With this new post in my series Perfecting Holiness In The Fear Of God I am trying out Word2007 for posting to blogger. I noticed that it transferred most of the format from my outline and consequently I have left it mostly unchanged. Thus, there is a little less commentary and more outline. Dare I ask what you think? Some will probably like it and some probably will not. So feel free to share your thoughts on the format and as always on the content. In the end I will probably decide based upon what I like, taking numerous issues into account. ;-)
PERFECTING HOLINESS IN THE FEAR OF GOD
2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-7:1
OUR CONFIDENCE: ANSWERING THE ASSAULT AGAINST HOLINESS
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
In this post I want to address an issue head-on that I have touched on several times over the course of this series. It is the use of the terms such as legalism and legalist. I have come to believe that this is the spiritual equivalent to "tolerance" in the socio/political sphere. We now live in a day that to raise a cry against worldliness and a lack of separation in dress, language, and entertainment, etc. it to be labeled a legalist.
There are a couple of interesting points to be made about this phenomenon:
The very people who use the term legalist/legalism would often decry the use of the term "toleration" in the socio/political realm.
According to their definition of legalism just a few decades ago most, if not all Baptist pulpits were filled with legalist. The idea that Christians are to be different in their dress, language, and entertainment choices is no novel invention. It was not that long ago that most Baptists were known for opposing dancing, drinking, smoking and going to the movies! It was not that long ago that most Baptist were known for believing a woman should dress and look like a woman and a man should dress and look like a man. Now to embrace these views is to be a legalist. Consequently we are left with concluding that the great preachers and churches of a previous generation were unenlightened.
What is a legalist? Let us consider the definition provided by Webster. 1. One who desires a strict adherence to the law. 2. (Theol.) One who regards conformity to the law as a ground for salvation.
Legalism – Strictness in adhering to law, or trusting to conformity to law; as, the spirit of legalism.
These definitions are important to consider. In a general context a legalist is one who desires a strict adherence to law. Most people are probably legalist in the application of justice in the criminal justice system. Most Christians are probably legalist in that they desire strict adherence to law, even if it is the law of not being a legalist! Now there is a novel application, being legalistically opposed to legalism. The point is we are all legalist the only question is the standard we embrace. In this sense it is not a negative thing.
The word legalist does have a theological use. And as Mr. Webster rightly expresses it theologically a legalist is one who regards conformity to the law as a ground for salvation. That is a legalist is one who believes that human effort or behaviour contributes to or produces salvation.
Legalism as defined by Mr. Webster in the first case is probably something that everyone practices in relation to some standard. Again the issue is not whether we embrace legalism but what standard we embrace, to what law do we conform.
Having considered the definition of these terms it seems to use them in the context of a discussion concerning separation is not helpful. The use of the terms fails to bring clarity and it seems often times it is simply an attempt to silence the person who draws the lines more conservatively. Again, the word is used in the same manner that the word toleration/tolerant is used in the cultural arena.
Do you believe it is wrong to steal, lie, murder, commit adultery, etc.? Is that not legalistic?
But it is wrong to believe it is wrong for a woman to dress like a man or wear her hair like a man, it is wrong for a man to dress like a woman or wear his hair like a woman, it is wrong to say that certain choices for entertainment are unacceptable for the Christian, it is wrong to wear bathing suits, etc. . .
They say it is not wrong to think those things are wrong but it is wrong to expect other people to live by those standards. Is it wrong to expect other people to live by the standard of not stealing, lying, murdering, or committing adultery?
You say well those things are clear in the Bible. They are clear to you!
There is nothing so clear in the Bible that no one will take exception to it!
It is my desire to make a feeble attempt at laying bare the misuse of the term legalist/legalism.
LOATHING THE LAW
The law is not the problem
Romans 7:12,14 - Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
The law is holy.
The law is just.
The law is good.
The law is spiritual.
I am carnal.
I am sold under sin.
Psalms 19:7-11 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
The law of the Lord is perfect.
The testimony of the Lord is sure.
The statutes of the Lord are right.
The commandment of the Lord is pure.
My soul needs converting.
I need to be made wise.
I need to rejoice in right.
I need to have my eyes enlightened.
The law warns.
Keeping the law brings great reward.
Romans 7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.
The law does not cease to be relevant once we are saved
Romans 3:31 - Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Make void – To be (render) entirely idle (useless), abolish, destroy, put away.
Establish – Stand, appoint, continue, establish.
Because the law does not justify us but by faith we are justified the argument does not follow the law ceases to have any relevance in our lives.
It continues to bear testimony to God's standard of righteousness and what pleases and displeases him!
Romans 6:14,15 - For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Sin shall not have dominion over you.
What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law.
The transgression of the law shall not have dominion over you.
For ye are not under the law but under grace.
This is the reason that transgressions of the law shall not have dominion over us.
Law is not motivating us, grace is.
Anticipating the question.
Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?
Shall we transgress the law because we are not under the law, but under grace?
This question strikes at the heart of the matter for the Christian.
Does grace allow for the transgression of the law?
Romans 7:6 - But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
But now we are delivered from the law.
Some take that to mean we are no longer have an obligation to obey the law.
Are we delivered from the practice of its precepts or from its condemnation? Are we no longer morally obligated to obey God or have we been delivered from the law of sin and death?
That being dead wherein we were held.
That is the law having dominion over us as the woman is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth. (vs. 1)
Vs: 4 – We are dead to the law. The law no longer has dominion over us.
There is no condemnation.
That we should serve.
Serve – Be a slave to, be in bondage.
Serve what? The law?
In newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
The legalism crowd jumps on this and implies from this statement we have no obligation to the letter of the law.
Even though it clearly says "serve".
Then it describes how we are to serve, in newness of spirit.
We are to serve not the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law.
This is the crux of the matter.
We have a New Testament illustration of what this means and what it looks like in life.
21,22 – Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire..
Vs. 21 – The letter
Vs. 22 – The spirit
27,28 – Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Vs. 27 – The letter
Vs. 28 – The spirit
33-35 – Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Vs. 33 – The letter
Vs. 34,35 – The spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Vs: 1 – No condemnation.
Christ frees us from the condemnation of the law.
Not walking after the flesh but the Spirit is evidence of a changed heart.
Vs: 2 – Competing laws.
The word law here is being used in the same way we would say the "law" of gravity.
It is used this way in 7:21 – I find then a law.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
It is a law of life.
Hath made me free.
It is a superior law.
From the law of sin and death.
You sin, you die.
The wages of sin is death.
Vs: 3 – The inability of the law.
Vs: 4 – The fulfillment of the law.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.
That is the spirit of the law.
That which goes beyond the letter of the law.
Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
This is not speaking of our position in Christ but our walk.
The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in our walk.
Because it is not after the flesh but the Spirit.
HIDING BEHIND THE HEART
God looks on the heart
This is spoken as though this is all that matters.
It is as though some are saying my heart is spiritual no matter how worldly my behaviour.
So where it really counts I am what I am supposed to be.
As long as my heart is right then my behaviour is only secondary.
Yet, few would accept this premise if a fornicator was using this argument.
Most would look at his behaviour and say his heart was amiss.
Does God look on the heart and does that matter? Of course.
1Sa 16:7 - But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Man sees the fruit.
God sees the root.
Man is not infallible in his judgments, God is!
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
We are apt to misjudge our own hearts.
Ps 139:23,24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The heart is the root of behaviour
Pr 4:23 - Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Mt 12:35 - A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
Mt 15:19 - For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Mr 7:21-23 - For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Jas 1:14.15 - But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Matt. 7:1-5 - Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Vs: 1 – A simple premise.
Vs: 2 – A restraint on our spirit of condemnation
Vs: 3 – The problem of improper focus.
Vs: 4 – An ineffective ministry.
Vs: 5 – An effective ministry.
1 Cor. 13:5,6 – Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Thinketh no evil
Rejoiceth not in evil.
2 Cor. 10:12 - For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Others should not be the standard by which we judge ourselves.
We should not be the standard by which we judge others.
To do either is not wise.
Our behaviour matters to God
Jer. 17:9,10 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
The heart is desperately wicked.
The Lord searches the heart.
The Lord gives to every man.
According to his ways.
According to the fruit of his doings.
Why? Because his heart is revealed in his doings.
2 Cor. 5:10 - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Receive the things done in his body.
According to that he hath done.
Whether it be good or bad.
Every thing we do will be judged as either good or bad. Where is the gray?
It is inconceivable that at the judgment seat of Christ there will be a large category of behaviour that was neither good nor bad.
Eph 6:8 - Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Col 3:25 - But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
Re 22:12 - And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
1Co 6:19,20 - What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
2 Corinthians 7:1 – Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Provides a natural defense against public preaching
Isa 58:1 - Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
We live in a day when few people want to hear the voice of a prophet but rather the platitudes of a teacher.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 – I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
The reproof of carnality is dismissed as legalism.
The messenger of rebuke is discounted as a legalist.
The exhortation to holy living is distorted as legalism delivered by a legalist.
Provides opportunity to sidestep any position that is more conservative
Legalism is often the home of shallow thinkers.
It delivers them from the hard work of actually working through an issue.
It delivers them from the difficult task of searching the Scripture for wisdom and insight concerning an issue.
To label another's genuine conviction as legalism or the messenger as a legalist is the same as the liberal politician labeling the opposing view on gay marriage as intolerant.
Hebrews 10:23-29 - Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Vs: 23 – Holding fast is a virtue.
Vs: 24 – We are to be provoking unto good works.
Vs: 25 – We are to be exhorting one another.
Vs: 26,27 – Willful sin invites chastisement.
It is not good enough to just say, "that's not the way I see it."
Vs: 28,29 – Encouraging others to now show despite unto the Spirit of grace.
Despite – To insult.
What greater insult than to plead grace in order to sin (transgress the law)?
What insult to the Spirit of grace to label someone who is seeking to provoke unto good works a legalist.
Romans 3:31 - Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.