Legalism vs. Legal vs. Illegal

Matthew 7:21-29
21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘ Lord, Lord, ’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? ’
23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! ’

Jesus was clearly speaking to ones who knew Him. He was addressing the unpopular but necessary and critical issue of disqualification, a topic no one runs to embrace. Nonetheless, our Lord spoke of it (as did others, including Paul – who wrote a major portion of the New Testament) so we would do well to consider these words. It is this same Paul that brought forth the doctrines of grace. He got it.

Declaring: “Lord, Lord”, notably with signs and prophetic words following, would seem marked evidence of relationship with the One to whom they were speaking. They knew Him, but the deeper issue was about Him knowing them, in the biblical sense of knowing. The disqualifying condition was their lawlessness, their refusal to live and walk within biblical guideline, after knowing Him. Sad.

Those poor folks may well have referred to their lifestyles as being gloriously free in Christ. Simply enjoying Him. No worries. Safe and secure in His love. God is in a good mood, so all is cool. And hey, I prophesy accurately and cast out demons (and hey, blog-readers: we all agree those are very good things). Their conclusion, however: I have the goods. I therefore must be good to go. This group is often inclined to denounce a more stringent interpretation of scripture as legalism – a popular criticism often pointed towards people perhaps more convicted about the eternal Word, and its reasonable requirements, a group that at the same time hopefully embraces its glorious promises.  Intimate relationship with God, and accountability, are not contradictions (Ps 99:6-9).

True, there are folks way too legalistic, way too restrictive, formulating religious lifestyle, even adding new pious rules beyond biblical principle or biblical revelation, not Spirit-led. Welcome, Pharisees.

LEGAL – The Safe Place
But there is also a gloriously safe place, a place I choose to call Legal. It is sitting upright on the mount of truth, neither falling off one side into legalism, nor the other side, into illegal behavior- both of which are disastrous.
There is a place to be found in Christ, the living Word, that is legal, and free, and full of glory. Jesus told the Jewish believers (believing so therefore already forgiven, and saved) that in their continuing in the Word they would then know truth, and at that time the truth would set them free. James referred to scripture as the law of liberty.

Lest we overlook Paul, he took this matter of discipline and correct biblical living so far as to reveal his attitude towards his own salvation in this manner:

1 Corinthians 9:27
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

He then went on to charge us with the same sober alert, in 2 Cor. 13:5. Of note is not whether Christ was “in us”. But whether we were in Him. He optimistically ends on the high note of believing better things for us. Yea Paul.

2 Corinthians 13:5-6
5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.
6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

Those scriptures are crystal clear. They are only a mystery (actually, a confusion) if one has been presented with a false grace.

Jesus, in His mercy and lovingkindness, will send storms of testing. Biblically, it appears that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, controls the weather (Amos 4:7, 1 Kings 18:44, Psalm 107:25, 33-35, 2 Chron 7:13). I do not personally perceive that the storm Jesus commanded to subside had been constructed by Satan. I personally believe our God created Goliath for David. I believe in God’s sovereignty. Isa 45:7 can shed some light on this.

In Matthew 7:24 and 25, Jesus does not say “if” storms might come. There is more of a silent “when” implied. Times of testing. That too is biblical, folks.  It also is wise to note that the folks in verses 24 and 25 all heard the sayings of Jesus. This is not a story about the unsaved, about ones outside of relationship with Him. This is written for us.

Matt 7:24-25
24 “ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock
25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “ But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:
27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,
29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

A. Legalism is dry and dead and religious.
B. “Illegalism” is a destructive and false doctrine put forth as freedom in Christ, without the holy restraint or limitations of the whole Word of God. We’re warned about this coming into the church, as times progress (2 Peter 2, Jude, 2 Tim 4:3)
C. Legal is good. The Word will set you free, and keep you free.

John 8:31-32
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”


All scripture NKJV

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About ez3728

I am a believer in Jesus - that He is the One and Only Messiah of the world. I believe the Bible is the perfect and complete Word of God, and that God is absolutely competent and capable of keeping His Word perfect, undefiled, and uncorrupted. Jesus was born Jewish. So was I. He lived a perfect life, and is worshiped. I live an imperfect life, and I worship Him.
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