Is it just me, or does anyone else get tired of people saying ‘The Bible is very clear on [whatever]’?
Much of the time, it actually, really, isn’t. That’s part of the beauty of it. And that’s why we have discussions on it. If it were that clear, everything would be set in stone, we would know exactly what our boundaries are, and we would have a clear set of ‘rules’ to follow and life would be hunky-dory.
And boring and predictable and staid too – no variety, you would know what was going to happen in every circumstance, you would know what everyone is supposed to believe on every issue, there would be no discussions or interesting arguments. It makes me wonder if those who hold to legalism are in actual fact coming from a place of insecurity, where they want everything clearly laid out with no nonsense and no room for uncertainty.
What a convenient world to live in.
But it would bore the stuffing out of me.
Surely our security should be found in God’s Character, and not in a set of rules and predictability. He has promised that He forgives us. He has promised to keep us. He has promised to look after us. (And that doesn’t clash with bad things that happen in life/death either because even then He holds us. That’s what being ‘saved’ is all about).
Don’t get me wrong: I love the Bible; it leads me to Jesus, I love hearing God speak to me through it, and much of it is indeed clear. But parts of it are not. However what is clear is that God is Good – all the time! He has your best interests at heart. Look at Jesus and His way of dealing with people, and you see God. So isn’t it time we put out faith in Him, in His goodness, rather than in a set of secure (and actually that’s an illusion!) rules of behaviour – and just trust Him?
This is why legalism, as a tool of faith, simply does not work. Either we trust God with everything – our righteousness, our salvation, our sanctification – our lives – or we don’t trust Him at all. Most Christians will pay lip-service to the assertion that ‘…it is by Grace we have been saved … so that none can boast’ (Eph 2:8), but then go and try harder – in whatever way – to please God. This is the path to bondage, rather than freedom. This is the path to ever-tightening strictures on what you feel you can and can’t do, right up to the point where guilt prevents you from doing anything at all – including what God wants.
Over-dependence on adherence to the Rules as found in the ‘very clear’ Bible suppresses the Life of the Spirit. Note that I did not say that the Bible suppresses the Spirit; it does not. But the incorrect interpretation, and over-zealous application, of the Bible as a set of Rules, is what does suppress that Life. It’s our fault, not God’s!
How does that work? Well, because the Bible is indeed not clear on so many things, sometimes the Holy Spirit might ask you to do something, or develop an attitude within you, that you feel may be ‘against the Scripture’. This means that you will not follow the Spirit’s prompting and instead go the ‘safe’, legalistic path. And then miss out so much of what God wanted for you. This is why the letter of the Law is death, but the Spirit brings Life (2Cor 3:6). Choosing the path of freedom, the path of Life in the Spirit, allows you to experience God’s freedom – the ‘glorious freedom of the Children of God’ (Rom 8:21) – in a way that those still under Law cannot really appreciate nor, sadly, enjoy.
So then, Legalism, at its core, is founded in insecurity. It shows a deep lack of trust in God and His promises. Like with forgiveness…If you try to justify yourself by following rules, then why did Jesus die? You can’t do it! And it’s time to stop trying, and time to move into freedom!
Here is a great blog post, from a young lady whom I feel has a healthy balance between Law and Freedom. Click the image below to go to the article.