From Legalism To Grace

November 30, 2005

I received an email this past week, via my brother Mark, from a young man that grew up in the same small rural congregation in Robertson County Tennessee that I did. In the email Ben described his journey out of legalism to an understanding of the grace of God. As I read Ben’s words tears came to my eyes as I remembered my own journey over thirty years ago. Ben described his journey in the following words. “What changed? Everything. There was no epiphany, no one moment of fresh insight, no real attempt on my part to question the self-righteous legalism I’d grown comfortable with . . . there was just grace, and more grace, and still more grace from a God who wouldn’t give up on one of His most zealously vicious children.”

How those words tugged at my heart and I was reminded of my own journey from legalism to grace. I was blessed to begin my preaching career away for the Bible Belt where I had grown up. My first full time work was in a small rural Pennsylvania church. Not long after moving there I met two preachers of my tribe that were in the area. As we would share our convictions on various topics it soon became evident that these guys had a different perspective on a number of issues. They began to challenge my “works oriented” approach to scripture and salvation. Thank God I was green and bendable, and my open mind began to drink deeply of the riches of His mercy and grace.

Being away from my tradition roots, I did not experience the venom of others as Ben did. “The elders from the most influential church in that region sent letters to all the congregations for miles around insisting that I was unworthy of fellowship. My phone rang off the hook for weeks as I was contacted by elders and ministers who wanted to do nothing more than express their disappointment at my great fall, and many informed me that I’d never be welcome in their church houses again.”

What is really ironic is that Ben and I, though separated by a number of years in time, were apart of a group that preached so strongly against denominationalism and yet was its greatest practitioner. We had become the express image of what we despised and could not see it. Like those who lashed out at Stephen, they could not see their own departure from God’s will for their lives.

Ben is doing a great work today.. He is preaching a grace filled gospel to military personnel, and experiencing the freedom that only comes through complete trust in Jesus. Ben’s has a number of great lessons at his site, Spiritual Reformation. Check it out.

There is a fresh wind blowing among the members of my tribe today. Churches across the country have awakened and are no longer willing to be swayed by the pressure of a few. Yes, the legalism still exist in many congregations, and publication, but they no longer hold sway. Grace will lift you up, become the wind beneath your wings and enable you to fly with Eagles. The journey is sometimes painful, but Ben would tell you, it is worth it. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.



  1. Wow, that is an encouraging post. Finding the courage to stand against the few is hard.

  2. So true TCS, but worth the price.

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