Not all Disagreement about what the Law Says is Legalism

Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of paragraphs just before. But the lust of the flesh is subtle.

The trouble with “taste not touch not” is when people think that their tasting not and touching not brings them some blessing which the righteousness of Christ could not bring. There is nothing wrong with tasting not and touching not. Simply because we do not agree with another person about what God’s law teaches is no excuse to call that person a legalist.

But a person is a legalist, even if he has a right interpretation about what God’s law teaches, if that person thinks that his obeying that law brings him a blessing which the righteousness of Christ did not cause.

The law of God should not be blamed for legalism, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only a legalist but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience and satisfaction of the law.

The only way that God can be pleased with the good works of a Christian is when the Christian knows that these good works are blessings from Christ’s righteousness, not a supplement to Christ’s righteousness.

And this distinction is not only something that God knows, or only something that smart “Reformed theologians” know. Every Christian knows that Christ’s righteousness is the only reason for every love-gift from God.

The sin which deceives us all by nature is that WE DESIRE WHAT WE PRODUCE TO GIVE US SOMETHING WE OTHERWISE WOULDN’T HAVE. We will give God’s “grace” the credit for helping us produce it. We have no problem saying that “particular election” is the reason we produced it. But, like Cain, we want to take what we produced and offer it to God as some small part of what God will accept it as righteousness.

We don’t mind of God haD to produce some righteousness also to supplement it and “make up the difference”. But the one thing we want, the thing which the people who killed Jesus wanted, is the one thing Cain wanted, and that is to have God accept what we have produced and what we sincerely (even if ignorantly) offered to God.

Frequently people tell me: “you are not going to tell me that I am lost just because I do not believe in definite atonement.” And then they say: I know what I used to be, and I know that I am different now, because now I know it’s all Christ, now I know it’s not works. Now I know it’s grace. And I just don’t even need to get into this question of who Jesus died for.

And then, in contradiction to their claim not to know, they say: I know he died for me because I was a sinner.

And I ask: did Christ die for all sinners? And again they say: I don’t need to get into that. And I ask: how do you know that Christ died for you? Does the grace to believe come from the death of Christ or from some other place?

And they say: I don’t need to know where I got faith because I got it. And then I ask: faith in which Christ, the one whose death saves or the one who died for those who will be lost? And then they start caling me some names.

The motive for that name calling is the same as Cain’s motive for murdering Abel. I John 3:12 explains: “why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

Those with a false gospel cannot understand why one person’s work is evil and another person’s work is not evil. They cannot understand that it is evil to condition blessing on works. Indeed, despite talk about election and regeneration and -in many cases- even about definite atonement, those with the false gospel still judge saved and lost by works instead of judging works by saved and lost.

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5 Comments on “Not all Disagreement about what the Law Says is Legalism”

  1. knhurst Says:

    This was sure a good work.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    The old covenant of the law is referred to as the “everlasting covenant” (Lev.24:8) implying that it was to endure for eternity. Yet the New Testament records that the first covenant was “done away” and “abolished” 2Cor.3:11,13. God “has made the first old” Heb.8:13. Either God is confused, or else translators have rendered the text inaccurately. Since the former cannot be true, it is incumbent upon us to search out the exact meanings of words and to find the answers to such discrepancies.

    The Aaronic priesthood is spoken of as “an everlasting priesthood” Ex. 40:15. If “everlasting” means “eternal,” then the direct descendants of Aaron and only they, would be allowed to function as priests, and this for all time. Yet Heb.7:14-18 declares an end to the Aaronic priesthood and a new priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. Peter describes the church as “a spiritual house, an holy priesthood” (1Ptr.2:5), a statement which John confirms when he writes that by Jesus’ blood the church has been cleansed from sin and made “kings and priests unto God” Rev.1:6. Thus in the above Exodus reference, “ever-lasting” cannot possibly mean “everlasting.”

    The children of Israel were to “observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant” Ex.31:16. Yet Paul states there remains “another day” of Sabbath rest for people of God” Heb.4:8,9. Though translators may have used the word “perpetual,” the Holy Spirit disproves this choice of words, exposing it as incorrect.

