Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Law + Grace = 0

In a recent article entitled "Biggest Church Taught To Resist 'Cheap Grace'" by's Nathanael Ng, it was reported that Rev Rick Seaward warned believers against taking either grace or law to their extremes - "Grace to the extreme is anarchy. Legalism [is] on the other end... Truth is always found between opposites."

In other words, Rev Seaward is saying that the truth is found in a mixture of law and grace, or as some people might say, a balance between law and grace.

I respectfully disagree with such a view. When you try to mix/balance law and grace, the end result is you get neither the law nor grace. It's like this - when you mix red paint and blue paint, the end result is purple paint which is neither red nor blue.

Consider this parable which Jesus told in Luke 5:36 - "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."

Jesus was saying that in the natural, no one will tear off a patch from a new garment to mend an old one. Yet in the spiritual, many are doing just that, even now in our present day. Let me explain:

In the bible, garment speaks of righteousness - Isaiah 61:10 (NKJV):
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

The old garment in the parable represents the old covenant - righteousness through the law - and it is torn. Why is it torn? The garment cannot tear itself, so obviously the tear is caused by the wearer of the garment - man - which is why Romans 7:12 says "
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good." but Romans 8:3 says the law "was weak through the flesh".

Our flesh or sinful nature is the weak link of the old covenant i.e. righteousness through the law. The law was never meant to make us righteous, it was meant to make us conscious of sin and realize what sinners we were and lead us to Christ, as Paul says in Romans 7:24 "
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?".

The old garment is torn and our nakedness below is exposed, just like Adam and Eve's were. The old torn garment makes us conscious of our nakedness; the law exposes our sin and makes us conscious of sin.

What is the solution? Throw away the old garment and PUT ON THE NEW GARMENT! It's obvious, isn't it?

Through the cross, we have all been given the new garment i.e. the new covenant - righteousness by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. However, many Christians, even preachers
feel so comfortable in the old garment that they refuse to throw it away. Instead of wearing the new garment, they would rather tear a patch from it to mend the old garment!

They patch up the old garment by saying that Christ's sacrifice on the cross replaces only the ceremonial sacrifices of the law ("ceremonial law") and therefore the law remains and the Ten Commandments have to be obeyed.

Hebrews 8:7-8 says that God himself found fault with the old covenant and decided to make a brand new covenant. God is not like Microsoft -He does not ask you to download patches to a buggy software program! Instead, God gives you a brand new bug-free software program!

What is the consequence of mixing grace into the law?
"If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."

Those who wear the patched up old garment think that the patch has covered up their nakedness; they think that Christ has taken away the consequences of breaking the law and thus they can attempt to live by the law without fear of consequences but the law without punishments is no longer the law! (I have dealt with this in detail here)

Moreover, the old garment now looks funny because the patch from the new garment does not match the old. The new patch only serves to draw attention to the tear underneath it, and thus the nakedness underneath the tear. In the end, when you wear the old garment with the new patch, you remain conscious of your sin instead of righteousness.

The new garment which is torn is now ruined. Instead of believing that all our sins – past, present, future – are forgiven and we are no longer conscious of sin (Heb 10:2), the tear in the new garment has exposed our nakedness and made us conscious of sin. So we have preachers telling us to keep confessing our sins to God and ask for forgiveness, even though we are already forgiven! Thus, grace is no longer grace!

When we don't tear the new garment but simply wear it as it is, we discover that we are in Christ and in him we become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

Romans 3:22a
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Romans 10:4
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

1 Corinthians 1:30
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Philippians 3:8-9
8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Galatians 2:21
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Steve McVey in his blog dated 11 Feb 09 says
"You can’t go too far with grace. That’s like saying, “don’t go too far with Jesus.” Paul wrote in Romans 5:17 that it is by the abundance of grace that we learn how to reign in life. The real threat to the church isn’t that we will go too far with grace, but that we won’t go far enough."

Paraphrasing Steve McVey, I say the real threat to the church is that there are not enough preachers today who have the guts to tell the people to throw away the old garment and put on the new garment!

Let the law be the law, and grace be grace!

Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)

15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!


Angie said...

Wow Amen Amen AMEN! :D great post (as always) Stan. Hearing grace based teachings always & so refreshes my soul! I like the example of the old/new garments. :)

Stanley Wong said...

Thanks Angie! Like Paul says in Romans 5:17, we need an abundance of grace :-)

Jeffrey said...

Amen! Let's have the guts to call grace "grace" and law "law".And be not ashamed of the Gospel of Grace, for it is THE POWER of GOD for salvation to everyone who believes !

Tan said...

Stories in the Bible help us to appreciate and beholding Grace (Jesus) rather than Law (Lost And Wandering).
The story of the woman who was suffering from the flow of blood for 12 years. By Law, she was supposed not to be seen in public.
But she saw Jesus (Grace) for healing. What would happen if she mixed both Law + Grace? CONFUSION! To go or not to go; to be healed or not to be healed!!
ST ...