06 June 2010

A Word to Legalists

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Strange Dispensations and Matchless Consolations," a sermon preached in the autumn of 1859 at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.


he reasons for God's grace to us are far above all human reason, for he himself has told us, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Nay, I will go further than this, and say that, not only are God's modes of reasoning far above our own, but they often seem as if they were even contradictory to ours. Where we should draw one inference, God draws the very opposite.

See you poor penitent sinner; he "would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but he smote upon his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner." What is our inference from this, looking at the publican as he stands there? Why; that he is a rebellious creature, and that God cannot and will not accept him, but must punish him.

Doth God draw this inference? Nay; for "this man went down to his house justified."

See yonder Pharisee; with outstretched hands he stands, and prays thus with himself, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are," and so on. What is our inference therefrom? Surely God will accept so good a man as this; he will be sure to justify a man so holy and so moral. Not so; for that man went down to his house without justification, unsatisfied, unblessed with the smile of heaven, while yon sorrowing publican received God's gracious forgiveness.

We, ever since the Fall, have learned to reason badly; our reasoning faculty has been as much confused as any other power that we possessed; we have turned aside from the straightforward path, and we know not how to draw the true inference which God draws from our sins. So far from looking at any reason for mercy to anything that is good in man,—if God ever seeks in the creature a reason why he should show mercy, he looketh not to the good, but to the evil.

When we come before God, it would be well if we would always remember this. We are committing great folly if, when we are spreading our case before him, we dare for one moment to speak of ourselves as good or excellent. We shall never succeed in that way; he will not listen to us, for this plan has no power with him; but if, when we come to him, we can plead our sin and our misery, then shall we prevail. Nay, we may even go the length of the psalmist, David, when he prayed, "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity;"—and for a strange reason, you would say,—"for it is great."

He used the greatness of his sin as an argument why God should have mercy on him!

O ye legalists, who are looking to yourselves for some arguments with which to prevail with God; O ye who look to your sacraments, to your outward forms, to your pious deeds and your almsgivings, for something that will move the heart of God; know this, that these things are no lever that can ever move him to 1ove. Nothing but your sin and misery can ever stir his mercy, and you look to the wrong place when you look to your merits to find a plea why he should show pity upon you.

C. H. Spurgeon


23 comments:

donsands said...

"Nay, we may even go the length of the psalmist, David, when he prayed, "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity;"—and for a strange reason, you would say,—"for it is great.""

This was the Sripture for our call to worship this morning.

Psalm 25:1-2,11:"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;...
For your name's sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great."

And we sang the hymn: The Power of the Cross.

Here's the last stanza and final chorus:

"Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ms-gxEOtLA&feature=player_embedded


Great post once again. Always am edified, encouraged, and sometimes convicted by Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon

bp said...

Phil,
This whole issue w/legalism has been on my mind a lot lately (maybe b/c I've been thought a legalist in a couple of threads here). I've always thought of legalism in the sense that Spurgeon touches on here..you know, the typical Pharisee thinking that he’s better than other lowly sinners because he follows certain rules and regulations. But I can see how it “could” also be legalistic to try to convince others to follow rules that they don’t see explicitly addressed in Scripture (even if I do).

As to being a Pharisee, I’m fairly certain that’s not me, because I feel very, very, aware of my sin (inwardly and outwardly). And I definitely don’t feel that if I obey God more, He will then forgive me and love me, etc. I know that it is Christ alone who can take away my sin. But, rather, sometimes I see SUCH sin in my life that I can’t help but wonder if I’m even a Christian in the first place. I examine myself to see if I’m in the faith (as the Scriptures say), and then sometimes I’m afraid that I’m not, and that God might one day say to me, “I never knew you. Depart from me you worker of lawlessness.” (I can’t think of anything more fearful than that). But if we’re instructed to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith, wouldn’t it naturally follow that when we do that, and see a lot of evidences of faith, we will feel more secure that we have been. born again and if we see little evidences of faith, we’ll feel less secure? Could that possibly be legalism, or is it only legalism if we are relying on the evidences of faith “to bring us salvation” rather than to show that we “have been saved”?

