Classic Christianity – Our Attitude Towards Legalism Part 1 (03-25-19)
Bob George, who has been on the air for over 30 years on People to People radio, shares a message about the attitude of Christ toward legalism. As believers, who have the indwelling Holy Spirit, a person with the mind of Christ, what then should our attitude be toward legalism, toward the teaching and teachers of legalism? Legalists teach things of law to keep people under the bondage of law rather than the freedom under grace. You cannot mix law and grace. Under law, there is a punishment associated with law. Without a punishment, the law is worthless. But in Christ, we are no longer under the law but under grace. The punishment of our sins has already been paid in full. God set aside the law through Christ Jesus who fulfilled the entirety of the law. Now, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers new life to men. That life is eternal life, the same Holy Spirit life that is in Christ Jesus. Those who believed the message of God’s grace in Christ Jesus are born again. When you were born again, the Holy Spirit was placed in you. The Holy Spirit is a person, a personality with a mind, a will and emotions. So when you have Christ you also have the mind of Christ so that you have true freedom from sin, not to do whatever you want, but to be led by the Spirit of God to do the things pleasing to Him. This is eternal life, to know Him and His Son Jesus Christ. When you know Him, you will know how He thinks and what His attitude is toward those teachers of the law, those legalists. Legalists are those who think they can go to God in their own righteousness and good deeds, and in their pride, hinder others from coming to Christ by faith. Should not our attitude be the same as that of Jesus Christ? Where can we learn more about the attitude of Christ? So how does Christ think? Let us look to the word of God, and let the Holy Spirit teach us. For the Holy Spirit is our teacher. Truth can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
We sing songs like “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” and “Praise the name of Jesus”. Do we really know what that means? Do we have a visual aid, a picture of Him, as if to stair at Him with your mind. To get to know someone is to get to know how they act, how they respond, and what his attitude toward life is like in general. That is what it means to turn your eyes upon Jesus. Our attitudes should be like that of Jesus Christ. How are we going to do that if we don’t know what his attitude was? We are told as a born again person that we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16
for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
2 Timothy 1:13-15
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
The moment the Spirit comes to live in you, the mind of Christ comes to live in you. The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a “He”, a personality, with a will, a mind and emotions. All the elements that we know as our personalities are also in Christ. The Holy Spirit is not a force or a power but the Holy Spirit of God is a person. A person has a mind. The mind of God literally comes to dwell in us as believers. So with the mind of Christ coming to live in us, we have been given the ability to understand the meaning of the word of God.
1 Corinthians 2:8-10
8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”[Isaiah 64:4] — the things God has prepared for those who love him — 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
You can study and study until your eyeballs fall out and keep asking what does this mean? So until the Holy Spirit reveals truth to you, you will not be able to understand what scripture means. It so important and cannot be stressed enough how important it is to rely on the Holy Spirit of God living in you to teach you what it means! When people do not rely on the Holy Spirit to teach them, then we come up with all kinds of denominations, that are really teachings of men. Jesus addressed the known teachers of the law in his day, those legalists who failed to come to Christ by faith, this way.
36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish — the very works that I am doing — testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Do you study the scriptures to get to know the author? Do you study so you can know Him, who is eternal life?
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Bob shared about a conversation he had with a lady, speaking from a Messianic Jewish point of view. She was telling us we need to follow the law. All this vernacular coming out of her in regard to the law. So she was deceived and caught up into legalism. What was Jesus attitude toward the law and especially teachers of the law. If you have a law then you have teachers of the law. What was his attitude in regards to the teachers of the law in his day? Would that be any different to teachers of the law in our day?
If going to have an attitude toward the law of Moses, then you better obey it completely without failing once or find another way, the way of faith!
9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[Deut. 27:26] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
The law is an instrument of death. The law kills but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:6
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
What then should our attitude be toward the law that God gave to Moses until the Seed, who is Jesus, came. That is, until faith came?
16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” [Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
In the Old Testament, faith is never mentioned on a personal basis but only as it relates to Israel and marriage. You do not live by faith under the law. You can only live by faith under Jesus (study Galatians 3, relying on the Holy Spirit). Until that faith in Jesus came, we were held as prisoners under law, under bondage. What then should our attitude be toward the law and teachers of the law, that still exist today.
When Paul proclaimed the grace of God, the Judaizers were right there, trying to get people back under the bondage of law and the manipulation of legalism. One example of this is recorded in the book of Galatians, where Paul addresses the Galatians as foolish and asked them, “Who bewitched you?”
