Don was an elder in his evangelical-type church. He saw much looseness about holiness in his congregation. He loved God and experienced His grace. His conscience called him to a more careful obedience to God and to His Word. Don visited a congregation that practiced some of the New Testament teachings that were missing in his church. This church took a scriptural, careful position on remarriage after divorce, the wearing of jewelry, washing one another’s feet and the wearing of the headship veiling by their sisters.
Don saw the obedience to scriptural teaching, so he raised these issues with his pastor and asked why they are not obeying these scriptures. The pastor’s response was, “That’s legalism! Where is the grace of God in that?”
Incidents like this could be told hundreds of times over. But is it legalism?
Scriptural commands are wiped out under the label of legalism or pharisaism. “It’s pretending to be holy without really being holy”
Expressions and words develop certain meanings at given times in history. “The religious right” is an expression used today in a derogatory manner against certain people. During the reformation period, derogatory terms were hurled at our Anabaptist forefathers. Luther called the Anabaptists ketzer which means “the perfect ones” or “you little perfect ones.” This was said in a belittling way, making light of their obedience to scripture. The term legalism is used in a similar way today. When a believer follows the Word of God, often those who do not measure up, or are lacking, come up with some belittling expression like, “Oh, she’s legalistic” or “He’s pharisaic.” Is obedience to scripture legalism?
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