Is Legalism the Same as Lawlessness?

I had a great time at the Gospel Centered Life Conference tonight.

Tullian Tchividjian preached on the Gospel and the Individual, how the gospel is both the ignition for the Christian life and also its fuel.

One idea that I found particularly interesting was this notion that both legalism and lawlessness are the same.

The Christian life is often pictured as an attempt to balance legalism and lawlessness.  Too great of a focus, dependence, and emphasis on law and rules and you end up in legalism.  That's one extreme.  The other extreme is lawlessness, stemming from too much grace.

But that's problematic.  Too much grace?

God's grace to us is so extreme, so radical, so undeserved, so ... so ... so gracious.  How can you have too much grace?

What if lawlessness didn't stem from too much grace, but from a misappropriation of a law, hiding behind a law, leveraging technicalities?  And isn't legalism, at its core, also a misappropriation of a law, using a law to make you feel superior to others? 

This is how Pastor Tchividjian came to the conclusion that lawlessness is just another form of legalism.

If you start from the assumption that there's no such thing as too much grace, you need another way to explain lawlessness (aka licentiousness).

Is there such a thing as too much grace?


  1. Anonymous5:40 PM

    Thank you for this.

    Also, have you read Jay Bakker's book "Fall to Grace"? You might like it.

  2. Anonymous5:44 PM

    In theory I agree with his balance of the truth. However, the great skewed point in Christendom these days is the operation of grace in the life of the believer as described in Titus 2:11, 12. It's grace unto holiness, not a reverting back to what we were before conversion in the name of grace. We must be filled with grace and truth as was our Savior if we're to walk the path of our Savior avoiding both the ditches of "legalism" and "licentiousness". Thanks for letting me comment.