Human life on Earth is subject to opposing powers:
Major Tactics of Satan
The Bible consists of several dozen books and letters that were written by human beings who, in some cases, claimed to be under the divine inspiration of God. Some of these books, particularly those of the Old Testament, document the laws, customs and other practices of ancient people related to their religious worship, many of which seem to have nothing to do with a God that is decent or just. For example, certain Old Testament books call for the execution of people by stoning or burning at the stake for things we that wouldn't even consider crimes today, such as cursing one's parents or breaking the Sabbath.
Many religious people today, having succumbed to Satan's influence, will tell you that God Himself requires you to follow these rules, but Jesus' own words show them to be deceivers:
Satan, however, will seek out susceptible types of people who do not understand Jesus' message and convince them that, simply because these ancient customs were recorded in what they have been taught to call "God's Word," it follows that God must want people to follow all of those laws today! Satan will inflate their egos and senses of self-righteousness, and try to get them to enforce these laws on others. This is called legalism (1) (2), and is a trap that people from many different religious backgrounds fall into. Here is one example from a news clipping dated October 2012:
Satan teaches these susceptible people that they need to blindly accept these ancient religious texts as "God's Inerrant Word," and that it is literally true in every respect, no matter what truths God otherwise may be trying to put into their hearts today. Satan hopes that these people will stay fixated on the dead letters of these ancient, often-barbaric texts and never realize that, by doing so, they have closed their hearts to God and shut Him out from communicating with them directly -- in the present!
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. 3:5-6 KJV)
Indeed, rather than attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus and emulate His behavior, many people today, including a large percentage of those who outwardly profess to be "Christians," find it easier to just attend their particular religious organization and ignorantly quote rules like the Pharisees did. Of course, they will pick and choose the laws that they think they can get away with forcing on others due to popular support, but ignore others when they are inconvenient. For example, even the most ardent legalist today will not usually try to convince you to put your children to death for disobedience, because they realize no rational person today would have the patience to listen to such nonsense.
But many of them will still fight devilishly hard for legalistic enforcement of ancient Sabbath-keeping rules (e.g., modern blue laws), or, let's not forget that old-time favorite, advocating hatred, intolerance, and outright violence against homosexuals. But by doing so, they are still following the example of the Pharisees instead of the teachings of Jesus, even if they wear a cross on a necklace or have a Christian-themed bumper sticker on their car. These outward signs are meaningless and might impress their neighbors, but they do not fool God, who knows what is truly in their hearts (Matt 7:21-23, Matt 6:1-18, Matt 7:13-14). Many of these people never think very long about the fact that it was the Pharisees -- the religious authorities of the day -- who conspired with the government to have Jesus put to death.
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Cor. 3:14-17 KJV)
In the above quotation from the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the religious legalists that they are "vipers" who are bound for the "damnation of hell" (Jesus's own words!) You need to stop and think about this for a moment, and reflect upon whether Jesus might be trying to tell YOU something through this message. The fate of your soul may depend on it!
Satan's tactic of legalism can only be successful if he can get people to stop talking to God directly and praying sincerely for God's guidance in their lives. For the trick to work, Satan needs people to believe that they already KNOW God's Will and that it is their job to enforce it on others. If he can get them to worship "every jot and tittle" recorded in the Bible INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY WORSHIPPING GOD HIMSELF, then Satan has got them firmly in his clutches. They are damned, while remaining the entire time totally convinced that they are warriors for God.
Satan will also find lots of people who didn't fall for the religious legalism scam. When he approaches these people, he will very cleverly use the opposite approach and say, "look at those religious fundamentalists, trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else. They are obviously very dangerous, violent and backwards people for believing what they do. If there is a God and He is just, He would not be promoting these horrible doctrines. It is clear that this whole business of people believing in God is an outmoded idea that has no place any more in this day and age. Let us band together to stamp it out once and for all from the face of the Earth." And many people, some quite intelligent, will agree with the logic of this argument and turn away from God entirely. And they, too, will never realize that they have been tricked.
God does not personally appear to most of us in a cloud of fire, pointing His finger at us and instructing us "This is My Word and you must follow it!" The reason He does not do this is because He has given us the free will to make up our own minds.
Since Satan's purpose is to oppose the Will of God, he will do whatever he can to discredit God and sabotage God's work. Satan does not necessarily care if you believe in God or not as such; rather, he is more concerned with whether or not he can con you into working against God's Will, regardless of whatever religious or philosophical framework you are coming from.
Note: The publication of the following article on my website does not constitute an endorsement of "corporatism." JP
Jesus Christ walked me from atheist libertarianism to Christian libertarianism.
This essay is [my defense to] the claims made by some of my Christian brethren that I, as a Christian, should not be libertarian, as if “Christian libertarian” is an oxymoron. Because I have been challenged, I offer here a stronger defense of my political philosophy than Christian Democrats or Christian Republicans can offer for theirs.
