In the discourse of my biblical understanding there have been a few words that have come up that I have had to differentiate between. Two common ones are "Legalism" and the other is "judaizer"
I laugh a little bit even as I write that because my spell check say that Judaizer is a spelling mistake.
Neither of these terms are found in the bible, so getting a Biblical context on them is tricky.
The first one I want to discuss is the term legalism.
I've been hearing that a lot in the church and it has come up recently in a conversation with a friend of mine.
How exactly do we define that?
Many would define it as strict adherence to something set in the bible.
Some would suggest that it is a strict adherence to the commands of God.
Others would say that it is rigid rules set that are above and beyond what is found in the text, like forbidding hand holding.
I want to ask, where exactly does Legalsim set in?
is it about motive? how does it differ in the spectrum of conviction? Is it when our hearts come out of a place of obedience because we love, and start to enter a different place?
Let me give some examples...
Is this Legalism:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
- Jesus in Matthew 5
Is Jesus being legalistic when he states that who ever annuls the commands of God, and TEACHES others to do so ( no distinction between Jew or Gentile , No qualifiers)
Is that legalistic or is the teaching adherence and obedience to God.
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
- Jesus in Matthew 5
Is that legalism?
Do we classify legalism as the parts of the bible that God said to follow, but we really just don't want to?
What about Judaizers?
I've been called a judaiser, yet there is no biblical definition of that.
When it comes to the Law of God you can slice it any way you
want to but it still comes back to the same place.
As Followers of
Christ, we are to turn from sin... sin is the transgression of the law
As followers of Christ, we are to live like him, and he
followed the Law of God.
If we believe that we are part of the New
Covenant, then the law is written on our hearts and we will follow it.
If we believe that we are supposed to walk in Spirit and in Truth, then
the bible defines the truth as the word of God and in many places out
right says its his commands.
We are called to be Holy as He is holy,
and God tells us in detail what is holy and what is not in his commands.
So, does saying that the commands of God are relevant to those who are saved... does that make someone a Judaizer?
What about Stephen, a man full of the grace of God whom false accusers said was teaching against keeping the Law of God
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
- Acts 7
Is Stephen, a man full of the grace of God, in pointing out how the stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart, who are resisting the Holy Spirit, neglect to keep the Law?
Is he a judaizer?
What about Paul in Acts 16:3
Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Is this it?
What about Paul performing sacrifices after the Resurrection of Jesus to show that there isn't any truth to the claims that he is teaching against the Law of God?
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You
see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them
are zealous for the law. 21
They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the
Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their
children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24
Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their
expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will
know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself
are living in obedience to the law. 25
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that
they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the
meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them.
Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of
purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them - Acts 21
A vow as outlined in Numbers 6.
Scripture states that Paul not only did this Vow to show he is Keeping to the Law of God, But he paid the way for the people that were doing it.
“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.
I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing
this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance.
Is this being a Judaizer?
We should be careful to not edit out large portions of the word of God because We don't like it.
Just because we do, or do not want to do something doesn't change what scripture says.
Do we hold to the word that states In 2 tim 3
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
All scripture. Not just the parts we like. Not just the parts that are convenient.
We should be careful not to categorize, minimize and readily dismiss the word of God in our lives.