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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Law, Legalism, and Liberty

I started a book a while back that I work on as I have opportunity, which unfotunately is not very often. I hope that at some time in the future I will be able to devote more of my time to writing. The title of the book is Law, Legalism, and Liberty. I have a little over two chapters written. I thought I would begin by sharing with you the preface. What I have written I will be posting over the next few weeks. Maybe I will consequently be motivated to devote more time to this project.


Why a book on law, legalism, and liberty? The need is manifested all around us. The culture is degrading itself at an ever-increasing rate and it seems that on many issues the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ are simply a few steps behind and in many cases not even a half step behind.

The close pursuit of the churches in tracking the world is now legitimized and defended as the best means for reaching the world. I have yet to see any strong Scriptural arguments for such a position. It is troubling to see the churches of Jesus Christ seeking to package the gospel in the world’s attire. It seems that once the tide has turned in the culture in accepting a certain thing it ceases to matter what God may think about it. It is as though God changes with the culture, he has few standards outside the basic ten that are not subject to change and restructuring to meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

I am convinced that what needs to happen is that the world needs to be conformed to Christ and not the churches of Christ to the world. Churches increasingly orient their ministries to leave the impression that to accept Christ is to change very little. Whatever you enjoyed in the world has a “sanctified” counterpart in Christianity. This does not seem to be the message of the Biblical gospel. It is as though we want people to believe that very little will be required of them if they embrace the cross. Your music need not change simply to be sanctified. Your dress need not change just justified. Your appearance need not change because what matters is the heart. Your goals need not change just relabeled. Your focus need not change just spiritualized. Where is the preaching that demanded a death to the old way? Where is the ministry that was built on the premise that “old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”

The present generation has abandoned many of the standards of the previous generation. Maybe some of them deserved to be abandoned. I am not arguing that the way they did it in the old days is the way it should be done today. My concern is when you can go to church and you are hard pressed to discern whether you are at church or the mall. You have some difficulty in discerning the women from the men, and the girls from the boys. You could close you eyes and imagine that you were in a club or rock concert.

If in this generation we have abandoned some critical areas that separated us from the world, it is a worthy question to ask what will the next generation surrender. While the present generation has sacrificed the offense of the cross will the next generation sacrifice the substance of the cross? While the present generation has sacrificed the result of the gospel will the next generation sacrifice the message of the gospel? I know we would all like to think, not so. But I for one am concerned about that very thing.

With this thought in mind there is something that is worthy of our consideration. The scripture assures us the end time will be marked by apostasy.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

The “falling away” spoken of involves the idea of apostasy. In fact it is from the Greek word that we get our English word apostasy. apostasia ap-os-tas-ee’-ah; defection from truth (properly, the state) ["apostasy"]:—falling away, forsake. Now let me ask you to whom does this apply? It cannot apply to denomination that have already departed from the truth. It can only have reference to those who hold the truth. You cannot fall away from something you do not hold to. So that in the end times what we can expect to see are true churches falling away from the faith that was once delivered to the saints. I think it is important to recognize that those who in the past have fallen away from the truth did not recognize what was happening. They undoubtedly believed they were being broad minded, enlightened, and open to change. Again I am not against change just to be against something. At the same time change is not something that is to be taken lightly. The Scripture even warns us on this account.

Proverbs 24:21 - My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

The word “meddle” here is an important word for it describes what is to be our position toward those that are given to change. It involves the idea of to braid, i.e. intermix; engage, mingle. So the instruction is to not be braided with those that are given to change. Do not intermix, engage, or mingle with those that are given to change.

So change is to be adopted cautiously. It is not to be embraced because it cost something to stand against it. It is not to be embraced because the culture has come to accept it. It is not to be embraced because it is no longer worth fighting the battle. Change is to only take place at God’s word and in order to ensure that it is at His word we are to honestly evaluate whether the change compromises our holiness, our separation, or our doctrine.

In considering these issues there are a number of particulars that come to mind. It is not my intention to address these at any length. It has come to my attention over the years that the issues where there is a disagreement is the result of an underlying disagreement about the role of the law, the application of legalism and the practicing of liberty. It is to these foundational principles that I intend to devote my attention and the particular issues will arise only and if they have bearing on the fundamental questions at hand.

I do not write to personally condemn any individual, church, or preacher. There is coming a final day of reckoning and to that day I am willing to defer. I am writing to express my concerns. To encourage those who hold similar views to mine and to challenge those who may hold slightly differing views in these important areas.
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