Enjoy these entries - we hope they make you think.
The Eternal Consequences of LegalismMonday, February 20, 2023
The cross offended some false teachers in Galatia, against whom Paul strongly preached. Jews had infiltrated the churches. They claimed to be Christians, but they brought a twisted, corrupted, distorted gospel with them (Gal. 1.6-9) as they attempted to bind the Gentile Christians under a host of Jewish laws which Christ had already eliminated through the cross.
Circumcision is not a sin. Paul was circumcised (Phil. 3.5), and he even had Timothy circumcised for practical reasons (Acts 16.3), so he wasn't condemning the actual act. He condemned it as a religious ritual as the Jews were teaching; they commanded all Christian men to be circumcised to be right with God, making it a prerequisite to salvation.
In addition to circumcision, they also insisted Christians keep special Jewish feast days (Gal. 4.10), adding them onto the list of things necessary for salvation. In other words, the Jewish Christians wouldn't really accept the Gentile Christians as brothers until they measured up to their list of laws and demands.
Why did the cross offend these Jews? Paul preached against circumcision for salvation and that keeping the ceremonial and civil aspects of the Law of Moses is now unnecessary under Christ! He preached that Jesus abolished the Old Law and clearly stated that salvation is by faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Gal. 2.15-16). In fact, "if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Gal. 2.21), and "if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law" (Gal. 3.21). But now that faith has come, we are no longer under the guardianship of the law (Gal. 3.25).
Christ has set us free in order that we may experience true freedom (Gal. 5.1). He has freed us from sin and law. The law binds us under sin, so Christ had to abolish the law so we might be perfectly free from sin! This is grace.
But grace offends the legalist (who believes he is saved by keeping a law) because grace says we are not saved by our work of keeping law; we are saved by Christ's work of keeping the law and His sufficient sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Just as the cross offended the Jews because it did away with their law, the cross offends legalists today because it does away with their law.
Who gets to make the list of laws which are necessary for entering into the kingdom of heaven? Only God holds that position. Is there a law Jesus expects us to submit to? Absolutely! If you don't think so, you should read Matthew 5-7, Romans 6, James, and Galatians 5-6. But Jesus clarifies our relationship to law—law doesn't save; He does. We keep His law because we are His children, not to make ourselves His children.
The legalist lists actions and teachings which will keep a person out of heaven. Many such lists have been made which exceed the boundaries of gospel-level issues, and those lists divide good-hearted brethren. The legalist believes that eating (or not eating) certain meats will keep you out of heaven (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8). The legalist believes that observing (or not observing) certain special religious days will annul your salvation. The legalist believes you must add this or subtract that from your life in order to be saved. Their additions to the gospel divide and do violence to the body of Christ! And that's why Paul so vigorously opposed the mindset of legalism.
Paul could have made a long list to show why he was "qualified" to be saved, but he counted all his so-called qualifications as loss, he said, "for 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 my gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..." (Phil. 3.2-10).
Let us refrain from binding fellow Christians to our lists of laws! If Christ said to do it, then we shall do it. If Christ said to avoid it, then we shall avoid it. But let's not add to or subtract from what He has said, and let us not think that we are saved by keeping His laws. We've been saved in order that we might keep His laws. There's a big difference, and that difference has eternal consequences (Gal. 5.4)!
Does Bible Study Make You Feel Guilty?Monday, September 26, 2022
The preacher hammers the importance of daily Bible study, and most of the church sits feeling condemned, inadequate, and guilty, because we sure messed that up last week!
It's actually not the study itself, but our failures along the way. We make commitments (or at least have a vague idea of what we ought to do) and end up not fulfilling them. We don't hit our targets, don't actualize our vision, don't work the plan perfectly. And our hearts condemn us.
It's as if we feel God accepts us based on whether or not we hit our daily targets.
I know God wants me to spend time in His word (“a minimum of 15 or 20 minutes a day” is the goal I set for myself), and I never got around to it. And I missed yesterday, too. The days pile fast and guilt grows. I'm failing God, myself, my family, my church. I can't let the church know I'm a failure at this because this is what being a Christian is all about, right? If I'm not in the Bible every day, they might think I'm not really a Christian—or at least not a serious one. I'll tell everyone else they should be reading the Bible every day, I'll put on a face like I'm getting it done, and I'll continue to feel bad every week when I don't make it.
Have you ever felt this way?
Trade Law for Grace!
We feel like this when we see ourselves as under law. When we don't understand why Jesus died for us, we can get the idea that God is pleased with us only when we have our act together and displeased when we don't get “enough” works in—as if our works keep us holy and in His grace.
Get this, Brothers and Sisters: as many of you as have been baptized have put on Christ, you are one in Christ Jesus, and you are sons of God through faith (Galatians 3.26–4.7). Because you are sons, you are heirs alongside the Son, Jesus. You inherit eternal fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! God adopted you into His family while you were spiritually immature and broken--and He continues to cover you by the blood of His Son while you grow in Christ. You have freedom in God's house even while you are not perfect! God does not accept you on the basis of what you do for Him, but on the basis of what Jesus Christ has already done on the cross. Nothing you do for God now will make you more holy, more righteous, more acceptable to Him—you are totally accepted right now in Christ Jesus!
So don't feel condemned and guilty when you don't get the works perfect. Keep loving God; keep loving your neighbor; keep loving your family. Keep striving to know and understand more. You have not fallen out of God's favor when you fail.
In God's grace is an amazing freedom—including the freedom to fail and keep right on going. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1).
Being under a heartless law system stifles growth and kills the spirit. But being under the grace of a kind and loving God provides and promotes an attitude of steady joy in the face of all our failures. I hope you and I forever revel in that joy!
Interestingly, those with this biblical understanding of grace find their Bible study becomes even more frequent and fruitful!