“Not I But Christ” OR “Me Plus Christ”

Uncuffed handsThere are probably plenty of  reasons why God waited till He had created everything else, before He created man. Obviously the environment was not inhabitable for mankind earlier, but I would like to suggest another reason. If man had been around while God was creating the earth, he might have come up with the notion that he actually had a part in creation.

It is the same with Calvary. Sure, mankind was there, but everything that was good was because of God. Think of all the things that could have gone wrong. Jesus could have turned Pilate to dust. He could have called for tens of thousands of angels to set Him free. Yet everything concerning my redemption went absolutely perfectly, and you know why? Because I wasn’t there to mess it all up! Paul sums up sound biblical theology for us in four words, “Not I but Christ.” Galatians 2:20.

The theory of evolution has the same problem as religious legalism because it involves man bettering himself on his own. This is impossible.

Nevertheless, some Christians, including Adventists, have a theology in which Jesus forgives us, but then we grow spiritually on our own. We get better on our own. It’s a “me plus Christ” theology instead of a “not I but Christ” theology. Anytime “I” become a part of my theology, my theology becomes corrupt because “I” am corrupt. The struggle to perfect self makes “I” part of the solution but it cannot be. The only way salvation can work is if “I” am crucified.

The Sabbath is a sign of rest, both at creation and redemption to remind us that we are not saved by the works of the flesh, and therefore the works of the flesh, sometimes known as legalism, must be put to rest. Only God Himself could first create me in His own image, only God Himself can re-create me in His own image. Let’s take a careful look at the gospel as opposed to human self-development or legalism.

The Gospel or Self-development (i.e. Legalism)?

Legalism: We make sacrifices so God will love us.

The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain OUR love.    Romans 5:10-12:  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the sacrifice enables the humans to love their God.

Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to be saved.

The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John 14:15:  “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the judgment.

The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon and we don’t want to be lost.

The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.

The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14:  “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.

The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

The GospelNOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20:  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Legalism: Self- centered obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.

The Gospel: God- centered obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory. Philippians 1:11 “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

The Gospel: All about love and humility.

My prayer is that if any of you, dear readers, find your attitudes reflected in the “Legalism” statement, you will resolve to get to know Jesus for yourself and surrender to Him as your only Lord and Savior.




“Not I But Christ” OR “Me Plus Christ” — 16 Comments

  1. Each day we are granted an extra time, we should give glory were tis due.

    We should come second and Christ first.

    Zolile Phetshane.South Africa.

  2. The comparisons are laid out nicely.
    I love this part especially:
    "The Sabbath is a sign of rest, both at creation and redemption to remind us that we are not saved by the works of the flesh, and therefore the works of the flesh, sometimes known as legalism, must be put to rest. Only God Himself could first create me in His own image, only God Himself can re-create me in His own image." The Sabbath is such a gift! Thanks William!

  3. Thank you William for your thoughtful work here. It comes across simply which is great for the reader, but can see a lot of effort has gone into this..

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. I am glad to know this is a blessing. Jason, I first drafted this over 9 years ago, while I was still living in Texas, before coming here to Florida, and you are right, I have touched it up a few times since then. Some things I write come together in a matter of minutes, while other themes develop over the years. Either way I enjoy the journey and am glad to be journeying with my SSNET family.

  5. Thank you for making it so plain. It's sad to me that I found myself on the wrong side, not all but most and I never really thought of it until I read this. I think it stem from trying to be so strong and self-sufficient. I found my self relaxing as I read "The Gospel" veiw, and yet I study and pray every day. Please pray with me as I learn to let go and let God control every avenue of my life.

    • We will pray for you Verona. I have been on the wrong side too and God is rich in mercy and forgiveness for us all. When I was struggling, I liked to re-read many times, posts like this, so the thoughts really were cemented into my brain, and transformed my thinking.

  6. This is such a wonderful reference chart. Thank you for taking something so complex and making it simple. It has inspired me to reread a book by Bill Liversidge called, 'Victory in Jesus'. This is another gifted teacher who is able to make the "difficult plain-the complicated easy to understand." I am so grateful that our dear friend, the Holy Spirit, led me to read this. This is the best website I've visited for our church. Thank you everyone for such a blessing. I just asked the Lord to help me find my hope again in the messiness of my life. I found it here and I am deeply moved that not only did I receive an answer so quickly, but that I found it here. God is so awesome.

  7. Thank you William Earnhardt, a star on your crown is sure; you have just set me down back on the right path

  8. Hi Krystina Felter,

    I am encouraged by your message. Keep coming back to SSNET. There is something new each week!

  9. Good thoughts William.

    I have concluded that if we had no more than Genesis to Leviticus as our reference, the question of how are we saved is clearly answered in God's dealings with man from Eden to Sinai, with the revealings of the Sanctuary enlarging further upon God's method for reclaiming sinners.

    It has been my growing conviction that legalism is the result of having a knowledge of truth, however limited, while holding to known sin, however small. In short; stifling conviction while claiming to believe leads to legalism. To invert a truth: "Cursed are the impure in heart, for they cannot see God."

    Sin blinds and perverts judgment, and the resulting convictions create the need to cover up one's self with the fig leaves of "works".

    God has made the way clear if we will simply take the yoke of Christ and learn of Him, who was fully surrendered to His Father. This is having "the faith of Jesus". It is summed up in His prayer; "not my will, but thine be done", while staggering under the overwhelming temptation and desire to save Himself from what lay before Him as revealed in God's word concerning Himself.

    Our obedience is the result of God being allowed to create in us a clean heart and being renewed with a right spirit, which only the Creator can accomplish as we rest from our own works.

  10. Christ only Christ in every look and action. If my memory serves me right, "Not I But Christ" was page 271 in the 70's hymnal. Great article William, I atained a blessing by reading all.

  11. Thank you so very much for this, it came at a time when I needed to remind myself of why I love God and that his ways are not my ways. God bless you as you further his ministries according to His will.


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