In Acts 15, the Pharisees were operating under the law, which modifies behavior; the disciples were operating under gospel, which transforms the heart. The law reveals sin, but only the gospel removes the stain of sin. The Pharisees were attempting to save themselves through religion, changing their behavior, but the disciples were wholly reliant upon the gospel of grace to change their heart. Religion and gospel are drastically different.
- Religion says, I obey, therefore I’m accepted. The gospel says, I’m accepted therefore I obey.
- Religion is defined by and focused on the rules. The gospel is defined by and focused on the gracious Ruler.
- Religion changes your behavior so you look good in front of man. The gospel cleans your heart so you can stand in the presence of God.
All of us are like the Pharisees. There’s part of us that like the religion and law. Why? Because that gives us control. Deep down, we are do-it-yourself-God-wannabes. We want to maintain control; we want the outcome of our lives, including our salvation in our hands.
Give me 3 steps to a happy marriage and I can guarantee myself a happy marriage – or I can be mad at God if it doesn’t happen. Give me 5 rules to follow to ensure sexual purity or 7 steps to grow in godliness, and then I can pat myself on the back by following those rules and taking those steps. “The law seems safe because it breed’s a sense of control. It keeps life formulaic and predictable. It keeps earning-power in our camp.”
We drift toward law because we are afraid of grace. Grace takes control from us. Taking hold of grace means we have to let go of self – we don’t like that. As Michel Horton says, “The gospel of grace throws our glory train off its tracks. Instead of calculating, mastering, and determining, we find ourselves completely helpless, left with no option but to fall into the everlasting arms of the God who could consume us in wrath but instead embraces us in his Son.”
 Tullian Tchvidjian, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/01/05/might-as-well-face-it-youre-addicted-to-law/.
 Michael Horton, quoted from Ibid.