Derek Prince - Christianity Is Not A Set Of Rules
Now, let’s come to a little bit of definition and here is where we really need clear thinking. In fact, you really need clear thinking all the time! How many of you would agree with that? Well now, we need to discuss briefly the nature of grace. Grace is a beautiful word but it’s often been abused. I was preaching once in a certain church, and I said, as a matter of fact, the churches that call themselves grace churches, often know the least about grace. And then I woke up to the fact that I was preaching in one of those churches! Nevertheless, it remains true. A lot of people who use the word grace don’t have any idea of what it really means. The root meaning of grace is comeliness, it’s beauty. And then it’s a beauty that God imparts to us because we believe in Him. He makes us beautiful with His grace.
And then Paul says (here’s the crux) in Romans 11:6: If by grace, then it is no longer of works. Otherwise, grace is no longer grace. In other words, in my language, you cannot earn grace. Anything you can earn is not grace. This is somewhat humbling for many of us. We’ve got to depend on His grace, we cannot earn it. Nothing we can do can ever obtain for us the grace of God. But by grace we have been saved through faith. And just when you’re getting excited about the fact that you have faith, remember Paul goes on to say: and that not of us, it is the gift of God. You have nothing whatever to boast of if you’ve been saved by faith. God has done this to protect you from the greatest sin of all which is pride.
Now, I want to consider the relationship between faith and works, what we believe and what we do. And as far as I know all I’m going to say, will be taken directly from the New Testament. and yet for many of you it will be startling and even shocking. I’ve discovered this: merely to preach the simple New Testament message of salvation by grace, is startling to most professing Christians. I remember once saying, in a congregation about this size: Of course, Christianity is not a set of rules. And then I looked at those people, and they were shocked. I think they would have been less shocked if I’d said, God is dead. Their concept of Christianity, was a set of rules. Maybe you have the same concept. I want to tell you Christianity is not a set of rules. You can’t achieve it by rules. Let’s look at what Paul says, in Romans chapter 3 verse 20. The theme of Romans, incidentally, is righteousness. This is the central issue of Romans, how can we become righteous before God?
Many, many centuries before, Job had cried out in his agony, in Job chapter 9 verse 2: How can a man be righteous before God? His religious friends all ridiculed the idea that anybody could ever be righteous before God. But God heard that cry and many, many years later, through the epistle to the Romans, He answered the question: How can a man be righteous before God? And it is not by keeping a set of rules. In Romans 3:20, Paul says: Therefore by the deeds of the law, no flesh [that’s no human being] will be justified in his sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Now I’ve read this translation which is the New King James. The NIV essentially says the same. Both of them put in two words which are not there. I’ve learned Greek since I was ten years old, I am confident in what I’m saying. They put in the phrase the law twice. The law. Paul doesn’t say that. He says: Therefore by the deeds of law no flesh will be saved, for by law is the knowledge of sin.
You say, Well, what was the purpose of the law? The purpose of the law was God’s diagnostic. To expose your problem. To expose that you have a problem which is sin. The law can diagnose your problem, but it cannot solve it. It can only be solved by grace. So you need the law to get you to the point where you see you need grace. That’s its purpose. James says in chapter 2, verse 10-11 of his epistle James 2:10-11: For whoever shall keep the whole law, [Now he’s talking about the law of Moses] and yet stumble in one point he is guilty of all. For he who said do not commit adultery also said do not murder. Now, if you do not commit adultery but you do murder you have become a transgressor of the law.
You see what James is saying? You either keep the whole law or you don’t keep the law. To keep ninety-nine percent of the law is not to keep the law. The law is one whole system. Incidentally, none of us come anywhere near keeping 99 percent. The Orthodox Jews say there are 613 commandments that you need to observe. And privately they’ll admit to you that they don’t observe many more than about 32. No one today alive on the earth keeps the entire law of Moses. No one ever has done except one person. You know His name. Jesus, that’s right. He said to these people in the day: Which of you convicts me of sin? They couldn’t answer Him. He’s the only one who kept the law perfectly. You and I cannot do it. I discovered when I was in the British Army, and I got saved, and I began to talk to people about being saved, they all began to think in terms of religion not of salvation. I would find, generally speaking, each one of them would trot out a little list of rules that he kept. That was his righteousness. It was especially tailored to their own situation. If there was something wrong they were doing they didn’t include that rule in their list.
I saw this is how the human mind thinks. I’m righteous by keeping a set of rules. No, you’re not. You could be if you kept the whole rule. But you don’t, no one does. So you cannot say, I keep so much of the law and that’s all that’s needed, because the law is one single system. You either keep it or you don’t keep it. If you could keep it all, God would consider you righteous. But, you can’t. So, you’re shut up to the alternative which is grace. Something you cannot earn. I’ve already pointed out, and I return to this point, in Romans 3:20: Therefore by the deeds of law no flesh will be justified in his sight. Don’t ever try to achieve righteousness with God by keeping a set of rules. That’s what it means because you will fail. If your rules are right, you can’t keep them. If your rules are wrong, you’re not made righteous by keeping wrong rules. Do you understand?