As to trying to get others to follow certain rules, I don't think it's necessarily legalistic, but it can be. Because you have to admit that there are some confessing Christians (especially of the Protestant type) who would say that Scripture is not clear on certain things that we see as clear and prohibited. Such as homosexuality, women pastors, etc. I wouldn't say it's legalistic for a Christian to try to show them where it is clearly forbidden. Same with the issue in the whole Lost thread. Some of us see it clearly in Scripture, other's don't. But is it legalistic to try to persuade? I don't see that as heaping burdens on people's backs. Not unless I said you need to do it to be saved. And didn’t Spurgeon, himself, have something to say about going to movie houses in his day? He, and other Christians living in his day would probably be absolutely shocked with what we (myself included) watch.

CAUGHTNOTTAUGHT said...

The Pharisee has the problem of a lack of proportion. God is a different order of being. Being beyond what is finite, God has no place on any scale which finite things might dream up for him. He goes beyond comparison, proportion, analogy, number and any truth-claim based on empirical scaling. The question, "How big is God?" is a non question. This is why David can ask for God to have the great forgiveness that great sins require: God, being beyond scale, loves beyond measure.

d4v34x said...

You're probably not a legalist (even?) if:

You know that nothing you do or abstain from doing earns you any favor with God.

You know you are, in and of yourself, no better than any other person, saved or unsaved.

You desire to live a holy life in obedience and love for God.

You admit when you fall, and you commit to getting up yet again.

You lovingly and patiently encourage brothers and sisters you believe have fallen.

You hear said brothers and sisters out, judging their case on the basis of God's Word.

You use principles based on express statements in God's Word to evaluate situations not expressly addressed in God's Word.

You recognize there is a such thing as an improper use of grace.

tsquare21 said...

I'm a legalist and grateful for Jesus created me as such. For man states ROM 10:9 is sufficient. Jesus says repent. Man states that baptism isn't required for the thief on the cross was never. Though Christ is the way of salvation and as he was buried we then must be required in like manner be baptized. When the question of tongues arises, Jesus stated that power from on High shall come upon you, power has always had a sign.

Then again the plan of salvation is about obedience and not what you or I may believe.

tsquare21 said...

- A PRAYER FROM JESUS -

This prayer is from Jesus that we may here from Him, that He may meet our needs. It only consist of three simple steps.

1) We need to read one scripture. This will focus us in the word that brings everlasting life.

2) Since this prayer is from Jesus we need to direct our prayer to Him personally. To often Christian focus they're prayer's to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer.

3) The simplest part of this Prayer is to ask Jesus one question. Please, all that is required for this question is to make it simple. Let Jesus Himself finish the question when He gives you that understanding through prayer.



The PRAYER

The scripture that is the focus of this prayer is "ACTS 2:38". It's not necessary to do any study into this scripture. Jesus Himself willl bestow the understanding that will resonate in your heart.

The most important part of this prayer is that we need to direct our prayer directly to Jesus. If you normally would say Father in your prayer, change your focus from the Father to Christ Jesus by lifting Jesus name up every time you would normally use Father in your prayer.

Maybe the hardest part of this prayer is the question that we need to ask Jesus. For man as we are, always try to understand the question and may add many additional quires. The simplest question is all that is required.

Simply ask Jesus 'WHY, Jesus why'

Matt said...

