Gospel Freedom (13)


The religious legalist is so busy sorting out the brotherhood over the most recent issue, his thinking is diverted from the mission of the gospel. He is so busy troubling the church over issues (Gl 1:7), that the members’ thinking and energies are often consumed and diverted from the work of preaching the gospel to the world. The legalist frets so much about issues that he has no mental time for the lost. His mission changes from saving the lost to saving the saved. When this change has been made, those who revere him as a great prophet among them, also have their thinking diverted. The legalistic leader is in such a struggle to keep the saints in line with “his gospel” that he has no time or energy to preach the gospel of grace to the lost world.

The religious legalist has changed the focus of evangelism. His concept of evangelism is quite different from the one who seeks to preach the gospel of the crucified Christ (1 Co 1:23,24). The Jewish legalists of the first century sought to proselyte Gentiles to their system of religious rites that were manufactured after the traditions of the fathers. Of them Jesus said,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Mt 23:15).

Jewish legalism was evangelistic in that the Pharisees sought to bring Gentiles into conformity with the traditions of Judaism.   This system of evangelistic thought was brought into the first century church by Jews who did not understand the nature of the gospel of freedom in Christ. When Jews were converted, they tried to make the church Jewish by enforcing on the disciples circumcision and ceremonies that God had not bound. Evangelism to the judaizing teachers, therefore, was not bringing people to the cross, but to their system of religious regulations.

Legalistic leaders today function in the same manner in their work as the scribes and Pharisees functioned in the first century.   They search among the disciples for those who would be loyal to them and their systematic theology. They do as the judaizing teachers who followed Paul throughout southern Galatia. They were recruiting Gentile converts to the blade of the scissors of circumcision (Gl 4:17).

The mission of the judaizing legalists was not focused primarily on the lost. Their focus was on the saved. Since they believed that unless one was circumcised he could not be saved (At 15:1), they searched throughout the brotherhood in order to find uncircumcised Gentiles.   Once found, they brought innocent Gentiles into conformity to the law of their scissors.


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