Sunday, July 26, 2009

God's Law Against Legalism

In the Battle of Law vs. Grace, the Grace camp tries to do away with it, and the Law camp misunderstands it, but God still has a law against legalism.

Many Christians today believe the law of God was done away at the death of Jesus. They say that if one believes the law of God is still valid, that one is "under the law" or "legalistic." On the other hand, an opposing group of Christians contend that we must keep all of God's Law with all of our might if we are going to be in God's kingdom. They say that the Grace group, with their "faith alone" are practicing "rocking chair religion." Perhaps you can see the problem. Both camps are partly wrong if the focal point of my thesis is correct, that God has a law against legalism. If God's law is still valid it hasn't been done away. And if He has a law against legalism, the Law group has some serious adjusting to do in how they go about keeping the law.

First let me define the term legalism as I use it. Legalism is an attempt to be or become righteous by doing God's law in one's own strength.

Second, let me define the Law and its purpose. I would like to put forth a concept of the law and what it represents that may help reveal its purpose. The law basically is a set of negative statements that define the character of God as it applies to man. "Thou shall not" is the negative part. Those things God has stated that we are not to do are the very same things that Jesus did not do as He lived a perfect life on Earth. Jesus turned what we see as negative into a positive way of life! Jesus defined the law as a loving way of life! Where the law says "Thou shall not kill" Jesus, in full agreement, says to love your enemies. Far from doing away with the law, Jesus raised the standard to fulfill or fill to the full our concept of what the law is intended to do. If we can picture the law as a transcript of God's character, which is Love, we can see the eternal purpose of His law. The Law of God in its basic form as defined in the Ten Commandments, is simply ten statements to show us when we are not living the way God intended. Perhaps this is why they are stated as negatives! When we do what they say not to do we are living a negative life or in other words, a way of life that leads to death. God created us to live! It was in love that He gave us a document that would warn us of danger. The law, then, could be likened to a signpost pointing us in the right direction. We would never expect a signpost to take us to our destination, yet some people act like the law can make them righteous. The apostle Paul speaks to this problem in Romans 3:20 "Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: For by the law is the knowledge of sin." He then introduces the concept of righteousness by faith. (Read Romans 3:21-31) In verse 31 he asks a most important question to our topic: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea we establish the law." We can see that the real issue here is not doing away with the law to obtain righteousness but rather the how of becoming righteous. If we do away with God's law we lose sight of what righteousness is! We can see the results of preaching that says that God's law was nailed to the cross, or done away with, in the increasing lawlessness in our society. The laws of the land are based on the Ten Commandments. If we say that God's law is no longer valid we seriously undermine the good laws of our society that were written for our own protection to defend peace and order.

If you believe that man can become righteous by doing the law, you are probably wondering how righteousness is served by just believing. On the other hand if you are one who believes that the law is "history," your faith has nowhere to take you for there is no more righteousness to obtain to. These two extremes make up the basic issues of the standoff in a ongoing religious debate in


Christianity today. Both sides define themselves in counter distinction to the other. Both sides have some truth, but neither is totally right.

Enters the Gospel! The word gospel means "good news." The good news of God's plan of salvation is in short: God offers, by His Grace, the life, shed blood, death, resurrection, and Spirit Life of His Son Jesus Christ to cleanse, recreate, indwell and work out of us to live righteously, fulfilling the law, when we believe or trust Him to do it in us.

Because God, in His perfect love and wisdom, does not want His children to be robots; He has ordained that we must choose between life and death, between His way and our own. It is to protect our freedom of choice and the eternal peace of His kingdom family that He demands we choose. To really know God is to trust Him. If we truly understand His love we will gladly surrender our lives to His care and keeping. This is true faith. Faith is active surrender to God's control in our lives. Faith is the means by which we appropriate the free gift of God's Grace in our lives. He will bring His righteousness into us through the Holy Spirit. His Spirit in us will always work out His true righteousness, that to which the law points.

Isn't it simple? Grace through faith accomplishes that which the law defines! This is righteousness by faith. Faith is not a "rocking chair" word but an action word. It is by faith that we ask, seek, and knock. (Matthew 7:7,8) It is because we trust God that we will actively pull the voting lever, putting God in office in our lives. This action is our work! Only we can do it! Every time we choose God in the daily choices we face, God steps in with unlimited power and works His life in us just as He did in Jesus. This is how we will be like Jesus when He appears. (I John 3:2)

What is God's law against legalism? This law is the center piece of the Gospel. This is the one law that God said to remember! The one law that satan, by dividing law and grace, has caused many Christians to forget! The one law God put within the Ten Commandments that, if observed, would safeguard against legalism! This is the forth commandment Sabbath law!

Exodus 20: 8-11

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days you shall labor and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it

you shall not do any work, you nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh-day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Because we are physical/spiritual creatures, God our creator, gave us physical reminders of spiritual realities. God gave the 7th Day Sabbath as a memorial of His physical creative power. After sin entered this world, He ordained the Sabbath to remind us that He alone can recreate us spiritually. God told Israel that the Sabbath was a sign that He was The One that would sanctify them or set them apart in holiness. (Exodus 31:13) It is not just to physical Israel that God extends that blessing but to spiritual Israel as well, all those who trust in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for Eternal Life. What a wonderful gift! Each Sabbath He asks us to set aside our daily cares and responsibilities and commune with Him, rejoicing in His gift of physical and spiritual salvation.


According to the Hebrew word translated feast (Strong's Hebrew dictionary #4150) in Leviticus 23:2&3 the 7th Day Sabbath is an appointment with the King of Kings! In each week He has set a perpetual, appointed time to meet with Him, physically trusting Him to supply our every need and spiritually trusting His working in us to be righteous. On the first Sabbath, the first full day of their existence, before they had done any real work themselves, Adam and Eve were invited to take part in God's resting from His physical work of creation. That appointment still stands. Each Sabbath, we too are invited to rest both physically and spiritually by faith in Jesus' physical and spiritual life in our behalf. The physical rest on the 7th Day is a reminder that we must rest every day, in the spiritual sense, as He renews His righteousness in us by His Spirit. It is only by His working in us that we can become righteous, fully keeping God's law. (Phillipians 2:13) A "Sabbath keeper" that thinks ceasing from work on the Sabbath qualifies one for salvation or in any way merits God's mercy is actually performing "works of the flesh." To put ones trust in ones own power to merit salvation is nothing short of idolatry. In Galatians 5:19, 20 Paul lists idolatry as one of the works of the flesh. Those who trust in the creature (beast) rather than their Creator are in effect worshipping the "beast." The 4th commandment is a call to remember our Creator, to trust and rest in His creative power. This is why Revelation 14:11 proclaims there is no rest for those who worship the beast! (See Revelation 14:6-12 to review the proclamation messages of the three angels. Please note the call to worship our Creator in the first angels message - verses 6 & 7.) If we believe that God is accomplishing our salvation, we can enter true rest by faith. Our ceasing to labor on the Sabbath, then, is not in order to be saved but rather because we are saved. We put away our everyday concerns and pleasures (Isaiah 58:13,14) during the Sabbath hours so that we can keep God's appointment with us and have undistracted communion with Him!

My friend, are you tired of trying to be "good" in your own strength? Can you see that the 4th Commandment is the only one out of the Ten that we automatically spiritually break by trying to keep in our own power? Jesus says, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28&29)

Perhaps you have the uneasy feeling that your life in "grace" is not much different than the lives of the lost souls around you, and you long to live a life set aside in Holiness. God will make you righteous if you ask Him to work out His righteousness (His law) in you. This is the recreation of which the Sabbath is a reminder today! Jesus paid the price for our salvation on Calvary. You can rest in the merits of that completed act! Aren't you glad the Sabbath was made for man! (Mark 2:27)

Take courage dear Christian! "There remains . . .a Sabbath rest for the people of God!" (Hebrews 4:9 NAS)

Dear Heavenly Father. Please forgive our lack of faith in you. Please bring us into your true Sabbath rest. Please forgive us for physically and spiritually breaking your 4th commandment. Teach us to truly trust in You. Please write Your law on our hearts. Work to fulfill Your law in us just as You did in Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.

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