The Sin of Obeying Legalism

Bible phrases concerning legalism:

Christ is become of no effect......fallen from grace.......depart from the faith.......Christ shall profit you nothing.......subverts the soul.......another gospel.......a little leaven.......abominable.......reprobate.......not obey the truth.......frustrate the grace of God.......rudiments of the world....elements of the world.......let him be accursed.......false humility.......sons of hell.......vain talkers...... bondage.....weal and beggarly......perverts the gospel......cast out the bondwoman.......deceitful workers......bewitched......accursed......seared conscience......spy out our liberty.....sons of vipers......foolish......evil workers.....seducing spirits......doctrines of devils.......false brethren......the flesh......turn form the truth......spoiled......mouths must be stopped.......whited sepulcres......subvert whole houses.....blind guides

PART ONE: Old Testament Law

The entire book of Galatians deals with Paul condemning legalists for trying to insert one single Old Testament law (circumcision) into the Church. God originally ordained circumcision, as He did all the other laws, like wearing the beard, resting on the sabbath, not harvesting the corners of the fields, etc. Jesus, born under the law, perfectly obeyed all Old Testament laws and commanded others under that law not to depart from the least of them.

But Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled the law’s purpose and freed us from it. He nailed all the ordinances to the cross. All the laws and shadows of The Old Covenant (which Hebrews 9:4 says includes the Ten Commandments, reposing in the Ark of the Old Covenant) are fulfilled in the New. All the morality of the law necessary for the Church has been repeated in the New Covenant

To return to Old Testament Law, any of it (including the beard) is returning to "weak and beggarly elements" and is becoming "entangled again in the yoke of bondage." This makes the death of Christ of no avail. This perverts the gospel. This is direct disobedience to the Bible. This is sin.

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is foolish, bewitched, disobeying the truth, working in the flesh, and following another gospel.

"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes 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 made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3)

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" (Gal. 1:6)

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is fallen from grace.

"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whoseover of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal 5:3,4).

Christ is of no benefit to whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality.

"If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." (Gal. 5:2)

"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whoseover of you are justified by the law"

(Gal. 5:3).

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is under a curse:

"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" (Gal 3:10)

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is obligated to keep the whole law:

"For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is debtor to do the whole law" (Gal. 5:3).

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is a son of the bondwoman and shall be cast out:

"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenantse; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all…..Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (Gal 4:21-31)

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is frustrating the grace of God and denying the work accomplished by Christ’s death:

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:21).

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality hinders the truth of the gospel:

"And that because of false brethren…who might bring us into bondage…to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour: that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Gal 1:4).

"Ye did run well: who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" (Gal. 5:7)

 

Whoever obeys even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is in bondage to weak and beggarly worldliness:

"Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world" (Gal 4:3)

But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

(Gal. 4:9)

 

Whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality is a false brother sneaking in to spy out liberty:

"But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage" (Gal. 2:4)

 

Whoever teaches, even the most pure-seeming angel, that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality should be accursed (forever consigned to hell):

"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. 9 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" (Gal. 1:8).

 

Whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality troubles the church and perverts the gospel:

"There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7).

"Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment" ( Acts 15:24)

 

Whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality brings another gospel:

           "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" (Gal.    1:6).

 

Whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality subverts the soul:

      "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment (Acts 15:24)

 

Paul wished whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality would go mutilate themselves:

"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" (Gal. 5:12). NIV

 

We are commanded not to submit, even for an hour, to whoever teaches that Christians should obey even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality:

"To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour" (Gal 2:5).

 

We are commanded not to subject ourselves to obedience to even one Old Testament law for salvation or spirituality:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1).

 

We are commanded not to allow any man to judge us for not obeying Old Testament law:

"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days" (Col. 2:16).

 

Whoever lives freely and then submits to Old Testament law when legalists are around is a hypocrite, is not walking upright, is rebuilding that which was torn down, and is dissembling--and should be publicly rebuked:

"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 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 JesusChrist, 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. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Gal. 2:11-19).

 

PART TWO: Commandments and Traditions of Men

If God condemns the Christian’s keeping of Old Testament law, which perfect law He Himself created, how much more mere commandments of men? The Pharisees had taken God’s law and “explained” them into hundreds more, even recording them in a book called the Talmud. Jesus obeyed the Law, but He never once bowed to commandments and traditions of men, even when it offended the religious ministers who tried to enforce these rules. Jesus was gentle with publicans and harlots, but He called the rule-making Pharisees sons of snakes, sons of hell, hypocrites, blind guides, and whited sepulcres.

Commandments and traditions of men are rules not in the Bible (like no two-toned vehicles; no flowers at funerals; no life insurance, radios, Internet, tape recorder, photos, white dresses, black shirts, open-toed sandals, etc. etc. etc.). Some commandments of men also cause us to disobey a commandment of God “Full well ye reject the commandment of God that ye may keep your own tradition” such as forbidding musical instruments, which God tells us to use. Commandments of men are also rules explaining how to obey certain Biblical principles (like modesty means no large florals, nonconformity means wearing a certain dress code, submission means not questioning the ministry, etc. etc. etc.)

Rule-making Pharisees do not recognize their own bondage: “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man” They also claim their commandments of men are actual Bible doctrine, “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.”

For example, Frank Wenger in the Mennonite Weekly Review says the 2004 Conference proceedings: “are not to make new rules but to strengthen our view on [existing Biblical] doctrines.”

Whoever obeys commandments of men is being spoiled and deceived:

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men" (Col. 2:8)

 

Whoever obeys commandments of men is dealing in worldliness:

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ….Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" (Colossians 2: 8,16)

"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not…after the commandments and doctrines of men?" Col 2: 20-22)

 

Whoever obeys commandments of men is turning from the truth:

"Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth"

 

Whoever obeys commandments of men is worshipping in vain:

"But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9)

"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:7)

 

Whoever obeys commandments of men is mistakenly trying to curb the flesh, to no avail:

"Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence" (Col. 2:23) NIV

 

Whoever Teaches Commandments of Men has Departed From the Faith to Heed Doctrines of Devils and Seducing Spirits:

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hyposcrisy; having their consciences seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstains from meats" (1 Tim. 4:1) [CGCM uncripturally forbids marriage outside its denomination, forcing many young women to remain spinsters]

 

Whoever Teaches Commandments of Men is a Vain Talker and Deceiver:

"For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not…..Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men" (Titus 1:10-14)

 

Whoever Teaches Commandments of Men Should be Rebuked and Their Mouths Stopped:

"For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not…..Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men" (Titus 1:10-14)

=================================================================================

 

What About Conference?

1. The Jerusalem Conference Was Held to Combat Legalism: The conference at Jerusalem was held in the early years of the Church while there was still confusion about the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Legalists had crept into the church, trying to bring the brethren into the bondage of law. The Jerusalem Conference was held to settle forever the question of whether or not Christians must obey the Old Testament law.

"And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabus, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders about this question’ (Acts 15: 1,2)

"Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul" (Acts 15: 24,25)

"Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabus...and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage" (Gal. 1:1-4)

 

2. The Jerusalem Conference Reaffirmed that Christians Are Not Under the Law

"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? (Acts 15:10)

 

3. The Four Issues Mostly Concerned Gentiles Not Offending Jews or Harming Their Own Consciences: Converts from paganism needed to be reminded against fornication, a former part of pagan worship. Eating blood and unbled animals is unhealthy and was exceedingly repulsive to the Jews, and the reason for abstinance was cited as the large orthodox Jewish population "in every city." Eating meat offered to idols troubled the conscience of converts from paganism.

"But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." (Acts 15: 20).

"As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication." (Acts 21:25)

 

4. The Conference Decisions Were Not Mandatory: The wording of the letter sent to the churches was not "Thou shalt not." Rather, brethren were counseled that if they kept away from those things "ye shall do well." About ten years later, in writing to the Romans and the Corinthians, Paul says a Christian is at liberty to eat meat offered to idols unless he causes (or persuades, as in the case of Jezebel) a weak brother to also eat against his conscience:

"Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the betterb; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this libertyc of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak"

"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other" (1 Cor. 10:25-29)

 

5. The Brethren Rejoiced at the Consolation of Not Being Burdened by the Law.

The whole dispute was whether or not Christians would be burdened with keeping the law.

"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation" (Acts 15:28,29)

 

6. No More Conferences Were Necessary.

There are no more conferences recorded in the New Testament. There is no suggestion in the New Testament that there should be other conferences. The question of Old Testament laws has been forever settled. The only genuine "Conference Decision" document has already been written, and it consisted of five sentences—including the promise of NO GREATER BURDENS!

===============================================================

 

What About Conscience?

1. Consciences can be seared and defiled by legalism:

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hyposcrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats" ( 1 Tim 4:1)

"Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:5)

"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law" (1 Tim. 1:5)

 

2. Lack of knowledge causes weak consciences

"Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled" (1 Cor. 8:7)

"For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs" (Rom 14:1)

"One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike" (Rom 14:5)

 

3. If a knowledgeable brother openly exercises liberty and causes a weak brother to take that same liberty against his conscience, both are sinning:

"For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat inthe idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldenedd to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ"

"There is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom 14:23)

 

Conclusion to Conscience Matters: Jesus publicly flouted the legalism of the Pharisees, regardless of whether it offended them. Paul would not submit to the legalists for one hour and rebuked Peter for doing so. He boldly brought uncircumcised Titus to conference in front of the pro-circumcision legalists. He called the teachers of legalism blind guides, false brethren, evil workers, deceivers, reprobates. He resisted any attempt to impose legalism on the church, not sparing the defiled consciences of the legalists, because legalism perverts the gospel itself, subverting men’s souls.

Are we to understand that if a brother is in bondage to legalistic leaders or a legalistic church system, we do not submit to that legalism for one hour? By doing so, wouldn’t we be allowing legalism to infiltrate the church, become doctrine, and thus pervert the gospel?

But are we also to understand that if among us there is an individual brother with a weak conscience on a particular issue, we who are strong should not exercise our liberty on that issue in front of him? Nor judge him, nor despise him, nor dispute with him, but respect him and wait for the Lord to teach him more fully?

 

4. Jesus persuades us to have strong, free consciences in liberty, and to walk by the Spirit

"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself" (Rom 14:14)

"All things are lawful unto me" (1 Cor. 6:12)

"Unto the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:5)

"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17)

"Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16)

"If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" ( Gal.5:18)

"For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty" (Gal. 5:13)

"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:25 )

"Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and do not be entangled again in the yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1)

"Be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men" (Titus 1:14)

For Members

Love letter to the Holdemans:

Home

Introduction

Why We Left

Who is My Brother in Christ

An Unbroken Lineage of Unchanged Faith?

Holdemans Calling Their Forefathers' Doctrines Blasphemous

The Forefathers Calling Doctrine Held by the Holdemans Heresy

Public Apology

Why So Many Doubts and Fears?

What Must I Do to be Saved?

Poem

Conclusion

 

Whether it be of God and No Proselytes in Zion--a Re-examination:  (this is the original pamphlet sent to 2,000 members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite)

Re-examination

 

 Scare Tactics

 

Answers to Myths, Fears, and Misapplied Scriptures

 

About the Authors

For Non-members

Origin of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite

What does the Church of
God in Christ, Mennonite,
really teach?

Holdemanism VS Anabaptism

Comparing the
"One True" churches

Quotes from Ex-Members

Witnessing to Holdemans

For Ex-Members

Scare Tactics

 

Answers to Myths, Fears, and Misapplied Scriptures

Breaking the Chains

The Sin of Obeying Legalism

Finding the New Testament Church

Should Christians Dress Plain or Should They Follow Christ's Example Who Dressed "Just Like the World"?

Quotes from Ex-Members

Links to Other Sites on Cult Recovery

Audio and Video Testimonies

Our Spiritual Journey to Jesus by Leona Nichols

Quiet Things, Quiet Places - http://www.quietthingsquietplaces.com

Coming Out of Deception and Spiritual Bondage by Weldon Koehn

Canadian Television Broadcast on The Purge of the 1970's

NOTE: If your computer doesn't already have RealPlayer®, download it here for free.