律法VS.恩典 By Rick Joyner
(摘自喬納 word for the week, Week 6, 2012)
Law vs. Grace
Week 6, 2012
Years ago, I read a study on alcoholism about how this problem affected different people groups. It was very illuminating. The great surprise was that the group who had the highest percentage of alcoholics was a conservative evangelical denomination that forbids the drinking of any kind of alcohol. Just as surprising was the finding that the people group who had the lowest percentage of alcoholics were the Jews who drink freely. Over the years, other similar findings have been found, highlighting a biblical truth that the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:56: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
We do not use science to establish our theology, but sometimes it confirms it. Legalism tends to work the opposite of its intended result, actually empowering sin, and will never be the antidote to lawlessness. Of course, the entire U.S. learned this under prohibition. Not only did the drinking in America continue under prohibition, but it seemed to increase, as well as other crimes. Prohibition made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, which seemed to just open them up to all sorts of crime and disregard for the law.
Even so, alcoholism is a terrible thing, destroying many families and lives in a most cruel way. Though I do not know of any alcoholism in my own family, I have seen its scourge close up, and it is understandable that anyone who has suffered with it in their own family would tend to be a legalist in regard to drinking. Even so, it does not work. We can put people in jail so that they do not sin, but this will never take the sin out of their hearts. Given freedom from the jail, they are likely to go to even worse extremes, with the accompanying guilt and shame driving them even further out.
I am not trying to promote drinking, but I am warning against becoming like the Pharisees and making manmade laws that exceed the biblical commandments. It is not only counterproductive in dealing with the problem, but it makes hypocrites out of good moral people. We must throw off the tyranny of legalism that is unnecessarily causing many to stumble.
I have attended Jewish events and weddings where there were always open bars, but I do not ever remember seeing anyone even tipsy. There is the freedom to drink, but also a culture of moderation. The church is supposed to be a culture of liberty because we are told “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (see II Corinthians 3:17). Moderation can be a far more powerful witness than abstinence. Abstinence can imply weakness and a lack of self-control.
However, people who lack self-control and have excessive and compulsive personalities do not need to drink at all. As the Word also teaches, for the sake of love, those who have liberty in certain things should show restraint when they are with those who are weak. It is far worse to ever cause anyone to stumble. We need to be committed to this restraint while also refusing to kowtow to the legalists.
Jesus had remarkable grace toward sinners but had no tolerance for the self-righteous or for the legalists. If the church had the same Spirit as Christ, sinners would be rushing to the doors of the church for help instead of being repelled by it. We often quote how we love the sinners but hate the sin. However, far too many sinners are met with hate, or at least a moral haughtiness, when they meet Christians. This is not the demeanor of the whole church, but there is far too much self-righteousness, which not only repels sinners who need Christ, but it repels Christ. It was not the sinners or even the demon possessed, but the self-righteous who persecuted Jesus and then had Him crucified.
Of course, there is a ditch on either side of the path of life— lawlessness on one side and legalism on the other. Many who fall into a ditch on one side overreact and then fall into the opposite ditch. Moderation is the key to staying in the middle of the path of life. This is why we are told in Philippians 4:5, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (KJV).
I lean toward the side of liberty out of the theological conviction of what the New Testament teaches. However, I also know very well how good the fruit is of strict, even authoritarian programs for helping people who are especially weak in self-control and often fall to addictive practices. Those who have a tendency toward lawlessness may need to lean toward more severe discipline. Those prone toward legalism may need to lean a little bit the other way. Even so, our goal should be to walk down the center of the road.
The center of the road is holiness. This has become a bad word with many because it implies legalism, but true holiness is the greatest liberty we can ever know and the greatest protection against excessive or sinful behavior. The “beauty of holiness” is a characteristic of the authentic and is so attractive that it will draw the worse sinners with awe and wonder. It reveals to them in their innermost being what they were created to be.
We will continue examining what holiness is next week because it is essential for the true Christian life, but we must get free of the concepts that distort it. Our goal is to know the voice of the Lord and follow Him, not just methods or formulas, and removing the hindrances to this that both legalism and lawlessness are.