"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." (2 Corinthians 11:4 NASB)
The following excerpt is from my foundational book GRACE WORKS.
Two very important distinctions in the grace message are legalism and libertarianism. We must understand these opposing viewpoints to better embrace the gospel. When you preach the pure gospel that says we are saved by grace through faith, not of works (without boundaries, exceptions or controls) that is called Libertarianism. When it is taught that we are saved by grace but also must maintain our salvation by good works and sinless living, that is called legalism. Legalism advocates that we must not sin or we jeopardize our righteous standing with God. This is not the New Testament gospel (Paul called it preaching “another Jesus”). Legalism is accompanied by the fear that unless we preach grace with stipulations, then we are throwing everything out of balance. It’s, “Yes grace BUT we must also…” or “Yes, grace BUT we must be careful…” Fear causes us to attach warnings to the message of grace. Simply stated: Legalism says, “Grace, but…” Libertarianism says, “But GRACE!”
When we try to coerce others into adhering to the standard of holy living out of fear that they will take license to sin, we fall into the tireless cycle of fear and control. Why? Control is a by-product of fear. We fear losing control of people so we impose extra addendums to keep them out of sin. Fear is the mother of all confusion. When we operate out of fear and control it only brings envy and strife. Envy and strife are the co-conspirators of confusion and evil, and where confusion and evil exists, sin will surely abound… (James 3:16 KJV).
Enforcing religious controls on people will prove ineffective to produce true holiness in them. People will comply with legalism to a point but will eventually rebel because the flesh can’t keep up with the Law. The Law eventually runs the flesh down. That’s the way God designed it. He created the Law to drive us to utter exhaustion in our own strength (Galatians 3:24). It is God’s Grace alone that totally extricates us from the harsh domination of the Law. Legalism is based on manipulation and control, which ultimately brings people back into bondage. Libertarianism however, liberates the believer to hear from God and respond to God’s power. Living in this way leads the believer towards true life-transformation.