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Exercising our spiritual senses to keep clear from the bondage of Legalism

The Bible teaches us to avoid two extremes in the world of religious experience: Liberalism and Legalism. We have addressed the problem of liberalism in other articles on this site. In short, liberalism teaches that you can have a loose view on God�s holiness and Biblical standards for dress, conversation, associations etc. Loose interpretation then, characterizes the way the Liberal person views Scripture. It is therefore, sinful.

 

Now, there is an equally disturbing practice called legalism in the churches. Legalism teaches that there are a list of do�s and don�ts which one must live by, which are not at all taught or listed in the Bible. It is a subtle way of expressing religious pride and making a person a slave to a religious leader or group�s own rules and regulations.


For example:


You cannot wear any or some kinds of jewelry (gold, silver etc.)

You cannot have flowers to decorate your hair.

You cannot be baptized or take communion if you are engaged in the above.

You cannot come to church without wearing white.

You cannot possibly be saved unless you speak in tongues.

You cannot possibly be spiritual and be materially blessed.

You cannot play or listen to Christian contemporary music and be accepted with God.

You cannot play sports and be a Christian.

You can�t take medicine and be a person of proper faith.

 

You cannot, you cannot, you cannot!

 

Men and women in the churches have sought to make it �easier�, for folk to keep within the boundaries of Biblical teaching by imposing man-made laws on the people. Never mind that many of the doctrines are themselves unbiblical!

As you read this article, please do bear in mind that, motive is the all-important thing here! Why do we wear this or that? Do we do it to attract others? To show off? To subtly make ourselves feel like we have more worth if we do certain external things?

Jewelry is mentioned many times in the Bible. The only time it is prohibited is if it is combined with idolatrous practices or if it is a snare in any way to the owner. One needs to be cautioned that one does not become attached to it so much that they cannot part with it if God commands it. But then, that should be true of everything else as well as we serve God and make Him always first in our lives. As far as the passages in 1 Timothy 2 and 1Peter 3 about jewelry and expensive clothes and elaborate hair arrangements, the spirit of the passages prohibit extravagant and proud display of wealth and pride. It specifically mentions that these external adornments are not what constitute godliness or a person�s real worth before God. It is the inner man walking in meekness and godliness that gives a person true worth in God�s sight. God is merely cautioning against His children getting the two mixed up and living like the world with material attachments, self-pride, with showing off and with not sharing with those in need.

1 Timothy 6:5-6 states, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.�

 

Also, external prosperity, money or wealth does not necessarily mean God�s blessing is on the possessor if they don�t have or exhibit the inner virtues mentioned in the Word. To be sure, gold does not lead to godliness. Yes, there are many who blindly and faithfully follow the false teaching of their church by not wearing gold and yet are quite comfortable and unashamed at being proud, unbelieving, foolish, mischievious, unclean gossipers! The things they laugh at, the choices they make in daily life readily reflect this fact.

 

1Pe 3:3 - 4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

1Pe 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

 

1Ti 2:9 -10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

By the same token, possessing or wearing gold does not necessarily hinder godliness. This is the error of legalism on this subject of wearing jewelry. Hindering a person�s baptism based on whether or not they wear jewels is utterly wrong!

In the Old Testament and in Revelation we see that God uses gold and silver and many precious stones to beautify Israel and the New Jerusalem.

Let us forever get this truth into our minds and hearts:

Gold, silver, and other precious stones are not evil but good!

Whether we use them rightly with a pure heart or not is what really is at stake here. Again, what is the motive?

The same goes for flowers as part of decorating oneself. Make up items are not necessarily sinful either. One cannot just judge someone as being less spiritual or carnal because they use make up or an excessive amount of it, whereas the person casting the judgement uses less or none of it. Let God be the Judge. If you can use this and other items without overdoing it or becoming proud or looking down on others who don�t or can�t do the same for financial reasons or whatever, then you are free to do what you like. No man has the right to judge you wrongly or prohibit these things. No church has the authority to rob you of the Christian liberty God has given you. The Bible teaches modesty and meekness in the use of all things. That is sufficient teaching to direct us in proper attire and attitude.

The only other consideration left is, whether I am hurting a weaker brother who cannot take the truth that these are uses of Christian liberty. (1 Cor.10-23-33)

In certain cases, we might have to change our practices temporarily to prevent a weaker believer from getting, �wounded� or from having a troubled conscience (albeit a misinformed conscience). All we need do is pray to the Lord and He will direct us in such circumstances also.

We need not change our whole lifestyle based on others judgments, if they are not biblical. However, here is a case in point with reference to the above:

If I am ministering among poor folk, then I may be led of the Spirit and by my conscience to put the jewelry I may be wearing off just to prevent the poor ones who don�t have these things from being distracted or to prevent unnecessary speculation on my motives by the poor folk. This is not an absolute rule but something to consider, that�s all.

Other than these type of things where the Lord might have us do something temporarily for another�s sake, then we are not at all sinning if we wear jewelry or flowers or whatever so long as it is decent and in order.

Caution: We must never judge others who have access to jewelry, make-up etc. but who have decided based on a leading from God to forsake them. Perhaps, this has happened because in previous times they had treated such things as idols (just like God may touch anything that we treat as an idol, not necessarily because the thing is evil).

As far as some extreme, �Pentecostal� views on what constitutes true salvation, (which are really not true Pentecostalism as per the Bible) we must not simply and blindly subscribe to a cultic mentality. It is clear in the Book of Acts and all throughout the Word that a person can be saved and not necessarily speak in tongues. Tongues, is an additional blessing or resource we have as a gift of the Spirit of God.

**Let us say here that we ought to always avail ourselves of all of God�s blessing and provision for us paid for by the Precious Blood of Christ. We would be short-changing ourselves and denying certain Scriptures if we didn�t. We ought be filled with the Spirit of God. This is God�s Will for us.

As far as medicine is concerned, it is utterly unbiblical to judge someone as, �unfaithful� or �weak� because they use it when they are sick. It is utterly an abomination to think oneself to be superior to all others just because they have endured an illness or would rather die without taking medicine. We have written an article entitled, False Teaching Amongst Some Churches which deals in more detail with regards to this topic.

A lot more can be said on this issue of Legalism in the Church but suffice it to allow this Biblical principle to guide us always:

God has meant for us to serve Him and enjoy Him and all of His provisions while walking in the fear of the Lord. As long as what we do does not lead to sin, as long as it is not prohibited in the Word by explicit declaration or in an implicit sense or by principle, then we are free to do what we like.

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Now, if you are in bondage to false, man-made doctrine or have taught the same, you need not give up hope! God is merciful when we confess our foolishness or ignorance to Him.

Ask God for forgiveness for following man instead of Him. Repent and enjoy the freedom He has given you while not indulging in anything that leads to idolatry.

 

Remember the chief thing is not to judge oneself or others (especially others!) by external things or man�s standards, for God looks on the heart while man looks on the outward things. (1 Samuel 16:7)


If one is in fact, always preoccupied with how they look on the outside in any area, then God can and will speak to them as they follow Him faithfully. However, no man must play another man�s conscience by imposing unbiblical doctrine on him.

 

In conclusion:

Remember, in all criticism and judgment, Love is the chief thing.
Honesty and humility in the heart is the main issue.
To have purity of heart is of paramount importance.
Motive is all-important, as far as why we like to do a certain thing.

(1 Cor. 13, Titus 2:7, 1 Pet 5:5)

 

 

For the Freedom in the Spirit bought by the
Precious Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

 Brothers and sisters at comprehensivechristian.com

 


- by Pradeep Emmanuel Stephen �2004 comprehensivechristian.com

[Permission is granted to duplicate this article in its entirety, but only without additions, alterations or omissions of any kind, including the author and ministry name at the end.]

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