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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

NEW BOOK: COMPETING WORLDVIEWS


Please allow me to call your attention to an announcement about the book "Competing Worldviews." This announcement contains an excerpt from my book as well as a link to help you gain access to it. I appreciate all the interest and encouragement I have received from my friends. Help me continue to spread the word. May God bless you!

Competing Worldviews: A Collection of Essays Contrasting the Biblical and Humanistic Worldviews.



Learn more about the book, read excerpts, download a sample, and find out about a special limited-time discount at the following link:

https://mailchi.mp/704cf78bb7d7/new-release-competing-worldviews

http://store.gospelarmory.com/product/competing-worldviews/


Luci

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

CALLED TO THANKFULLNESS

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” 
Colossians 2:6-7


If you had a good mother, she taught you early in life to say please and thank you. Such small courtesies are great indications of culture and refinement. In this way, children learn that they are not gods, and the people around them are not their servants. Above all, we teach them that only God in heaven is worthy of worship, and we owe Him our gratitude for every good thing that we receive.

Thanksgiving is one of the noblest and most non-controversial holidays of the year. The giving of thanks is fundamental to the worship and honor that we offer to the Father of lights from whom all blessings flow. It is a good time for us to meditate on some of the good reasons we have for giving thanks every day of our lives on this earth.  It is my hope, that we Christians may be thankful to our Almighty God every day of our lives, and not just on Thanksgiving Day.  As grateful children of God, our gratitude must be perpetual, choosing to be grateful each day and not waiting until the end of November to do so.  We have so much to be thankful for, even when it seems there is much to complain about.  We must praise God and be always mindful of the many blessings our loving God showers down upon all of us.  When the church first began in Acts 2:46, the disciples broke bread daily from house to house and ate their food with gladness.  They were so thankful to be partakers of God's family that they ate together with joy (gladness and sincerity of heart).  I have prepared some thoughts based on Psalm 138, for it offers thanksgiving for the LORD’s lovingkindness toward us.  I love the Psalms because they praise God for His lovingkindness and mercy.  They help our hearts find deep appreciation and gratitude toward the God of heaven and earth.  I hope this study is edifying to your walk with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

Thanksgiving Day is a day of reflection where we’re supposed to stop, meditate, and be thankful for all that God has done for us.  Unfortunately, we live in a world of convenience and materialism in which greed rules over thankfulness and contentment.  Rather than being happy with what they have, our society is becoming more materialistic and greedyWhy?  Because they don’t include God in the picture. They forget God and all that He has given to us.  They take all God’s blessings for granted.  God wants our hearts to be grateful and full of joyIs that too much for God to ask for?  Are we so ungrateful that we forget to be thankful toward our Creator, where all blessings come from?  In Colossians 2:6-7, the apostle Paul exhorts us to walk, abounding in thanksgiving.  Sadly, our thanksgiving is often focused on the physical things of this earth, for we tend to be physical people.  So we thank God only for those physical things that our eyes can see.  Indeed, we are grateful for our jobs, our families, our material riches, and many other material things such as these.  But, are we forgetting what God wants us to be thankful for?  Why not turn your hearts to Psalm 138 to open the eyes of your hearts to learn what we must be thankful for?  I invite you to walk through this amazing Psalm with me.


 I.   THANKSGIVING FOR GOD’S LOVINGKINDNESS:

Psalm 138 is one of a group of eight psalms ascribed to King David.  It recognizes the existence of God and His authority over His creation.  It shows reverence and respect to God and His holiness.  It praises and glorifies God, for He is our God to whom we owe everything.  He protects His children in a world of lawlessness and darkness.  Thus we must be thankful and give Him praise and honor.  Jesus said we must be lights that shine brightly in so much darkness that others might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Paul likewise said we must shine as lights amid a dark and crooked world.  Darkness is sin and evil.  So we must shine in contrast to those around us who live in darkness.  We must show the love of God, His longsuffering and mercy in our daily lives to others that perhaps they might come to the Light and be transformed into His likeness.

  • Giving Thanks Wholeheartedly (138:1):
“I will give thee thanks with my whole heart:  Before the gods will I sing praises unto thee.”

The Psalmist starts out by offering praises of thanksgiving to God with all of his heartWhen was the last time we offered praises of thanksgiving to God with all of our heart?  When was the last time we poured out our thanks to God with our whole being?   When was the last time we passionately proclaimed praises of thanksgiving without holding back, reservation, or regard?  Verse 1 shows us a beautiful picture of a heart that abounds in praises of thankfulness to God.

“I will give thee thanks with my whole heart.”  

It is indeed a heart that yearns to sing praises of thankfulness to God in the presence of the heavenly court. The Psalmist sings praises before the gods, the heavenly assembly of spiritual beings, the heavenly hosts.  The gods in our context can also be rulers, magistrates, and earthly authorities.  He is not speaking of idols.  He sings praises because of his thankful heart, and so must we, all the days of our lives.  Our singing is not just an act of worship every Sunday as we have been commanded, but rather an act that we do every moment in our lives with all our heart and being.  God is delighted when we offer praises of thanksgiving to Him from our hearts.  Have we forgotten that part of our daily worship to God our Creator originates from a thankful heart?  Where do you suppose our singing and prayers must come from?  From a heart that overflows with thanksgiving and gratitude. A halfhearted person finds it difficult to offer worship and praise from the depths of his heart. A singing heart overflows with thanksgiving, for the words we sing pluck our hearts as we praise God with our whole being.  This is precisely what the Psalmist is portraying for us. He offers praises of thanksgiving with his whole heart to God before all who can hear him.  What do you think the Psalmist is praising God for?  Let us take a look at the following verses of this beautiful Psalm.

  • Giving Thanks to God for His Steadfast Love and Faithfulness (138:2-3):
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, And give thanks unto thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth:  For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.  3 In the day that I called thou answeredst me, Thou didst encourage me with strength in my soul.”