I spent well over ten of my fifteen libertarian years describing myself as a philosophical agnostic and practicing atheist (www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/docs_files/birth_files/02birth.htm). I kept company primarily with fellow nonbelievers and supported atheist organizations via occasional memberships, literature purchases and demonstrations. My Website (www.theism.net/authors/zjordan), where I defend the faith against skeptics’ attacks, describes my religious conversion. Coming to know that Jesus Christ is Lord proved a long, hard intellectual battle. Believing that to embrace Christ I would have to abandon the libertarian (http://www.lp.org/issues/) philosophy (libertarians agree with liberals on personal liberties, with conservatives on free enterprise), I resisted Him. My dissent from atheism began on political grounds (www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/docs_files/afn_files/01afn.htm); ultimately, it harmonized there.
I determined that my atheist organizations imposed their own (non-theistic) brand of religious tyranny of politically-correct “liberal-left” politics (the opposite extreme of the politically-incorrect “religious-right” politics I then and now fear). Both are extreme political positions. With my newly acquired non-double-standard perspective, I re-examined Jesus Christ and experienced joyful surprise at what I saw (not Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson). No, I saw a man (perhaps a God) sharing the real-world, day-to-day struggles with society’s lower strata. This man, or God, did not advocate jails for ministering to “sinners.” As this libertarian read Jesus’ words, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7); "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3); and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), He quickly gained my respect. Simultaneously, the resurrection story offered its own surprises (www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/debates_files/locks.htm).
Both theistic and non-theistic religious activists tend to assert, “There is no such thing,” as the term that applies to them. Both groups will brand the other “extremist,” even “fanatical.” Sadly, each is often correct. For example, liberal “lefties” demand that taxpayer-funded, government-run public schools ban all prayer and teach evolution theory as fact. Meanwhile, religious “fundies” demand that taxpayer-funded, government-run public schools mandate school prayer and teach creation theory as fact. Why does neither side of the left-right religious spectrum support teaching both theories of human origin? Why does neither support voluntary prayer? The answer: Both are extremist. Personally, I oppose government schools, period (http://www.sepschool.org/).
The Founders of this nation embraced many Christian ideals, yet steadfastly opposed a national church (www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/docs_files/saint_files/chaps/one/congress.htm). They encouraged Americans to remain a moral, God-fearing people of their own accord. Nevertheless, Americans remained free to believe no God existed and to live amoral, irreligious (however defined) lives. The Common Law restricted everyone from victimizing another person in the pursuit of happiness.
With Jesus Christ at my side, I earnestly questioned my Christian brethren about their support for legislating Christian values onto non-Christians (i.e., “Christian-Right” politics). I asked that they show me where Jesus Christ ever commanded, suggested, implied, or even hinted at utilizing governmental entities to advance His name or the Father’s will, or where He ever commanded us to monitor the behavior of people outside the body of Christ. I always received one, two, or all three standard replies:
1.”We need a moral standard.”
2. “In [Religious Tyrant inserts selected Old testament verse here], it says…”
3. “No one is an island unto himself. If they harm only themselves, they still affect society as a whole.”
Item 1: Warrants immediate dismissal. We already have a “moral” standard: L-I-B-E-R-T-Y. God granted this liberty to Adam and Eve. Everyone has a God-given, constitutionally-protected right to bite from the same apple of sin as Adam and Eve.
The well-meaning advocate of religious-right politics generally sees him/herself as the sagacious, anointed person who can draw out the details of biblical morality and select the leaders who can best legislate it. They would cast the first stone?
Item 2: Clearly, Old Testament law applied to believers. New Testament events set the stage for reaching out to Gentiles. If an advocate of religious-right legislation cites Old Testament law to support such tyranny, we then must ask for yet another sagacious, anointed advocate to determine where Old Testament law stops. Do we then begin stoning persons who work on the Sabbath? Click http://www.lamblion.com/prophecy/Jews-Israel/Jews-08.html for enlightenment regarding Old Testament law.
Item 3: Remains a feeble attempt to cling to tyranny by stretching the imagination beyond biblical guidance. “Although drug users,” say advocates of religious-right politics, “seemingly harm only themselves, others pay for their medical care through insurance premiums and/or taxation.” They say the same for homosexuals who contract AIDS. Then should we not outlaw red meat, donuts, and fast food? Folks, I meant to be humorous, but health advocates have indeed lobbied for a “fat-tax” (http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/docs_files/stone_files/fat_tax.txt). Another common argument made by advocates of religious-right politics is that prostitutes often spread a “gift that keeps on giving.” Do prostitutes not require condoms? How do prostitutes in the state of Nevada feel about that claim, considering health officials regularly examine them? Even law-abiding citizens perform legal acts that produce victim-causing effects (e.g., producing automobile exhaust en route to ingesting McLard-laden-atherosclerosis-inducing burgers, bungee-jumping, jet-skiing, or a McHillary host of other activities). In fact, in de-legalizing practices that might produce victims, they should advocate outlawing churches, considering pedophiles have emerged from some pulpits. Again, where do we draw the line? Why the double standard? Do we outlaw everything or honor “liberty and justice for all,” then prosecute criminals if, when, and where they emerge? Try this Jay Carper gem on for size: http://libertarian.faithweb.com/articles/cars.html regarding gun control.
