Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
Previously, we discussed the Right Group (as opposed to the Wrong Group) within the context of the Libertines. Today I’d like to explore the Right Group within the context of the Legalists. It will really be quite brief, because I’d like to simply reference some sermons from Pastor Todd Ruddell that go into detail concerning the relationship of God’s Law to the believer.
Although Legalists carry the aura about themselves as folks who love God’s Law, we must understand that such boastings are all a charade. Due to their misuse of God’s Law they may rightly be classified as antinomian, for their abuse and misuse is truly against God’s intended purpose of the Law in the life of the believer. Legalism proper can be defined in two ways:
1. Legalism: Trying to gain merit before God by keeping the Law.
2. Legalism: Requiring more of people than God requires.
Having already addressed the number 2 definition in a previous post, I’d like to hit on the first definition as it is the import of this particular series. The Law of God obeyed by the works of man cannot merit any favor from God, and that is not its purpose. While the Libertines have taken that and decided to abrogate or severely distort the purpose of God’s Law altogether, the Legalists have done quite the opposite.
The Pharisees not only thought they could merit favor before God by keeping the Law, but in order to “keep” the Law they had to change the depth and breadth of the Law altogether. Jesus called them white washed tombs because they “kept” these Laws on the outside, but they did not truly keep the Law in its fullness. Christianity is a heart religion. The Religion of Yahweh was a heart religion. It is not enough to simply keep the outward letter of the law, but we must be compelled to obey the Law in our hearts too.
This, of course, was Christ’s purpose in preaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). He would say to the Pharisees, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…,” and in doing so would tear down any pride the Pharisees may have had in their so-called “law keeping.” They were like white washed tombs because on the outside they looked nice and clean, but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones.
The Law is not a means of salvation for anyone. The Law cannot be fully kept by any mere human born to woman. All of Adam’s posterity have broken God’s Commandments in thought, word, and deed, so to pretend that we may attain salvation by the keeping of said law is a farce. The prophet Isaiah has referenced that even the “greatest” of our “righteousness” is filthy rags in the site of the thrice Holy God of Scripture. God does demand perfect obedience to His Law to have salvation, and that is exactly why Christ had to come and obey the Law perfectly on behalf of His people so that we will be able to stand before God as pure, holy, and undefiled. And THAT’s the good news of the Gospel, Friends!
Christ paid our debt that He did not owe. But we must never see God’s Law as a means to merit favor before God or a way to salvation. No, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Rather, our obedience to God’s Law should be a loving response to the glorious truth that God, in His mercy, has saved us from ourselves, passing us from death unto life. Our love, study, half-obedience, and failure of God’s Law are to serve as a reminder that we cannot please God with our works, and a reminder of the good news that Jesus has pleased the Father on our behalf.
So, is the Law of God binding upon the believer? Absolutely. Does our half-hearted keeping of God’s Law merit us anything before the Almighty? Absolutely not. Does this fact negate our responsibility to obey God’s Law to the best of our abilities and with the utmost sincerity of our hearts and minds? Absolutely not. For God’s Law is good, perfect, holy and just. Our hearts are not. We seek to obey and uphold God’s Law because He has commanded it be so. Jesus said, “He who loves me, obeys my commands.” The following links are a sermon series that my pastor preached on Matthew 5 concerning the Law, the distinctions therein, the proper & improper uses thereof, and its relationship to the believer. I implore you to listen to them, as they are greatly edifying and helpful.