And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XII, Number 17 May 03, 2009
In this issue:
Many improperly label us as “legalists”. The definition of terms is crucial to understanding the Bible, to not straying from the revealed truth, and to the fair representation of others. Legalism needs to be properly defined, not prejudicially debated. Webster defines legalism as “strict, often too strict and literal, adherence to law.” The word has been used to describe people who believe God has revealed conditions to be met in order to have His blessing of salvation. The charge is made that ANY requirement of obedience nullifies the grace of God and puts man in the position of earning salvation. This cannot be sustained by the Scriptures.
Man does not earn his salvation. The Bible says the only way one “earns” or “merits” salvation is by the “work” of never sinning (that is, never violating God’s law). This is the “work” found in Romans 4:2-5 that results in the payment of salvation as a “debt” in which one can “glory.” However, this is not attainable since “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23; cf. Gal. 3:10-11). Earning salvation demands sinless perfection – nothing less (Eph. 2:9). The “legalist” would, by definition, be someone who teaches man must be saved upon the basis of sinless law-keeping. Nobody I know teaches such a false doctrine.
New Testament Christians are called “legalists” because we affirm God has made salvation conditional. That is, God has placed us under His commandments and we are obligated to obey Him in order to receive His grace. One of the clearest passages teaching the conditional nature of salvation is Hebrews 5:9: “And having been perfected, He (Jesus, jrp) became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Only those who obey Jesus will be saved by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23). Do they earn their salvation? No, it is His gift to the obedient (Eph. 2:8-9).
Obeying Jesus is not “earning” one’s salvation. All of us have sinned. None of us can ever expect to earn salvation. Being saved “by grace through faith”, it is our “duty” as a servant to obey our Lord (Lk. 6:46; 17:10). Obedience is not the basis of our salvation; it is the condition upon which God gives it.
Some brethren charge us with being “legalistic” because we teach we must have a Bible pattern (authority) for all we believe and practice. Many churches of Christ practice church support of human organizations, the sponsoring church arrangement in evangelism and benevolence, and the social gospel.
Since we must “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17) it is right to ask the question, “Where is your Bible authority for these practices?” The response of some has been, “We all do many things for which we have no authority.” This is supposed justify unauthorized activity? If one continues to press for the Bible pattern he will likely find himself being labeled as “Pharisaic” or “legalistic.” To some, “legalism” is a persistent demand for Bible authority in all things. That is a false definition.
It is not “legalistic” to expect and demand Bible authority for all that we believe and practice. It is never too strict to do all things upon the basis of the revealed authority of Christ. The problem is that some brethren have strayed from the narrow path of authorized activities into the indefensible path of human innovations (Jer. 6:16-17; Matt. 7:13-14). We must continue to call these fallen brethren back to the “old path”, not compromise the truth by calling it “legalistic.”
Jesus advocated obedience in the strongest terms (Jno. 8:51; 14:15, 21, 24; Lk. 6:46). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18). His authority is established by a direct command, an approved example or a necessary implication; only then is our teaching and practice approved by the Lord. (See Acts 15:7-18 for each form of establishing divine authority.) It is not legalism to require what the Lord requires.
Are we legalists? No. If legalism is being used to say we believe in earning salvation, we answer with an emphatic “no”! If legalism is defined as strictly following Bible patterns, while inaccurately used, we plead guilty. We must completely follow the truth of God (2 Tim. 3:10). He who denies it denies the word of God.
It is very possible that we do not think of ourselves as priests as often as we should. Perhaps this is due to our familiarity with the priesthoods we see in the churches of men – like the Catholic priests – perversions of the scripture-defined priesthood of Christians. We must not forget that the gospel describes Christians as “priests” who compose a “kingdom” (Rev. 5:10; 1:6). We are a “holy” and a “royal” priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). What an honor it is to be counted priests before God our Redeemer!
The essential work of a priest is to offer sacrifices and gifts unto God. For instance, the service of the Levitical priests, while for the benefit of Israel, was service given unto God (Exo. 28:1). Their daily service in the house of God brought the priests into God’s presence as it assisted the worshippers they served.
