The law detects, grace alone conquers sin. —Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)
Some people are grace-based. Others are not. Some churches are grace-based, while others are not. Every individual and every institution can be works-based by trying to use law and legalism to attain righteousness (in their own minds, at least). But they don’t normally advertise this. I have yet to see a sign that says, Welcome to First Friendly Church of the Law: We will burn you out with a smile on our face! This week’s sermon: Self Righteousness Through Self-effort in 237 Easy Steps.
No, it’s much more subtle than that, but law-based individuals and churches can leave you with that feeling you aren’t performing the way you should. The conclusion? God’s not pleased, and you aren’t righteous. The church in Galatia was a works-based church. That’s why Paul wrote this to them:
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21)
Antioch, on the other hand, was grace-based.
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (Acts 11:21-23)
Think about this for a second: A grace-based church is a family of believers who choose to live not by rules but by the Ruler. Their lives are lived through Jesus and His grace! The focus is on Jesus and His grace, not legalism and self.
Where is your focus today?!
Dear Lord, give me the discernment to recognize the voices of law and legalism around me. Be they coming from my church, my friends or family, or from my own flesh, give me the wisdom and strength to be grace-based with myself and them, too. Amen.