LEGALISM VERSUS LAWLESSNESSFrom The Heart
Publish date: 05/10/2009
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19 KJV
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 KJV
The only true liberty comes by the Spirit of God. True liberty comes from receiving, believing and acting on God’s word. There is no other way to walk in complete freedom than to be submitted to God’s word and Spirit. In the Christian world there are those who walk in true freedom, but unfortunately there are also those who have fallen in the “ditch” on either side of the freedom road. Some Christians are very legalistic and bound and others are so “free” that you can’t tell the difference between them and the world. The Lord does not want us to be religious and He certainly does not want us to be carnal - He wants us to be spiritual!
In the book of Galatians, Paul was dealing with law and grace. The Galatians were Gentiles who had been set free and converted to Christianity, but legalistic Judaizers had been trying to bring them back under the Law of Moses. The descendants of the Judaizers are still around today: people who are always trying to drag us back under the Law.
They define Christians as being people who live by a long list of rules and regulations; of do’s and don’ts. They believe and preach that God’s grace and favor is earned rather than a free gift. They espouse a works program of good behavior for salvation. What is true is that if a person is really changed by the Spirit of God, there should be evidence of it – we expect to see a corresponding change in character and behavior. The danger of legalism is that it tends to promote the idea that God’s love is earned, rather than just accepted freely. We should accept that God loves us because He said so, not because we worked for it or even because we feel it. Legalism reduces Christianity to an impossible set of rules. It leaves out the part where God’s goodness leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4) and turns the Good News into the bad news!
Legalistic Christians need to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit and realize that He is the One who helps each of us to walk out our Christianity. Change is important, but we need to realize that the Lord might be requiring different changes in us than He is in others. We need to focus on allowing Him to work in us and refrain from interfering in His work in others.
“[It is He] Who has qualified us [making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient] as ministers and dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not [ministers] of the letter (of legally written code) but of the Spirit; for the code [of the Law] kills, but the [Holy] Spirit makes alive.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 AMP
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1 KJV
The Law of Moses has no power to save or change a heart, but God’s word does. Jesus is that Living Word. God wants us free – neither legalistic nor lawless - not in bondage to the Law nor in bondage to sin and the flesh.
They define a Christian as someone who lives above the Law. They feel that they need no guidelines and that God’s word is not as important as their own personal sense of God’s guidance. They follow their feelings and impulses. This is a very dangerous place to be. You leave yourself open to works of the flesh and demonic deception. Many of them view God’s word as if it was entirely full of religious tradition, which is simply not true. It is full of life and freedom. These Christians have recognized that God’s forgiveness is a free gift; made possible by Christ’s death on the cross; received by faith; and that it is not based on our ability to live up to God’s perfect standards, which is all true. However, they forget that Christians are also just humans and that their “feelings” are flawed. If you only live by what you “feel” God wants you to do and not by His word, you are bound to fail.
Lawless Christians need to recognize that there really is freedom in being submitted to God’s word even as they gratefully acknowledge His great and gracious salvation. Our freedom in Christ is not an excuse for sin, selfishness or self-will. Neither does He release us from our obligation to walk in His will and His ways, governed and led by the love of God.
"For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, “You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 AMP
“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:21-22 KJV
“For it is God’s will and intention that by doing right [your good and honest lives] should silence (muzzle, gag) the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish persons. 16 [Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness; but [live at all times] as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:15-16 AMP