Two Perspectives: Under Law vs. Under Grace

Dennis McCallum

Legalism leads to deadly pathology in our walk with God. The following chart discusses some of these problems. See Walking in Victory, Chapter 7 for the commentary that goes along with each section.

Area Under Law Under Grace

View of the law

  • A set of detailed obligations that I must keep
  • Rigid application of case law
  • The underlying principles of the law describe the ultimate goal toward which God is moving me: a loving life-style

View of self

  • I am regenerate, and therefore I am able to keep the law.
  • The law helps me live for God.
  • I am regenerate, but I still can't keep the law, because of my "outer man."
  • By relying on the Spirit, not the letter, I can gradually change.

View of the Holy Spirit

  • Little practical understanding of the Spirit's ministries
  • Depends on the Holy Spirit for all power, Motivation, and direction

The "Key" to spiritual growth

  • Self discipline
  • Special experiences
  • Knows self-effort is futile Romans 7:18
  • Looks to a process, not to quick-fix experiences

Approach to Scripture

  • Relies on an inconsistent hermeneutic
  • Unable to harmonize Jesus and the epistles
  • Is consistent, and is able to harmonize the gospels and epistles

Mental focus

  • My duty: to do what the rules require
  • Identification with Christ
  • Personal relationship with God
  • Loving others as a means of growth

Reaction to failure

  • Surprised and distressed
  • Rationalizations, minimization, blame-shifting and self-recrimmination
  • Vows to do better
  • Not surprised
  • Confident of God's acceptance
  • Return to active dependence

Reaction to success

  • Proud and intolerant of others
  • Humbly grateful
  • Still able to empathize with those who fail
  • Sees continued need for growth

Eventual result

  • External conformity, but increasing internal defeat and hypocrisy
  • Growing cynicism and despair OR:
    Self-righteous externalistic comparisons--self deception
  • Gradual transformation into a person with a measure of victory over sin and a spiritual mind-set
  • A more loving person