Free From The Law

January 29, 2020

Free From The Law

By Russell George

The term “legalism” has to do with the law. Is it legal? Some people who call themselves Christians are under the law. They put themselves under the laws they find in the Bible. If the Bible says, “Thou shalt not” then they can’t do that. If the Bible commands that something be done then they think they have a legal obligation to do that. They may have two different motives for putting themselves under the law. One is that they might have sufficient merits to be saved and go to heaven. We know they are wrong if they think that way because the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The other reason some have for putting themselves under the law is that they might be righteous. In either case, we are justified in saying that they are legalists.

Being under the law is a very uncomfortable position to be in. It leaves us restricted. We constantly have to keep in mind that there are things we can’t do. There are limitations. That’s not a position God wants us to be in.

John 8:36 says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Again in Galatians 5:1 we read “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” But is it safe for me to be free from the law? I know my heart and if all restrictions are removed it’s hard to tell what I might do. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

The answer to this dilemma is found in Mark 12:28-30. “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” The first commandment is to love the Lord. What we do out of love we don’t do out of obligation. We do it because we want to. In a happy marriage relationship it isn’t grievous to do things for our mate.

I John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” If we love the Lord and we read in the Bible where it says “thou shalt not covet” we don’t say, “Ah, what a pity; I can’t do that.” No, we say, “I don’t want to do that.” God has made us free! Above all else, I want to please my Lord.

I don’t have a list of things I can’t do. I’m free. I can do anything I want to do because I want to do the will of God. What God gives me liberty to do won’t hurt me or anyone else. He wants to make us a blessing to others. This may sound like pious talk to you, but I’m telling you how God wants you and I to think.

My love for God needs to come before my love for my neighbor. I can’t love my neighbor in the same way that I love God. I want to please my neighbor, but he may be pleased if I would go with him to the bar and drink a few beers. No, what pleases God needs to come first.

What then is my relationship to the law of God? First of all, I need to know what it says. It tells me what is and isn’t pleasing to God. We no longer have any obligation to the ceremonial law. Christ fulfilled that for us when he died on the cross. God still expects us to keep the moral law. That includes our obligation to God and to those around us.

Some of our moral obligations we learned from our parents. As we read the Bible we continue to have a better understanding of what God expects of us. In Romans 2:15 we read that some of it is written in our hearts. “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” This is the law that God expects us to keep out of our hearts because of our love for him. John 14:15 says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

No one can say that he keeps God’s laws perfectly. In some respects we fall behind. At the same time, in our desire to please him, sometimes we may go beyond what the law says we should do. Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us that God knows our hearts and our thoughts. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Romans 12:1-2 tells us that we need to present ourselves to God so he can do his work in and through us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Most Christians I know don’t have a list of things they can and can’t do. They do what they do because they want to please and honor God. They don’t expect others to agree with them. They are doing the best they can to please the Lord. If you think they are doing something wrong you need to pray for them. If you think they are doing something that is displeasing to the Lord you may need to go and tell them in private. Pray and ask God’s direction in how to tell them. Be gracious and kind and try to help them see why you think they are in error

Some Christians label a church legalistic because those who attend it come well dressed. The church has a Christian day school and regularly scheduled times when they go out door to door passing out literature and spreading the gospel. If you think they are legalistic maybe you should go and visit the church and find out why they do what they do. You might be surprised to find that the people are happy, not just with the church but because of what God has done and continues to do for them. You would be surprised to learn that the church doesn’t have a list of laws the people have to conform to in order to be accepted by the church. They are doing what they do because they want to. They aren’t adding anything to God’s laws. They are going above and beyond what God asks of the.

Is it wrong to go above and beyond what God asks of us? By no means. In Luke 17:10 we read that we are unprofitable servants if we only do that which is our duty to do. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Please don’t sit in judgment of others if they go above and beyond what you do. Perhaps you just need a greater love for the Lord and you would ask yourself, “what more can I do for my Lord?’


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