"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." -- 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Natural men and women, unsaved, unregenerate professors of religion, sometimes become excited and zealous about Christ and the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in him. In a sense, they often get just as excited about the doctrines of grace as true believers do, maybe even more so, at least for a while. But after a while the luster and beauty of grace grows dim in their eyes, the glory of substitution is lost to them. After a while, the lost religionist gets tired of the gospel of Christ. He wants something new, something more profound, something mysterious. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, the natural man has no real taste and relish in his soul for the manna of heaven. He soon longs for the leeks and onions of Egypt.
Such people may or may not openly deny the gospel. But, in time, they get tired of hearing the sweet message of Christ crucified. They grow weary of hearing about grace, free, sovereign grace, and nothing but grace. The manna of heaven tastes stale to them. I have seen this happen so many times that it frightens me. I am fearful for you who read these lines, just as Paul was for the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:2-3).
Satan is a crafty, subtle deceiver. He does not care what the issue is by which men and women are beguiled, so long as they are beguiled. He does not care what he gets you to embrace, so long as he gets you to turn away from Christ. When the fiend of hell turns anyone away from Christ, he has won the day. That frightens me.
There are four dangers to which we are all naturally susceptible, four snares of Satan by which multitudes have been deceived. Many men who were once so promising, so encouraging, so impressive have been turned away from Christ by one of these four satanic snares. Mark them and be warned.
Worldliness is a very great danger. We are warned to beware of it in the strongest terms possible (Matt. 13:22; 1 John 2:15-17). The care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, the love of the world (its riches, its power, its acceptance, its pleasures), have slain many in time. Usually, these weeds do their work slowly, but they do it effectively. Beware, of worldliness!
Arminianism is also a great danger to us, because we are all proud Arminians by nature. No matter how thoroughly convinced we are of free grace, our proud, sinful nature still cries up freewill. We all want to build the altar at which we worship by our own hands (Ex. 20:24-25). We all want to think that salvation, at least some part of salvation, at least in some measure, is of our own doing.
Arminianism is a monster with many heads. Every time it raises one of its ugly heads, cut it off quickly. Do not endure for a moment any thought that promotes man’s dignity, or any thought that robs God of his glory. -- “Salvation is of the Lord!” -- “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy!”
Being proud, arrogant worms, we all have to face the danger of intellectualism, too. Satan knows how proud we all are of our puny brains. Because we are so very proud of our mental abilities, we vainly imagine that by much study and diligent research we can find out all things. We foolishly imagine that we can by searching find out God! I have even heard some men boast that they came to know the gospel, not by divine revelation, but by their own great brilliance and disciplined study!
Proud flesh always loves to study and learn “some new thing.” So we give ourselves to answering one question, then another, and then another. How often individuals, pastors, churches, and denominations become consumed with the study of prophecy, creeds, morality, church order, political issues, family issues, etc. Those who give in to this lust of the flesh soon make the gospel of Christ a sideline, because there is no end to foolish questions. And when the gospel of Christ becomes a sideline in any church or ministry, Satan has won the day (1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:23; Tit. 3:9).
We also face the constant danger of legalism. It is more difficult for a person to be weaned from legalism than from any other tendency of human nature. The spirit of bondage and legality is more frequently and more forcefully dealt with in the New Testament than any other error. To one degree or another, worldliness, Arminianism, and intellectualism all have their roots in the spirit of legality.
Let me be crystal clear. When I use the term “legalism,” I am referring to any doctrine or religious system that teaches that man can be justified before God by something he does, or makes sanctification and holiness something a man does for himself, or teaches that man can put God under obligation to him, that man can, by something he does, merit God’s favor. Legalism is any attempt to bring the people of God back under the bondage of the law.
This demon of legality must be exposed and eradicated. The Holy Spirit says, “Cast out the bondwoman and her child.” Nothing is more harmful, or more deadly than this foolish attachment of sinful men to the law. It promotes pride and self-righteousness. It turns a man’s eyes away from Christ to himself. It causes strife and division among God’s people, causing sinful man to think he is something when he is nothing! It destroys every foundation of true peace and assurance before God. It is in direct opposition to the plainest statements of Holy Scripture.
Legalism, in any form, to any degree, is totally contrary to the gospel of Christ. Law and grace simply will not mix. We who believe on Christ, we who are saved by the free grace of God in Christ are not under the law in any sense, to any degree, for any reason. We will not, we must not allow anyone to bring us under the yoke of bondage to the law. (Rom. 6:15; 7:4; 10:4; Gal. 3:1-3, 13, 24-25; 5:1-4; 6:12-13; Col. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:5-10).
“Free from the law, O happy condition!
Jesus hath bled; and there is remission!
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us, once for all!
In Christ we fulfil the law by faith, by believing on him who fulfilled the law for us (Rom. 3:31). In Christ we have no curse from the law (Gal. 3:13). In Christ we have no covenant with the law (Rom. 7:4). In Christ we have no constraint by the law (2 Cor. 5:14). In Christ we have no commitment to the law!
We are saved by grace. We are justified by grace. We are sanctified by grace. We are kept and preserved by grace. We are motivated by grace. We are governed by grace. We shall be glorified by grace. And there is no room in the house of grace for the whip of the law.
I use great plainness of speech because I want to be understood. Let men call me a foul, base antinomian and promoter of licentiousness as often and as loudly as they please. I will not be moved. There is no room for Hagar in Sarah’s house! We cannot rest on Zion’s hill of grace until we quit trying to climb Sinai’s dark, high mountain. Ishmael shall never be heir with Isaac.
You can have either grace or works, but not both. You can have either Moses or Christ, but not both. You can either work or rest, but you cannot do both! Any mixture of law with grace is a total denial of grace. If you cling to the one, you cannot hold the other! It is written, "If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11:6). I urge you, do not allow anyone, or anything, to take you away from Christ (Gal. 5:1-4).