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
So these law teachers teach you that if you do not do this, then God will do this or that God will get you. The most prevalent teaching of law today is the teaching of the tithe. It is so prevalent in almost every Protestant denomination. The law of the tithe says, “If you do not tithe, then you are robbing God.” There are teachers of the law back then that are still in existence today. What was Jesus attitude toward those teachers of the law? Have you tried addressing the error in the teaching of the tithe? How well were you received?
If you want to know the attitude of Jesus Christ in regards to law and teachers of the law, then let us go to the scriptures.
The teacher of the law is always trying to trip up someone who is teaching something contrary to their interpretation. You will always see a certain approach from a legalist. Then and still much the same today. There is nothing new under the sun. A legalist will never confront you directly. They always go behind your back. No one has the guts to confront you face to face. There is always the starting of a rumor, a gathering of a court, working behind your back, trying to get people to listen to the teacher of the law so they will not listen to you. So they will marginalize you or report you as being divisive but will never back up their stance with truth, for they do not know the truth. They may twist the scriptures to support their interpretation of the law, and so marginalize you as well as draw people to them and away from you.
Let us turn now to Matthew 22 and see an example of Jesus confrontation with teachers of the law.
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[Deut. 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Lev. 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
After hearing that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, stood up to test Jesus, to trip him up in his words. They are not looking for truth. These legalists are looking for ways to crucify you or silence you. They challenged the wrong guy!
We have people today who are experts in the law.
Legalists try to trap by misquoting the scriptures. The expert in the law had devious intent, to try to get Jesus to pick out one of the 10 commandments, so that whatever one Jesus picked, he could rail on Jesus. So he asked Jesus, “Let us see if you can tell us the greatest commandments!”
Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which is the very nature of God, that if the spirit of god was in man, then this would fulfill all of the law. Only Jesus, who has the Holy Spirit in him, could fulfill the law. And that is precisely what Jesus came to do. Also in Leviticus Jesus said, “Be holy because I am Holy”. That is perfection under law, which no man but Jesus could fulfill.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
All of the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. It is interesting to note that these are not even listed in the 10 commandments, those things written on tablets of stone by the finger of God. When Jesus was asked, “Which are the greatest ones listed in the 10?”, the answer he gave was not even listed in the ten commandments. They thought they were going to trick him.
The greatest commandment is to love your God. Love is the fulfillment of the law and love does it’s neighbor no wrong.
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Jesus, through the apostle John, said it was not that we loved God but that he loved us. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Until we know of His unconditional love we have no chance of ever loving him back. Can a legalist love God? How can you love someone you fear? If you have ever heard someone say, “Oh, he is a legalist but he loves God”, then do not believe him. That is hog-wash. You cannot love God on your own. You can only respond to God’s love. If you do not know anything about God’s love you cannot love him back. You do not initiate your love to God. You respond to His love for you. Faith is not doing something to get God to respond to you. God has already done everything for us and we respond to that by faith. Faith does not cause God to do one earthly thing for you. God has already done everything for you.
2 Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
What else is He going to give to you if He has already given everything you need for life and godliness?
Faith is not saying, “I have got enough faith to cause God to do something”. Comparing yourself to an ant in relationship to man, think of man in relationship to God of the universe. So you say say to God, “Are you impressed with me?” You tell someone, “God loves you”, and their attitude is “I love me too if I was God”. That is an attitude of people puffed up with pride. So many false teachers telling people how to cause God to get rich, “sow your seed” they say, and “you will get blessed” while they fill their own pockets. That is the most presumptuous thing in the world to tell people to have faith so you can get rich. If you are in Christ, you are as rich as you will ever get. If you think rich is the accumulation of money, then you do not know God.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
I have never seen a u-haul on the back end of a hearse. You did not come into this world with anything and you will not leave this world with anything. That is not riches. Riches are riches in Him.
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
They were trying to trap Jesus with that question. Jesus always turned the table on them. Upon these two commands hang the entire law. When speaking of law, not talking about the 10 commandments given to Moses. He is talking about the entirety of the law, the entire ceremonial law, the entire Pentateuch, everything written down by the prophets in the entire Old Testament. The entire teaching of the Old Testament hinges on those two things. So he set them in their place. Why? Because deep down in their heart they did not love God and also did not love their neighbor.
Then Jesus asked them a question. What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’[Psalm 110:1]
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
After that, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.
