gospel of the grace of God. In a recent sermon from 2 Corinthians 3 I discovered four ways grace is superior to the Law. Paul shows the surpassing glory of the ministry of the gospel of the grace of God.
“You are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)
Like the Corinthian believers, Christians are an open letter (epistle) for Jesus. We are an advertisement for Christianity to our world. Like we judge a restaurant by the quality of food – people judge Christ by His followers. The greatest handicap the church has is the poor lives of professing Christians.
Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit works on hearts and changes us on the inside. One problem with the Law was that it was external. The 10 Commandments were written on stone. People had no internal power to live them out. The law reveals sin, but it cannot renew the inner person. God’s grace changes hearts.
2 – Grace gives life
“…God… made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)
The law kills. The law makes people conscious of their sins and will ultimately lead to death. God provided a religious system that allowed an animal sacrifice to die in the place of a sinner. The wages of sin is always death (Romans 3:23).
But grace gives and sustains life. When a person believes and receives Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters that person forever and gives them eternal life (John 3:16). The Christian is spiritually alive. Jesus told Nicodemus that it was being born again (John. 3:1-7).
3 – Grace gets more and more glorious
“For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:9)
Paul does not deny the glory of the Law. Thunder, lightning, earthquakes, blazing fire, and a deafening trumpet blast accompanied reception of the Law on Mt. Sinai. The Law is good, but not good enough. It can only point out sin – it can’t do anything with it.
Moses’ face reflected the glory of God. But as the glory faded, Moses put a veil on his face so people did not notice. But the glory of Jesus reflected in the life of believers grows an grows. It is more glorious because we have unlimited exposure to God. It is a glory that never fades.
4 – Grace brings freedom
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
The law brings bondage, but grace gives glorious freedom that makes us more and more like Jesus Christ. Laws cannot permanently change people but only the Holy Spirit can bring about spiritual transformation that gives freedom to live righteously.
How? By looking at Jesus in the Bible. As we see Christ reflected in the Bible, we become more and more like Him. We are changed (transformed).
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as [b]by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The word ‘changed’ is the same Greek word translated ‘transfigured’ in the accounts of our Lord’s Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). It describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)
It is also used in Romans 12:2 for the change that occurs in the life of a believer. The world wants to conform us (change on the outside) but only God can change us on the inside. It is our English word metamorphosis – describing the process an insect goes through from larva to pupa and finally butterfly. It is a change that comes from within.
The result is a freedom in your spirit. Legalism keeps a person immature and immature people need rules and regulations. But grace brings freedom. The only rule we have is to love.
Each day, you can have your own personal transfiguration as you worship the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit.