Have you heard of the velvet ant? It has a coat of tiny hairs that feel smooth and velvety. But it’s all a disguise. It isn’t an ant at all, but a wingless wasp with a nasty sting. After injecting its victims with a venom, it lays eggs in their incapacitated bodies.
One of Paul’s greatest concerns was that, after being saved by grace, the churches would go back to living under the Old Testament law. He constantly warned them about basing their salvation and their relationship with God on their own performance. ‘I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of Gospel than the one you believed.’ (2 Corinthians 11:3–4 NLT)
Another Jesus! Another Spirit! Another Gospel! Again Paul warns, ‘Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.’ (2 Corinthians 11:14 NLT) Yes, your work for God on earth determines your rewards in Heaven. But only by trusting in the finished work of Christ will you get to Heaven. No one in Heaven will say, ‘Look what Jesus and I did!’
Legalism will not only infect you, it will incapacitate you. Scottish minister Horatius Bonar wrote, ‘Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.’
How do you protect yourself against ‘the sting’ of legalism? By depending on God’s grace alone.