The Psalmist is making reference to the Tabernacle.  He bows down toward God’s holy temple. Bowing down toward the temple is a call of repentance (1 Kings 8).  This is portrayed in verse 2.  The Psalmist thanks God for His steadfast love and faithfulness. He is thankful for God’s salvation, forgiveness, and restoration.  It is beautiful beyond words how faithful God is toward us!!  He is faithful to us through our valleys of difficulties and trials. He is faithful to us even amid our sinfulness. Knowing God’s faithfulness and steadfast love toward us, Do we reflected on how faithful our God has been to us even amid our difficulties, pains, and trials?  Do we pause to acknowledge God’s steadfast love toward us even amid our many failures and sinfulness? How often has He forgiven us throughout our walk with Him?  As I read verse 3, I cannot help but see that this is true in my life!! 

3 In the day that I called thou answeredst me, Thou didst encourage me with strength in my soul.”  

I cannot help but think of the many, many times I have called on my God, and He has answered me with His steadfast love and kindness!!
    1. I think about the many times I’ve been in the pit of life or on the mountaintop of glory and how my God has answered my prayers. 
    2. I think about the times my heart has been weak and overwhelmed with life’s anxieties and difficulties and how my God has given me the strength to endure those dark times.  
    3. I think about all the times He has rescued and sheltered me when I thought all hope was lost.  
    4. I think about all the times I have been broken and crushed, but my God has been there to strengthen my soul and to give me encouragement and support. 
    5. For all those trying times and God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness toward me,  my heart will always sing praises of thanksgiving to Him!!

The Psalmist focuses his prayer in verse 2.  He gives thanks writing,
“And give thanks unto thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth:  For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  

In Exodus, “the name” represents a person’s character, for it reflects who the person is. The Psalmist praises God as he exalts His own name and Word above all things. Think about what we know about the name of the LORD.  Exodus 34 gives us the answer about what God’s name is all about.  Here are God’s words.

“And Jehovah descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of Jehovah. 6 And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; 7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:5-7).

What a wonderful grace it is to us, God’s exalted name and Word!  His name reveals His mercy, grace, patience, steadfast love, and faithfulness. His name reveals His love, forgiveness, and righteousness (His justice). God’s glory is good and righteous. Thus, we must always praise God’s righteous and holy character.  We must praise God, not only for what we have received from Him but also for who He is.  Because of God’s holy and righteous character, we have life, hope, and confidence.  God strengthens our soul when we call on Him because of who He is.

  • Calling All People To Give Thanks to God (138:4-6):
“All the kings of the earth shall give thee thanks, O Jehovah, For they have heard the words of thy mouth.  5 Yea, they shall sing of the ways of Jehovah; For great is the glory of Jehovah.  6 For though Jehovah is high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly; But the haughty he knoweth from afar.”

The Psalmist calls for the rulers of the earth to give thanks to God.  Our text can be read two ways. One way one could understand the Hebrew text would be prophetic.  The Psalmist states, “All the kings of the earth shall give thee thanks, O Jehovah.”  According to the Psalmist, the kings of the earth will one day give thanks to God. That will be possible because the Scriptures declare that one day, every knee will bow before the Lord (Philippians 2:10).  The other possibility would be that the Psalmist is calling on the kings of the earth to give thanks to God. My understanding of this passage is that this is a call to all people (even kings of the earth) to praise and give thanks to God.  All people of the earth are compelled to hear God’s decrees and offer praises of thanksgiving to Him alone.  They are obliged to sing of His greatness.

“6 For though Jehovah is high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly; But the haughty he knoweth from afar.”  


Although God is high and exalted with all glory, He is merciful to the lowly and looks kindly on them.  He draws the lowly to Him. But the arrogant and haughty, He knows from afar. God abhors the proud and keeps His distance from them.  Though He is great and awesome, He cares for the humble. How sad it is when rulers refuse to honor and praise God with praises of thanksgiving!  They are blind and arrogant, for they refuse to acknowledge that the reason why they rule is God’s will.  God has given them that position to rule (cf. Romans 13:1; John 19:11; Daniel 4:32). The more proud rulers become, refusing to give thanks and praise to God for putting them in the position of rule and authority, the worse they rule, and the further they fall from God.  No one can escape from God, for He knows man’s heart (the lowly and the arrogant). And though He knows man’s heart, He delights in the lowly in heart and is near them, but keeps the arrogant in heart afar off.  Isn’t that amazing!  Why?  Because although God’s glory is amazing and great, He gives grace and draws nearer to the humble.  He does not keep His distance from them.  He keeps His distance from the proud.  Our God is worthy of our praise and our thanksgiving, for He draws nearer to the humble, though He is high in exalting glory.  Thus we must praise Him and offer praises of thanksgiving, for He has drawn near to us, the lowly in heart.

  • Giving Thanks For Our Lives (138:7):
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me; Thou wilt stretch forth thy hand against the wrath of mine enemies, And thy right hand will save me.”

God protects, delivers, and keeps us safe even amid our troubles, shortcomings, and failures in life.  His steadfast love is always there for us.  Isn’t that amazing!  Such love is beyond words!  With God's steadfast love, we are confident in our walk, whatever may come our way, for we know He will be faithful to His faithful children till the end.  God is for us!  How sad it is to fail to realize that the power that sustains our life is God’s power and Word!  We’re shortsighted when we fail to think of life this way.  Nothing and no one is outside of God’s will, for He controls everything.  Thus we must be grateful and thank Him for keeping us alive and providing for us day in and day out so faithfully. How sad it is to take for granted all of God’s provisions and care!  We fail so often to acknowledge that it is by His will that we live and move and that nothing is accomplished without His will.  We deceive ourselves, assuming that tomorrow we will still have all we need, and we will live on this earth forever.  So we act as if we were in control of everything without God’s will in the picture.
    1. We must wake up and start thanking God for all that He has done, is doing and will be doing in our lives and never take any of His blessings, care, and love for granted.  
    2. We must wake up and become better stewards of the blessings that God provides for us from His mighty and providential hands:  our spouse, our children, our brethren, our families.  
    3. We must wake up and start being more grateful to God that He has given them to us yet another day.  
    4. Do you not know that these things, these blessings are not promised to us?  
    5. Do we not acknowledge that life is not promised to us?  
    6. Do we not know that the only thing that is promised to us is death and judgment, not life?  
    7. So, we must wake up and start appreciating everything, and be more thankful for what God has done and still does for us, far more than we deserve, for we do not deserve anything from God’s mighty and providential hands.

