Legalism: The Great Friend of the Abuser

Matthew 23:16-23 ESV  (16)  “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ (17)  You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? (18)  And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ (19)  You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (20)  So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. (21)  And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. (22)  And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. (23)  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

I still do not completely understand the mentality and motivation of the “Christian” legalist.  But I do know that such people and their alleged “biblical” system are no friend to the oppressed.  As we have been reading the comments this past week in particular about how the legalist flatly prohibits divorce for abuse, citing various Scriptures in a “biff-boom-bah-there-my-case-is-proved” manner, the evils of legalism have been illustrated and emphasized.  The religion of the Pharisees is indeed alive and well today.

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Truth, Lies, Light and Darkness Cannot Co-Exist

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (1 John 2:9-10 ESV)  

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

God’s Word repeatedly instructs (commands) Christians to embrace truth and reject falsehood. Walking in the light of Christ’s truth is the only consistent manner of living for a Christian. Lies characterize the kingdom of darkness whose prince is called the father of lies (John 8). It was by this serpent’s lie that sin and death came into the world (“oh no, you won’t die. In fact, you will be like God”). The Christian’s mind is being renewed: progressively set free from that which is false and led into life-giving, freeing truth. The gospel by which we are saved and which we proclaim is often called “the Word of Truth” in Scripture. We are to speak truth to one another and give up lying. Abuse victims know the power and freedom of truth as they experience its destruction of the lies they have so long believed by which they were held in bondage.

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What Does Christ’s Truth Look Like?

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

Christ’s truth looks…stupid. Dumb. Foolish. That is, to a person who is not born again. It is, as Paul says, only by the Spirit that anyone is able to recognize the wisdom of God. After all, so blind is the fallen human heart and mind that as Paul puts it “the rulers of this age” killed the most innocent man who ever lived!

If you find yourself in a local church, for example, where things are being pretty much run as a secular corporation, you can be sure that you are in the midst of a place and people devoid of the Spirit of God.  Listen to Paul again:

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