Friday, May 27, 2022

The Vision (5.27.22): The Dangers of Legalism


Image: Ripening blueberries, North Garden, Virginia, May 2022.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 15:-9.

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matthew 15:3).

There are two significant dangers in the practice of religion.

One is the error of liberalism or licentiousness. This error is characterized by subtraction, taking away from, ignoring, or minimizing the Word of God, the commands of Scripture.

The Bible clearly condemns some practice, but we do it anyway, justifying our behavior by taking away from God’s word. Example: Paul said that, but that fit with the culture of his day, and it has no relevance for our day.

The other is the error of legalism. This error is characterized by addition. It attempts to add to, to augment, and to supplement the Word of God with teaching and commands and practices that are not contained within or required by Scripture.

Christ condemns both errors, one as zealously as the other.

The heading which Spurgeon gives to his commentary on Matthew 15:1-20 is “Our King Combatting Formalism.” Formalism is another term for legalism.

Here are some questions we might ask ourselves by means of self-examination upon reading this passage:

How am I like the scribes and Pharisees?

Am I prone to judge the disciples of Jesus, rather than examining first my own life?

I recently saw this tweet from an RB pastor: “May the Lord help us not to be more worried about other people’s sins than our own sins.”

Christ did not teach that we should never offer any judgments, but that we should first examine ourselves before judging others (see Matthew 7:1ff).

Have I taken up extra-biblical standards (the commandments of men) rather than the commandments of God?

This implies first that I must dedicate myself to knowing what the Bible teaches. Can I cite book, chapter, and verse to justify the beliefs and practices I set as a standard for myself and for others?

Have I looked for loopholes to justify my disobedience?

Have I said to myself, It’s ok for me to break this aspect of God’s moral law, because the circumstances allow it, or the ends justify the means?

Could it be said of me, that I have drawn nigh to Christ with my mouth and honored him with my lips, while my heart is far from him?

Have I offered to Christ only what Spurgeon called “mouth-religion, lip-homage”? Has my religion been, as a friend of mine from Kentucky would have called it, merely “chin-music”?

Now, is the time when things might be made right.

The Psalmist says, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Psalm 95:7b-8a).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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