“Legalism” on the “right” side and “Lasciviousness” on the other side are both grace killers. So we need to highlight the warnings from Scripture for each. First the legalist:
- “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4)
Now Paul, when referring to “circumcision”, is not referring primarily to the physical mark performed on males. If so he is a hypocrite since we read:
- “Him [Timothy] would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:3)
Rather this points to Christians picking up the “covenant” of Moses as demonstrated by this symbol, seeking to become Jews to get right with God. We “fall from grace”, i.e. we lose the joy and power of the Holy Spirit for Christian living, when we, like Peter walking on the stormy sea, take our eyes off Jesus and begin to sink. We start looking at the rules for living with their consequences and rewards, forgetting that we are living in Jesus now, trusting in His finished work to get us right with God . . . plus nothing. As soon as we begin to sink we cry out in terror and find His strong hand lifting us back up. Then we can relax and, in that “desire and power” of His resurrection life, walk effortlessly across the impossible sea of God’s holy standards and expectations.
Now that we understand the legalist “falling from grace”, let’s look at the other side, those that reject God’s authority, standards, commands and “fail of grace”:
- “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Hebrews 12:15-17)
We “fail” of grace when we decide to love our rights, our lives and life objectives more than Jesus . . . “No rules”. Which inevitably tips us sooner or later into “fornication”, Greek “pornos”, sex sins, and from which word we get our word “pornography”.
Exhibit A was Esau who rejected the moral standards of the Lord. When God’s subsequent spankings deprived him of his fortune, a happy married family life and the support of his birth family, it left him bitter at the unfairness of it all. His brother Jacob, though far from perfect, trusted God to handle the unfair things. He respected his parents, obeying them, finally leaving home as a celibate 75 year old to acquire a wife according to their command instead of playing around like his brother. [Genesis 28 – Jacob died at 147, so 75 was about middle age in those days] And God poured His grace out on him, renaming him “Israel” – Prince with God – for his spiritual character, the father of an innumerable multitude, blessed beyond measure.
So a life focused on externals instead of Jesus, and a bitter life trying to live free from “rules” . . . both are “grace killers”. Without grace we lead miserable, powerless lives and accomplish nothing of value for God.