Know Your Bible
Legalism is defined: "1 strict, often too strict and literal, adherence to law or to a code 2 Theol. The doctrine of salvation by good works." (Webster's New World Dictionary) Denominational preachers have labeled us as being guilty of legalism because we insist baptism is necessary to salvation. We agree baptism is a work. We also agree baptism is a good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). However, we do not teach baptism is a meritorious work. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10) Baptism, along with every other thing (work) that we do in our body in compliance with the law of Christ is a good work We will be judged according to our works, whether they are good or bad. (Rev. 20:13; Mt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 11:15)
Preachers, both in the denominational world and who claim to be in the Lord's church, have made legalism a bad word. Are Christians legalist when they comply with civil law? (Rom. 13) If so, (and it is so that they are) how can those who resist the ordinance of God by resisting civil law escape damnation? (Rom. 13:2) Christians are under law to Christ. (I Cor. 9:21) Are we legalist when we comply with the law of Christ? If we are, then being a legalist is not bad. If it is, then complying with the law of Christ is bad. It would thus be good to be lawless and disobedient! It would follow that it would be bad to be obedient to Christ and law abiding citizens in His kingdom.
David said, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:..." David was talking about the law of Moses which has been abolished. (Eph. 2:15) If the law of Moses was perfect, the ten commandments being so glorious "the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away," then how about the law of Christ? Paul says, "that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth." (2 Cor. 3:10) David said, "O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps. 119:97)
Jesus died to abolish the law (Eph. 2:15). The law of Moses was nailed to the cross with Christ (Col. 2:14). "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh..." (Rom. 8:3) It was weak through the flesh in that it required perfect obedience. (Gal. 3:10; Rom. 10:5) "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." (Gal. 4:21) Jesus therefore "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us:...(Gal. 3:13) Jesus liberated us from the law of Moses. Thus we should "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1) We are thus liberated from the law of Moses. This does not mean we have liberty to violate the law of Christ. Paul says, "being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." (I Cor. 9:21) There is no law of Christ that we have the liberty, or freedom to ignore, or disregard. "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty."(James 2:12) When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in our body according to what we have done whether it be good or bad, we will be judged by the "law of liberty". We should do our best to keep that law no matter how much unbelievers label us as "legalist". If Jesus Christ was a "legalist" because He faithfully kept all of God's laws, then I am not ashamed to be labeled as a "legalist". How about you dear friend and brother?
Who Is Dogmatic?
Sometimes people are inclined to be critical of members of the body of Christ as being too dogmatic. It is the general idea in the denominational world that when we "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3) that we are intolerant and dogmatic. But let us see.
The definition of the term "dogmatic" is POSITIVE IN MANNER OR UTTERANCE. However, modern usage implies that one who is "dogmatic" is what people call "narrow minded and belligerent." This is not the meaning of "dogmatic." But are members of the church of Christ "too dogmatic?" Well, God wants His people to be dogmatic, and the Bible is a dogmatic book. Please observe the following.
GOD IS DOGMATIC.
God is dogmatic in every statement of fact, every precept, and every promise that He has ever uttered. He demands absolute submission to His will, and will not tolerate nor respect any other way than His own. Note some examples. When Moses built the tabernacle he was commanded to build "according to the pattern" God had given him in the mount. (Exo. 25:40). Moses had his instructions and God was "dogmatic" enough to hold him to the exact pattern that He had given him. Every instance where God has commanded man, He has been dogmatic in that He would admit of no deviation whatsoever. God means for His commands to be carried out just as He has given them, in the way He has ordained.
JESUS CHRIST WAS DOGMATIC.
Many of the plain, dogmatic, cutting statements of Jesus would be shocking to some religionists of today who will not take a definite stand for fear of hurting some, or being classed as dogmatic. Read the 23rd chapter of Matthew. There you will find some plain and positive denunciations, of the hypocrisy and sham religion of the Pharisees by our Lord. These were religious people, and in all probability they thought Jesus was "too dogmatic." They later crucified Him because He stood opposed to their religion. Jesus was also dogmatic about how one is to enter the kingdom of God. As God gave Moses a pattern by which to build the tabernacle, so Jesus gave us a pattern by which we may enter into the kingdom of God. Is one too dogmatic in teaching exactly what Jesus taught concerning this: contending that the way of the Lord is the ONLY way? If it is true that one may enter the kingdom of God by sincerely following his conscience in the matter, and doing what seems right to him, why did our Lord lay down a pattern by which men were to do this?
THE APOSTLES WERE DOGMATIC.
The apostles dogmatically taught one plan of salvation. They did not give several, one being "just as good as another." They also dogmatically taught that there is one body, and that the body is the church. (Eph. 4:4; 1:22,23). They dogmatically taught that the sinner is reconciled to God "in the body", (Eph. 2:16), which is "in the church." They taught that "all spiritual blessings are IN CHRIST", (Eph. 1:3) and that one is BAPTIZED "INTO CHRIST." (Gal. 3:26,27). Is one being "too dogmatic" when he teaches just what the apostles taught?
THE APOSTLES TAUGHT OTHERS TO BE DOGMATIC.
Peter said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." (1 Pet. 4:11). John said, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." (2 Jn. 9). Paul charged Timothy to "preach the word,...reprove, exhort...for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." (2 Tim. 4:1-4).
Paul knew God's power to save and was dogmatic about it. (Rom. 1:16). Jude said to be dogmatic."Contend earnestly for the faith." (Jude 3). Are you dogmatic? Really, when people say "too dogmatic" they mean, "be sweet, tolerate error."
---Jesse M. Kelly
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