Law-Based vs. Grace-Based Families and Churches

Like your family, we live in a home with a thermometer and a thermostat. The thermometer tells us what the temperature is, and the thermostat allows us to change the temperature to ensure the environment we live in is comfortable. This is incredibly important as we live in the desert with hot summers and when the air conditioning once went out we simply went to a hotel for the night.

Our home, and yours, also have emotional and spiritual temperatures. Some are hot, angry, and uncomfortable. Some are cool, distant, and lonely. In the family, the mother is usually the thermometer. She is usually most aware of the spiritual and emotional temperature of the home. Dad is often the thermostat. What he says and how he acts usually sets the spiritual and emotional temperature in the home.

In Galatians, Paul who writes the book, is acting like the dad trying to set the right temperature for the church family. In so doing, he teaches throughout the book that relationships, families, and church families are either based upon law (what people earn through their works) or grace (what Jesus earned for us through His works). For this reason, as you read Galatians (it takes about twenty minutes), you will see the word “law” (32 times) and “works of the law” or “works of the flesh” (7 times) versus Christ (38 times) and grace (8 times). As a practical result of the conflict between law and grace, there are three kinds of environments God’s people live in:

  1. Grace-based. The environment is peaceful, loving, healthy, and fun because there is an emphasis on grace.
  2. Law-based. The environment is fearful, discouraging, and judgmental because there is an emphasis on performance and punishment.
  3. Law & grace-based. The environment is one of conflict, confusion, and often abuse because there is division between two rival ways of seeing God and doing life.

When Paul planted the church in Galatia, it was grace-based. After he left, false teachers came in who were law-based. This is kind of like a family where one of the parents in the nice, relational and grace-based one, whereas the other parent is the gruff, non-relational, law-based one. The result is a miserable home where law and grace live together making everyone miserable.

Which category was your home like growing up? What is your current home environment like? What is your current church environment like?

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