The difference between a legalist and an evangelical

Ralph Erskine on the difference between a legalist and an evangelical (“gospel-believing”) Christian. (1) They differ in their complaints. The legalist will complain more for want of holiness than for want of Christ; seeing he hath taken up with self-righteousness, it is his all, it is his happiness, it is his husband, it is his God. But the language of the evangelical Christian, who is dead to the law, is, O for Christ! O for a day of power! O to be wrapt up in the covenant of grace! to get an omnipotent power, determining me to comply with the gospel-offer. (2) They differ as to their comforts, – the legalist finds comfort in law-works, even in all his extremities. In the prospect of trouble, who comforts him? Even this, that he hath done many good duties. He wraps himself in a garment of his own weaving. Upon challenges of conscience, what comforts him, and gives him peace? He even covers himself

read more The difference between a legalist and an evangelical

Modern Judaizers?

J. Gresham Machen, in his Notes on Galatians, draws out a careful application of the principle argument of Galatians to the church today when he wrote: The particular form of merit which they induced men to seek was the mertit of keeping the Law of Moses, particularly the cermonial law. At first sight, that fact might seem to destroy the usefulness of the epistle for the present day; for we of today are in no danger in desiring to keep Jewish fasts and feasts. But a little consideration will show that that is not at all the case. The really essential thing about the Judaizers’ contention was not found in those particular “works of the law” that they urged upon the Galatians as being one of the grounds of salvation, but in the fact that the urged any works at all. The really serious error into which they fell was not that they carried the ceremonial law over into the new

read more Modern Judaizers?

The Primary Enemy Of The Gospel: Two Forms Of Legalism

This is excellent from Tullian Tchividjian: Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. Sometimes, legalism and lawlessness are presented as two ditches on either side of the gospel that we must avoid. If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace. If you start getting too much grace, you need to balance it with law. But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its radical depth and beauty. It’s more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel—legalism—but it comes in two forms. Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the

read more The Primary Enemy Of The Gospel: Two Forms Of Legalism

Legalism & Self Help – The Fruit of Missing the Gospel

From Todd Pruitt: In Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, one of the most important books on preaching I have ever read, Graeme Goldsworthy writes: We are all legalists at heart. We all love to be able to say that we have fulfilled all kinds of conditions, be they tarrying, surrendering fully, or getting rid of every known sin, so that God might truly bless us. It is a constant temptation to want to take our spiritual pulse and to apply the sanctification barometer. . . .The preacher can aid and abet this legalistic tendency that is at the heart of the sin within us all. All we have to do is emphasize our humanity: our obedience, our faithfulness, our surrender to God, and so on. The trouble is that these things are all valid biblical truths, but if we get them out of perspective and ignore their relationship to the gospel of grace, they replace grace with law. If

read more Legalism & Self Help – The Fruit of Missing the Gospel

Three Ways to Relate to God

“People tend to think there are two ways to relate to God – to follow him and do his will or to reject him and do your own thing – but there are also two ways to reject God as Savior.  One is the way already mentioned: by rejecting God’s law and living as you see fit.  The other, however, is by obeying God’s Law, by being really righteous and really moral, so as to earn your own salvation.  It is not enough to simply think there are two ways to relate to God.  There are three: religion, irreligion, and the gospel. In ‘religion,’ people may look to God as their helper, teacher, and example, but their moral performance is serving as their savior.  Both religious and irreligious people are avoiding God as Savior and Lord.  Both are seeking to keep control of their own lives by looking to something besides God as their salvation.  Religious legalism/moralism and secular/irreligious relativism

read more Three Ways to Relate to God

What Legalism Isn’t (and Is)

From Jared Wilson: This is not exhaustive, of course. Legalism ISN’T equating Christianity with conformity to Christ. But it IS equating Christianity with a particular “brand” within his movement. Legalism ISN’T any preaching of the Law or of moral exhortations (in their biblical context). But it IS preaching “do’s and don’t’s” as if they are the essential message of Christ or of the Bible. Legalism ISN’T any expectation of obedience. But it IS an expectation for all Christians of uniformity of conscience and culture. Legalism ISN’T applying the demands or the spirit of the Law to one’s conscience. But it IS extrapolating one’s personal conscience out to require the same of another’s conscience. Legalism ISN’T just a preaching of “Don’t do this or God will be angry.” It IS ALSO a preaching “Do this and God will be happy.” Avoid and rebuke legalism with a dogged insistence on the all-encompassing sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

The one antithesis of all the ages

“The one antithesis of all the ages is that between the rival formulae: Do this and Live, and, Live and do this; Do and be saved, and Be saved and do. And the one thing that determines whether we trust in God for salvation or would fain save ourselves is, how such formulae appeal to us.” – B. B. Warfield, Faith & Life (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust), 324-5. (HT: Of First Importance)

10 Reminders re: Gospel Faithfulness

From Tony Reinke. Ten notes about gospel faithfulness, a collection derived from Galatians 1:6-10: 1. Gospel faithfulness is required of the entire church, not merely its pastoral leaders. 2. No matter how religious we claim to be, no matter how close to the truth we reside, no matter how recent our conversion, sinners are all prone to an unintentional replacement of the gospel with a counterfeit. 3. According to Paul, we can relax our grip on the biblical gospel suddenly and dreadfully easily (ταχέως). 4. To add anything to the gospel is to desert the gospel. 5. To add anything to the gospel is to have a “no-gospel.” 6. To modify the gospel is an act of defection from God. 7. The content of the gospel is unchanging and “embodies a core of fixed tradition which is normative so that no preaching deviating can be called ‘gospel’” (Fung). 8. No authority—not even an angel from heaven—has the right to modify

read more 10 Reminders re: Gospel Faithfulness

The Glorious Spectacle

“Man, in his natural spirit of self-justifying legalism, has tried to get away from the cross of Christ and its perfection, or to erect another cross instead, or to setup a screen of ornaments between himself and it, or to alter its true meaning into something more congenial to his tastes, or to transfer the virtue of it to some act or performance or feeling of its own. Thus the simplicity of the cross is nullified, and its saving power is denied. For the cross saves completely, or not at all. Our faith does not divide the work of salvation between itself and the cross. It is the acknowledgment that the cross alone saves, and that it saves alone. Faith adds nothing to the cross, nor to its healing virtue. It owns the fulness, and sufficiency, and suitableness of the work done there, and bids the toiling spirit cease from its labours and enter into rest. Faith does not come

read more The Glorious Spectacle

All of Grace

Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (p. 19): Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace. And from pp. 22-23: Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God’s blessing through their behavior. Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God’s blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience. Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Discerning a Legal Spirit Within You

John Fonville has an excellent post on how we discern legalism in our life. Here are his headings: 1. You are guilty of a circumcision-like faith when you are more inclined to ground your acceptance with God upon your duty and performance instead of Christ’s obedience for you. 2. You are guilty of a circumcision-like faith when your focus is more upon evidences of grace in your life, than upon the imputed righteousness of Christ. 3. You are guilty of a circumcision-like faith when your obedience is more influenced by the terrors and curse of the law than by the allurement of grace. 4. You are guilty of a circumcision-like faith when you look to what is promised only in a conditional way. Read the whole article here.

Disciplined Duty vs. the Lie of Legalism

John Piper: But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . Is it a discipline? You can call it that. It’s

read more Disciplined Duty vs. the Lie of Legalism

A Christless Christianity

“There really is no place for Christ in many people’s Christianity. Their faith is not actually in Christ; it is in Christianity and their ability to live it out. This kind of ‘Christianity’ is really about shadow glories of human knowledge and performance. It does not require the death to self that must always happen if love for Christ is going to reign in our hearts.” – Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC; New Growth Press, 2007), 106. (HT: Of First Importance)

What is Legalism and Why is it so Bad?

Erik Raymond has an excellent post on legalism. Read the full article here. I thoroughly recommend it. Here’s Erik’s intro, points and conclusion to whet your appetite: I have been thinking a lot about this lately in Colossians.  And the context in Colossians states that we as believers are already ‘complete in Christ’ we lack nothing (Col. 2.10). God has given us everything we need in Christ Jesus. What is Legalism? In its most basic sense legalism believes that we can earn or keep God’s favor by what we do. 1.   Legalism Promotes unbiblical standards (self-authority) 2.   Legalism Promotes performance (self-righteousness) 3.   Legalism Promotes Division 4.   Legalism Demotes Jesus (and his sufficient righteousness) Legalism is a dangerous system. In it the sheep are hurt, the gospel is veiled, Christ is marginalized, and we are exalted. There is little wonder that the Apostle Paul finds himself agonizing with sweaty earnestness for the church in Colossae (Col. 1.28-2.3)

Boss or Father?

“How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father.” – Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 86. (HT: Of First Importance)

Santa Christ?

Justin Taylor posts this topical piece from Sinclair Ferguson: we may denigrate our Lord with a Santa Claus Christology. How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus — a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus’ hand, like Santa’s sack, opens only when we can give an

read more Santa Christ?

The Difference Between a Legalist and an Evangelical Christian

My thanks to John Fonville for this excellent quote: Ralph Erskine on the difference between a legalist and an evangelical (”gospel-believing”) Christian: (1.) They differ in their complaints. The legalist will complain more for want of holiness than for want of Christ; seeing he hath taken up with self-righteousness, it is his all, it is his happiness, it is his husband, it is his God. But the language of the evangelical Christian, who is dead to the law, is, O for Christ! O for a day of power! O to be wrapt up in the covenant of grace! to get an omnipotent power, determining me to comply with the gospel-offer. (2.) They differ as to their comforts, – the legalist finds comfort in law-works, even in all his extremities. In the prospect of trouble, who comforts him? Even this, that he hath done many good duties. He wraps himself in a garment of his own weaving. Upon challenges of conscience,

read more The Difference Between a Legalist and an Evangelical Christian

The Need For Galatians

“Because something of the old legal disposition remains in us, Galatians serves to remind us of the ever-present temptation to turn away from grace and revert back to our own merit.” I love this from John Fonville. I have made Galatians my prime study in recent years. Thanks for this John! Everyone is born a legalist by nature. Our default mode is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism (i.e., self-salvation). Even after our conversion, something of a legalist/Pharisee still remains in all of us. Ralph Erskine once wrote, “It is not easy to get the law killed; something of a legal disposition remains even in the believer while he is in this world: many a stroke does self and self-righteousness get, but still it revives again. If he were wholly dead to the law, he would be wholly dead to sin; but so far as the law lives, so far sin lives.They that think they know the Gospel well enough bewray

read more The Need For Galatians

Prayer and Legalism

“Since prayer is an aspect of our sanctification, our development or growth in godliness, it too must be understood as the fruit of what Christ has done for us. This is often the missing dimension in books and sermons on prayer…Problems emerge when the task of praying is urged without the motive and pattern of the unique saving role of Jesus. It then becomes a legalistic burden that cannot promote godliness… “If my assessment has been accurate, it follows that many of our problems with prayer stem from a failure to understand the relationship of our praying to the ministry of Jesus, including his praying. A wrong perspective on prayer may well come from thinking of it as playing a part in establishing our acceptance with God. Prayer that is not the grateful response of the justified sinner is likely to degenerate into an attempt to gain acceptance. Then again, if the sole motive to pray is, as I have

read more Prayer and Legalism