I recently read a blog entry by Justin Taylor where he performed a Q&A with Tullian Tchividjian, the author of "Surprised by Grace".
Tchividjian (and I thought Thabiti's last name was tough to pronounce!) has alot of interesting things to say about grace and the law, when asked if he thought the gospel was middle ground between legalism and lawlessness he responded with this:
This seems to be a common misunderstanding in the church today. I hear people say that there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness. Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. Legalism and lawlessness are typically presented as two ditches on either side of the Gospel that we must avoid. But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its depth and beauty.
I think it’s more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel —legalism, but it comes in two forms.
Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (you could call this “front door legalism”).
Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (you could call this “back door legalism”).
This is an interesting thought. Paul never seemed to motivate obedience with the law, he motivated people to obedience with the gospel... the law simply informs us of what sin is and how sinful we are... looking at ourselves in the mirror (as James 1 describes in talking about looking into the law) isn't the motivator to change, it's simply there to show us we ought to change... the gospel motivates to to actually change.
The end of the Q&A had this great quote, which is what I will close with: We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and God sanctifies us by constantly bringing us back to the reality of our justification.
The full blog entry containing the interview can be read here: