I recently read an article with the intriguing title “How to Spot a Legalist.” The article begins by discussing how “legalists” will tell you that salvation comes by grace and then adds to it by telling you a list of do’s and don’ts to follow. The author then goes on to say, “21st Century Pharisees have replaced circumcision and keeping of the law with a more accepted evangelicalized list of do’s and don’ts. These pious sounding party poopers are getting Christians to doubt their salvation, get discouraged in their salvation and trying to prove, keep and/or earn their salvation. They are robbing believers of the joy that was once theirs in Christ and replacing it with the heavy yoke of legalism (Acts 15:5-11)” One of the problems I have with that statement is the only time that following the commands of God become a heavy yoke and therefore burdensome is when people keep the commands for their salvation. The Scriptures clearly and explicitly tell us that the Law is a delight (Psalm 1:2, Psalm 19:7-11, Psalm 40:8, Psalm 119, Romans 7:22) and His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). We are saved by grace through faith…a faith that leads to obedience and good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). After all, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), the precious atoning blood of our Messiah. We are sternly warned against trampling the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:26-31). And, I will reiterate my point from previous posts Law vs. Grace and Law and Grace Collide, that it takes both to fully and totally follow God.
The next thing the author does is to write a list of 10 ways to spot a legalist. Well, I got to thinking and pondering about that and I thought about the wheat and the weeds and how they grow together. “He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. “‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him. “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30) And, I also thought about how Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats and how they are both believers…but judged by their works. (See Matthew 25:31-46).
Then, I came up with a list…How to spot a goat.
- They cheapen grace by saying it doesn’t matter what you do; you can go to Heaven because you’ve said a prayer. But the bible says believers are called to good works (Matthew 5:16, Romans 2:6-10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, James 2:26 just to name a few!)
- They’ll say non-sensical things like, “Salvation is free and you don’t have to conform your life to His…you can keep on living however you want to live.” But the bible says believers are called to conform their lives to His (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18); believers are called to die to self (John 12:24-26, 1 Corinthians 15:31, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 5:24 etc.).
- They give their stamp of approval to everyone, even if their fruit stinks. But the bible says believers are called to hold each other accountable (Proverbs 27:17, Ezekiel 33:7, Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1-2, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:25); and to recognize good and bad fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).
- They focus on things like salvation without repentance. But the bible says believers are called to repent (which means to turn completely away from sin; change your heart and your mind) (Matthew 4:17, Mark 6:12, Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38).
- Their “gospel” teaches it’s okay to sin because grace covers a multitude of sin. But the bible says believers are commanded to, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11, Ephesians 4:22-24)
- They let people run amok with too much grace and not enough justice. But the bible says believers know God loves them unconditionally (Romans 5:8), but that He is also a God of justice (Psalm 33:5, Acts 17:30-32), and they will be held accountable for their actions (2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27).
- They conveniently leave out the entire Old Testament (which is the foundation) and then James, 1 John, and any other books or verses that tell us we have to do something after we’ve been saved. But the bible says believers are called to obey God’s commandments (John 14:23-24, Romans 2:13, Hebrews 5:8-9, 1 John 2:3-6, 2 John 1:6).
- They discard any verse that opposes their viewpoint and say, “Well sometimes the Bible contradicts itself.” But the bible says believers are called to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). God’s Word never contradicts itself (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:16-21)…however, our interpretation of scripture can be contradictory.
- They concoct a grace alone recipe that holds fast to the traditions of man and leads people to the wide and smooth path that leads to Hell. But the bible says believers are to enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14).
- They cheapen grace and cause nonbelievers and believers alike to steer clear of Christianity because of the hypocrisy that goes on day in and day out. They honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Matthew 15:8-9). But the bible says believers are called to be ambassadors for Christ and therefore represent Him wherever we go (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The author then goes on to state, “But grace that cannot be abused is no grace at all.” Uhmmm…excuse me…doesn’t God’s Word say in Romans 6:1-2, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
I absolutely agree that salvation comes by grace alone. It is undeserved mercy. We don’t deserve to get out of Hell, but Jesus paid that price for us. It’s what we do with that grace that matters. Are we going to take it lightly and trample the blood of Jesus to continue to live our very same lives? Or are we willing to give up our lives, crucify our fleshly desires and follow Him in all the ways He walked? Are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us as believers to transform us into His image? Are we willing to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age? Are we willing to be slaves to righteousness? Are we willing to stop cherry picking which verses we will follow and submit ourselves to the whole word of God?
Choices………………………..and eternal consequences.
Stier, G. (March 16, 2013). How to Spot a Legalist. The Christian Post. Retrieved May 14, 2013, from http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-to-spot-a-legalist-92015/.