There’s an English expression that says: “There is no such thing as a free lunch”–the idea that if you receive something free, it really isn’t free because somewhere, somehow, sometime, you will have to pay or repay. The theory that nothing is ever really free has subtly infiltrated Christian thinking to the extent that many try to be deserving of God’s salvation through obedience to His will.
Legalism in the Christian vocabulary describes the attitude of those who believe that their obedience to God will somehow cause Him to justify them in His sight. Of course, although God’s grace does not negate His expectation of obedience, salvation is based solely on this grace and nothing else, certainly nothing else that we could do.
What do the following texts reveal about the misunderstanding of salvation so prevalent in the minds of many? In what ways can we, ourselves, get caught up in that same kind of thinking? Why is it so easy, in fact, to do so?
A legalistic religion causes the individual to focus upon personal performance (and often on the performance of others) rather than on the gospel commission. Legalistic attitudes can lead to pride and arrogance on the part of those who are so blind that they actually deem themselves holy enough to be saved. Or, just as bad, legalistic attitudes can lead to discouragement and despair for those who realize just how far they are from the divine standard. Either way, it’s a trap that needs to be avoided, especially by a church such as ours where obedience to law is so central to our understanding of what the gospel is all about.
Read John 6:28-29. How does Jesus reveal the truth of salvation by faith in these verses? What, though, does it mean to believe in “him whom he hath sent?” How should that belief be manifested in our lives? How well do you manifest that belief, especially when no one is looking?