  • Giving Thanks to God For Accomplishing His Purposes in Us (138:8):
“Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy lovingkindness, O Jehovah, endureth for ever; Forsake not the works of thine own hands.”

The Psalmist ends this mighty Psalm giving thanks to God for “Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me.”  God’s will is done on earth and heaven, for He always accomplishes His purposes or that which concerns Him that we do for Him.  God accomplishes His purposes in us and through us, for we are part of His mighty plans. We are His instruments that must be at work in His kingdom. Thus we must pray to Him to use us and make us the servants that He wants us to be to accomplish His purposes.  How beautiful it is to be God’s servant and the work of His hands!  How beautiful it is to be changed and molded into His image for His purposes!  How beautiful it is to be useful servants in His kingdom of righteousness!  Thus we must be grateful and rejoice for Him to use us as His vessels of righteousness to His glory.  We must be thankful to God that He has called us from death to life, to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  Why not listen to the words of the beautiful and amazing picture that is portrayed in 1 Peter 2:4-5?
“Unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

What an amazing and beautiful picture of God’s children!  Though we are God’s living stones, we still have rough edges and bad cuts because of our sins and shortcomings.  We’re still terrible stones that, at times, are not useful for building anything.  But thanks to God’s lovingkindness, He patiently helps us by cutting off those terrible and rough edges, refining you and me to become living stones built into Jesus’ spiritual house.  A house that He patiently is building for Himself.  It is beautiful beyond what words can describe!!  I believe that is the message that the Psalmist is proclaiming toward the end of the amazing Psalm in verse 8.

“Thy lovingkindness, O Jehovah, endureth for ever; Forsake not the works of thine own hands.”


O how wonderful it is for our God to work in our lives for His glory and purposes!  O how wonderful it is for God to never give up on us!  He keeps refining us, molding us, cutting us, and changing us into what He wants us to be for His glorious purposes!  O how wonderful it is to know that God will fulfill His purposes in us, for we are His instruments of righteousness!  O how wonderful it is to know that His faithful love endures forever!  For these reasons and many more, we must cry out to God in prayer, knowing that He will not abandon the work of His hands and that He is patiently and lovingly shaping us and changing us into what He wants us to be for His glory. May He never stop shaping us and changing us into His likeness.  May we always be thankful for His steadfast love and for not abandoning the work of His mighty hands. May we always trust in God with full confidence, knowing that His marvelous promises will indeed be fulfilled.


CONCLUSION:

We have so many reasons to be thankful. We have an abundance of blessings bestowed on us, for which we must be thankful. Consider some of the many blessings:  Our families, our good health, our freedom to worship God. We have the Gospel of Christ, the Word of God, our redemption, our hope of eternal life, our many freedoms like being able to home educate our children. We have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and most of all, our Lord and Savior who redeemed us, who cares for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, and who has sworn never to forsake us.  Therefore, we are more than rich since we have all these abundant blessings.  Being grateful is the key to spiritual victoryJoy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who always chooses to give thanks no matter what the circumstances may be.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him, he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

Therefore, we must learn to appreciate and be thankful for God's steadfast love and lovingkindness. Notice what David once said:
"Blessed be the Lord, For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city"  (Psalm 31:2).

There is nothing more critical than finding oneself in a besieged city.  It is as bad as one's circumstances can get.  Yet David acknowledges God's steadfast love and lovingkindness toward him.  God heard his cry for deliverance.  He made David aware of His love and compassion for him.  Are we aware, and do we acknowledge God's steadfast love and lovingkindness toward us?  Can we fathom the depth of His steadfast love toward us?  Have we forgotten the message of Romans 8:38-39?

Despair is the opposite of a faithful and thankful heart.  When our affections are on earthly things and not on God, we are in danger.  We tend to cling to our immediate circumstances rather than to God.  It makes us not only anxious but also insecure.  Only God can fill our hearts with His peace.  We have so much to give thanks for.  It is not so much for material things but for God's love in sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins so that through Him, we could be redeemed and have access to eternal life.  We have all we need in Christ.  He is the fullness that fills all in all.  Why not take a moment to give honor and offer praises of thanksgiving to God for His goodness and lovingkindness?  Why not praise and bless our God?  Why not look beyond all the material blessings we have received?  Why not look beyond the pleasures of this life and meditate on all that God has done for us, the undeserving?  Why not give thanks to God wholeheartedly for His faithfulness toward us during our trials, sufferings, failures, and yes, even sins?  Why not give thanks to Him with all of our heart and being, for answering our prayers and carrying us through our valleys of suffering, hardship, and trouble?  Why not give thanks wholeheartedly to God for drawing near to us, though He is high and exalted?  Why not give thanks to God wholeheartedly for keeping us safe and preserving our lives yet another day?  Why not give thanks to our God with all of our hearts, for what He is accomplishing and will accomplish in us for His purposes?  Why not give thanks to God for using us as His instruments of righteousness to accomplish His will in us?  Why not give thanks to God for shaping, molding, and changing us into His living stones built into a great spiritual house for Him?

May we always have grateful hearts for God’s lovingkindness and steadfast love toward us.  May our Lord help us to give thanks always, no matter what our circumstances may be.  May we live in His peace, trusting in Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. May we always have a thankful and grateful heart that we may see the power of God and our faith in Him working in us to accomplish His purposes.  May we never forget that God is the Giver of all good gifts.   May we keep calm and know that He cares for us.  May we never forget that He is near.  To Him be the glory.  Amen!

Luci

Thursday, October 31, 2019

IS OBEDIENCE LEGALISM?

"But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, 
and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, 
this man shall be blessed in his doing."
James 1:25


Jesus came to His own people and His own people did not receive Him. They used a legal argument about the Sabbath law to close their eyes and not see God’s heaven-sent Messenger. God in heaven commanded, but they would not obey. They called the good works of Jesus evil. In modern times, the God-fearing servant is insulted with accusations such as “trusting in your own works” or “self-righteous” or “legalist!”  Let us give careful consideration to the Bible Truth concerning these matters.

