OBEDIENCE vs LEGALISM - by Gwendolyn Hanssen
OBEDIENCE vs LEGALISM – by Gwendolyn Hanssen
Legalism is a word that is being thrown around in the mainstream church world of this present generation. Many are happy to spout this term off as they boldly proclaim that there is nothing the believer needs ‘to do’ because all has been done at the Cross. Therefore, they are ‘all good’ and don’t need to do anything else, except to accept salvation by faith in order to be saved. Indeed, God’s Word agrees that it has ALL been done at the Cross, and as the Word says the only thing required of humanity to be saved is to confess with the mouth and believe in the heart (Romans 10:10). Absolutely, our Savior, Jesus, died a brutal death on Calvary’s Cross and paid the ultimate and full price for man’s sin.
So yes, to say that a Christian has to do this, that, or the other, in order to be saved is indeed, not only legalistic, but is also blasphemous, heretical and a slap in the face of our Heavenly Father who sent his only begotten Son to die in our stead. If we proclaim that we have to add to the work that has already been done on the Cross, then we are lacking in our knowledge of exactly what justification by faith is. Justification is God’s declaration that a sinner is righteous through the work of Jesus Christ. It is done, it is finished, we are justified! Thank you, Jesus!! The Word says that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, then you are indeed saved and justified! The Apostle Paul even warns us that if we attempt to add to what Jesus did on the Cross, then we have fallen from grace. We would be absolute fools to try and add one more thing to that which has been declared ‘finished’ as He hung on the Cross of Calvary.
Since we are, therefore, justified by faith, does this mean that it ends there? Is this all that there is to our Christian walk; confessing, believing, and receiving the free gift of salvation? Or, are we admonished in the scriptures to press towards the mark (Philippians 3:14), and to lay aside every weight of sin (Hebrews 12:1), and to crucify the flesh and the lusts thereof (Galatians 5:24), and to come out from among the world and be separate (II Corinthians 6:17), and the list goes on and on. Honestly, I could give a scripture and verse for EVERY SINGLE THING that those who are labeled as legalistic do in order to be pleasing to their Heavenly Father and abide by the undefiled, perfect, Word of God; every, single, admonishment.
The way that we as Christians are admonished to behave, to present ourselves, and to come out from among the world and be separate are all things that are spoken of in the New Testament. Since these things are all spoken of in the New Testament, I would then say that we need to perk up our ears and pay attention.
Our Christian journey does not stop after having received the blood of Jesus for our sins. This first experience is an essential, monumental, primary, foundational building block. In other words, you are not going anywhere unless you make that first stop at the foot of Calvary’s Cross. Justification by faith is the first step in pressing on in the Christian journey through the mountains and valleys of that long and winding road that leads us to the ultimate end, our purposed destiny!
In contrast, sanctification by faith is an ongoing, continual process that happens as we lay ourselves daily at the foot of Calvary’s Cross in obedient submission to the Lord and His Word. Sanctification is God’s transformation of a believer’s whole being -the body, the soul, and the spirit. (I Thessalonians 5:23) Our affections are changed through the work of the Blood of Jesus, the Fire of the Holy Ghost and the Living Waters of the quickened Word. The complete sanctification of a believer does not happen at the moment of salvation. Sanctification is the continual progression of a relationship with Jesus, our Savior, and Bridegroom. He leads us on as we seek Him, as we search the scriptures, as we learn from our teachers, pastors, and shepherds as they shed enlightenment and help us to rightly divide the Word of God. For example, Paul admonished the Church of Corinth to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). In other words, he told them that it would behoove them to imitate him as he followed Jesus. We know that if Paul encouraged the Corinthians in this, then we, present day, would benefit from following after a Godly man or Godly woman who truly seek to know Jesus, not only in His resurrection, but also in His suffering, as he/she follows after the Lamb of God. The Word tells us just as clear as the nose on our faces to imitate our leaders.
However, fast forward to present day, and we are sitting with a load of Truth that has been twisted and teaches us that all that a believer needs to do is to be saved. We are also taught that those who would follow hard after Jesus with body, soul, and spirit in obedience to His Word, are just being legalistic. The Christian world is told that they can just do their own thing, and in some instances the lie is even being peddled that they do not even need to go to church or have a pastor or a spiritual leader.
In this climate, those who are laying aside the things of the world and of the flesh become absolute outcasts in the church world. Many are labeled with this dastardly term, ‘legalism’. This ideology causes many to shun their leaders who are teachers of the ‘way of holiness’ (Isaiah 35:8). It is common in modern-day Christianity for ‘believers’ to pick and choose what they like as they reject the things that prick the flesh and choose those things that they deem acceptable. It is as if they were in a supermarket shopping for produce.
We are watching an entire generation being led astray by this false ideology of ‘legalism’. Mind you, the word ‘legalism’ is not even in the Bible, but many have been convinced because of this little eight letter word that there is no need for sanctification or a desire to follow those leaders who teach a sanctifying way of pressing on and laying aside the sins of the flesh. As a result, with that idea being embraced, they either hang around and drink from a leader/teacher/pastor who has fountains of Living Water springing forth as the result of being a pure vessel, or they run fast and hard from anything that would require a pressing on or a laying aside of the flesh. This is a sad state of affairs and a trick of the enemy that is deceiving God’s people into believing that holding onto the things of the world and of the flesh is absolutely acceptable because after all, they are not ‘legalistic’.
It is my desire for God’s people to awaken to this falsehood that is being thrust into their hearts and mind with vehemence. I pray that there is an awakening to the Truth and realization that obedience to God’s Word, ALL OF IT, is not legalism. But rather, it is atomic energy to one’s spiritual life. It is the gun powder to the believer’s spiritual arsenal and the shield to the enemy’s sword! The enemy’s knowledge of this is the reason he has come in full force against the precepts in the Word that teach us to obey the scriptures with fervency and to follow our Godly examples as they follow Christ. Most definitely, we have been given those who watch out for our souls. This is Bible!
I will end by saying, that as a young girl I had the privilege of being raised by Godly parents who were ministers in a church family that both believed in and practiced ‘Holiness’. I remember as a young child noticing a trend in the churches where my parents ministered. The trend was that when the people in the congregation began to loosen their standards of holiness and separation unto God, it was always inevitable that the Spirit of God that had been poured out in buckets and droves began to diminish. Gradually, a pin could be heard dropping to the floor in the services that were once filled with the Holy Ghost and Fire. There was NEVER a time that this was not the case. I watched as this happened over, and over, and over again, and the end result was the same, every single time.
I am grateful that I had this observation as a young child because to date it has caused me to protect and fight for that which produces the Presence and the Glory of God. It has also caused me to resist with vehemence anything that I feel would be a threat to God’s residing Presence. Have my actions in defending what I know to be the Truth been misunderstood by some? The answer to that is a resounding, “Yes.” Would I change my stand for anything in this world or for any amount of money? Absolutely, not! Why? Because I know by experience from a young age that that which brings God’s pleasure is obedience unto His Word. This was evidenced by His Presence that was so strong and thick in the midst of God’s people when they were selling totally out to Him. God’s Spirit does not lighten on legalism. However, it does lighten upon obedience and surrender.
There is a massive gulf between these two words; obedience and legalism. How do you know if you are walking in legalism or in obedience? If you are walking in legalism, God’s Spirit will not be with you and your life will be filled with spiritual death. If you are walking in obedience to God, He will walk and talk with you in ways you have never known! Spiritual life, victory, power, and freedom are the result of walking the ‘way of holiness’. The misunderstanding of others perspective on why you look, act and behave the way you do, will feel like water on a duck’s back, when you seek to please Him only, the Bridegroom. THIS is joy unspeakable!
I pray that this article has blessed you and that it is received in the spirit in which it has been written. I have written these thoughts with the desire in my heart to see God’s people restored back to their original purpose. This will be accomplished as we lay aside every weight, and every sin that does so easily beset us as we press on to know Him in His fullness, no matter the cost!