In Paul’s day, there were two enemies of the gospel that he constantly battled.
1. The gospel of legalism – this is essentially the message that says, “God is holy, you’re not, try harder.”
Paul took dead aim at this “gospel” in Galatians and other letters.
2. The gospel of libertinism – this essentially says that because we are under grace, any word of exhortation, admonishment, or challenge to be sold out to Jesus Christ and deal with issues in one’s life is “religious,” “legalistic,” and “wrong.”
James shredded this “gospel” in the letter of James, and Jude mentioned it when he said “they turn the grace of God into license to sin.”
Some Christians who have read my book From Eternity to Here and many of the articles on this blog have called me a “grace teacher.”
Others who have heard my message, The Gospel of the Kingdom, say I’m legalistic, even though there’s not one word of legalism in that message . . . not one rule . . . and absolutely no appeal to live for Jesus through our human will power.
That message actually tells us what the grace of God does in our lives.
The grace of God teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
~ Paul in Titus 2:12
The people in that room who heard that message live were inspired to be baptized and give their all to Christ. Their comment was, “this was the first time I’ve ever heard the true gospel without any legalism.”
Libertines hate verses like Titus 2:12 and act is if they aren’t part of the New Testament.
Legalists, on the other hand, hate the idea that because we are under grace, we don’t have to try harder to please God nor do we have to live in guilt and condemnation.
But so few Christians really understand the full gospel today and still drift toward legalism or libertinism.
What is more, those who have imbibed the gospel of legalism wrongly believe that those who truly know God’s grace are libertines. And those who have imbibed the gospel of libertinism wrongly believe that those who are under the lordship of Christ are legalists.
As I put it in Jesus Now,
“The libertine lives as if there is no God. The legalist lives as though she or he is God to everyone else. Both attitudes are incompatible with the life of Christ.”
Consequently, I’m convinced that the major problem in Christianity today revolves around these two counterfeit gospels and the bad fruit that they produce.
What’s that fruit?
Very simply: The nasty, vicious way that Christians treat one another and the nasty, viscous way they treat people who are in the world.
Many legalists are nasty and vicious because they operate out of a self-righteous, judgmental, critical attitude.
Many libertines are nasty and vicious because they operate out of the unrestrained carnality of the flesh.
It’s always odd to me that even though I’ve defined and contrasted these two counterfeit gospels in detail in Revise Us Again and in Jesus Now, somehow . . . (I have no idea how) . . . people who just don’t “get it” get on my mailing list and start griping, complaining, belly-aching, moaning and groaning whenever I talk about the true gospel of the lordship of Jesus Christ and the liberty of the Spirit. And as I’ve explained elsewhere, lordship and liberty cannot be separated.
Legalism is the counterfeit to the lordship of Christ.
Libertinism is the counterfeit to the liberty of the Spirit.
If you know people who have been blinded by the gospel of legalism or libertinism, don’t hesitate to share this post with them. You can also share it on your social networks using the share buttons below.
I hope to have the 100th episode of my podcast released this month. So stay tuned for that . . .