Are the commands of Jesus just legalism in another form?

I believe in grace, not legalism. Today I preached on the sermon on the mount in Luke. I came face to face with the problem that Jesus preached a lot of commands, and ended the sermon saying that those who kept the commands would be preserved and those who didn't would be destroyed (the house on the sand).
How come Jesus didn't say "I love you and nothing you can do will make me love you more or love you less"? Instead he gave us a set of commands that are even harder to keep than those of Moses, and said things like "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." (John 14:21). I don't believe that we are loved on the basis of our performance, but this is what it sounds like Jesus is saying.
So I decided to tackle the subject head-on and preach on Luke 6. I don't believe the answer is some sort of "balance between law and grace" that requires us to water down grace and weaken law. My solution is far more radical that that: In a nutshell, what Jesus is preaching is not law but faith, and faith is the proper response to grace. I have uploaded the sermon here: "Why Jesus' commands are not legalism" together with the notes. I would be interested in any responses.

You beat me to it! I was

You beat me to it! I was planning another post to answer the question you left me but I was hoping to get an answer out of you anyway so this works too...I may still post my response before I listen and see how well I do with it and I'll definately link to your message. I have no doubt it's excellent but I will let you know what I think after I listen to it.

Answers to questions

I look forward to reading your response, Julie!

I've been thinking about

I've been thinking about this subject a lot recently, and I look forward to listening to your talk on it. Given that a very significant percentage of the teaching of the New Testament (both gospels and epistles) is taken up with commands to virtuous living, it seems strange when preachers use "grace" as an overriding principle that declares any ethical imperitives as being necessarily "legalism".

We often talk about "justification through faith alone", stressing that law keeping does not contribute to our justification - it is all of grace. But I wonder whether we turn that into "justification alone by faith", and forget that God doesn't just want to justify us by his grace, but to sanctify us also by grace.

Your points are right on

I think at the core of the problem is our understanding of faith as something that just "receives". Rather, faith is a response that has a heart component and an active component that is inseparably linked to repentance [Calvin Inst. III.III.5,6]. Repentance involves "turning to God" and "putting on Christ". One thing that distinguishes this from works is that it is done in dependence on Christ's power.
This is exactly the same as the response of the lame man who stands up when Jesus commands him to. This repentance is also different from works in that it is not meritorious, it is motivated by love, and the standard is not a written list, but the example of Jesus.
Spurgeon once said that anyone who understood this subject understood the whole of theology!

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