Having previously posted on the topic of the Sabbath with a broader look at the theme of the Law of God, I have been receiving some flak from the Legalists, both from a Seventh-day adventist apologist and prophecy 'expert' Charlene Fortsch and advocates of a particular form of Israelism (or new Jews) calling their group 'the Israel of God'. While they have proven incalcitrant in refusing correction by the Word of God, and instead seek to place believers under the yoke of slavery to the Law (cf Gal. 5:1), interaction with them has indeed helped in clarifying my thoughts on the topic of the Law with respects to the Gospel. I also have a polite invitation from a Seventh Day Adventist pastor Jan McKenzie to debate the issue of the Law of God with a special focus on the epistle to the Galatians.
With such a situation therefore, I would thus be able to kill these many birds with one stone by primarily going through Galatians on the topic of the Law and the Gospel, and thus vindicating the Gospel of Sola Fide from her enemies, which is what I would be doing in a future series of blog posts.
Before I start, there are two extremes — two ditches on the side of the road that we must avoid. The first one is Legalism (including Soft Legalism), which I would be dealing with, and the other is Antinomianism or Licentiousness or "Easy-believism", which my friend Mike Ratliff has posted a series of four posts discussing it. Without going into much detail, it must be said that salvation cannot be merited or repaid or improved (contra Legalism), and it brings forth fruit (contra Antinomianism). The confusion comes about surely when the idea of fruits are mixed up with the idea of merits, and therefore the Legalists would attack the true Gospel as being lawless, while the Antinomians would attack the true Gospel for adding works as a requirement for salvation.
So what exactly is the difference between fruits and merits, it may be asked? After all, since salvation yields fruits of salvation, therefore does this mean that lack of fruits signify a lack of salvation? If so, what then is the difference between fruits and merits? One way of looking at this is that merits are prior to salvation while fruits are posterior to salvation. Therefore, basing salvation on merits gives a person no assurance, since nobody has any idea whether they have fulfilled the merit quota necessary to earn their 'ticket to heaven'. Fruits however, are done upon an assured foundation of salvation, and therefore there is no quota to fulfil. Secondly, what is even more striking here is that fruits by definition are natural outgrowths of something, and this something is salvation, which comes about through the new nature given us by God through regeneration. As stated in Rom. 6:2, how is it that we who died to sin still live in it? Therefore, while merits involve striving to meet a standard, fruits involve naturally growing from an assured foundation which provide the strength and will to grow.
With this, let us then continue to look into the book of Galatians.
[to be continued]