Let us assume it is valid to de-legalize activities due to potential evils. Consider the drug war. This argument presupposes the liberal-media-induced fallacy that drug “user” is synonymous with drug “addict.” It is not. Most “druggies” are occasional, casual users who affect no one. Nonetheless, drug use has risen dramatically (www.dpf.org, http://www.lp.org/issues/relegalize.html, and http://www.e-democracy.org/mn-politics-archive/9608/0252.html) since the federal government launched the “War on Drugs.” Should we not then halt the war to minimize tax/insurance expenses by having fewer Americans addicted to drugs? Granted, a correlation does not a causation make; however, a correlation is necessary to demonstrate causation. Drug addiction should be treated for what it is: a medical illness and/or sin. A visit to http://www.lindesmith.org/library/focal1.html about addicts treated as patients and given prescriptions for their drugs will offer a sobering reading about the programs’ results in reduction of crime and the increase of recovery. Prohibitionists of the early 1900s used the same arguments that today’s prohibitionists use to justify the war on drugs. Prohibition failed then as it is failing now. Indeed, history repeats itself.
Advocates of religious-right politics present a case that, when structuring America’s legal system, the Framers (John Witherspoon, John Locke, and William Blackstone), influenced by the writings and philosophy of Presbyterian minister Samuel Rutherford, frequently used the Bible as their primary reference source. They infer the Framers set biblical law at the base of the Constitution. They agree with liberty-loving Christians that man is inherently evil, so his power must be limited. Therefore, I contend the Framers based our legal system on Christian principles by limiting the citizenry’s ability to deprive minorities of rights (i.e., no raw democracy) and restricting government’s ability to enact tyrannical legislation (i.e., constitutional republic). Considering, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we certainly need a guideline other than sin to determine when behavior is criminal. If sin were the guideline, every citizen would be in jail every day. Advocates of religious-right politics may claim that mine is merely an interpretation of the Framers’ intent. Let us consult someone who was there, Thomas Jefferson:
Our rulers can have no authority over natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. - Thomas Jefferson [emphasis added]
Source: THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL or COMMON LAW. 1995, Howard Fisher The Message Company, Sante Fe, NM (p. 45)
Crimes require a victim. Where there is no victim, there is no crime, although there may be sin. One who adhered to every Judeo-Christian law imaginable would still sin. If Witherspoon, Locke, Blackstone and Rutherford ‘s biblical base for American law reflects Christ’s divinity, they are accurate; Christ will lead us through. Let us trust His example. Many religionists will claim the previous Jefferson quotation is taken out of context. The Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson for fear Baptists would be denied their right to worship as their denomination deemed fit. Jefferson assured them that they, as well as any other religious sect, remained free to worship and practice their faith. A “wall of separation” protected them from governmental intrusion. Now, an excerpt from the letter (a letter current-day Christian Right activists conveniently leave archived) of the Danbury Baptists to Jefferson:
Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty; that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor." (Underline theirs, bold italics mine)
Source: Dave Barton of Wallbuilders.com
Jefferson proved himself a Godsend to fundamentalists. Today, fundamentalists often perceive him as a thorn in their sides. To listen to most fundamentalists I know today (and I am a fundamentalist), an onlooker could think they have always supported the victimless-crimes ideal. The Christian Right and its supporters could learn a great deal from their Baptist ancestors who merely wanted freedom to worship.
The New Testament makes it clear we are sinners living among sinners. Though we are free (constitutionally: inalienable rights, biblically: free will) to live apart from God, we Christians choose to follow and serve Christ in a world that does not. We yield our lives to Christ to live in us and radiate to others. One example of living the faith and walking the “walk” will speak abundantly louder than ten man-made laws on the books. If one is not free to live apart from God, then living a life in God’s order merely to appease a penal code is worthless. I believe God’s Son will speak and lead the way for the lost through us, His followers—not Congress.
Once Christians accept the godly concept of free will (with its unpleasantness), they can accept libertarianism as biblically sound. In fact, they will find “demopublicanry” biblically unsound. The libertarian philosophy is the only philosophy in which I have witnessed Christian and atheistic harmony in keeping with America’s Founders’ intentions. Atheists enjoy freedom of non-theistic religion (http://church.freethought.org/, http://www.infidels.org/org/aha/ceremonies/); Christians enjoy freedom of theistic religion, enabling Jesus’ light to shine to the others. To believe that government can effectively legislate religiosity is to believe that:
“We generally don’t love ourselves at gunpoint.”
Indeed, libertarianism works. It works with Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, and all other religions. And it works well. For a better understanding of libertarianism and Christianity review:
Who is owner of the universe, our lives, our bodies and our property? Psalm 24:1; I Corinthians 6:19-20
Should we invest our resources in guns, badges and jails to arrest prostitutes? Is that what Paul meant? Romans 12:19-21
Who is owner in earthly matters? Acts 5:4
Will laws allow practices Christians reject in their lives? 1 Corinthians 6:12, Titus 2:11-12
What are Jesus’ commandments that cannot be done by force or coercion? Matt. 22:37-40
What about judging people outside the body of Christ? I Corinthians 5:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Freedom? Revelation 22:17
Prodigal Son parable Luke 15: 11-32
If you have New Testament verse claiming otherwise, please forward it to me at: jordanDELETETHIS(AT)theism.net.