    The misuse of words expressing “unlimited duration” when specific time periods were intended is most obvious in the following cases. Jonah was not in the fish’s belly “forever” Jon.2:6. A bondslave could not possibly serve his master “forever” Ex.21:6. God did not dwell in Solomon’s temple “forever” 1Kg.8:13.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    dgh—-“right to resist letting redemption separate Muslims and Christians in creation. ”

    Why assume the creation is the basis for human ethics? Why suggest that the law given to Adam (don’t eat of that one tree) is the same as the Ten commandments? Why suggest that the exodus and redemption from Egypt are the basis for ethics in this present new covenant age? Perhaps the answer comes in seeing how even Christians flee to the Ten Commandments and away from the commands of Christ or the imitation of Christ. Yes, Jesus Christ, but why should we “hear ye Him” about the law or ethics except for the two times on Sunday?

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281831524_On_Exaggerating_Creation%27s_Role_in_Biblical_Law_and_Ethics

    David Van Drunen–“The Sermon is not an individual code of conduct but the way of life of a kingdom, of a community. The Mosaic law was not an individual code of conduct but could be practiced only in the context of the community of theocratic Israel, and thus too the commands of Jesus can be carried out only in the context of participation in this new and unique heavenly kingdom.”

    David Van Drunen—Crucial for understanding 5:38–42 is Jesus’ programmatic statement in 5:17 that introduces his subsequent commands: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses. While this reading has the virtue of guarding against denigration of the Mosaic law, it is not an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words.

    DVD–A general difficulty with this reading is that it fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom so emphasized in the preceding texts in Matthew considered above. Matthew 5:17 itself reinforces this sense of eschatological newness. The first use of the key Synoptic phrase, “I have come,” for example, hints at Jesus’ heavenly origin (and hence his authority to say what he is saying) and indicates that Jesus is about to reveal a central purpose of his ministry.

    DVD– In addition, Jesus’ denial that he has come to abolish the law or the prophets indirectly offers further evidence of the spectacular newness of the kingdom of heaven: apparently what has transpired thus far in Matthew’s story has given some people the impression that Jesus has come to abolish something in the OT. The way in which Jesus’ commands unfold in 5:21–48 is ultimately incompatible with reading them as clarification of the Mosaic law over against corrupt Jewish interpretation. For one thing, all six of Jesus’ “You have heard” statements either quote or paraphrase the actual teaching of the Mosaic law, not contemporary Jewish interpretation of it.

    DVD: ” Jesus presents his exhortations in comparison with those of the Mosaic law itself. Second, however much the first two antitheses are amenable to the view that Jesus is purifying the interpretation of the law, the last four antitheses cannot reasonably bear such a reading. Jesus does show the inward demands of the prohibition of murder and adultery in the first two antitheses, but whereas the Mosaic law prescribed procedures for divorce, oath-taking, just retaliation, and destruction of enemies, Jesus proscribes these very actions. To say, for example, that what Moses really intended by writing “keep your oaths” was that the Israelites should not swear at all strains the imagination. Jesus’ statement about divorce in 5:31–32, furthermore, cannot be an elaboration of the OT law since it presumes that the death penalty is not applied against adulterers.”

    http://oldlife.org/2016/01/why-this-wont-end-well-for-wheaton

    https://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/how-should-we-use-the-ten-commandments-in-worship/

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Matt T—-“I worry, however, that we are often all too willing to assume that the hard parts of the New Testament’s ethic – the parts about being willing to suffer, to share our possessions, and to serve – must necessarily be translated so as to be amenable to contexts in which we are comfortable resisting evil, growing our wealth, advancing our ambitions, and preserving our rights. I also think that Christians have consistently underestimated the moral and spiritual compromises entailed in USING POWER JUST LIKE THE WORLD DOES..

    Matt T—“There is much in the history of Christendom of which we should be critical. To give just one example, why were the early Reformed, including Calvin, so willing to defend the use of the sword to punish heretics? Did they not find it too easy to abandon the example of Jesus and the early church in favor of Israel, at least on this issue? ” http://www.reformation21.org/articles/conformity-to-jesus-as-the-paradigm-for-christian-ethics-3.php

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Let’s don’t get into if my new church lowers the standard. Let’s just say that they change the standard so we can “hear the law” but still agree that it’s ok in some cases to touch a gun in order to kill somebody with it.


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