Friday, 19 September 2014

Luther's Doctrine and The Spirit of Legalism

There is much confusion within modern Christendom as to what is legalism and what does it means to not be legalistic. Whenever one sheds light on the sin of another, such rebuke is immediately treated to be "abuse" or "hatred". Anyone who dares rebuke another, or use the Law of God in evangelism is labelled a "legalist" or a "pharisee". I have experienced this myself whether I wrote articles to expose mammon, abortion or the homosexual agenda, I have been deemed to be a "legalistic" pharisee. 

So, what is legalism? Legalism is the doctrine that one is good or justified by one's works in obeying a set of rules. How well one observes a set of rules is what determines one's moral worth. The Bible makes it very clear that no one is justified in any way by works of the Law of God: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16). 

No one can be justified by the works of the Law of God because "none is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10)! Although the Bible does refer to some individuals as righteous, they were born in sin for "wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). It is because all have sinned that no one is even worthy to think of oneself as good in any way, let alone for one self to set up another set of standards to determine what is good. None! 

To set up a set of moral standards for oneself to live not only arrogant, but a defiance of God's observation that no one is good, no not one! It is a hatred of God. This is exactly what legalism is.  It is of pride, manifested in the belief that one can be good without God, when no one can be righteous in the eyes of God, but for the blood of Jesus alone. 

Legalism can be manifested in multiple ways and contexts. As long as standards of the human flesh are imposed on others, and one is deemed good when one follows such standards, this constitutes legalism. This can occur in context of secular political correctness where anyone who dares speak out against it is labelled as a "racist", "homophobe", "Islamophobe" or "sexist". It can also occur in the context of the hyper-grace movement within Christendom where anyone who rebukes the sins of others is deemed to be a "legalist" because one does not follow the rules of the movement. Likewise, anyone who claims that women who voluntarily seek abortions is a murderer is shunned as a hateful person who has broken the rule of showing sympathy towards them is a form of legalism. 

The spirit of legalism works through the belief that one is better than others in doing works. It is an extremely subtle one because good works indeed should be done by the true Christian. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Matthew 7:18-19). This verse means that anyone not found to be good by God on the Day of Judgment will be cast into the Lake of Fire. What it does not mean is that one's good works will save oneself from the wrath of God. It means that whosoever does not have the righteous of Christ imputed into him will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. This imputation of righteous, or justification, is by grace alone. None deserves it or merits it. It is a gift from God. 

It is because of the corrupted nature of the flesh that cannot please God (Romans 8:7) that no one can please God in their own strength. Without faith, one cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). However, it is not faith that one seeks to please God, that makes one right with God because the natural flesh does not nor  can it seek God. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God (Romans 3:11). Faith in God that one seeks after is an oxymoron since Jesus said that "no man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (John 6:44). 

Luther believed it was more important to seek faith in God than love as evident through his legalistic theology. He treated seeking faith rather than love of God as paramount, creating a system where seeking faith in the rule, and seeking love from God is a fruit of faith. However, faith without love is nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 tells us that: if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Faith is a fruit of love, not love being a fruit for faith. 

To treat faith as that from which love will flow will lead to a failure to love God, and trust in one's own flesh. This is rebellion against God by denying what God said about no one by justified by the Law, but in Jesus alone, only through His grace, not one's merit.