And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 14, Number
In this issue:
April 24–28, 2011
Bible lessons nightly, Mon-Thu at 7:00 PM
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Most Christians have, at one time or another, been accused of being a “legalist”. Of course, the term legalist is used in derision intending that we would run backwards in horror of being connected with the denominational implications of this word. In most religious circles, the term legalist is connected to the Pharisees and its meaning is assigned as being necessarily devoid of love or any proper motive. Obviously then, no one wants to be characterized as a legalist. But have you ever stopped to think about what legalist really means?
What does “legalist” mean?
First, it is important to realize that this word is not even used in the Bible. Since the word is not found in the Bible, we will have to define it from the English language. Webster defines legal as: “deriving authority from or founded on law”; “conforming to or permitted by law or established rules”. So then, a legalist is one who derives his authority from law, or founds his authority on law. The true legalist conforms to the law or established rules. He does those things that are permitted by law or established rules. Now you will obviously see that, while this word is not found in the Bible, the concept of “legalist” is definitely found there (Col.3:17) (He.8:5) (Jo.4:24) (Mt.28:18-20)
“…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. It is also interesting that the concept of legalism or legalist is not used in derision in the Scriptures! We can often learn a lot about a term or a phrase by examining its antonym or opposite. The opposite of legal is illegal. There is no such word as “illegalist” (which is what our accusers really are) so what is a person who is not a legalist? We can see from the definition that one who is not a legalist is one who DOES NOT derive his authority from law. He DOES NOT conform to the law and DOES NOT do only those things permitted by law. The Bible actually has a term that describes a person who does not found his authority upon law – that term is “lawless”. This word is used in (Mt.7:23) where Jesus says “depart from me, you who practice lawlessness”. The KJV translates this word “iniquity”. It is the Greek word anomia which means without law. A legalist conforms to law, thus one who is not a legalist is essentially without law or lawless – a spiritual outlaw! John tells us that “whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1Jo.3:4). The Bible tells us that Jesus “hated lawlessness” (He.1:9). Would that make Jesus a “legalist”? You see a legalist is not necessarily devoid of love or any proper motive.
The word “legalist” simply describes a person who finds it important to conform to the proper law or authority. A man’s motive, love or lack thereof does not inhere in the word. There is no doubt that our motive to keep God’s law must be love (Mt.22:37), but love without law keeping is condemning (Lk.6:46) and really isn’t ‘love’ at all (Jo.14:15). Jesus did NOT rebuke the Pharisees for their strict attention to law. When He spoke of their tithing of mint, anise and cummin (Mt.23:23), He did not criticize their tithing but their failure to show mercy, justice and faith. Jesus said “these you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone”. We should not pursue law keeping and ignore justice, mercy and faith, but neither should we pursue justice and mercy while ignoring law keeping. Jesus never criticized law keeping, but rather, He himself kept the law perfectly. I ask again, was Jesus a legalist? I believe He was and I am satisfied to be as Jesus. The alternative to being a legalist is to be lawless, which is the reason that many who hate legalism will also tell us that we are not under law. This effort to escape the accountability of Christ’s law is lawlessness and lawlessness is sin. Are you a legalist or are you lawless?
Are Gospel Meetings Out-dated?
Joe R. Price
Are gospel meetings advantageous in today’s world? Some brethren say gospel meetings are not useful in today’s world. The basic reason for a gospel meeting is to arrange meetings where the gospel can be heard. Is it no longer beneficial to make such arrangements? Is it no longer helpful to attend such meetings and invite others to come? The lost can hear the saving gospel and Christians can be edified in the truth (2 Tim. 4:1-5; Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 2:15). Still, some Christians complain against having gospel meetings. As you consider these typical criticisms of gospel meetings see if you detect the common thread running through each one.
1. Gospel meetings are outdated and ineffective in the modern world. This attitude leaves the impression that the gospel must be dressed up in some new way if it is to have any impact upon the lives of sinners today. This simply is not true. God's word is powerful and persuasive and able to convert the lost and strengthen the saved – today (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12; Psa. 19:7-11). Some suggest the only way to reach souls for Christ today is to first develop personal friendships (so-called “friendship evangelism”); gospel preaching is not enough. Certainly friends need the gospel, and a friend is more likely to talk with you about the gospel than is a complete stranger. Still, it was not friendship that persuaded about 3,000 souls on the day of Pentecost to believe and be saved. It was the power of the word of God (Acts 2:40-41). The gospel, when preached, continues to save those who believe and obey it (1 Cor. 1:21).
2. A week is too long and too tiring. This is usually said by the Christian who has already decided he will not come to every worship service. Yes, to participate in any week-long activity requires a certain amount of dedication and energy. That usually means we will get tired. But, is this the best attitude we can develop when it comes to gospel preaching? Can you imagine Cornelius saying to Peter, “Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” – just make it quick (Acts 10:33)? If this had been Jesus’ attitude toward His work of redeeming sinners would He have endured the cross or said, “That’s too demanding!”?
3. Only brethren come to gospel meetings. This is not true. The lost are saved as a result of gospel meetings. I have seen it and perhaps you have, too. Maybe this criticism hides a more troubling picture: perhaps the lost do not come because we do not invite them and bring them to hear the gospel (cf. Jno. 1:46). But, what if only Christians come? That does not nullify the good that is done when saints assemble (Heb. 10:24-25).
4. Meetings are just another way for preachers to make money. This sort of motive judging is sad but true of some Christians. The gospel preacher should not be made to feel ashamed for receiving financial support for preaching the gospel, but it happens. Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (Lk. 10:7), and the apostle Paul said, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). Could it be that some brethren do not wish to support gospel preaching by their presence as well as not supporting it with their giving, even though God has commanded both (1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 10:25)?
Did you discover the thread running through these objections to gospel meetings? These complaints show a lack of faith in the power of the word of God to save the lost and convert souls into the image of Christ. They reflect attitudes of selfishness and excuse-making, not faith in the power of Christ and His gospel. Gospel meetings are not the only scriptural arrangement we can use to teach the lost and encourage the saved. We understand that. But, we ought to realize that no scriptural arrangement of spreading the gospel will succeed unless and until we diligently commit ourselves to it, including gospel meetings.
We should examine our commitment to gospel preaching as our gospel meeting approaches. Let us use our opportunity to hear the gospel and to help others hear it, too. Invite your friends, family and strangers. Invite your brethren in Christ. Plan to be present, to grow in faithfulness and in service. Trust the power God’s word has on the lives of good and honest hearts (Lk. 8:15). God’s word will accomplish His purposes (Isa. 55:11). Good can and will be done through gospel meetings.
-Reprint, The Spirit’s Sword, (IX:25), March 5, 2006
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 04/23/2011
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA