“. . and see how they are . . .” Acts 15:36
Law and grace can’t coexist. Yet a great many Christians have difficulty crossing over into the new expansive frontier of grace. To accept grace means to renounce legalism which is the well-worn strategy of trying to make spiritual progress based on our performance.
The Jewish Christians that had accepted grace were bent on adding the tremendous plus of legalism. They were teaching that one was saved through grace, plus keeping the rules, rites, and rituals of the Mosaic law.
Not so, said Paul. With that, Peter agreed, adding that then the law had become a yoke which neither their fathers nor they were able to bear. By this the council renounced legalism and declared the all sufficiency of grace. The legalists were silenced at the council of Jerusalem, but they opposed it bitterly. That spirit has never ceased to be active throughout the history of the church.
There have always been voices who have said, and who have made, additions to simple belief. The Greeks said it was faith, plus knowledge. The ascetics added the strict adherence of harsh practices. During the middle ages, what was required was faith, plus penance and ritual observance. Then, Puritans added to grace, plus multiple laws, burning at the stake of anyone who didn’t adhere.
Legalism distorts the gospel, making sin that which is not sin; requiring for salvation that which is not required. The effect has been to alter the gospel, making it appear as a law to be obeyed, rather than as grace to be received. The winsome wind of the spirit of life has become a repellent stench.
Jesus plus nothing is sufficient. Nothing else need be added, because grace brings its own fruit of righteousness. It’s true, if you let anyone loose at the cross, the impulses of the graceful guide them into all truth.
Fill in the blank. I have made my faith, Jesus plus ____________.
Now imagine being free of all the pluses and finding Jesus is more than enough.