Daily Dose of Spurgeon right on time: I too have been thinking about the Legalism issue alot lately. However, I have wrestling with a different perspective on what I would call reverse legalism. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all men AND the sanctification without which NO ONE will see the Lord." This has been grinding on me alittle. As christians, we are to live and act as slaves to our master and Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace through faith. period. But like the writer of Hebrews says, pursue the sanctification - not to have right standing with God, but because He commands us too. We see that passionate pursuit in the life of the apostle Paul all over the NT. I have come to believe that there is such a thing as reverse legalism where we justify our disobedience to the Word of God by throwing up the "legalism flag" and even using the Bible to justify why we will not be obedient. I believe the Bible clearly commands christians to be set apart from the world. This means that the Bible/gospel literally governs the very paradigm from which we live in this world. So many times we keep our selfish paradigm and then pick and choose verses (usually out of context) to justify how we want to live. To me, I see this way of thinking pervasively every where I look. Living the christian life is not about finding Bible verses that justify to me what I can and cannot do. It is about understanding, by the Spirit, the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyday and allowing it to shape and mold how we think and live.

I am still trying to formulate what I am thinking coherently, but I would love to get others thoughts.

His Grace
Matt

Terry Rayburn said...

tsquare21,

You are so far from truth, it's hard to know where to begin.

You wrote, "Then again the plan of salvation is about obedience and not what you or I may believe."

This is exactly the opposite of the truth.

1. As wonderful as obedience to the Lord is, salvation is a gift (by grace), not the result of our obedience. (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5)

2. What we believe is precisely what determines whether we will be "justified" (declared righteous) by God or not. (Romans 3:22)

Maybe that's a start. Whole books are written on why what you write is false teaching.

Water baptism is not required for salvation any more than your little made-up "why, Jesus, why?" prayer is.

You might find http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA79 helpful.

I don't know whom you have been listening to, but if you don't break away from them, you will choke on your legalism, and quench the Holy Spirit (if you even have the Spirit).

This is what Paul in Galatians calls "falling from grace" (again, if you ever were on the ground of grace in the first place).

"Falling from grace" is not the loss of salvation by one who has been truly saved, but falling back from the grace of salvation to a works-based, law-based, obedience-based earning of God's love and favor.

Again, whole books are written on these things, but if you are open to it, I would begin by a prayerful reading of Galatians, particularly thinking on Galatians 3:3...

"...Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"

Tor Hershman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pastor Paul said...

Discussions about legalism can be most entertaining. Mainly because Christians often can't recognize the beautiful tension established in Scripture.
Our right standing with the Lord is always a work of grace. "God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5. Not to mention John 3:16.
Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount, that following humility and a true regret for an unwillingness to obey God, a hunger for God would occur. Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled."
Legalism is being proud, depending on your own righteousness.
A life of grace depends on the righteousness of Christ and then the obedience flows from the grace.
nmwilderness

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'm a legalist and an antinomian...

who happens to be ...

saved by grace!

Thank you Jesus for such unmerited favor!

tsquare21 said...

Terry Rayburn has left a new comment on the post "A Word to Legalists":

Tsquare21,

You are so far from truth, it's hard to know where to begin.

"The truth shall" your truth or G-d's

You wrote, "Then again the plan of salvation is about obedience and not what you or I may believe."

This is exactly the opposite of the truth.

Throughout the bible obey or parish. Adam disobeyed, people in Noah times, of Babel, Sodom and Gomorra, Egypt, Israel finally the first century church. Read the message to the 7 churches they all disobeyed except one. Tell me what church of disobedience you belong to again.

1. As wonderful as obedience to the Lord is, salvation is a gift (by grace), not the result of our obedience. (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5)

I believe Grace and FAITH was what is important.

Grace, we deserve the cross Jesus didn't

Faith that what Jesus completed on the cross "Father it is finished" is salvation. OUR faith doesn't save us but the faith of Jesus works does, Calvary. If that is if we are obedient to Jesus and His commandment for salvation then our faith Through Christ saves us

2. What we believe is precisely what determines whether we will be "justified" (declared righteous) by God or not. (Romans 3:22)

To be justified you must be cleared from all wrong by the works of the One that did the justification. Since the requirement was a death, yours then you must die with the one who justified, Jesus. Not only die with Christ but be buried in like manner and rise through the Holy Ghost in the newest of life.

This is G-d's plan of salvation

Whole books are written on why what you write is false teaching.

Remember I'm a legalist and the only law book I acknowledge is from my lawyer Jesus and His law book the bible.

Water baptism is not required for salvation any more than your little made-up "why, Jesus, why?" prayer is.

Was Jesus baptized "to fulfill ALL scripture" Noah was saved by water, Israel was delivered out Egypt through the water, Water was necessary before the high priest could enter the Holy Of Wholes or the prescience of G-d, John 3:5 mention water, by the way John 3:5 is the only scripture that says if born of water you WILL enter heaven. Finally Paul preached water for salvation on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:38

Yes Not only am I a legalist but I fully obey What Jesus has commanded us to do Mat 28:19. Baptize in the NAME. Oh my mistake that is what Mark or Luke commanded us to do. Ill let you scholars look it up.

You might find http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA79 helpful.

Listen it such a simple thing that is pray to Jesus and ask him why. Why is it that to obey Jesus is so difficult for us believers

Those that are like little children (Lord never let me grow up) forget all this exgistesism (that word is not in the bible so I don't care if I'm using it correctly or it's spelling, now that's legalism). It's a prayer from Jesus "prove me this day and see if I'm not lord"

Read ONE bible verse Acts 2;38
Pray to Jesus personally
And ask Jesus "why"



blog posting is lame, to bad Jesus closed down usenet. I believe it was through disobedience that it was closed. To think it only required ONE to obey and not one could be found. When Jesus told me only one would be sufficient I was floored. When not one was found to obey I was disinherited.

I would give you my last post that closed usenet but then you would have to enter that den of serpents. Then again even if one was sent as from the grave they still would not believe. They have the word that is the only sign given.

Just pray the prayer

Jesus is merciful praise G-d

Mike Riccardi said...

LoL. Wow.

CR said...

tsquare21:Yes Not only am I a legalist but I fully obey

Wow, so you're calling God a liar? (1John1:10)

By the way, is there something wrong with your "o" key?

Stefan said...

BP:

The very fact that you examine yourself, see your sin, and fear that you're actually a Christian means...that you're a Christian!

The natural person would never grieve over his or her sin...only someone whose heart has been quickened (made alive) by the Holy Spirit will do that.

Spurgeon preached a number of sermons along those very lines, though off the top of my head I can't recall a specific example.

Stefan said...

In other words, thank God for His grace and mercy in sending His only Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for your sins, and rest in the finished work of Christ.

bruchim said...

One word stood out in PastorPaul's comment - tension. It is the tension of synergism.

This reminds me of a musical suspension where the interval between two notes is so minimal that they grate one against the other in an orchestrated tension.

The Spirit rubs against the disonant man, and we argue percentages. 50% Spirit, 50% man;
90% Spirit, 10% man; 90% man, 10% Spirit.

But won't it be grand when there is a final resolution to the suspension? When we no longer see walking trees?

bp said...

Thanks Stefan, that's encouraging. I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole conversation in the other thread about whether or not God can be angry/disappointed with us was mostly just fear that I am not even saved (in which case, God would be really angry at me). I wish I didn't struggle with this worry, but I do.

Again, is it legalism if I’m feeling more assured that I have been saved when I’m seeing more obedience in my life vs. when I’m struggling in sin and feeling like I’m not being obedient? (is that a reliance on "works" if my assurance goes up and down based on obedience)? Or is it only legalism if I am relying on my works for salvation, not as evidence of salvation?

joel said...