The sacrifices offered by the Levitical priests were acceptable before God when they were offered according to the Law (a study of Leviticus shows the exacting nature of offering sacrifices to God). In a similar manner, Christians are assured that our sacrifices, offered to God “through Jesus Christ”, are acceptable to Him (1 Pet. 2:5).
But you may be wondering, “What does all of this have to do with me today”? Much in every way! Unless you are a priest who is serving God in His holy priesthood, the sacrifices and services you attempt to give Him are futile. On the other hand, as a priest you are in the extraordinary position of approaching the God of heaven and earth with sacrifices that please Him. How magnificent and humbling ought that to be!
Being a priest unto God ought to be extremely important to us. And, as priests we must know what sacrifices we ought to offer Him. Here is a brief review of some of the sacrifices Christians offer to God:
1) Our bodies (Rom. 12:1-2). We bring before God a body with which to serve, worship and obey Him. Our body is to be given to God and not to the indulgences of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).
2) Ourselves (2 Cor. 8:5). The faithful priest is devoted to his God and freely gives himself to the service of God. We must be priests who give ourselves to God; then our service will be received before Him.
3) When we support gospel preaching we are rendering priestly service before God (Phil. 4:18). The Philippian church’s support of Paul was a sweet smelling, acceptable sacrifice to God. So is ours as we have fellowship with others in spreading the gospel.
4) The sacrifice of praise that confesses the good things God has done for us (Heb. 13:15). Why would any priest be content to not assemble with his brethren to praise God’s matchless name (Heb. 10:24-25)?
Being a priest has practical application to your life every day. As you walk by faith, every expression of service you offer to God and every time you obey His word becomes a “spiritual sacrifice” that God accepts (1 Pet. 2:5). Christian, you are a priest and your priesthood is holy (1 Pet. 2:5). Your life is an offering to God. Serve Him in all holiness.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Romans 3:19-28
I. WITHOUT HEARING THE GOSPEL SINNERS CANNOT LEARN OF SIN AND THE SAVIOR, Mk. 16:15 (Rom. 3:8, 19, 23).
Word gives Understanding, and Faith, Psa. 119:105, 33-34; Jno. 6:44-45.
II. BELIEVE: DEVOTION TO JESUS (Jn. 8:23f)
A. Faith that Saves is Faith that is now Devoted to Jesus (Jas. 2:26), 1 Tim. 1:12-16.
III. REPENT: MIND GIVEN TO JESUS (Lk. 13:3,5)
Mind of the Lost is Given Over to Sin, Eph. 2:1-3 (3); 4:17-19.
IV. CONFESS FAITH: COMMITMENT OF LOYALTY TO JESUS (Rom. 10:9-10).
Jesus before Men, Matt. 10:32-33; 1 Tim. 6:12-13; cf. Acts 8:36-37.
V. BAPTISM: A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS (Mk. 16:16).
A. No Christ, No Hope; Know Christ, Know Hope, Eph. 2:11-13 (Matt. 28:19; Gal. 3:27).
VI. FAITHFUL LIVING: BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS, Matt. 28:20.
A. Learn of and Live with Christ, Lk. 6:40, 46-49; cf. Eph. 4:20-24; 2 Pet. 1:5-11.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:10-17
From Jesus’ use of parables we learn what they are, their purpose, what they mean and their intended results (for them and for us).
I. DEFINITION OF PARABLES.
Denotes a Placing Beside”.
II. WHY DID JESUS USE PARABLES? Matt. 13:10-17
Teach and Reveal Spiritual Lessons.
III. UNDERSTANDING THE PARABLES, Matt. 13:15-23.
Condition of the Heart Determines whether the Parables are Understood and
Obeyed, Matt. 13:15-17 (Mk. 4:11-12); Isa. 6:9-10; Mk. 4:13.
1. Do you
have ears to hear? Matt. 13:9
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 05/04/2009
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA