"Addition and Subtraction"
The New Testament epistles deal with two primary deceptions, namely legalism - addition to God's grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ - and licentiousness - subtraction from such grace and truth.
"Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?… Ye observe days and months and times and years" (Galatians 3:2-3; 4:9-10).
"Some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come, whose damnation is just" (Romans 3:8).
The Gospel of the Lord Jesus offers the freest gift ever given, a Divinely-supplied largesse that cannot be purchased by the legalistic barter of works, religious exercise, sacrifices, or human effort of any type. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" exulted the Apostle Paul (Titus 3:5). We do nothing to receive the free gift except to receive, by faith, the free gift. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12). Nor do we maintain our own redemption - "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). We work from our Lord rather than working our way unto Him. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). As the Apostle Paul experienced, legalists will accuse us of communicating a message of license when we proclaim the Gospel, but no fair reading of the New Testament can fail to yield the assurance of salvation in Christ as the freest gift.
We also face the equally false notion of licentiousness, that is, that salvation in Christ offers merely fire insurance, as it were, regarding the future wrath of God. Nothing could be further from the New Testament proclamation of a grace that not only pardons, but also provides the power to live in faith and faithfulness. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17). The Spirit of Christ Himself indwells our born again spirits when we believe, thus birthing "a new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). Believers are super-charged vessels of righteousness because the righteous person of God inhabits the very essence of our spiritual being. We do not always live accordingly because we sometimes forget or disbelieve that "ye are alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11). Such detour from Truth, however, does not change the fact of who and what we are in Christ, or our calling to "be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11). Thus, the deception of licentiousness is just as foreign to God's truth as is the false teaching of legalism
In different ways unique to our own experience, we will all be tempted to both legalism and licentiousness. Our spiritual enemies tempt us to add to grace and truth in Christ - legalism - or to subtract from the greatness our Savior's salvation - licentiousness. We must be alert to both deceptions, and seek to know the Lord and His truth well enough to avoid these primary pitfalls along the path of righteousness. The New Testament continually warns of both, and we must continually seek to overcome challenges to our freely given acceptance with God, and the freely given promise of His working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
"By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
"Faith without works is dead."
Weekly Memory Verse
For Thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for Thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.