A truly clever person can nearly always find justification to exempt himself from doing what he ought to do, especially with the help of the Prince of Darkness. The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.  When it comes to strict and reverent obedience, many, even some of our brethren, have the wrong attitude.  Why do I say that?  Because they think that strict obedience to God and His commands, His laws, is not really essential or vital for salvation, eternal life.  They claim that as long as one is doing what's “right,” it does not matter how strictly he adheres to all of Jesus' teachings of the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25).  As a consequence of this, they give the label of "legalists" to those of us who suggest that kind of adherence to Jesus and His Lordship.  But guess what?  God has always demanded strict obedience (100% obedience) to all His commands!  No matter which law God had placed over man, he was expected to diligently learn and know the law, and do it because that was the will of God.  For instance, Noah and the ark that saved his family from the Flood.
“Thus Noah did: according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).

Noah explicitly followed God's instructions about how to build the ark to save his familyCain disobeyed God's law when he offered a sacrifice that was not pleasing to God.  He did not obey God's instructions or commands when making his offering.  And though Cain believed in God and offered what he thought was best, he still did not do what God commanded him to do.  His works are called evil (1 John 3:12).  Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he failed to honor God before the people.  They all failed to comply with God's instructions, His laws (Heb. 11:4).  God, under no circumstances, will accept any worship from any man that is not acceptable and pleasing to Him.  Take heed!  Those who claim that God’s “plan of salvation” is “legalism” must acknowledge that they are actually accusing Jesus Christ of being “Legalist.”  And even though salvation is a gift of God, such a gift has its own conditions appointed by the Savior Himself.  Faith itself is a condition!

True and faithful obedience is doing what God commands us to do, and we must acknowledge it!  We must obey God exactly in the way He commands and precisely for the purpose He specifies.  Obedience to God is not just something that we do for the pleasure of doing it when we agree with God that we need to do it or see the need for it.  Protestants (especially the evangelicals) emphasize substantially that we are not under Law but Grace.  For them, this implies that we are under no Law at all!  They have a hard time differentiating between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.  For them, law is law, and there is no law for the Christian!  And when one reminds them of the commandments (laws, rules) that must be obeyed, they shout "legalist!"


I.   LEGALISM?  AM I A LEGALIST?

Although the religious world widely uses the word “ legalist,” it is not a Bible word.  Our friends do not use the word “legalist” in a complimentary way. They use it to label anyone who says we must obey all of God’s commands. And when one confronts them with the Word of God to stress that they must do the will of God, they willfully ignore or dismiss God’s commands by calling obedience “legalism,”  and those of us who insist on obedience “legalists.”  In their mind, a “ legalist ” cannot be spiritual-minded or righteous, for  “legalism” keeps one from being godly, righteous before God.  Amazing!

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm from the Book of Psalms in the Bible.  It has 176 verses. Those who minimize obedience must take a careful look at this amazing psalmIt is one of my all-time favorites. In this psalm, the Psalmist praises and stresses the importance of the Law of God nearly 200 times. He did not look at the Bible, the Law of God, as a book merely filled with suggestions from God.
  1. The Psalmist speaks of the Word of God (38 times).
  2. The Law of God (25 times).
  3. The Statutes of God (22 times).
  4. The Testimonies of God (22 times).
  5. The Precepts of God (21 times).
  6. The Commandments of God (23 times).
  7. The Judgments of God (22 times). 

Those who use the term “ legalism” have failed to view the Bible in the Light of God’s Truth as commands, precepts, and statutes.  What do you suppose they have to say about Psalm 119?  What does this say about the heart of those who call this attitude “ legalism? ”  They must first take a hard and deeper look at Psalm 119 and change their attitude toward God’s commands that they might honor and respect them (verse 6).  Why do you think the Psalmist prayed that he would not wander from God’s commandments (verse 10) and that He would not hide His commands from him either (verse 19)?  The answer is that he saw God as One who rebuked proud men who stray from His commands (verse 32). God’s commandments must be diligently obeyed, for this will enlarge our heart as we keep them with all of our heart (verses 32-34).
  1. The Psalmist also delighted in God’s commandments, for he loved them (verses 35, 47). 
  2. He likewise meditated on them as he lifted up holy hands (48).  
  3. He hastened and did not delay in keeping God’s commandments (60). 
  4. Because he believed in God’s commandments, he was able to see them as God’s Way to teach him goodness, righteousness, sound judgment, and knowledge (66). 
  5. He diligently sought to learn them (73). 
  6. He was wiser because he trusted in God’s commands as being trustworthy and faithful (86, 98).
  7. So he obeyed them (115), for he longed for them (131). 
  8. They were Truth (151) and righteousness (176) and 
  9. In the keeping of God’s commands, he knew it would bring him the hope of salvation (166).­­­­­­  
Isn’t it amazing how our God helps His faithful to be “legalists” like this Psalmist!!

So often when one embarks on a discussion of subjects such as:
  1. Modesty (1 Tim. 4:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).
  2. Social drinking (1 Peter 4:3).
  3. Baptism as being vital for salvation (Mark 16:15-16).
  4. Instrumental music in New Testament worship (Eph. 5:19; Prov. 30:6).
  5. Divorce (Matt. 19:9).
  6. Withdrawing of fellowship (1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:14-15) and 
  7. Denominationalism (1 Cor. 1:10-13; John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).
He is labeled as a “legalist.” 

The dictionary’s definition of “legalism” is “strict adherence to the law.”  In other words, obeying the law.  Now we know where the word “legalism” gets its legal root word from!  Is it so terrible to obey and adhere to the law?  Outside the scope of religion, why is it that when it comes to the law of the land, no one seems to have any problem with being a legalist?  

Let me explain myself. 
  1. When we are driving, do we stop our car at every red light?  Yes!  Why?  Because the law says so.  Guess what?  You’re a legalist!  
  2. Do you make it a point to pay your taxes?  Why?  Because if we don’t pay them, we’re breaking the law.  That simple!  Guess what?  You’re a legalist!  
  3. When we work, do we make an effort to do everything that we’re told to do to please our boss?  Hmph, you’re legalist!  

