To this point, Romans 1-4, we have learned that not only are the Gentiles (non-Jews) guilty of sin, but also the Jews are guilty of the same. The significance of the Law of Moses was to point this out (3:20), but also to speak of justification apart from the Law. The standard example of justification is seen in Abraham. Just as Abraham was justified, those who respond in faith as Abraham did will have the peace that he had. This peace is not peace from the world’s perspective or afflictions, but peace between God and the individual who responded in faith. Along with this peace there is hope (5:5). The significance of what God did in Christ is seen in His having done so even while man was living in rebellion to his Creator. Sin entered the world through disobedience; the result of that sin brought death into the realm of the natural world. Since that time man has been plagued with the burden that death brings. On the other hand, with the actions of Jesus He brought life into the physical realm, that is, spiritual life. Thus, those who respond to God in faith are the recipients of that life. The contrast is before us: to get out of the realm of the physical and into the realm of the spiritual, that is, heavenly, one responds to God in faith. RT
The coming series on the topic of LEGALISM is a newly formatted word document for the purposes of this blog. The actual document can be found at http://www.rv85.net.
INTRODUCTION. As a preliminary to a discussion on legalism, I want to offer a recent (expanded) article I wrote on the word pharisee. This study addresses a word used by some in an accusatory fashion.
A Modern Day Pharisee
The word “pharisee” is a word used in some religious discussions. Its use is one that is negative in application. On Facebook earlier this week I asked the question: “What is a modern-day pharisee?” Many answers were given, but all of them were nothing but opinions; there was no Scripture offered to sustain an application of the word in today’s religious environment. Whatever value there might be in a person’s opinion, opinions are like noses—everyone has one! With these opinions and with this label “pharisee” thrown around as readily as it is, there is no real way to communicate effectively. On the other hand, one is communicating well with the use of the word, but its communication that genders, occasionally, a sharp response.
From the New Testament we learn the following concerning what is a pharisee. 1) A pharisee rejects Jesus as the Christ (John 7:32-49), 2) a pharisee elevates tradition to a place where, 3) a pharisee rejects God’s commands (Mark 7:1-13), and 4) a pharisee tries to control what others think concerning the Christ (John 9:22).
The 4th point needs a bit of elaboration lest someone misunderstands or perverts the thrust of the remark (and context). In the context of John 9, because the first three points are already in place, #4 is implemented. In other words, there was a rejection of Jesus, His mission, His teaching, and all who subscribed to what He taught were under suspicion. Thus, there was an effort to control another’s thinking concerning the Christ (cf. John 12:42-43).
Thus, in a proper sense, unless one meets the criteria (at least one) above, he is not a pharisee.
What solution is there to being accused as a modern-day pharisee? First, reject the label when it is thrown around. Many just want to use it, not because it is accurate, but because the position taken by the “thrower” is a weak one and this is a method of weakening you. Second, be sure to know Jesus by allowing Him to teach you His word (John 10:1-5; 12:48). Not only will you gain knowledge, but you will also gain godly wisdom. Godly wisdom is needed in teaching others, especially those who throw accusations around. Third, make it a point for yourself that you don’t fall into the trap of pharisee thinking (see any of the points above). This is more difficult than one realizes. We all believe we are spot-on right in the things we think. Our thinking (opinions), however, must be subservient to the Lord’s way (John 14:6; 1 John 4:1, 6).
I am no modern-day pharisee (as some think) and neither am I an olden-day pharisee. I am just a Christian.
Did God expect His Israelites to be “legalists”?
(ASV) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandment which I command you this day. (Brenton) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded, saying, Keep all these commands, all that I command you this day. (JPS) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: ‘Keep all the commandment which I command you this day. (NET.) Then Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Pay attention to all the commandments I am giving you today.
(ASV) Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Brenton) Cursed is every man that continues not in all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, So be it. (JPS) Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say: Amen.’ (NET.) ‘Cursed is the one who refuses to keep the words of this law.’ Then all the people will say, ‘Amen!’
It is a tremendous shame that Jesus was so wrong (!) in giving the answer He did to the one who inquired of Him what he must do to enter into God’s kingdom (Mark 10:17-22)! Can you imagine Jesus being so mistaken to answer this way? Yet, He had to be if the norm of Protestant theology holds the day in religious thinking. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. This, however, means that one “works” his way to heaven and, a form of legalism. As we know, Jesus just had to be wrong about that!
Of course, Jesus was wrong about nothing, and especially about how one makes an entrance into the heavenly kingdom. That which is wrong and those who are wrong are the subscribers to such thinking! Protestant theology teaches that if one obeys God’s commands, that in obeying God’s commands, any and all commands, there is an effort at working or earning one’s salvation. Completely ludicrous!
In proper biblical theology, when one obeys God, then the one who obeys is motivated to obey as a result of the love in his (her) heart. This is the very idea undergirding Paul’s words to the church in Rome when he wrote, “But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered” (Romans 6:17, ASV, emphasis added, RT).
In Mark 10, Jesus told the inquirer that to enter into heaven one must obey what is learned in the Ten Words (ten commandments), and in each of these commands, Jesus said, there was a “do not” five times, and a “do” one time. It was not, and it is not, a matter of earning anything, but it is a matter of loving the Lord enough to hear what He said and to comply with His desires.
“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him’” (John 6:26-27, NKJV).
This is very easy to say, but how often it is that we see those who express a desire to love and serve the Lord decide in the direction that Jesus actually warned about. We have seen this often—and it will be seen in the future many more times. It is easy to say, but the most profound lessons of life don’t have to be complicated with sophisticated sentences and hifalutin language!
There is nothing in what Jesus said that is hard to understand; that which is easy to understand is only hard in application. It is not hard because that which is asked (or demanded) is particularly strenuous. It is only hard because it should be a matter of priority in one’s life, but it is not. A great many people will lose their souls because the priority in life is not the Lord. Have you fallen prey to this way of thinking?
Is the priority in your life work (employment)? Then you have made a wrong choice. Is the priority ion your life your children? Then you have made the wrong decision. Is the priority in your life your spouse? Then you have chosen poorly.
The importance of this is obvious to any spiritually thinking person, but when one’s interest or problem becomes the priority, then the solutions are of this world and not of the Lord. Do not adopt the world’s way of thinking to solve the troublesome issues in your life. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Rather than satisfying your physical desire for the moment (or the future), satisfy your soul’s desire, learning from the Lord by taking His yoke and making it your own.
Just completed a reading of Acts 1-5, taking special note of what the Scripture said with regard to salvation. In particular, what do those five chapters say about that which is required. Starting with Peter’s preaching during the Pentecost occasion (Acts 2), the following are all directly connected to salvation: Peter preached, those who heard were moved in the hearts, and received the word (2:41). This is the first point to notice; without receiving (accepting) the preached word, salvation won’t result. Peter told them to repent and be baptized (2:38). This will result in their sins being forgiven. Though the word believe is not used in the chapter as something those to whom Peter preached did, the fact is, they did believe. In chapters 3 and 4, we learn the same and then something additional. The recipients of the preached word had to repent and turn again (3:19), hear and heed God’s prophet (3:22-23; 4:4), obeying only One (4:12). Clearly we can see that what the Holy Spirit said in these five chapters is consistent (cf. 5:14, 31-32). Summarized, we learn the following is required for salvation: one must hear (read) the word, receive (believe) the word, repent, be baptized, and only obey Him to whom we will give account (Hebrews 4:13).
Judgment is something that we are all very familiar with; the Lord declared that we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, answering for what we have done in the body, be it good or bad. Of course, the “good” in this context starts with one’s response to the Lord Jesus; the “bad” is everything else. Peter reminds his readers that judgment will start with the church, the “house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). If the church is scarcely saved, then what about those outside the church of our Lord? To ask is to answer. Unless we don’t love our fellow man, we should make it our mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). If we follow Jesus, that is exactly what we are already doing. Are you following Jesus?
Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:20-21. There are some who view one’s own life as a life unworthy of salvation. “God will not save a wretch like me!” In other words, the person feels they have piled up sins so high that not even God’s love can overcome
that height. This is not only a depressive sentiment, it is terribly mistaken. In the context of the sins that are leveled against the individual, and how “piling up” they are, Paul said this: “Now the law [Law of Moses] came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20, ESV). Here is the point: no matter how high one’s sins pile up, there is NOTHING that can prevent God’s love from penetrating a person’s heart and bring that pile crashing to the ground (if you will). Incapable of being saved? Hardly! Only unwilling.
“Works religion” in contemporary “Christian” discussions is a term that is not always clearly understood. Some people, for instance, apply the term to God’s commands. This is a deadly thing to do! Others have in mind those things a person does that will merit a good response from other people (such as charitable deeds).
When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he mentioned that one is justified by faith “apart from the works of the law.” The importance of that remark is best understood in the context and in relation to the Jewish way of thinking that has taken place through the multitude of years. For instance, in the Chumash (Rabbinic Jewish commentary) this remark is made about the high priesthood of Melchizedek in relation to Noah’s son Shem. “The Sages derive that Melchizedek did not pass on the priesthood to his heirs; it was stripped from him [Melchizedek] and given to Abraham. Even though Abraham was a descendent of Melchizedek, i.e., Shem, he won the priesthood through personal merit, not through inheritance” (p. 65, the entirety of remarks on Genesis 14:19).
Take note of the word merit. This is a word that is used throughout the Chumash. In the summary remarks of Genesis 15:1-6, we read: “It is axiomatic that God treats a person according to what his deeds have earned him, and that his store of merit becomes depleted if God changes the course of nature for his benefit” (p. 66, italics added, RT ).
When Paul used the word “works” in Romans 3, this is an idea he had in mind (cf. 9:30-10:3). Thus, the word “works” is NOT interpreted correctly when understood to refer to God’s commands because, after all, they are God’s commands! “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3, ESV).
“Why does the Lord not bring judgment to those who stand in strong opposition to His will? Why does He not just condemn them and be done with it!” A strong emotional sentiment, wouldn’t you agree? The Scripture actually tells us why. In the context of Paul’s response to the hypocrisy of some in the church at Rome, Paul said this: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, ESV, italics added).
This can be a tough pill to swallow, but to the Lord, it is important that we understand a particular point: God is not justifying deeds done that are in opposition to Him, only that it is not His desire to destroy that which He loves (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). While an evildoer presumes on the Lord’s will, the Lord is allowing the maturation of time to register with the evildoer, helping him see the light that he will see soon enough if he does not change his ways.
There is coming a day when the Lord will bring all the works of man to light; if the impenitent does not change his way, the Lord will address his refusal then (and Paul makes this clear in Romans 2:5-11). I think all of us are grateful for the Lord’s slow response with regard to self. In the meantime let us be mindful of why the Lord is “slow,” and seek to do what we can to encourage others to hear His saving message.
This is a continuation of my previous post
The new birth is a mystery that no man can explain away. Since one can’t see the wind, but know of its presence – will one try to explain that away? Not if good sense is in existence with one who makes an observation concerning it. The same with the new birth; no one can see the Holy Spirit, but to deny his presence is to illustrate that one does not have good sense. These thoughts are not exactly parallel with one another, but his sentiment is true just the same.
The new birth is the work of God; since one can’t “join” the family of God (a work of man, presumably), it is a work of God when one is “born” into the family of God. In the course of his discussion he made no reference to a word Jesus himself used. Jesus said one must be born again of “the water and the spirit.” Earlier in the tract Pastor Levin denied that baptism has any connection to the new birth. Having an idea that he would say such a thing I thought he would say a word or two on Jesus use of the word “water,” but he did not. When discussing how one must be born again he tells us that it is not the result of parental descent, of one’s own willpower, or by “any of man’s religious creeds, systems, or ceremonies.” The new birth is of God; it is a miracle and only God can perform it.
It is true the new birth is a work of God that man obeys, and it is true that only God can declare one righteous, thus giving them that new birth, but it is not true that it is a miracle. This can be demonstrated with just the meaning of the word “miracle.” The new birth is, on the other hand, a spiritual birth, not a miraculous one. Nothing in nature has been suspended for one to be “born again.”
Pastor Levin took a little bit of his writing space to give us an idea about how we should understand the word “spirit.” It is unfortunate that he did not take the same amount of writing space to tell us what is meant by the use of the word “water”. He dismisses baptism, which is how one normally understands the meaning of the word “water,” but he offers us no alternative idea.
There is a reason for this.
Since the word “water” is normally understood to mean baptism, it would then be clear that Jesus would teach the new birth consists of two components: spirit and baptism. This is contrary to the theology of Pastor Levin and most Baptists. Why such an aversion to “water baptism”? Because some people have the mistaken view that obeying God’s command is a “work of man.” This idea is not taught in Scripture, not even alluded to. In fact, baptism has God’s command can be better and properly understood in relation to faith (John 6:29).