Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jerry Bridges Compares Grace and Law!

I'm home alone at my parents while they are at church and dinner is all on the go. With everything under control I prowled around a bit bored and saw a book by Jerry Bridges called; "Transforming Grace - Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love". I must admit rather shamefully I have steered clear of Jerry Bridges in past years being rather suspicious of his close proximity to S.G.M. But having nothing else to read I skimmed through it and found an interesting comparison that he did between; "The Old Way of the Law" and the "New Way of the Spirit".

I think it's very helpful for clarity. Here's what he said;

Old Way of Law - External Code:

The moral precepts of God are only an external code of conduct. The law commands obedience but provides no inclination or desire to obey.

New Way of Spirit - Internal Desire:

The moral precepts of God are written on our hearts as well as being an external code. The Spirit inclines our hearts and gives us a desire to obey.

Old Way of Law - Commanding:

The law commands but gives no enabling power for obedience.

New Way of Spirit - Enabling:

The Spirit enables us to obey the law's commands.

Old Way of Law - Hostility:

Because of our hostility to God's law before our conversion, the commands of the law actually provoked and incited us to sin.

New Way of Spirit - Delight:

The Spirit by removing our hostility and writing the law on our hearts, actually causes us to delight in God's law.

Old Way of Law - Fear:

The law produces a legalistic response to God. We try to obey because of a fear of punishment for disobedience or in order to win favour with God.

New Way of Spirit - Gratitude:

The Spirit, by showing us God's grace, produces a response of love and gratitude. We obey not out of fear or to earn favour but out of gratitude for favour ALREADY given!

Old Way of Law - Working:

Under the Law we perform in order to be accepted by God. Since our performance is always imperfect, we never feel completely accepted by Him. Thus in our Christian life, we always work from a position of weakness. We work to be accepted, but feel we never quite make it.

New Way of Spirit - Relying:

The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are accepted by God through the merit of Christ. By relying solely on His perfect righteousness we feel accepted by Him. Thus in our Christian life, we work from a position of strength because we have been accepted through Jesus and through Him, we have "made it".

In reading this I see absolutely no place where there would be much conflict between what Bridges is saying and what Rob Rufus is teaching. It's all there! But again and again over the past week I've read blogs by Christians, I've heard teaching by Christians that persistantly mixes law with grace. What particularly bothers me is the "sin conciousness" that is so present and so dangerous. Christians are testifying as to what a failure they feel before God and it is often applauded as "humility" when in reality it is pride and indeed somewhat blasphemous to the Cross. We need to stop talking and focusing on "us" and start talking and focusing on "Him" and what He has done for us and what that qualifies us to do for Him!


stillhaventfound said...

Hi Dan,

Your blogs are on my bloglines and I read them occasionally. Just thought I'd leave a comment. I come from Singapore and from Joseph Prince's New Creation Church - just sat through another awesome Christ-centered sermon by Prince 6 hours ago. I think you've quoted him before. I wonder if Rob Rufus knows Joseph?

Anyway, both of them (and us) share the same views regarding grace. I think Jerry Bridges (though not charismatic) has a lot of good stuff to say in his books regarding grace. I actually came to my view of grace through White Horse Inn / Modern Reformation and Michael Horton's gang of Reformed-Lutheran friends. Awesome stuff. I think there's a lot of differences in the Reformed movement today regarding grace - there's a lot of legalism among Reformed believers - but Horton is definitely one of the better guys out there who recognizes such legalism and constantly preaches Christ and Him crucified - though he's not charismatic.

I used to like SGM (PDI then) because of their Reformed-Charismatic beliefs and especially their focus on the cross (this was 10 years ago). At least in the latter area, I think they're right. However, I haven't followed up much with them.

Anyway, cheers mate!

Dan Bowen said...


Thanks for dropping by - great to hear from you! I'm a huge - although new - fan of Joseph Prince's! You are soo blessed to sit under his ministry and I know you appreciate it! You are dead right - there's so much awesome similarity between Prince and Rufus! I am sure Rob knows of Joseph Prince - he seems pretty well read!

I share your point about Jerry Bridges. As I said I approach him with caution. I read a couple of his books and see a subtle combining of law and grace. I enjoyed what I read of this book so far. And as you rightly say - he's no charismatic.

SGM (PDI) years back certainly had a healthy emphasis on the Cross of Christ, I think some of us who have been in SGM churches have concerns that they have now seperated being saved by grace and then having to "prove" that salvation through works - as Bridges said. That split seems to have some serious legalistic fruit.

But I could go on about that for ages!

As I say great to hear from you and loving your blog also!

Jon Sidnell said...

Good stuff, Dan!

Funnily enough, I've been cautious with Jerry Bridges stuff for pretty much the same reasons you have - closeness to SGM, whether he's charismatic enough, and whether he mixes law and grace. I might check out that particular book - but I'm still cautious about "The Discipline of Grace" :)

Either way, there's some good stuff there that I might pinch when I'm preaching on law and grace in April :)

Dan Bowen said...

Ha ha that's good to know I'm not the only one Jon! I would agree - not keen on "Discipline of Grace" or "Pursuit of Holiness". I would be interested to see what you make of the new book.

And look forward to hearing what you've got to say about grace and law! :)

jul said...

To me, the part you quote is almost nothing like Rob. I'd change the names of the columns to Law and Grace + Law. I read both Bridges' grace books quite a while back when I was first getting some revelation on grace and was just about to dive into legalism (the mixture kind, the absolute worst kind) that was so deadly it is only a miracle I'm still alive. I remember reading Discipline of Grace and telling someone in then PDI that I loved it and hated it at the same time, which they seemed to think it meant it was balanced (and implied the hated part was probably the most beneficial) now looking back I see that because I had no teaching on the true purpose of the law and that as a believer I was no longer under it AT ALL I was easily deceived by the mixture. I instinctively loved the grace parts and hated the law parts but didn't realize that the gospel was truly only GOOD news and there are no bad news parts of the Gospel at all.

And don't worry Dan, I'll be writing more on the conference when I get home, pray for me as I start the driving part today with the kids! It may be a little while before I'm recovered enough to start writing...