Why are you so legalist?!  I can go on and add more to my list, but I want us to get the point about legalism being a good thing, for it keeps us out of trouble.  Without a legalistic mindset (wanting to strictly follow the rules), none of us would ever receive our rewardSo why is legalism such a dirty word in the religious world?  Should not strict adherence to God’s laws be a noble goal for every Christian to strive for?  Surely, when one asks any professed Christian if they want to follow Jesus, they’ll say, “sure!”  When one asks them if they want to obey God, their answer is, “yes” without hesitation.  But when one asks if they think they’re legalist, most of them will recoil in disgust.

Sadly, we have allowed our religious friends to turn a term that literally means “obedience” into a dirty word that’s practically used to insult us along with any vulgarity.  And why?  Simply because they refuse to understand the concept of complete obedience in God’s plan of salvation.  And though we’re saved by God’s Grace (Eph. 2:8a), that same Grace “instructs” us to do what pleases God (Tit. 2:11-12).  Grace teaches us obedience to God’s instructions or commands.  What happens if we purposefully disobey what God’s Grace instructs us to do?  The Bible says we insult (despise, outrage) the spirit of grace (Heb. 10:26-31).  So as Paul said,  “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!” (Rom. 6:1-2).  Although we have been saved through faith, “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8b-9).  Jesus did say, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10… but the Bible also says that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-26).  In other words, genuine and sincere faith is OBEDIENT trust and faithfulness to God’s commands or will.  To live faithfully demands one to be a legalist, for we must obey God’s Word or Law.  Why not then define “religious legalism” the same way we define  “secular legalism”?  Religious legalism simply means “strict adherence to God’s Law.”

Every time I read and study the Bible, I’m amazed at the many examples of legalists I find within its pages.
  1. God told Isaac, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”  (Genesis 26:4).
  2. Abraham obeyed God’s voice and kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws  (Gen. 26:5).  It sounds as if Abraham was a legalist!  
  3. Moses, whom God commanded to say to Israel, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you…So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left…Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deut. 4:2; 5:32; 12:32)It sounds like Moses was a legalist!  
  4. How about the apostle Paul?  He asked, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16).  He likewise told the Corinthians to “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).  One more time, it sounds as if Paul was a legalist!  
Do you suppose they were wrong?  Would you support disobedience to God’s commandments?  The apostle John wrote,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).  
Wow, it sounds like John was a legalist!  Now, Christian, do you love God?  Your answer, of course, will be a big YES.  But the real question is, does God really think so?  Do you not know that the Word of God says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…”?  Do you know Jesus’ words?  Consider a few of them made by Him.
  1. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  
  2. "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me…" (John 14:21
  3. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).  
Wow, that sounds like Jesus was a legalist!  Let’s go a little further and ask.
  1. Christian, is Jesus your Lord and Master?  You would say, Of course!  
  2. Jesus also asks you, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”  (Luke 6:46).  
Evidently, God wants us to avoid His wrath, the eternal punishment that awaits those who refuse to obey Him (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  When we do all that He commands us to, we can rest assured we are saved (Eph. 2:9).  Guess what?  True legalism for Christians is “strict adherence to God’s Law.”  When we look at it that way, we are able to obey His commandments.
  1. So why is it that when we try to speak the Truth in love to help others grow in Grace and knowledge, we’re ridiculed as being shallow, narrow-minded, and yes, a legalist (Eph. 4:15)?  
  2. Why is it that we want to associate legalism with Pharisaism 
  3. Do you know the meaning of being a "Pharisee" 
You see, Jesus never condemned the Pharisee for keeping the Law, God's laws in the Old Testament.  As a matter of fact, Jesus urged His Jewish listeners to do what the Pharisees told them to do, for they “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2-3a), that is, when they were teaching God’s commandments found in the Old Testament. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (“For they preach, but do not practice” Matt. 23:3b) and for adding to God’s Word! (Matt. 15:1-9), something that the Old Testament explicitly forbade! (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).  Did Jesus commend the Pharisees for teaching and practicing legalism (“strict adherence to God’s laws”) while condemning them for not actually being legalistic (“strictly adhering to God’s laws”) themselves?  Yes, He did!  So, those who insult us calling us “a legalistic Pharisee” simply because we’re doing what God commands us to do through His written Word have it all backwards!  Don’t you think so?  The only truth is that when they call us “legalist Pharisee,” they’re actually justifying their departure from sound doctrine and are violating Scriptural authorityMen and women who stand up for God’s Word and diligently want to obey God’s commands have always been persecuted in many unkind and unfair ways, with accusations such as that they are “legalist.”   It is just a few of Satan’s many arrows that he slings at God’s faithful ones to wound us and bring us down!!  Have we forgotten that God does not want us to be lukewarm in our service and devotion to Him (Rev. 3:15-16)?  He demands our complete obedience to ALL of His commands! The Lord’s church today is in great need of more legalists like Abraham, Moses, John, Paul, and Jesus. We need more devout and faithful Christians who will strive to strictly adhere to ALL of God’s commands, not just some of them.  We desperately need Christian men and women who are “obedient from the heart” (Rom. 6:17).

Jesus condemned the Pharisees and demanded that they keep all of God’s commands, including the command to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). They lacked a heart of humility and godly sorrow (Luke 18:9-14).   And since we have received God’s mercy and forgiveness, our strong desire must be to serve Him and obey Him from a sincere heart (1 John 1:7-9).  Jesus said that we must love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37).  He defined that love as obedience to Him (John 14:15).  When we obey from the heart, we will hear our Lord and Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Today the Lord’s church seems to be divided into two irreconcilable groups just like the churches of Galatia:
  1. Those who strive to be faithful to Christ's teachings and 
  2. Those who go beyond the authority of God’s Word (Gal. 2:16).  
There seems to be too much talk about legalism.  The term “legalism” is used in various ways.  The saddest part is that few seem to know the real meaning of the word.  Many despise laws, or rules, claiming that obedience to God’s commands is “legalistic.”  Today, the community church movement uses  “Grace” as a catchphrase to dismiss obedience as trusting in law for salvation, or trusting in one's works of obedience for salvation, speaking of that as pure legalism.  The word “legalism” is not even a New Testament word.  In Galatians, what the apostle Paul opposed was a Jewish attitude toward salvation.  He was not opposed to law in general, for without law, there can be no sin because sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  The idea that Paul opposed was that by obeying the Law of Moses, one might earn his salvation. Paul said, “a man is not justified by works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). Of course, these were works of the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5). Christ, by His death, has removed this Law (Gal. 3:24-26).  We must understand the legalism that God condemns.  
  1. They may say it is legalism, but God does not condemn being conservative or concerned about obedience. Paul was concerned about obedience (Gal. 3:1). 
  2. They may call it legalism, but God does not condemn attention to doctrinal correctness. Paul cared about such correctness (Gal. 1:6-9). 
  3. They call it legalism, but God does not reject commandment-keeping (1 Jn. 5:3). It is not idolatry to revere the word of God. We know no other way to walk with God except by studying His Words (1 Corinthians 2). 
  4. They call it legalism, but God does not minimize the importance of "soundness." 
  5. They call it legalism, but God wants us to aspire to complete faithfulness in every detail.  
  6.  The legalism that pleases God has its own responsibilities. 

Isn’t it something that so much of the legalism debate centers on baptism!  Why is it that we’re labeled legalist when we insist on the New Testament teaching about baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)?  They say that we are saved only by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) as if grace and faith exclude Peter's demand for repentance and baptism. There is nothing that man can do because we are saved by the blood of Jesus that was shed to redeem us from our sins.  But the Grace that God offers us is conditioned upon our acceptance of His free gift through Jesus Christ by obedience to the terms of His Gospel. Our sanctification requires  “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).  God in His mercy saves us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).  Baptism is essential to one’s salvation, for Jesus' command offers salvation only to those who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  Again, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).  So what must we do with those who insist that “baptism is sacred, but not essential to one’s salvation”? Are they not in error?  Yes, for they have singled out for doctrinal execution the New Testament teaching about immersion! They offer a form of selective obedience. And though they choose faith, they still leave off baptism, for baptism to them is too restrictive, too "legalistic!"  Sadly, selective obedience is the strongest form of malignant legalism threatening the church today. Therefore, those who decry us vehemently for being legalist or for legalism are themselves the strongest example of what they condemn!  How about that!


II.   KEEPING COMMANDS AND LEGALISM?

In John 14:15, Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

The words “legalist” and “legalism” are usually used to describe someone who is narrow-minded, judgmental, and always points out wrong. Worst of all, “legalist” is used to refer to a modern-day PhariseeBoth terms are used to advocate freedom from obeying the Truth.  Jesus wants us to obey Him. The Word of God, from cover to cover, stresses the need to keep God’s commandments to abide in Him (1 John 3:24; 2 Jn. 9). The writer of Hebrews stresses the need for obedience to Jesus, for He is the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Heb 5:9). The apostles also exhort us to observe all that Jesus has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20).  God wants us to obey Him!  There is no middle ground and no getting around that!  To ignore that is to reject the Word of God. To obey what God commands is not legalism. It is Scriptural!  Wanting to obey God’s will is not legalism. Obedience is not legalism. Those that label us “legalist” for wanting to obey God completely do not understand the will of God, and worse, they’re misusing and mishandling the Word of God! In fact, they are law-less. Why?  Because they’re ignoring and disobeying the authority of God.  They forget who is in charge and make up their own rules which they impose on everyone else.  Since Jesus is the one who made the rules, and He has all the authority to do so, we must obey Him, for He is the one to whom we expressed our faith. We profess to love Him!  And since He is the only source of true Light, for He is the Light, we must obey Him to have fellowship with Him.  We must walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  We must never apologize for obeying Him, doing what God has commanded us to do! 

Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for obeying God; instead, He rebuked them for being hypocrites, putting their traditions above the Law. Their traditions were just man-made and not of God. They were not from heaven. They made up their own set of rules, laws, and ways.  In doing this, they willfully disobeyed God.  They judged others wrong and became stumbling blocks to them. Isn’t it amazing that the Pharisees criticized Jesus for breaking their Sabbath traditions, complaining to Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath day!  They were hypocrites, expecting others to do what they were neglecting to do themselves.  You see, hypocrisy and man’s traditions can make us stumble, for they get in the way of obeying God.  Traditions come and go. They can change, but the Word of God remains forever unchanged. Thus, there exists a significant difference between keeping traditions and obeying JesusObeying Jesus completely does not make me a legalist!  The opposite of perceived legalism is bending the rules to fit our needs.

Let me give you a few examples.
  1. Lying might be okay for many if that involves breaking the laws of traffic to avoid getting a speeding ticket.  
  2. Lying might be okay if that avoids getting in trouble with your wife or boss.  
So who decides this? Yet, if one says that you should never lie, he is called a legalist!  Who gives the rules about not lying, isn’t that God?  God said we must not lie. So, does obeying God make one a legalist?  What do you think?  Why is it then that when one insists that the Bible does not say anything about using the church treasury for camps or other social events not authorized by Christ, we are told that we shouldn’t be so strict about everything? (as long as the results are good according to them!But guess what?  That’s the answer to obeying God.  And when we ask them, where does the Bible authorize or say that the church can use its treasury, to send kids to camp, social events, and so on, they immediately shout, “legalists.”  Since when does adhering to God and His Word become legalism?!  Sticking to God and His Word is not legalism!   The correct term would be “obedience” because that is a Bible word!

When we compromise our obedience for fear of being labeled a legalist, we are leaving the barn door wide open. The cows and horses wander out, and the wild animals come in.  Thus whoever is in charge will make the rules and do what they want!  Let me give you just a few examples of this:
  1. Women preach.
  2. No one needs to be baptized to be saved.
  3. The church runs car washes, garage sales, many other forms of money-making enterprises. 
The churches of the Lord are looking and acting more and more like the modern churches of today.  So they smile and say, “we’re doing it because we are not legalists”!  What they mean is that they think that law, even the law of Jesus Christ, does not matter. So, why is it that wanting to obey Christ and do all that He has commanded us to do to be saved and have the hope of eternal life makes us “legalists”?  We want to obey Him, for He has left us an example of obedience.  He was obedient to His Father in all things to please Him!  I refuse to be lawless and be called a legalist by those who want to be lawless!  I would rather be called narrow-minded and strict. Yet, wasn’t the Lord Jesus the one who said the Way that leads to life is narrow? You see, Truth tends to be narrow. Don’t you think that “one and one is two”? Is that not narrow?  So if I’m not narrow, then what am I? The answer is open to anything and everything that leads to my destruction!   If I’m not narrow, I will be happy to do anything my flesh desires, things that God does not approve, and never commanded me to do.  The broad path leads to destruction!  Why is it so easy to point the finger at those who want to obey God, calling them “legalist”? Does that help to soothe your conscience?  Our faith, our relationship, and our fellowship with God is defined by our obedience to His Word. It is impossible to claim to be right with God and at the same time be wrong about the Bible!   Can we honestly say that we love God and at the same time disobey His commands?  We obey Him when we follow Him and imitate Him (His love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, etc.)  The Bible from cover to cover never calls obedience legalism!  It is called obedience to His rule and Lordship. It is just following His rules!

Reliance and devotion to God’s Word is not legalism.  Loyalty and faithfulness to His Word is not legalism.  In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said,
"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 
Again in Matthew 5:17-18 He said,
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
In John 5:46 Jesus said,
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”  
All these Scriptures stress faithfulness, loyalty to God’s Word or Law.  Full commitment to obey God’s Word is not legalism!  Jesus said,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it… “  (Mathew 7:13-14).  
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27). 
 All that these Scriptures reveal is the honest heart.  We cannot read the Law of Christ and disregard parts of it as irrelevant or insignificant.  You see, the Pharisees were never condemned for keeping any part of the Law, but rather they were condemned for neglecting parts of the Law, choosing to keep just those parts of the Law that were convenient for them or fit their fleshly desires (Matthew 23:23).  We must never turn away from obeying the Word of God so that we may walk a so-called "spirit-filled walk" without the Truth of God (John 4:23). If we indeed love God, we will keep His commandments even when others are walking the broad path, following the traditions and false doctrines of men to feel good, rejecting at all cost adherence to the inspired Word of God.  Connecting salvation with obedience to the Gospel Message of Jesus is not legalism.  Here is the Truth concerning salvation and obedience, according to the New Testament Gospel of Christ:
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’”  (John 8:31-32).  
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death”  (John 8:51).  
“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day”  (John 12:48).  
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son”  (2 John 9).  
If we do not obey all the Word of God as demonstrated in the commands, examples, and necessary implications of the prophets, the Lord, and the apostles, we will never make it to heaven.  In the parable of the wise builder, Jesus said that everyone must hear and act on His Words. Likewise, He also stated in the preceding verses of this parable that only a few will hear and obey His Word.  Making detailed arguments or giving a defense of the Scriptures is not legalism.
"And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living'" (Matthew 22:31-32).  
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"  (Romans 11:34).  
Faith is attained through the hearing of the Word of Christ,  "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).  So to follow the details of the Word of God strictly is not legalism.  Will these same false teachers presume to tell the Lord what the Lord is or should be thinking? Will they, on the day of judgment, kneel before their Creator and tell Him which details were important enough to obey?

Believing that each written word in the Scriptures is essential is not legalism. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).  
"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4).  

Matthew 4:4 says it all regarding legalism.  Sadly, there exist many false teachers that distort the Word of God for their own gain and destruction, claiming that obedience to God’s Word is not possible because man is not able.  What blasphemy against the Spirit of God (Lk. 12:10)!  They shout obedience is a problem.  They say right is wrong, and it’s okay and acceptable to change the Word of God.  They call us legalists for stressing the need for obedience, the need to obey all the details given in the Scriptures, and for believing every single word written in the Scriptures to be saved.  If that’s being a legalist, then what else would they want to be?  A Christian (Acts 11:26) and a legalist (according to the listed arguments herein) are one, for they are the same. I must stress that the above Scriptures prove their value based on the example and teaching given by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I would also add that those that today are striving to do God’s will with complete obedience are not legalists.  Thus there is no need to accuse us of being legalists, for in doing this, they are accursing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, of being a Legalist Himself. So if Christ was a Legalist, then I will be a legalist with all my heart, soul, and strength (1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Peter 4:12-13)!!


CONCLUSION:

The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.  God in His revealed Word has given us His laws and instructions, as well as His authority to do what He wants us to do. Therefore, it must be done!  If God has not granted authority for an action, we must not do it at all.  Many prefer to play games with God. They make up their own rules as if they were wiser than our Lord.  In the end, they fall short of completely obeying what He has commanded and find themselves condemned by their own foolishness and disobedience.

Nowadays, when one says that God requires absolute (i.e., strict) obedience to God's Truth and all of His commands to be saved, many disagree, denying that strict obedience is essential to eternal life. Many of our friends in the religious world claim that baptism is not essential to salvation.  They conclude that obedience is not essential for salvation.  What they don't want to admit is that obedience to God's commands is vital to salvation, that is, eternal life.   To demand obedience to God’s commands is not being a “legalist” but a doer of God’s LawSo why accuse those of us who stress the need to adhere to God’s Law and keep His commands as "legalists"?

It is true that no man is sinless. So, of course, no man will be saved by living a perfectly sinless life (Rom. 3:23). Though no man's obedience deserves eternal life (no man is saved without grace and faith), it is also true that because of sin, there are things man must do (besides grace and faith) to obtain forgiveness of sins.  The blood of Jesus is the power to forgive sins.  Once man sins, there is nothing that he can do to compensate for his sins except the blood of Jesus.  However, the Word of God instructs us that obedience is essential to benefit from the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. Jesus' doctrines are essential to salvation.  Obedience to Jesus' Lordship is vital to receive eternal life.  He is the only Lord, Master, Ruler, and the One who exercises all authority in heaven and earth.  So to accept Him as Lord demands that we obey His rules, laws, and commands. We must submit completely to Him and to His authority with complete and reverent obedience. There are only two pathways:  to obey all that God has commanded us to do and receive eternal life, or obey Satan and his kingdom of darkness and be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Did Jesus oppose the Pharisees for strict obedience to God's Law?  Many believe and teach that Jesus opposed and rebuked the Pharisees for teaching the importance of obedience to God's Law and rebuking sin.  But really, is this what the Bible says Jesus taught? What was it really what characterized the Pharisees? What characterized the Pharisees was following human laws and traditions, self-righteous pride, and hypocrisy.  They lived by their emotions and showed a bad attitude toward God’s Word.  God was displeased with their failure to live in harmony with His will, for they preferred the praises of men rather than God’s approval.  But isn’t that the same problem we see today among various churches and denominations who claim to be followers of Christ?  Did you know there were many sects among the Jews in Jesus' day?  The Pharisees were a prominent sect. They correctly believed in spirits and in the resurrection of the dead, whereas the Sadducees did not (Acts 23:8).  Their errors went hand in hand with their zeal and influence, leaving them in conflict with Jesus and His disciples.  Today is no different!  Many today accuse us of being legalists” for believing in strict obedience to God's Word (Law and commands).  They likewise call us "a bunch of Pharisees."  But the Gospel of Jesus (the Law of Christ) over and over teaches the importance of obedience (Matthew 7:21-27; John 14:15; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9).  Today many oppose any teaching that emphasizes strict obedience to God's Word.  But do you suppose the Scriptures I just mentioned above condemn us for teaching the need for complete obedience?  You see, the problem with the Pharisees is that they discouraged teaching strict obedience to God's Word (John 14:21-24; 1 John 5:3; 2:3-6; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:22,23; Romans 2:6-10; 6:17,18).