For a complete understanding of how libertarianism is Christian, obtain a copy of Virgil Swearingen’s, Discovering Self-Government, A Bible Based Study Guide and its companion book, Libertarianism In One Lesson by David Bergland. Both are available from The Advocates For Self-Government, 1202 N. Tennessee St., Suite 202, Cartersville, GA 30120, or call: 770-386-8372, 800-932-1776, e-mail: email@example.com, or visit: http://www.self-gov.org
Unfortunately, pseudo-science and Secular Humanism have convinced much of the country that a fetus is something other than human; therefore, abortion is considered ethical. Similarly, pre-1900s pseudo-science deemed black persons private property, and 1900s-Nazism deemed Jewish persons non-human. The "pro-choice" plank of The Libertarian Party could be easily restricted to an individual candidate’s platform if Christians embracing libertarianism entered the party and defended the fetus’ personhood. Indeed, even the Libertarian Party has acknowledged the validity of the pro-life libertarian position. [See Libertarianism In One Lesson, Eighth Edition, available from the Advocates for Self-Government (http://www.self-gov.org/)]
In the party’s defense, both sides agree with the basic libertarian principle that no one should be forced to subsidize, by taxation or any other means, abortions. Considering the number of tax-funded (directly or indirectly) abortions each year, even "pro-choice" libertarians would abort more abortionists than any “republicrat” has even paid lip service to doing. Are Christians concerned with promises or net results? The pro-life libertarian group, Libertarians for Life (founded by self-described atheist, Doris Gordon), is grounded on "pre-political" and "philosophical" footing, dispelling the myths of "false science." They can be contacted for further information at: 13424 Hathaway Drive, Wheaton, MD 20906, 301-460-4141, web: http://www.L4L.org. Also, consider Dr. Mary Ruwart’s short answer: http://www.self-gov.org/ruwart/q0116.html.
The Christian Left
The left side of the political spectrum is not limited to non-believers. Many well-meaning liberal Christians enlist government to further Christ’s command to care for others (e.g., government housing, welfare, food stamps). However, the challenge remains: Where did Christ ever command us to force our neighbors into Good Samaritanism? It simply will not be found in Christ’s New Testament. Indeed, it is we, His followers, who are to care for our neighbors, not shirk that responsibility onto non-Christians. In practice the “Great Society” programs backfired. In 1969, America’s poverty level enjoyed a decline of 12.1% from 30% in 1950. By 1981 it had risen to 14%. The programs, by birthing a poverty-class citizenry, actually created more of the very thing it promised to abolish, just like the drug war, which liberal Christians tend to support along with the conservative Christians. Not only does government fail at effectively legislating religiosity, it actually produces more of the evil its proponents hope to abolish. For more information, review http://www.lp.org/issues/welfare.html.
By claiming victimless-crime sin should not be illegal is not to condone or encourage such behavior; it is to claim that jails are no solution. I do not present that a Christian libertarian society will abolish all sickness and evil. However, neither have religious-right nor liberal-left politics. Democrats and republicans tantalize voters with Utopia, whereas libertarians acknowledge it is not an option. Perhaps you disagree with the libertarian philosophy on a particular issue. Even best friends, business partners, and happily married couples disagree on details, though they bond on shared values. Indeed, Christians can bond with libertarians not only without compromising their desire to follow Christ, but to fulfill His example. Before accusing me of using the Bible to advance a political agenda, think again. I have merely promoted a philosophy of freedom and liberty, and demonstrated that it better harmonizes with Christ’s example and teachings than alternative philosophies. Should you embrace that philosophy, a political home beckons you.
Libertarianism offers Christians the best way to achieve their objectives. Christ teaches freedom. Granting government power to advance our goals means granting government power to stymie them. Government-mandated school prayer exemplifies the adverse results of granting government the authority to legislate religious matters. Americans granted government the power to legislate whether school prayer was permissible and approved the courts’ decisions to mandate school prayer. Now government uses that power to ban school prayer. Non-theists, too, should hesitate to grant government such power; power used to ban school prayer can also be used to mandate it. Perhaps Americans should revisit their view of government’s role in religious matters. Indeed, theists and non-theists should revisit the libertarian philosophy, for everyone should be left free to choose whether to follow Christ or not. Many advocates of governmental authorities carrying out goodwill tend to think that they are keeping politics and religion separate. However, would you take it upon yourself to barge into a prostitute’s home then lock her in a basement until she sees her evil ways? If not, why then would you hire persons wearing badges, and carrying guns to do it for you?
Christian libertarianism extends far beyond differing political ideologies. Non-believers scrutinize our activism. Religious-right politics frighten non-believers (e.g., G. Zeineldé Jordan of yesteryear); liberal-left politics invite them in. Our obedience to Christ’s guidance will attract them to Him. Religious-right politics should frighten even believers, considering it crucified our Lord. I would sooner rejoin forces with the atheists (despite their own historical horrors) long enough to wrest witches from the stake than support “Christian” tyranny.
Argue down Christ’s example and teachings if you must. Then, my brethren, cast the first stone.