bp-
In regard to trying to persuade others to follow your personal convictions I think it would be wise to very carefully examine what those conviction are before trying to make a case for them to someone else. If they don't relate to core doctrine or fundamental Christian living, i.e., the resurrection or committing adultery then we should be slow to hold them as convictions and even slower to try to impose them on others. I don't really think it is fair to say that what we each view as clearly revealed in scripture should or even can vary that much. For instance homosexuality is clearly forbidden by the scriptures; I have yet to hear even a weak argument as to why it could be practiced by a Christian. If a Christian should be forbidden to drink alcohol is just not a clearly commanded in scripture as other teachings. The largest casualty that I have seen from fundamentalist/leagelist teaching is peoples perception of the clarity of scripture and I think it has come directly from elevating personal convictions like not consuming alcohol to absolute doctrine. If you can succeed in elevating personal convictions to the level of scriptural doctrine, and you can, then it will inevitably come at the cost of diminishing clear biblical doctrine and principals. This is something that I think every Christian should be really careful with. If we want to be like minded with our savior then we should start with getting our minds in step with what is clearly taught in His word. We should not major in things like what we eat or drink or ware and minor in the weightier attributes of God's character.

tsquare21 said...

> bp has left a new comment on the post "A Word to Legalists"

Legalism seams like that word has a bad rap. The reason this seams so is that many do not understand the concept of the established law. EVERY thing is established by G-d as a set of laws. Gravity-a law controls it, relativity fixed under a established law. SIN a law controls that. So now because of sin Jesus has established a law set forth in the beginning and but forth by the lamb slain in the garden. Established from the beginning by G-d a method (specific) for salvation.

What do we find in many churches today faith mot works theology. It's so convoluted that any perceived act is considered works. Never mind that the bible taught action through obedience as part of G-ds plan. Established law from G-d can not be changed by man. If Water was used for salvation in the old testament then water is necessary in the new testament. As previous posts states water WAS used many times. Its the initiation into the promise. You can't inter in without water John 3:3

Legalism is not about some works perceived as such. Its us being legally set free from the bondage acquired through Adam by the works of the second Adam (Jesus) on Calvary. We, in order to be legally free from bondage must perform the legally established method of salvation.


>
> Thanks Stefan, that's encouraging. I've come to the conclusion that the
> whole conversation in the other thread about whether or not God can be
> angry/disappointed with us was mostly just fear that I am not even saved (in
> which case, God would be really angry at me). I wish I didn't struggle with
> this worry, but I do.

BP Jesus is never angry with us. A time He was (old testament) today His grace is manifested as mercy throughout the world. It's Jesus desire that all would come to know Him through Calvary. Jesus doesn't condemns (at this time) he doesn't judge, Neither will He send any punishment at this time, Mercy rain over all. We need to "work while it is yet day for the night cometh when no can work"

BP if you need to know the heart of Jesus pray that prayer after all it is

A Prayer from Jesus

>
> Again, is it legalism if I'm feeling more assured that I have been saved
> when I'm seeing more obedience in my life vs. when I'm struggling in sin and
> feeling like I'm not being obedient? (is that a reliance on "works" if my
> assurance goes up and down based on obedience)? Or is it only legalism if I
> am relying on my works for salvation, not as evidence of salvation?
>
> Post a comment.

tsquare21 said...

Mike Riccordo
RC

Mike a response is not required I guess. Even if you were making fun at me, G-d will forgive you

For CR Your calling me a sinner just because I disagreed with you

I can understand not posting a qualified response here, for brevity or whatever. But you probably have my e-mail please explain your position using a little more detail. I know you guys are a bunch of tweeters and your brains can't process thought greater then 120 characters. Try to at least post something more then one line if you expect some response.

Vagality is considered an insult, or it used to be before tweeting was the vogue.

Hey CR xyJ

Stefan said...

BP:

I've gone up hills and down valleys in my walk with Christ. There are times when I despaired that I wasn't showing any fruit at all.

Then again, I was looking at things in the immediate context, and forgetting that even at my lowest points as a believer, I have a bold faith in Christ that I could never have conceived of before being saved.

There are several passages in the New Testament that warn us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, and we would be fools to ignore those warnings.

But again, even in your darkest soul-searching moments, the very act of your soul-searching should give you pause to thank God, because it's the indwelling Holy Spirit that causes you to look at your heart, despair, and turn back to God.

bp said...

Very true, my despair always causes me to turn back to God. Very strange when you think about it...fearing God and then running to Him for refuge. lol. Thanks Stefan.