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      Legalism 101

      Tuesday, July 31, 2007

      Many these days are paranoid about being a “legalist”. With this paranoia, many neglect the very commandments of the Lord Jesus to save themselves from the accusations and sneers of many who would call them legalists for keeping Christ’s very words. There are many ways in which one can be a legalist, but, as with all to do with matters of authority, we should go to God for our definition of any such word.

      If you love me, keep my commandments. … He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

      - Jesus Christ
      (Joh 14:15, 21)

      What harsh words are these for those who do not keep Christ’s commandments, but what joy in these words of affirmation from the Lord for those that do. Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (1 John 4:1-3; Luke 5:32 KJV) Why did the Lord say such a thing? Was it because He was being harsh in declaring the will of the Father? No, the answer is because, in that day, there were many professors of godliness, there were those who had a form of godliness and considered themselves to be righteous by their own standards possibly by comparing themselves to others who praised themselves, but, in turn, did not keep the commandments of the Lord and denied the power of godliness thereof. Many are the same in this day. Many go to a place of worship consistently, tithe, pray, and take part in the religious fundraisers for, say, a new building or something of the sort, but all the while, in thought or word, they declare: “Lord, thank you for not allowing me to be like that sinner over there. I go to church every week, I tithe, I pray consistently, and I give myself to religious activities… not like that sinner over there. Thank you, Lord that I am not like him.” (Luke 8:10-14) Ah, many wolves in sheep’s clothing we have today, indeed. Jesus Christ gave us two commandments of equal importance: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, body, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Many will be addressed with these commandments and say, “Well, I do that. Look at what I do! I give money that I wanted to use for something else to those in need! I have such faith that I can move mountains! I would give my body to be burned if need be!” The Apostle Paul, however, declares that even if you do all these things, and have not charity, you are nothing. (1 Cor. 13) Notice what he says. All the things listed above are charitable deeds, but Paul says that one can do them without love. It is quite possible to give all of my goods to the poor, but if I do not have charity, it profits me nothing.

      Keeping the commandments of Christ is not being a “legalist” or being “holier than thou.”

      For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

      - Paul the Apostle
      (Rom 13:9-10)

      Paul the Apostle states that love is the fulfillment of the law. Is keeping the words of Christ being a legalist? If you go to your average meeting held in a building, the answer is either, “Yes.” or “Does answering this question truthfully going to interfere with the plans that I have laid out for myself and offend those persons that I hold in admiration because of personal advantage?” (Jude 1:16) or even “Does answering this question truthfully abase my pride and hinder the free-will I have to do as I please all ‘in the name of Christ’?” No, keeping the words of Christ definitely DOES NOT make one a legalist. Those who do not keep the words of Christ may say that it does, but they are in the transgression, not the one who keeps them.

      So what is a legalist? I’m afraid many who have little faith in this day have left it up to the legalists to define for them what exactly a legalist is. A legalist is one who professes Christ, who professes godliness, but denies the power thereof. For example, many today go or have gone to a place of worship simply because of some personal gain that may come about their way by attending a certain place with all the while having no desire to repent of not loving their neighbor as themselves and not loving God with all their, heart, soul, mind, and strength (ie. keeping Christ’s words). Some may have gone to seek a girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe some have gone because there is some business deal that someone in that place could have a say so in, or maybe even some go just so everyone can see that they "go to church". Even still, there are others who go simply because of tradition and not because of the love they have for Christ for taking the curse that every man has on him apart from Jesus. It is only those who believe on Him that have this curse lifted because it is Him who has been made a curse for those believing. (Gal. 3:13) Regardless of the truth of Christ, there are still unrepentant people who are the very ones that sit in the back or even in the front and call those who do come to repentance, who DO keep Christ words “legalists” for doing so. No, a legalist is one who is a lover of self and not a lover of God or their neighbor as themselves. There is so much self love prevalent this day because of so many people's igorant adherance to the false teaching from legalists saying that the keeping of Christ’s words is legalism when that is clearly not so. Keeping the commandments of Christ is actually loving Christ Himself. When one goes to the scriptures, one finds this to be true. Never in the scripture is the law talked about as being evil, only the abuse of it. There are many in this day who are more concerned about being seen “in church” than seeing God. There is the root of legalism. Legalism is not in the one who keeps Christ’s commandments; it is in the one who mocks and sneers at those that do. “Do not be deceived,” says the Apostle, “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9) One who does righteousness is righteous even as Jesus Christ is righteous. (1 John 3:7) It is not the one who professes their own godliness but denies the keeping of Christ’s words that is righteous; it is actually him that does and keeps the commandments of Christ that is righteous. Would you take advice from a person who gets drunk about the morality of drunkenness instead of an Apostle of God? (1 Cor. 6:10) Then why would you go to the opinion of a legalist as the basis for your definition about what exactly legalism is instead of the only one who never sinned (Jesus Christ)?

      Ah, that the love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts! Away with false professors who trust in themselves for their righteousness and sneer at those who love Christ and look to him for their righteousness! In with Jesus Christ and the keeping of His words forever for He is come in the flesh, raised from the dead, and revived; never to die again! Amen.

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