Monday, April 19, 2010

License, Legalism, or Liberty?

As I listened to a sermon from David Pawson this morning on the Book of Romans, I was struck by how perfectly the issues in Rome describe the errors which are permeating the churchworld in our day.

One of the purposes of Min. Pawson's sermon was to address the context for why the Book of Romans was written. He reviews how the church in Rome started with a fellowship of Jewish believers. However, when faith in Christ began to cause a conflict within the Jewish community, the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jewish believers from Rome.

By the time the Jewish community was again welcomed back to Rome, the church at Rome had become largely comprised of, and run by, Gentile believers. It is this disparity between the Jewish and Gentile believers that Min. Pawson suggests is being addressed in Paul's letter to Rome.

While I have not posted all of Min. Pawson's video below, I did post a couple of segments below which describes the main issues Paul spoke of to the church at Rome:

  • License - Jesus paid it all, so live as you please!

  • Legalism - Jesus' sacrifice is not complete unless you do this!

  • Liberty - Your life is no longer your own, but is Christ's!
The current religious landscape is seeing an increase in people turning aside from faith in Christ towards doctrines that accommodate sin or that rely on religious works to earn salvation. These are the exact issues Paul was dealing with in his letter to Rome, and we have come full circle to the same today. His call to the church was to leave such errors behind and begin to walk in the liberty of life in Christ Jesus. Is this a call you are prepared to heed?


"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." Romans 6:12-13

There are those who have perverted the Gospel message in order to have it become a license for sin. By this, I mean that they teach a salvation where man has no accountability or responsibility before God. Simply give a one-time confession of faith or recite a sinner's prayer, and you have obtained instant fire insurance from Hell. We are all just "sinners saved by grace", meaning not that Jesus Christ has given us power over sin, but that He expects us to do nothing more than keep on sinning. Gone is the call to holiness, the need for repentance or the "reasonable service" of a sacrificed life.

Instead, we get the "Gospel of Inclusion" which says that everyone is saved regardless of how they live or what they believe. We get an unbiblical "unconditional eternal security" which says that you are always assured of salvation no matter what. Or get the "Seeker Friendly" approach which comes packaged to look, dress, talk, and behave just like the world so that God is not offensive to the carnal mind.


"For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Romans 10:2-4

Still others are being pulled into legalism, as they look to religious works to earn God's acceptance and favor. This approach to salvation can come across in its obvious form of striving to keep the law of Moses or commandments to abstain from certain foods or observe certain holy days. But it can also be more insidious through claims that we must use "sacred names" for God or adopt other Hebrewisms which are supposed to represent a more pure faith.

The disarming attribute about these items is that they sound pious and have an appearance of holiness, but - when we begin to let these things define our relationship with God - we are on a road which leads to self-righteousness. As Min. Pawson discusses in this video, it is the "righteousness of man" (the "good" which man knows and does) which can be the biggest stumbling block to salvation, creating a false illusion that our deeds are righteous. The hardest things of which to repent are our "good deeds".

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Romans 3:28

Either we will receive the imputed righteousness of God which comes apart from any man's work, or we will turn to the flesh to complete that which can only be perfected by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-3). It is a spiritual work that God wants to do in each of us. He is not looking for us to get swelled up in religious knowledge or religious works. It is about WHO we know, not WHAT we know.


"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Romans 8:14-15

We are not to be in bondage to sin (license) nor in bondage to the law (legalism), but we are called to be led by the Spirit of God which is the opposite of the spirit of bondage! And yet many are being led away from life in the Spirit, the very one who generates the new birth and sustains us in our relationship with God.

Liberty in Christ can only be achieved when we have laid down our lives and are no longer living for ourselves. It is on that altar where we find deliverance from sin and can be transformed to prove the perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Then we can truly say it is not about the wrongs we have done or the good we can perform, but it is all about Jesus.

Is your faith leading you towards License, Legalism, or Liberty? Now is the time to turn our whole hearts back to God and let Him complete the work in us that He is faithful to do.


  1. Just the information I was looking for! Thanks for this.

  2. If the gospel you are preaching does not lend itself to being misunderstood that you are saying people can indulge in sin, then you are not preaching the gospel that Paul preached. This doesn't say that sinning is right, but to the hearer still caught up under the Old Covenant Law, it will definitely sound like that's what you're saying.

  3. Hi Andre,

    Yes, I too have found that those trying to be under the old covenant law do not understand what it means to be under the law of the Spirit.

    We were having a similar conversation on another article and I'll share what I posted there.

    Pastor Zac Poonen expounded on the following:

    "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." I Corinthians 6:12

    "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." I Corinthians 10:23

    He essentially said that there are three levels of living.

    1). Live unlawfully as do unbelievers. In this category, one does whatever they want to do with no regard for whether it is righteous or not. This is the lowest form of living.

    2). Live lawfully, where a person does whatever is permitted. Their only concern is that their activity is 'lawful'. This is where many believers live.

    3). Live profitably, where the concern is not just "is this lawful", but is it profitable?; does it edify? This is the highest level of living according to God's word.

    Out of 100 things, 70 things might be unlawful. Out of the 30 lawful things, maybe only 10 are profitable.

    The wholehearted Christian will only do the 10 things. The half-hearted Christian will do all 30. A worldly Christian or unbeliever does all 100.

    There is liberty in Christ which we receive by grace, but there is also accountability. The "true grace" of God which Peter also expounds upon is one that pulls us out of sin into obedience to God...yet without the works of the law.

    A truly committed Christian will desire to only do that which is profitable in God even while having the freedom (by grace) to do more.

    "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." I Peter 1:13-16

    Thank you for sharing your comments.


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