Jesus said to his disciples afterwards concerning the Pharisees. The harshest words spoken was to the legalists, the self-righteous, and teachers of the law. To those who were burdened down by sin, Jesus showed compassion and mercy. But to the legalists, he called them out as to who they were inside their hearts. He even called them in another occasion, “brood of vipers”.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Do you want to be a teacher of the law? Listen to what Jesus had to say. They sit in Moses seat, so you must obey and do everything they tell you. The Romans knew that they would save themselves if they would let the spiritual leaders of that day be in charge of matters of law. They were in cahoots with the spiritual leaders. When there is a law then there also must be someone who will execute the punishment of the law. Why not have the Romans then be in charge of executing the law but we Jews can be instructors of the law. Then we can roam around town in shiny robes to receive the praise of men.
The law without punishment of the law is a worthless law. Who is going to execute the punishment. When a woman is caught in adultery, who is going to cast the stone? One thing to teach the law and another thing to teach the execution of the law. How can you teach law without punishment of the law? Who is going to say, “stone her” to the woman caught in adultery? What God is there to say, “What saith the law?”
Jesus said, “You teachers of the law, hypocrites.” You must obey them and do everything they tell you but do not do what they do for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads but do not lift a finger to help them. Everything they do is for men to see, to have a show. They make Christianity look good on the outside. They make it look acceptable. They get good music and quit the teaching. People do not want to hear sound doctrine. They just want to be made to feel good.
2 Timothy 2:2-4
2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. So he is saying to us that these people want to do everything so people can see. This is done for men to see. Is that unusual in today’s Christianity? No, not a doubt. They do things for men to see but they do not have the love of God in their hearts! They had no faith in who Jesus is or what he came to do. They did not believe in the words he had spoken, that He is the Son of David, the promised Messiah.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
That kind of thing is still the same today, calling people Rabbi or Father. Whether going to Israel or Greece, they walk around in robes, looking for people to call them Rabbi. You are not to be called Rabbi. Do not call anyone Father.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.
Well, that calls out the entire Catholic Church. You have one Father and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called teacher, for you have one teacher. Who is that one teacher today? The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals truth to men.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The greatest among you will be your servant. The thinking of the world is to “climb the corporate ladder” saying, “I want to be great so as to be served”. No, Jesus instructed just the opposite. “You want to be great, then you will be their servant.”
Then Jesus pronounces seven strong woes against the legalistic Pharisees.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
So the legalists through their own teaching are keeping people from entering a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! They refuse to do so because of their pride and are doing everything in their power to keep from going there. Is that happening today? Yes, most certainly. Every cult and religious denomination have their law that keeps people bound!
How does the legalist keep people from coming to Christ? Their words that say, “You have to earn to get there.” The legalist will not respond to faith because of pride. He says, “If you think I am going to accept Christ by faith you are nuts. If you think my deeds are like filthy rags, then you are nuts. I will tell you all about my deeds.” Bob met a man from Greece that always boasted about his deeds. If you were to tell him “his deeds are as filthy rags”, he would have a heart attack. He thinks those deeds would get him to heaven?
How many deeds would you have to do to get there? And how many fewer deeds you would have to do when you get there? And if you found right up to the line, and just one away, and would that not be bad that you then lost it. Would you not ask, “Lord, just let me do just one more deed and let me in?” Do you see how stupid that stuff is?
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one will stand before God in his own righteousness, for he has none. The only way is by faith in the only one who is righteous, and that is not us, but only Him.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Jesus spoke seven woes ot the Pharisees. So again, we ask, what should our attitude be toward the legalist? Would you exalt yourself over God and say to him, “Lord, you are not being very politically correct in this way.” What is your attitude toward legalism? Is it His? Is it your flesh’s? The flesh likes legalism. Why? It appeals to the basic pride of man, which is an independent and rebellious nature towards God, that I know right from wrong apart from God. The Spirit hates legalism. We have to come to grips with that. We should have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. Are we tolerant of it? Of course we are. You many have heard it said, “A little legalism and a little grace.” or “We need both of them”. But that is like drinking a little poison with a little food. To say both is good is foolishness! A little poison can kill you.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
So, Jesus calls them, “blind fools”. Have you ever called a legalist a blind fool? Jesus appealed to them with truth and reason yet knowing in their hearts that they already rejected him and his message. Which is greater, the person of God or the things made by men? The legalists even make up rules as they go and go through religious gyrations and make a big deal of it but have no spiritual understanding of what they do. It is all smoke and mirrors for a big show before men so they receive praise of men rather than praise from God.