G. Zeineldé Jordan, Se.
Pastor Steven J. Cole
Flagstaff Christian Fellowship
123 S. Beaver Street
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
WHY JESUS HATES LEGALISM
Steven J. Cole
April 11, 1999
© Steven J. Cole, 1999
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture
Quotations are from the New American
Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation
April 11, 1999
Luke Lesson 57
Why Jesus Hates Legalism
There is probably no sin more tolerated or more widespread in the Christian world than legalism. It may surprise you to hear it labeled as sin. Legalists are thought to be a bit overzealous or “uptight,” but they aren’t usually thought of as sinning in the same sense as adulterers, thieves, liars, and the like. To the contrary, legalists seem to be concerned about holiness.
Yet the Lord Jesus had more conflicts with the legalists of His day than any other group. It wasn’t the adulterers, the robbers and that sort, who put Jesus on the cross. It was the legalists. Later on, the Apostle Paul had the same experience, as the legalists dogged his steps, perverting the gospel of the grace of God.
When you study the life of Christ, it is noteworthy how He deliberately did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people on any other day of the week, but He often did it on the Sabbath. He could have been more discreet in violating the Pharisees’ rules, but He did it openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, He could have gone along with their elaborate handwashing custom, but He deliberately ignored it. When they questioned Him about it, He could have been more polite, but He blasted them for their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out that Jesus had offended them as well, He didn’t say, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you good folks.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well!” Jesus confronted legalism as sin.
And yet many Christian churches today are riddled with legalism, but the pastors are too “nice” to stand up to the legalists and say, “You’re not going to do that in this church!” The evangelical church today is plagued by “niceness.” Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that to be like Jesus means always being nice, never offending anyone, never confronting anyone. But clearly, if we want to be like Jesus, we must confront sin. And, legalism is sin!
What is legalism? Some erroneously confuse it with an emphasis on obedience. I have been accused of being legalistic because I preach that we must obey God’s Word. But every book of the Bible teaches that we must obey God. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God.
Others say that legalism is when we set up any manmade rules. But there are many areas not specifically addressed in the Bible where we need some rules in order to function as a family or church. Parents are not being legalistic when they set a curfew for their kids. Churches are not being legalistic when they follow certain procedures or practices.
So, what is legalism? Legalism is an attempt to gain favor with God or to impress our fellow man by doing certain things (or avoiding other things), without regard to the condition of our hearts before God. At the root of legalism is the sin of pride, because the legalist thinks that he is able to commend himself to God by his own good deeds. Invariably, he is only looking at externals, not at his heart. Also, the legalist’s pride motivates him to exalt himself in the sight of others by his outward behavior, again neglecting to see the corruption of his own heart. Thus legalism denies human depravity and exalts human ability. As such, it is opposed to the gospel of God’s grace. That’s why both Jesus and Paul clashed with the legalists.
Jesus hates legalism because it does not deal with the condition of our hearts before God.
Christianity is primarily a matter of the heart. Everything flows from a heart relationship with God, who transforms our hearts when He regenerates us. The Jewish religious leaders seemingly were seeking after God, but in reality they were self-seeking. They didn’t see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. They saw themselves as good people because they kept the Law. But in reality, they didn’t keep the Law because they didn’t apply it on the heart level. Thus, Jesus in effect said that if they would be as careful about clean hearts as they were about clean hands, then they would be what they ought to be.
The structure of our text is that in 11:37-41 we have the setting and overall theme, that legalism puts the emphasis on the external to the neglect of the internal. Then, in 11:42-44 Jesus pronounces three woes on the Pharisees in which He sets forth some of the specific problems with legalism. At this point, an expert in the Jewish law speaks up in self-defense, pointing out that Jesus’ remarks not only condemn the Pharisees; they also insult the lawyers. Rather than apologizing, Jesus launches into a series of three more woes on the lawyers (11:46-52). The result was not repentance, but rather increased hostility on the part of the Pharisees and lawyers in an attempt to trap Jesus in something He might say (11:53-54).
THE OVERALL THEME: LEGALISM PUTS THE EMPHASIS ON THE EXTERNAL TO THE NEGLECT OF THE INTERNAL (11:37-41).
Before we look specifically at the theme, take note that Jesus accepted social invitations from unbelievers. But, also note that He did not hesitate to confront unbelievers with their sin! He deliberately provoked this confrontation by doing something that surprised His host. But we need to be careful about how we apply this. Jesus was in a cultural context that understood the bold language of the prophets. Also, He is the Lord and as such has both the insight and authority to speak in this manner.
Paul instructs us, “Walk with [NASB, margin] wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5, 6). The metaphor of salt implies that we can and should be provocative, but we also must speak in a gracious and sensitive manner. But in every social contact with unbelievers, keep your purpose clear. You’re there to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit in convincing the person about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to proclaim the good news of God’s grace in Christ.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, ostensibly in an attempt to keep God’s Law, had devised and added hundreds of manmade laws. But in so doing, they had shifted the focus from the heart to the outward man. This included elaborate rituals for washing themselves before meals and for cleansing their dishes and utensils. While there was a basis for these practices in the Book of Leviticus (11:33-34; 15:12), the Pharisees had taken them far beyond what God intended. Jesus uses this practice to confront the main issue.
