“What, then, is the remedy for legalism?
At the stage we have reached in reflecting on the Marrow, it scarcely needs to be said.
It is grace. But it is not ‘grace’ as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.
Yes, it is the atonement; but not atonement as theory, or as an abstract reality, something that has an identity of its own outside of and apart from the Lord Jesus. For Christ himself, clothed as he is in his gospel work, is the atonement—’He is the propitiation for our sins.’
The remedy therefore is the one that healed Paul of the deep disease of legalism. It is not difficult to imagine that he too knew what it was to be beaten by Moses. He was after all ‘the chief of sinners.’ But here is what he discovered:
Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes though faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
The remedy is that prescribed by Charles Wesley, discovering that these words are true:
‘O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—More full of grace than I of sin . . .’
Where sin abounds, where the law condemns, there grace abounds all the more even to the chief of sinners. Indeed especially to the chief of them, for the more sin there has been, the more God’s grace has abounded. This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.”
-Sinclair Ferguson The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters