But I’m Not Legalistic About it

Yes, another bulletin on the meaning of ‘LEGALISM’ because it’s the standard argument used by those who refuse to repent.

The discussion goes like this;

  • Believer: Jesus commands us to keep His commandments [Luke 6:46; Mat 7:21-29].
  • Non-Believer: Yeah, but I’m not LEGALISTIC about it.

End of discussion.

To understand their argument as to why they believe that God is giving them license to sin (if not fully, at least partially) let’s look at how the reasoning goes.

THE RATIONALE GOES LIKE THIS:

  • Since nobody’s perfect [1John 1:10],
  • And since God is full of grace & mercy [Heb 4:16],
  • Then God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, So, we don’t have to try. “I’m not going to be LEGALISTIC about it.”

That’s not very good bible study. Paul addressed a similar question in his time. In Romans 6:1 he answers a rhetorical question, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer, “certainly not!” This may be why we have thousands of denominations with a nearly equal number of doctrines about how to live. It’s like they’re saying that since there’s a little room to sin regarding salvation, then we can intentionally be mediocre. That’s fine for unimportant things like dieting or quilting, but not a very good way to handle salvation.

Is GRACE & MERCY license to sin willfully? That’s just another way of saying “I’m not legalistic about it.” God is full of GRACE & He is MERCIFUL, but that’s no license to sin. The accurate way to look at it is that He has provided GRACE & MERCY to an imperfect people. This is the right way to understand Ephesians 2:8-9 and 1John 1:7-10. God sent His Son as a sacrifice for a sinful people that didn’t deserve it [Rom 5:8-10]. We obey the Gospel upon recognition of our need for the atoning blood of Jesus [2Thess 1:8-9; Acts 2:38; Heb 5:9]. Obeying the gospel & keeping His commandments [Mat 28:18-20] is not being legalistic, it’s being faithful.

WHEN NOT TO BE LEGALISTIC

There are 2 chapters in the New Testament that are telling folks not to be legalistic. They are, Romans 14 & 1Cor 8. These are dealing with issues that are NOT MATTERS OF DOCTRINE but matters of OPINION. If that’s what you mean by ‘I’m not going to be legalistic about it’ then we both agree with God and His word. If, however, you aren’t going to be legalistic with the doctrine of Christ, then you’re going to find yourself fighting against God.

“But I’m Not Legalistic About it”

People who say they’re not legalistic about the doctrine of Christ would never say the same thing in other areas of their lives. Below are just a few examples of how ridiculous this sounds.

  • I’m a VEGAN, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I love my wife, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I always do my job at work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I want a great brain surgeon, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I take insulin to keep from dying, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I stop at red lights, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I watch over my kids when they swim, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I’m a bank teller, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I’m a judge, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I practice food safety at the restaurant I work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I work with the nuclear warheads at Pantex, but I’m not legalistic about it.

So you see, we all can understand that in matters of importance we must stand firm. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” [1Cor 16:13] Regarding the matters of style or opinion, don’t be legalistic about it, but with matters of the doctrine of Christ, be LEGALISTIC.

WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING

IT SAYS IN ROMANS 15v4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” It also says in 1Corinthians 10v11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

These passages refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. The meaning being, that we should read the OT and study how God deals with mankind, and gain knowledge of how God applies His laws.

One particular story of interest is found in Numbers chapters 13-14. It’s here we find the Israelites are approaching the promised land after just escaping Egyptian slavery. They were given permission to send in 12 men to spy out the land, each man a “ruler among them.” [Numbers 13:2]

Upon their return from spying out the land, all of them report that the land truly is a land as God had described, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” [Numbers 13:27; Ex 3:8]

However, 10 of the spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were, “strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great:”, thus giving a bad report. Caleb, one of the 12 spies, said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it;” but the 10 went against him and against Joshua.

The children of Israel were persuaded by the bad report and refused to take possession of the land as the Lord had commanded, complaining about how it would have been better to remain in Egyptian slavery. [Num 14:1-4] They even said, “If only we had come to our death in the land of Egypt, or even in this waste land!” To this God said, OK. He gave them what they requested. “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness;” [Num 14:29a]

So…What are we to learn?

There are some similarities between them and Christians today.

First, they had been freed from bondage. We Christians have also been freed from bondage, we were enslaved to sin. “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:18] We have been freed from a hopeless situation, enslaved to sin.

Second, they were between two places. Their previous condition and their future home. They were pilgrims heading to a wonderful place “flowing with milk and honey.” Christians are also between two places.  We are not in heaven, but want to go there, and we’re no longer in a lost condition. We are warned, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” [1Peter 2:11]

Lastly, some of them rejected the promises of God for this new home and refused to follow His commandments to attain it. God refused to allow these disobedient unbelievers to enter the land and obtain a rest. Christians can also reject the commands of the Lord and miss out on entering our rest, heaven. We do this be following their example of turning away from God’s commands. This comparison is drawn by the Hebrews writer in chapter 3, 7-19. This letter is addressed to Christians and has this warning, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)”

So you see, their example should teach us to remain faithful to God. To never neglect our salvation [Hebrews 2:3], and to obey Him by “continuing in the apostles’ doctrine” [Acts 2:42; Matthew 28:20]

Can a Christian so sin as to lose their salvation?

If we do as they did, disobedience and unbelief [Heb 3:17-19], then we will have what they had, no other options. There remains no more sacrifice for sins. 

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (KJV) [Hebrews 10:26]