The L Card

February 26, 2013

Heard a preacher today say that the only ones who use the term legalist are the ones under conviction. No, he was not a fighting Fundie. He was a non-denom. I had that handle laid on me many times over the years by people who did not know what it really meant. I had just hit on a problem they had even though I did not know it at the time. When you preach on every sin but theirs you are bold and taking a stand. When you hit them then you are a legalist.

In fact, legalist is like the race card.  Whenever you are losing a theological debate or cannot justify your actions you just drop the L card and the person is supposed to realize their ignorance and spiritual bigotry and shut up no matter how many verses or facts they have amassed.  They obviously lack love and grace and should be snubbed as the Pharisee they are though that is not very fair, you see.

Paul would be a legalist by today’s use of the Word as he would tick off a whole bevy of TV and radio preachers with these words.

1 Tim 6:3-6

3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.  KJV

Yet. Peter backs Paul up and says what is going on with those who discount or disrespect Paul’s teachings.

2 Peter 3:14-18

14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. KJV

Here is a description of a real legalist according to the Word.

Acts 15:1-2
15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. KJV

Trying to mix grace with Law or making anything but faith and faith alone the Gospel is the legalism Paul fought against in his epistles.  It was not standards or the lack of them.  It was making works a part of your salvation be it by adding the law of Moses or some ritual or doctrine of man.  THAT hammers and labels a lot of groups and preachers.

While standards are a good thing and needful to a degree, especially in the early development of a Christian, they do not save nor even sanctify as a Christian is sanctified when he/she is saved by faith in the work of Christ.  You will never be more sanctified than the day you are saved.  You mature in your faith and learn to discern good from evil, which sound doctrine aids, but you are once for all saved and sanctified no matter if you mature or stay a child in the faith.  That is because it is all of Christ did about our sin, not about what we do about our sins.  Rewards and fellowship are lost depending on our actions but the gifts and callings of God are without repentance in that once He gives He does not change His mind about what He says are eternal issues.  Blessings are temporal and can be given and withdrawn if we do not seek to walk in His will.  We can even be called home early if we choose to stay in willful rebellion, but we will go home.  In disgrace, yes.  Why? Because of His grace and work which can never be disgraced.

Most of the things people call someone a legalist for are things that are fleshly or earthly. The early Christians struggled with how they should be separate from the World and yet live in the freedom that grace brings especially Jews, but also the Gentiles who were never under the Law.  Paul said that all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable and that we should never cause a weaker brother to stumble and not to please ourselves just as Christ did not please Himself.

Yet, many Christians think that there is very little responsibility in the Christian life thinking it is like the Outback commercials where there are “no rules, just right.”  Yet, if you read the epistles there are many rules given to Christians including rules about the gifts and how they are to be practiced in the assembly.  Indeed, some things are more strict than the Law.  One had to physically commit adultery to be guilty.  Now, you only have to think about it.

If I do not drink, I don’t have to worry about getting drunk or offending a brother and no one dies.  If I do, even if it is lawful, I run the risk of being under the influence.  The ancient Chinese said that first the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink and then the drink takes the man.  I will offend many brethren who believe we should not drink and someone may die if I drive while under the influence.

My liberty is wrapped up or bound by my brother for I am never to cause him to stumble and be condemned by what I allow the Word says.  What I disallow in an attempt to be separate is not condemned unless I try to make it a part of salvation or say that it enhances my sanctification.  If I must err, is it not better to err on the side of caution?  Why walk a narrow line between liberty and sin?  Why risk damaging or destroying my brother with my liberty? Indeed, why let the Lost mock me for doing things they think are sin though I may be free to do it and thus give them another excuse to refuse salvation when no one dies if I don’t do it?

Indeed, much of what we debate over will not matter at all in eternity.  It is more about what we like here or what makes us comfortable.  Christians before our age used to ask what they could give up for Jesus and we want to know how much we can get by with and still get God’s blessings.  We all err, but most would rather err on the side of their perspective rather than caution and the weaker brother needs to grow up or shut up.  Frankly, I just cannot see that attitude in the Word.

In the end, we must all stand before the Bema and if I missed out on something because I chose to deny myself that activity or whatever because I did not want to risk it being sin or hurting a brother I am sure that what God will give me in return will far outweigh whatever temporal pleasure I might have experienced and what He gives will be eternal.  I would say that is a fairly awesome trade.

On the other hand, if I live my liberty to the fullest and get there and find out I was wrong and it is a sin then there goes a lot of wood, hay and stubble up in flames.  If I get there and the action or attitude was not wrong but I did not care what it did to my brother/sister it will still be wood, hay and stubble and I will be kicking my own butt as I see what rewards I lost.

So before you drop the L card, know what it really means and ask yourself if what you are all het up about really is a liberty in Christ or a sin you are trying to justify.  If it is not a sin and you can give a fair defense of it from Scripture either by verse or principle ask will I really be depressed or hindered if I don’t exercise that liberty?  Will I truly offend and cause someone to stumble?  What if I am able to have a glass of whatever at a formal dinner yet Billy Bob sees me and is emboldened to try it and gets hooked or just gets drunk and dies in a car accident because he looked up to me as an example?  Is it worth it?

Ladies, is the fashion you are wearing worth it if it angers your spouse or children because they feel it is is inappropriate?  You know that unbelieving men will lust after you, but what if you cause a man or even a pubescent boy who is trying to be pure to lust when you sashay down the street or aisle in church?  Will how you sit in that outfit be a pure sight for the pastor or the men in the choir to see as they scan the congregation?  Is it really worth the risks to be in style?  What if your daughter goes you one better or you let her dress in a way that arouses her boyfriend and even her as she is feeling sexy instead of like a chaste young lady?  Is it worth the risk?

I can hear the L word being thought and even said out loud as I type this for I know many will have a cow over this especially that last part.  Modesty is considered just being covered as long as it is not in Saran wrap though the fit may be the same but the material is dyed.   You don’t mess with a fat man’s food or a lady’s fashion.  😉   One other point while I am there.  When your daughter wants to pierce various parts of her body both visible and normally invisible what will you say if you pierced ears?  Just remember all you are really debating is location and the amount of piercings. The OT will not help you.

Yes, you are free to seek holiness and righteousness and not all things are profitable to those goals.  Are you sure the brother is a Legalist and you are not a Libertine?  Both are L words and should be used correctly.

I am a preacher and pastor so I am required to do and say some things and if that makes me a legalist in the eyes of some, so be it. Let me exhort you in love, my brethren, that while I am not a legalist in the accurate definition of the word please take care in that while you are flinging the L word around you do not become the people in verses three and four of my closing passage.

2 Tim 4:1-4
:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. KJV



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