Legalism in the Church

Legalism – strict literal adherence to law or a set of rules for salvation.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them (the Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Acts 15:5-11

Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:1-6

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace is God’s enabling. Faith is a firm persuasion or conviction brought about by hearing Scripture.

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

Definitions are from WE Vines Expository Dictionary of OT & NT Words and the American Heritage Dictionary.

Imagine Heaven – Book Review

I recently completed reading the book Imagine Heaven by John Burke.  It contains personal accounts of NDE’s (Near Death Experiences).  These accounts appeal to our desire to know more about the hereafter.  The thing that bothers me most about this book, however, is its appeal.

There are encounters with loved ones, angels and Jesus; the experience of travel at the speed of light; communication by thought; indescribable visual and hearing experiences; and warm wonders throughout.

How do we deal with things like this that are so wonderful in the telling but may not be true to Scripture?  The Bible is the Christian’s only rule for faith and practice.  As People of the Book, we must continue to abide in the principle that experience never trumps Scripture.  Why is that?  It is because the Bible is God’s Word and God cannot lie.  Should one’s experience carry more weight than His Word?

Although the book itself is full of Scripture with which the author endeavors to draw parallels with the NDE’s, I find key elements missing from these experiences.  Scriptural accounts of heaven always contain worship and reverential fear manifested by witnesses falling on their faces and hearing things unlawful to be uttered.  These are things that are not present in the NDE accounts.

The author himself expresses doubt on page 144, where he states: ….it’s amazing how NDErs seem to be experiencing the same wonderful God, or an amazingly good counterfeit.  

He goes on to say on page 148: Even though NDErs may call God by other names, the God they’re describing matches the God of the Bible.

  This is a disturbing and dangerous statement.  This statement appears to be saying that other religions worship the same God as the God of the Bible.  They just call Him by a different name.  This cannot be true.

The God of the Bible is unique and distinctive from all others.  His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way to God the Father.  All other religions have a system of works salvation that does not recognize Messiah Jesus as our only hope of salvation.  

One NDEr experienced speaking to God (page 225) and he said to God; If you will give me the chance, I’ll go back and I will tell others that this is real.  This experience is diametrically opposed to the account in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 16: Then he (the rich man) said, I pray thee therefore, father (Abraham), that thou wouldest send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets (Scripture); let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  But he (Abraham) said to him (the rich man in hell), If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the deadLuke 16:27-31

According to Luke’s account, there are no messages from the grave.  Over and over the Bible tells us that the just shall live by faith.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Faith does not come from experience.  Faith comes from the Word of God.  So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Experience does not produce faith, so experience should never be used to trump the Bible.  If you see something that appears to be true and it contradicts the Bible, then you should have your eyes checked.  I do not intend to be rude, but the point is, the Bible is more dependable than your senses.  It has to be, because the Bible is God breathed as to source, and God cannot lie.

Peter illustrates God’s Word versus experience for us in his account of the Mount of Transfiguration:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (what an experience!).

For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount (what an experience!).

We have also a more sure word of prophecy (the Bible); whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: II Peter 1:16-19

Although the Mount of Transfiguration was a tremendous experience, the apostle Peter warns us to take heed to a more sure word of prophecy, which is Scripture!

There are several other things mentioned in the NDE accounts that are not mentioned in Scripture.  The Book of My Life is described as being four feet thick (page 255), communication by thought (page 255), breathing under water in the River of Life (page 306 ), etc.  Although the canon of Scripture is closed (Revelation 22:18&19/Proverbs 30:6), these items in the NDE accounts are new information previously undisclosed to the apostles and prophets.

Someone may say this is no big deal, these are just tidbits of information that do not affect anything.  That is exactly the point.  If these tidbits do not affect the Scripture we already have, then what purpose do they serve?  If these things contradict Scripture then they should be rejected.  If they do not contradict Scripture, then what purpose do they serve, other than to say experience is carries more weight than Scripture?

Imagining heaven is really not possible.  Concerning God’s thoughts an OT prophet revealed this: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8&9

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

Paul’s Priority

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  I Corinthians 1:10-18

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

The Doctrine of Man

Man’s direct creation in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28);

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28)

Man’s subsequent fall into sin resulting in spiritual death for all mankind (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12):

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?  And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.   

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-24)

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)

The necessity of the new birth for man’s salvation (John 3:3-5).

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water* and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:1-5)

*Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

*Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Peter 1:23

*Jesus speaking: It is the spirit that quickeneth (makes alive); the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

*For the word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…


Christ Liveth in Me

Once far from God and dead in sin,
No light my heart could see;
But in God’s Word the light I found,
Now Christ liveth in me.

Christ liveth in me,
Christ liveth in me,
Oh! what a salvation this,
That Christ liveth in me.

As rays of light from yonder sun
The flow’rs of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth
From Christ living in me.  Refrain:

As lives the flow’r within the seed,
As in the cone the tree,
So, praise the God of truth and grace,
His Spirit dwelleth in me.  Refrain:

With longing all my heart is filled,
That like Him I may be,
As on the wondrous thought I dwell
That Christ liveth in me.  Refrain:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Lyrics by Daniel W. Whittle, published in 1891

Copyright Status is Public Domain

“Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly”

What makes you and I think that we can live the Christian life without making the Word of God (our source of faith) the most integral part of our daily walk with the Lord?

Faith is a gift from God that comes from His written Word. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

Another Gospel

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.              Galatians 1:1-9

The Children of Abraham

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?  Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Galatians 3:1-14

Faith is a firm persuasion or conviction brought about by hearing the Word of God.*  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for (confidently assured of), the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

*W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Copyright 1984, 1996, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN.

…let the word of Christ dwell (take up its life) in you richly…

The Law of God

Technicians use diagnosing tools to identify equipment problems.  However, these same tools are not able to resolve the problem or remedy the condition, they can only point out the problem.

Such is the Law of God.  The Law of God is a rule or measuring stick to show us that we fall short of God’s standard of righteousness.  For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

The Law of God cannot furnish the righteousness needed to meet God’s standard.  Is the law then against the promises of God?  God forbid (may it never be): for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. Galatians 3:21

Unfortunately many try to keep the law and deceive themselves into thinking that they can be saved by keeping the law (or a set of rules*)….by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

So for what purpose does the law of God serve?  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  Galatians 3:24

Go ahead, make up your own set of rules to establish your own righteousness…..and you will fail to keep your own rules.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: Philippians 3:9

…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

The Law demands what we cannot give, but Christ gives grace that by faith we live!

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