Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Defining Legalism - Part 2
6. Legalism is rampant in the Churches.
The largest responsibility for this lies with the Pastors (and the Seminaries which crank them out) not understanding the very nature of the New Covenant, and not understanding the centrality of Jesus Christ in every passage.
But the congregation, too, has a responsibility. Too often the congregation actually welcomes moralistic, performance-based preaching, while they suffer severe malnutrition because they are missing the Bread of Life, Who is Grace, Who is Jesus.
In not "rightly dividing" or "cutting straight" the Scriptures, they mix Old and New Testaments, Old and New Covenants, Natural Israel and Spiritual Israel, Law and Grace, Blessings and Cursings, and a whole hodge-podge of Theological Chili results, where one can't tell when the tomatoes end and the beef or beans begins.
7. The answer at least partly lies in a vigilant watch for legalism, and slaying it's dragons with the clear Word of God at every opportunity.
We may start with really taking Galatians at face value. If teacher or student gets a handle on the radical nature of Galatians, three things will be clear:
a. there is no law or performance involved in initial salvation
b. there is no law or performance involved in retaining salvation
c. there is no law or performance involved in God's loving His children, and bestowing His favor on those who have already been given "all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus".
8. There are two useful personal tests for legalism, even when it's so slippery that it fights definition:
Do I think I'm "better" than some other guy or gal, or do I think I'm "worse" than some other guy or gal?
If I think I'm better, I am not understanding Grace. I am not understanding "that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh." (Rom. 7:18) True, I have a new spirit, a new nature, but "what do you have that you have not received?" Or as the common proverb puts it, "There but for the Grace of God go I".
If I think I'm worse, I am not understanding Grace, because I'm denying what God has done in making me a new creation, old things having passed away and all things becoming new.
Test 2 --
Do I think God will love me more if I perform in such-and-such a way? Then I don't understand
that by Grace, God loves me unconditionally. He set His love on me before I was even born. Nothing I do can make Him love me more, and nothing I do can make Him love me less. He loves me...period.
9. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm, and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1)
"But now we have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7:6)
"For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God." (Gal. 2:19)