Religion apart from God is always trying to fix the outer man to look good to other men, but it neglects the fact that the Lord looks on the heart. Jesus (11:39) confronted the Pharisees with the fact that although they went to great lengths to clean their cups and platters, they neglected to cleanse their hearts, which were full of robbery and wickedness. The Pharisees despised those who were openly sinful, but God looks not only at the outward person, but also on the heart. Inwardly, the Pharisees were greedy and wicked. Jesus compares this to washing the outside of a bowl and then eating out of it, even though the inside was filthy! The God who made the outside made the inside as well. Genuine religion is a matter of the heart, not just of external compliance.
The meaning of verse 41 is debated, but Jesus seems to be saying that if we deal with our hearts before God, then everything that flows outward is clean. As J. C. Ryle explains, “Give first the offering of the inward man. Give your heart, your affections, and your will to God, as the first great alms which you bestow, and then all your other actions, proceeding from a right heart, are an acceptable sacrifice, and a clean offering in the sight of God” (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:48-49).
Then Jesus launches into the three woes on the Pharisees:
1. The first woe: Legalism majors on minors and minors on majors (11:42).
The Pharisees were meticulous about giving a tenth to God to the degree that they even tithed their spices! (Rue is a strongscented herb.) While Jesus upheld the obligation of tithing (Lev. 27:30 was used to support the tithing of spices), He condemned them for neglecting the weighty part of the Law, namely, justice and the love of God. As He elsewhere affirmed, the love of God and the love of neighbor sum up the entire Law (Matt. 22:37-40). But the Pharisees would cleverly tell even their parents that they could not help them financially because their money had been devoted to God (Mark 7:11). Technically, they were tithing, but practically, they were neglecting to love their own parents!
Modern day legalists also major on the minors and minor on the majors. Some churches and Christian parents put major attention on rules about petty issues, such as dress codes or certain activities, but they tolerate serious sins, such as gossip, greed, and pride. If we shun people because of how they look, or over certain behaviors that, according to the Bible, are not major, we are guilty of the sin of the Pharisees.
For example, you may be surprised to know what Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn LloydJones, and C. S. Lewis all had in common. Yes, they were all godly Christian leaders who were greatly used by God. All except Lewis were gifted Bible expositors and pastors. But also, at least some of the time they were in the ministry, they all smoked!
Many Christians question your salvation if you smoke! I think that if you smoke, you should quit as soon as possible, because it is not good stewardship of your body. The men I just mentioned all lived before that medical evidence was known. But my point is that there are many Christians who are more concerned with getting people to stop smoking than with getting them to walk in the Spirit and stop doing the deeds of the flesh.
2. The second woe: Legalism focuses on self-glory (11:43).
Jesus next condemns the Pharisees because they loved the front seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. They loved to have people notice how important they were! It made them feel good to be addressed as the Reverend Doctor So-and-so. But pride was at the root of it. They were focused on their own glory, not on God’s glory. Pride is at the heart of legalism; humility is at the heart of true Christianity.
The legalist can take pride in himself and his attainments because he is looking at outward matters, not at issues of the heart. He doesn’t acknowledge that his heart is just as sinful as the heart of the prostitute or robber. If he had been reared in their circumstances or had encountered the problems in life they had faced, he would have engaged in the same behavior, because he had the same heart of lust and greed. No, he sees himself as a notch above these sinners. He has attained a righteous life by his own hard work and discipline. The legalist is puffed up with pride.
Scripture declares that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). One sure mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts is that we see ourselves as terrible sinners in the sight of God. We see that we deserve His judgment because of our pride, selfishness, and rebellion.
Rather than comparing ourselves with others and concluding that we are basically good, we compare ourselves with God and conclude that no good thing dwells within us. Thus convicted of our great need, we flee to the cross for mercy. But legalists don’t like the message of the cross, because it confronts their pride.
3. The third woe: Legalism subtly corrupts others (11:44).
Jesus compares the Pharisees to concealed tombs. If a Jew came in contact with a tomb or a dead body, he was ceremonially unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11-22). The picture behind these ceremonial laws was that sin leads to death and that the contamination of sin and death spreads to others if it is not dealt with. The Jew who became contaminated by contact with a dead body had to take responsibility for cleansing through the ashes of a red heifer and ritual washing (Num. 19:1-11). Here, Jesus accuses the Pharisees, who were meticulous about such laws of cleanliness, of defiling the Jewish nation through their own spiritual death! The charge must have shocked them!
The application is that the sin of legalism contaminates unsuspecting people. It turns off unbelievers and keeps them from the truth of the gospel, because they can see the hypocrisy of the legalists. It contaminates young believers, who are mistakenly taught that if they do certain things and do not do other things, they will grow in holiness and be pleasing to God. But invariably, the things that they are told to do and not do are not the important issues of the Bible, such as the love of God and neighbor (as summed up in the Ten Commandments). Rather, they are petty things, often things that Scripture does not directly command.
