Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Woe to the Legalist


Lest you all think I am a legalist, today I want to address the other extreme.  Just as rampant Antinomianism is terribly wrong, so are the many legalistic churches that are more like cults than they are like churches.  I am not talking about churches that hold people accountable for their sins, but about those churches who threaten their very salvation.  While not as popular as the mega Antinomian churches that abound, they are equally as dangerous.  We may not know anyone part of those churches, but we definitely hear of them.  We hear of children dying because these churches are against "modern medicine".  We see them at park and beaches going down waterslides in dresses.  While that make seek a bit comical, it is actually very tragic.  These people are caught in bondage to false power-hungry ego-centric preachers who will one day face the Lord they grossly misrepresent and it will be to their own peril. 
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:8-9 NKJV
I imagine in those churches they do not even know this verse.  I say that because it is contained in the book of Galatians, which addresses and condemns the very practices that they promote.  Therefore, it is rather obvious that they either ignore or maybe have just never read the book of Galatians.  Legalism, for the purposes of this post, is the belief that maintaining the Law or some version of it is necessary for salvation.  While they may promote grace in the forgiveness of all sins before Christ, they do not believe that forgiveness applies to sin committed after salvation. 

These churches always have some common hallmarks.  First there is a dress code, especially for women.  Women are not allowed to wear pants as pants are considered to be men's clothes.  They reject the argument regarding changing styles over time, and while there is some validity to that argument, they take it way too far.  It is one thing to say that Christian women should not wear short skirts and bikinis even though they are popular, but it is an unscriptural extreme to say that wearing pants is somehow immodest.  The basis for their argument for things like pants is not so much that pants are immodest, but that they believe that wardrobe standards are timeless.  What that means is that what was appropriate before is appropriate now and will be appropriate in the future no matter how much styles may change.  In reality, this is just another measure of control that the church has over those who are caught in their bondage.  It has nothing to do with modesty and has everything to do with control.  This is obvious because if they were being entirely accurate, their men would be wearing robes and tunics.  That is what Jesus wore and so if style is timeless and robes and tunics were appropriate for the Lord they claim to follow, it would only make sense for them to emulate His choice of clothing.  Here is what the Bible says regarding modesty of dress.
in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,  1 Timothy 2:9 NKJV
Women are to dress in clothes that are modest in not only appearance but also in cost.  Ironically, in some of those churches, women wear rather expensive dresses.  I also think that if the style was timeless, then God would have been more specific in explaining how women are to dress.

Another aspect of those churches is that they are generally King James Version only.  In fact, they believe that any other translation is not even the word of God.  I do believe that some translations are terrible and in some cases heretical and I do not think that shopping versions to find wording that you like is a great practice, but to say that King James is the only acceptable Bible is terribly wrong.  First of all, Jesus did not even speak English.  If accuracy was so important to these churches, they would learn the languages it was originally written in.  Furthermore, there is the problem that not everyone speaks English.  How can one English version (again the Bible was not written in English) be the only viable translation.  They expect the whole world to learn antiquated English, yet they refuse to learn the languages it was originally written in.  The other problem is that the English language has changed much since that Bible was originally published.  English words change meanings over times and so if the language remains the same, the meaning changes.  Again, this is about control.  This is about having one translation they can manipulate to their own desires and with no other translation accepted there can be no argument. 

Another common issue in those churches is the rejection of modern medicine.  We see stories on the news often regarding some child who died of some simple common ailment because the parents refused medical care out of some misguided doctrine by some lying preacher.  The blood of those children will be on those teachers' heads.  Going to a doctor for an antibiotic to cure an infection is not, in any way, a lack of faith in God.  I wonder if these same people wear seat belts when they are in their cars and how  that is not a lack of faith that God will protect them from getting into an accident?  I wonder if they care to replace bald tires and trust God to protect them from an upcoming blowout or from hydroplaning in the rain?  I wonder if they even wash their hands after using the restroom and trust God that they will not get or spread infection?  Do they even cover their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough?  There is absolutely positively no Scriptural basis to not see a doctor when you are sick.  The fact that I am sure they wear seat belts when in a car betrays the whole idea of it being a faith issue.  Again, it is a control issue where parents and children are (instead of being comforted) judged as somehow unfaithful or displeasing to God when they are sick and exploited as examples to keep the rest of the church in line.  This puts those under the bondage of those churches in fear of their very lives should they rebel against that church's doctrine. 

What all of this boils down to is some sort of "Holiness Code" that is just another way of putting people back under the law.  They are taught that while they were saved by grace, they have to maintain that salvation by adhering to some law.  They take the view that only past sins are forgiven by God and that future sins area not.  I ask them the same question Paul asked the Galatians.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed [it was] in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, [does He do it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?--  Galatians 3:1-5 NKJV
To say that Jesus only died for past sins makes coming to Jesus early a disadvantage.  It means that it would be better for us to live in our sin as long as possible before coming to Christ because only those sins committed before Jesus have a guarantee of forgiveness.  What wicked lies they teach! They call themselves a church, but they are a cult.  They are victims of a power hungry pastor who maintains control and lives off the misery of his flock.  In his wake, there are dead parents and children and a church full of terrified followers living in daily fear of losing their salvation.  To teach someone to follow God out of fear of retribution is not at all what we are called to do as Christians.  Our choice to be obedient is to be out of love and a desire to please our Lord and never out of a fear of losing our salvation.  That makes God from a loving Father into a brutal tyrant.  Those teachers. lest they repent, will stand before God and learn first hand what it is to experience the kindled anger of God.  They will suffer the fate they force others to live in fear of.  These teachers not only expect people to live up to the law, but they add to it.  The Bible tells us to dress modestly, they give us a dress code.  The Bible tells us to not trust in man, they tell us to not even trust God to work through man (ie. doctors).  The Bible tells us that loving God will produce fruit and works in our lives, they teach that lest you produce fruit and have works in your life then God does not love you.  The Bible teaches us that we are free from the law, they create an even more draconian one.  They are the Pharisees of today and Jesus had very few kind words for them. 

If you are in bondage in a church like that today, please know that God does not want you to live in the bondage of fear of the wrath of your pastor and certainly not of God who sent His son to die for you.  God wants fruit and works, but He wants those to be a response of your love for Him and the salvation He has already given you and never as a means to obtain or maintain your salvation.  God loves you as a Father, love Him as a child.  Do not believe the lies that your salvation is contingent on any holiness standard or at the whim of your pastor.  That is a wicked lie and it is keeping you from the true joy in following the Lord.  Love God out of gratitude for what He has done, not out of baseless fear over what He might do for what you have not done. 

If you teach these lies, then I leave you with the words of Jesus to the Pharisees of His day, I imagine He would feel the same about you. 
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in [yourselves], nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier [matters] of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead [men's] bones and all uncleanness.
"Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:13-15, 23-26 NKJV

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