Jesus often rebuked His people for disobeying God’s Law.  In Revelation 3:19, Jesus clearly reproved and chastened those whom He loved, for He commanded them to repent.  In James 5:19, 20, we are commanded to turn one who is in sin from his error to save his soul from death.   In 2 Timothy 4:2-4, we’re warned that some will turn away from the Truth, wanting to hear preaching that satisfies their own desires.  But Jesus commands that we teach and preach the Word and rebuke error.  Sadly, many get angry when they are rebuked for disobeying God's Word.  Did Jesus ever refuse to tell people they were wrong for disobeying God? Jesus' doctrines contain many examples in which He told people they were wrong, including the Pharisees!  So why is it then that when we rebuke others and ask them to repent or change, we are immediately told we are un-Christlike?  Is telling others when they’re wrong and offending them such a bad thing?  Did you know Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not being strict enough and for freeing others from their God-given obligation to care for their elderly parents (Matt. 15:1-9)?  Guess what?  Jesus was stricter about keeping God’s commands than the Pharisees!  For the Pharisees, it was okay to divorce for any reason.  But Jesus commanded them to return to God’s original Law that would allow divorce only for the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:3-9).  Jesus was stricter about baptism than the Pharisees!  And though Jesus was stricter about baptism, He allowed John to baptize him.  The Pharisees refused, for they rejected the counsel of God (Lk. 7:30).  Guess what?  Jesus was stricter about strict obedience to God’s Law!  Thus He was the biggest Legalist ever to live!

When we stress that baptism is vital to salvation, those who teach salvation by "faith only" accuse us of being "Pharisees" and “legalists” for stressing strict obedience. Did you know the Pharisees were the first-century false teachers who claimed that baptism was not necessary?  Of course, this was another reason why Jesus didn’t agree with them.  What about today?  Many today don’t accept that baptism is essential, just like the Pharisees, and they think that they agree with Jesus.  Those who deny the necessity of baptism are the Pharisees!  You see, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, not for strict obedience of God’s Law or for being too strict, but to the contrary, He accused them of not being strict enough!  They tithed the little spices but neglected the weightier matters of the Law!  They neglected the most important and essential commands.  Jesus rebuked them for abandoning and not doing God's commands!  (Matt. 23:23-24).  Some rebuke us, calling us Pharisees because we stress the need for everyone to obey God’s Law or commands.  Guess what?  Nowhere in the New Testament does it condemn us for believing in strict obedience to God's revealed will.

In fact, when it comes to teaching people to obey God's Law, Jesus was stricter than the Pharisees! So, those who belittle obedience to God’s Word or Law are in fact the Pharisees!  And we must respond in love to show them their error if we want to be like Jesus.

Today we are surrounded by many like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  They serve God according to human tradition and commands rather than God’s divine commands.  Some churches bind religious requirements based on "tradition." They’re just like the Pharisees who did not base their rituals and rules on the Word of God (His Law).  Like the Pharisees, they justify what they do on tradition rather than the Law of God.  The denominations follow other forms of human laws (decrees of councils, pronouncements of human church officers, or official creeds written by their religious leaders). Their human laws are their authority for doctrine and practice. These human authorities, like the Pharisees' commands, often bind what God has not bound and many times release people from things God has bound.  Amazing!

And though others in the religious world don’t follow official creeds, they still practice and determine what they believe because that’s the way they’ve always done it.  So those who rebuke us for stressing the need for strict obedience to God’s Word are mistaken when they call us "Pharisees" or “legalists.”  The doctrine that obedience to God's Law is not essential to salvation is a man-made doctrine. So those who teach that false doctrine are following human commands, rules, and are just like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked for doing that very thing!  Once more, Jesus never condemned the Pharisees or anyone else for teaching and stressing the need to carefully and respectfully obey God’s Law or commands.   But He did rebuke them for binding human and man-made traditions, doctrines, and commands that were foreign to God’s Law.

Some abuse Ephesians 2:8,9 to teach that obedience is not necessary to salvation. Good works are essential for God to give us eternal life.  As Christians, we must learn that obedience to God is essential to salvation, and we must not justify ourselves or other people for their disobedience to God.  We must heed the danger of human laws and traditions in religion.  We must obey God out of sincere devotion to Him.  We must acknowledge that we can be saved only if we obey God and His commands and humbly seek God's Grace and Mercy to forgive our sins by the blood of Jesus.  Are we living faithful, obedient lives?  Are we honoring and respecting God's commands?  Are we obeying His commands diligently and keeping them with all of our heart?  

May we be more devout and faithful Christians who will strive to strictly adhere to all of God’s commands, not just some of them.  May we obey God's commands with all of our heart.  May we honor and respect God's commands and never wander from them. May we never despise God's laws, or rules, claiming that obedience to God’s commands is “legalistic.”  May we obey Christ and do all that He has commanded us to do to be saved and have the hope of eternal life.  And finally, may we never fall short of completely obeying what Jesus has commanded us to do and find ourselves condemned by our own foolishness and disobedience.

Luci