If one studies the life of Christ, it is remarkable how he deliberately did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people any other day of the week, but he often did it on the Sabbath. He could have been more discreet when it came to breaking the rules of the Pharisees, but he did so openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, he could have followed their elaborate practice of handwashing, but he deliberately ignored it. When they asked him about it, he could have been more polite, but he criticized them for their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out that Jesus had also offended them, he did not say, “I`m sorry! I didn`t mean to offend you, good people. He said, “Woe to you too, lawyers! Jesus confronted legalism as a sin. There is probably no sin tolerated or more prevalent in the Christian world than legalism. It may surprise you to hear this called a sin. Legalists are considered somewhat overzealous or “tense,” but they are generally not considered sinners in the same sense as adulterers, thieves, liars, and others. On the contrary, legalists seem to care about holiness. Paul argued in his defense: “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the Temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, who wanted to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Will you go up to Jerusalem and be tried there for these accusations before me?” But Paul said, “I stand before Caesar`s court, where I should be judged.
I did no harm to the Jews, as you know very well. Second, if I`m a criminal and I`ve committed something I deserve to die for, I`m not trying to escape death. But if there is no truth in their accusations against me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar. Festus, after consulting his counsel, replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; you will go to Caesar. Many people think that the essence of Christianity is to follow the right rules, even extra-biblical rules. For example, the Bible doesn`t say we can`t play cards or have a glass of wine with dinner. We cannot make these things the external test of authentic Christianity. This would be a mortal violation of the gospel, because it would replace the true fruits of the Spirit with human tradition.
We come dangerously close to blasphemy by distorting Christ in this way. Where God has given freedom, we should never enslave people with man-made rules. We must ensure that we combat this form of legalism. Justice Millard Erickson goes so far as to say in Christian theology that disobeying God`s revealed commandments in the name of the non-legalist is “an abuse of Christian freedom.” He reminds us of John 14:15, where Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” One of the biggest pitfalls of legalism is an increased tendency to judge others according to the standards the legalist has set for himself, rather than taking into account the circumstances, experiences, morals, or beliefs of the other person. A legalistic faith leaves no room for God`s grace, neither for the legalist nor for other believers. Then each eye noticed an old man in a suit walking slowly towards the young man. Everyone wondered, “Will he rebuke the young man for dressing like this for the Church? Will he ask her to leave? There was a heavy silence in the church as everyone focused on this scene. Finally, he went to the place where the young man was sitting. With some difficulty because of his age, he slowly sat down next to the young man and adored with him on the carpet. (Narrated by Becky Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World [IVP], pp. 177-178.) It was a great example of not looking at the outside person or focusing on minors, but accepting the person as God does.
Legalism is formed “where it is only a matter of keeping God`s law as an end in itself.” Sproul points out that legalism separates obedience from God`s love and salvation. “The legalist focuses solely on obedience to bare rules and destroying the larger context of God`s love and salvation in which He gave His law in the first place.” Mark Ballenger writes: “The way to avoid legalism in Christianity is to have good deeds with good motives, to obey God`s law out of relational love for Him.” To change our mindset, we need to ask ourselves the tough questions. What are our motivations? What does God say about this? Is this in accordance with God`s law? If we examine our hearts, we will all find that legalism is watching us. No one is immune. Each day will be an opportunity to repent and turn away from our evil ways and thus shape our personal journey of faith. The structure of our text is that in 11:37-41 we have the general framework and theme that legalism emphasizes the outside to neglect the inside. Then, in 11:42-44, Jesus speaks of three sufferings on the Pharisees, in which he exposes some of the specific problems of legalism. At this point, an expert on Jewish self-defense law speaks out and points out that Jesus` remarks don`t just condemn the Pharisees; They also insult lawyers. Instead of apologizing, Jesus begins a series of three more sufferings about advocates (11:46-52). The result was not repentance, but increasing hostility on the part of the Pharisees and scholars of the law to draw Jesus into something He might say (11:53-54).