One reason many kids who grow up in Christian homes later reject the faith is that the parents and the church have been shot through with legalism. Instead of the joy of knowing God and of having our sins forgiven through His grace, the focus was on the rules and the outward conformity that had to be maintained so that everyone else would think that the kids (and parents) were good Christians. I’m not saying that Christian homes should not have any rules. But the emphasis in our homes and church should be on the joy of knowing God. As Paul says, “the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
At this point, an expert in the Jewish Law who was at the dinner spoke up. Probably he thought that this young rabbi did not grasp the full implication of His words. He was not only indicting the Pharisees; His scathing words also insulted the lawyers and the entire Jewish religious leadership. But rather than apologizing or backing down, Jesus laid into the lawyers with three more woes:
4. The fourth woe: Legalism burdens people with peripheral commandments (11:46).
The lawyers had taken the commands of Scripture and had multiplied them into hundreds of minute adaptations. But, like lawyers in every age, they had also come up with legal loopholes that enabled them to skirt around their own rules, while the average guy was still burdened with them. For example, on the Sabbath the lawyers determined that you could only travel 1,000 yards from your home. But if a rope was tied across the end of the street, the end of the street became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that. Or, if before the Sabbath a man left at any given point enough food for two meals, that point technically became his residence and he could go 1,000 yards beyond that.
On the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a knot, because that was work. But a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So if you needed to draw water out of the well on the Sabbath, you couldn’t tie a rope to the bucket, but you could tie a woman’s girdle to the bucket! (These examples are in William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke [Westminster Press], p. 158.)
The Sabbath laws were given for our benefit, so that we would set aside one day in seven for worship and rest. I believe that modern Christians err by throwing out the entire Sabbath principle. Most Christians treat Sunday just like every other day. But some err by coming up with specific lists of what you can and cannot do on the Lord’s Day. The main issue is our heart before God. We are to honor Him one day each week by ceasing from our normal routine and worshiping Him.
Legalism burdens people with peripheral issues and rules. Biblical holiness frees people by pointing them to the beauty of God’s holiness and love. As 1 John 5:3 states, “This is the love of
God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” When we obey out of a heart of love for God, even though it is not always easy, it will always result in great joy and blessing.
To summarize, Jesus is elaborating on the theme that legalism puts the emphasis on the external to the neglect of the internal. He has shown that it majors on minors, it focuses on self-glory, it subtly corrupts others, and it burdens people with peripheral rules.
5. The fifth woe: Legalism dodges the personal application of God’s holiness, but pretends outwardly to honor it (11:47-51).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not submit their lives personally to the message of the Old Testament prophets, but they built monuments to them to make it look as if they honored them. But Jesus lumps the current leaders with their ancestors who killed the prophets. He is saying that the current leaders are finishing off the job that the earlier generations started. As in all the other woes, the underlying problem is that though outwardly they act as if they honor the prophets, inwardly they do not repent of the very sins which the prophets condemned.
When Jesus refers to the wisdom of God (11:49), He is not quoting any specific Scripture, but rather is summarizing and personifying all of God’s wisdom as revealed through the prophets. Abel was the first man to die because his righteousness convicted his brother of his evil deeds. In the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible, Zechariah was the last prophet to be killed (2 Chron. 24:20-25). Jesus is saying that the blood of all the righteous men who were martyred in the Old Testament would be charged against this current wicked generation, because they rejected God’s revealed wisdom about their sin. This may point to the awful judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or it may also include the final judgment. The point is, legalists don’t apply God’s holiness to their hearts; they just put on an outward show of honoring it.
6. The sixth woe: Legalism misses the true knowledge of God and misleads those who seek to know Him (11:52).
The key of knowledge refers to the personal knowledge of the living God through His revealed Word. As Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). True religion is a matter of knowing God personally and growing in that relationship with Him. Legalism is a matter of going through rituals and of keeping rules, but it’s devoid of the personal knowledge of God.
In many well-meaning but legalistic Christian homes, parents mistakenly think that the way to keep their teenagers in line is to lay down and enforce a lot of rules. But the way to keep your teenagers in line is to lead them to a personal knowledge of the Holy One. He’s with them when you cannot be there. If they truly know Him and know the great love of Christ who gave Himself for their sins, they will want to please Him, beginning on the heart level. As our kids grow in their walk with God, we should be able to ease up on the number of rules, not impose more. Our goal is to get each child to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ, in a growing personal relationship with Him. Legalism takes an external approach; biblical Christianity focuses on the heart relationship.
Some years ago, a church in Portland near a college wanted to develop more of a ministry to the students. They weren’t sure how to do it, but they tried to make them feel welcome. One Sunday, the church was packed and the service was already underway when a young man with unkempt hair, blue jeans, a T-shirt, and bare feet walked in. He came down the aisle, looking for a seat, but he couldn’t find one. Finally, he just sat down on the carpet at the front of the church. It created an uneasy atmosphere in this crowd of people who were mostly dressed in suits and dresses, seated in their rows of pews.
Then, every eye noticed an elderly man in a suit walking slowly toward the young man. Everyone wondered, “Is he going to scold the young man for dressing like that for church? Is he going to ask him to leave?” There was a heavy silence in the church as everyone focused on this scene. Finally, he got down to where the young man was sitting. With some difficulty because of his age, he slowly sat down next to the young man and worshiped there on the carpet with him. (Told by Becky Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World [IVP], pp. 177-178.) It was a great example of not looking on the outward person or majoring on the minors, but of accepting the person as God does.
