Legalism vs. Grace; June 11, 2017


1 Samuel 21:6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

This particular incident is most famous because Jesus quoted it when He was questioned about his disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:1-4) The point Jesus was making is that God supplies needs in all sorts of ways, and even in ways that might not seem “legitimate” to us from our perspective. We certainly aren’t to go around ignoring rules, but we need to remember that for the most part rules are man-made, or at best human interpretations of what God has said. The bread in this particular instance was holy because it had been given to God, and as such was to be eaten only by those who were likewise holy. David and his men were chosen by God and thus were holy, whatever religious bureaucracy might have said about them. Jesus’ point in referring to this incident is that legalism doesn’t get us to God.

I have always been leery of legalism, but that has at times caused me to take grace for granted, and that is certainly dangerous. I am to rejoice in God’s grace but never forget God’s holiness. After all, His grace means very little if there is no absolute standard to which we fail to measure up. The devil does all he can to promote relativism, situational ethics, and a general feeling of no absolutes. Sadly, such thinking is very widespread today. Abortion is a good case in point. Thankfully, more and more people are realizing that murder is bad, period. Much is made of “exceptions,” such as rape, incest, or “for the life of the mother.” Rape and incest are certainly horrible, but there is no fault or responsibility in the child, and with modern medicine, honest physicians have trouble even imagining a situation where killing the child would save the life of the mother. I am to express God’s grace and mercy to those who have gotten into trouble by ignoring God’s rules, not just this way but in any way, but I am not to pretend that the rules don’t exist. Miracles are instances in which God bypasses the physical rules of the universe that He Himself created, but they don’t mean those rules aren’t valid. I am to proclaim God’s holiness, but with that, as the hymn says, “Grace that is Greater than All our Sin.”

Father, I am constantly presented with the tension between holiness and grace. I can’t keep it straight on my own. Help me hear You accurately (grace again) so that I may be an accurate channel of Your grace and holiness and love, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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