Remember, Jesus hates legalism because it does not deal with the condition of our sinful hearts before God. But Jesus loves grace, because it is by His grace that He transforms sinners into saints who love God and who love others.
1. Why do Christians tolerate legalism and even see it as a virtue rather than as a serious sin?
2. What warning signals tell us if we’re drifting into legalism?
3. Is it hypocrisy or legalism to obey God when we don’t feel like it? Why not? Just what is legalism?
4. Should we imitate Jesus in deliberately provoking and confronting people? Consider Col. 4:5-6 and 1 Pet. 3:15 in your answer.
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 1999, All Rights Reserved.
Original URL: http://www.ordinarypastor.com/?p=9767
Erik Raymond — February 2, 2012
I have been thinking a lot about this lately in Colossians. And the context in Colossians states that we as believers are already ‘complete in Christ’ we lack nothing (Col. 2.10). God has given us everything we need in Christ Jesus.
In this admittedly long post I want to highlight some of the dangers of legalism.
What is Legalism?
In its most basic sense legalism believes that we can earn or keep God’s favor by what we do.
Legalism may take things that have been biblically true but not biblically applicable and attempt to make them binding.
The clear teaching here in Colossians is that you are complete in Jesus Christ. To elevate any other standard outside the work of Jesus Christ is to promote an unbiblical standard; it is to make a law that is not binding.
So it may be what you eat or drink, what you do on Sundays, or it may be what you wear for clothes, what kind of music you listen to, or whether you have piercings or tattoos, wear a suit or don’t on Sundays, or home school or not, or whatever.
It is to take something that cannot bring or keep your favor with God and make it binding on yourself and others. This is so dangerous, but it is so prevalent.
In addition to promoting unbiblical standards it promotes personal performance.
Legalism says, “I do or do not do.” Gospel says, “I can’t do, but Jesus did.” There is a big difference.
Legalism promotes the earning and keeping of God’s pleasure based upon what I do or do not do. When legalistic thinking is prevalent you are always trying to cut a deal with God or your conscience. You may feel guilty about what you have done and instead of running to Christ you run to Sinai, the Law, and look for something to do.
Legalism is a relentless task master that promotes your personal performance as your continuing personal atonement.
We have been studying Galatians in our evening Care Groups. One of the more helpfully illuminating moments for me in this study was the connection between legalism and strife. Or, to put it another way, with the absence of the gospel you have the presence of strife.
In Galatians chapter 4 (vv. 9-20), you see Paul agonizing about the way in which the Galatians have changed in terms of their reception of him and his message.
What has changed for the Galatians since Paul came and preached the gospel to them?
It is their view of the gospel.
Now they hate Paul and chapter 5.13 says, they are ‘biting and devouring one another.’ Why is this?
It is because legalism is a system that thrives on personal performance, personal supremacy, and sadly, the trampling of others. It relentlessly squashes grace, mercy and humility.
Legalism believes the prize is one through personal exertion and sees any who be in the way of the prize not as people to be served but obstacles to be removed.
You may recall that awhile back, on the Nation’s biggest shopping day that there was tragic occurrence at a Wal-Mart in Long Island, NY. Shortly before the doors opened shoppers pushed through the door and trampled the workers in their way. One Wal-Mart employee was crushed in the selfish stampede.
This is the way legalism functions. It is an environment of competition. The Wal-Mart stampede occurred because there were a limited number of Blue Ray’s. We act like there is only a limited number of spots available for us, and so we have cut others down, biting and devouring one another, in pursuit of our prize. We falsely think that the competition is between us and other people, so we set up rules and tear down others; judging and defrauding one another.
In this we fail to see that the issue is not between us and others but us and God. And no amount of physical or physical exertion on our part can bring us to the coveted place of divine favor. For here it is through Christ and Christ alone.
And this brings us to our final quick feature of legalism…
This really is, at its core, the offense of legalism.
To maintain that you can merit God’s favor outside of the work of Christ is to say that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus either was not necessary or was not sufficient.
To cling to personal merit through doing things (however good or biblical they may seem) is to demote Jesus from his place of supremacy.
Legalism thinks that God accepts us because we do this or don’t do this…no, God accepts sinners because Jesus lived an obedient life in our place and died the death penalty that we earned!
We must see that fastening your grip upon other things is a loosening of our grip upon Jesus. This is the pattern here in our verses:
Colossians 2:8 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Colossians 2:17 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ
Colossians 2:18-19 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
Colossians 2:20-22 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)– in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
Colossians 2:23 – 3:1 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
And Paul jumps in with some more in Galatians:
Galatians 2:21 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Legalism is a dangerous system. In it the sheep are hurt, the gospel is veiled, Christ is marginalized, and we are exalted. There is little wonder that the Apostle Paul finds himself agonizing with sweaty earnestness for the church in Colossae (Col. 1.28-2.3).
Above songs (except "Joy") are all on the compilation album:
Daemonologie is the book written and published in 1597 by King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England). Is it possible that the barbarous "witch hunts" of past centuries were a reaction to a real and credible threat, and not merely the product of deranged religious hysteria as our modern occult-fascinated society teaches? The results of these "witch hunts" were horrific, but it is also a mistake to ignore the subject simply because hysterical people centuries ago took things too far.
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