Legalism, Liberalism, and Realism

Article bN

Legalism, Liberalism, and Realism

Article bN

Legalism is faulty and against God's liking because it is erroneously restrictive. Liberalism also is faulty and against God's liking because it is erroneously permissive. Yet realism is real and right and is loved of God because it rightly divides the words of truth (2 Tim 2:15) and rightly applies God's laws. Although realism is not as restrictive as legalism, realism yet is not guilty of being liberal (permissive), as realism carefully and fully follows the intent of God's laws. Realism as in this article pertains to that which is right, righteous, and just. bN-1

Legalism creates improper restrictions by misapplying Biblical teachings. Legalism does not understand the underlying reason and purpose of a particular teaching, nor does it consider the particular situation to which such teaching mostly applies, but mechanically tries to force that teaching on all situations. God throughout the old era ordained that His people should have judges to consider each situation, and judge realistically rather than legalistically. bN-2

Although liberalism and legalism in one respect are quite different, yet in another respect they are quite alike as they both misapply Biblical teachings, and both often disrupt God's good plan for man. As is shown below legalism and liberalism both often bring man into bondage. Yet realism makes one free. Jesus said the truth shall make us free (John 8:). Realism makes one free because it rightly follows Biblical teachings and allows one to experience God's good plan for man. bN-3

Numerous Scriptures teach that God's laws all pertain to and are based upon properly loving and honoring God and our fellowman (Matt 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31, Gal 5:14, Rom 13:8-10, James 2:8). God's laws are even called laws of liberty (James 1:25&2:12). Although realism as it rightly deals with God's law advocates particular restrictions, such restrictions yet are practical and help individuals experience a proper relation with God and man, and end up bringing one into liberty. bN-4

Concerning legalism it is true that a minor unnecessary restriction, which does not conflict with God's good plan for man, is not very harmful and does not bring one into bondage. Yet often times legalism advocates restrictions that conflict with God's good plan for man and thus brings man into bondage. God clearly is displeased with legalism as well as liberalism. Jesus while on earth very strongly reproved the Jewish leaders for their legalistic demands of their people. When men misapply Biblical teachings, their teachings then are not God's teachings but merely are man made teachings. May God's people not become guilty of teaching man made laws. bN-5

Concerning liberalism although it (unlike legalism) might grant one extra liberties at first, yet such liberties often infringe on the rights of others or cause lukewarmness and a hindered relation with God, and end up in due time bringing one into difficulties and bondage. Thus the final outcome of both liberalism and legalism often is it brings man into trouble and bondage. bN-6

It appears the cause of liberalism often is man's short sighted desire for pleasure and man's unwillingness to patiently and fully follow God's plan. Concerning legalism it appears their are numerous causes of such. Some individuals might become legalistic because of their desire to be different or better than others and thus might try to establish their own standard of righteousness, and foolishly trust and glory in it. Some individuals might become legalistic because they desire to attain salvation by their own doings and by following their own set of rules. Sometimes legalism might largely be caused by ignorance. It appears people often are bound in legalism because of not being willing to accept a better way and to admit having had an erroneous belief. . bN-7

Following are several Scriptures pertaining to following God's written laws realistically and according to their intent; bN-8

(Exo 34:27) "And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel."

(Exo 23:13) "And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect…" bN-9

(Neh 8:8) "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." bN-10

(2 Cor 3:6) "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." bN-11

Psalms 119:96 reads "I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad." Note how this particular verse speaks of an end to all perfection. Legalism is a man made perfection that without proper regards to situations follows God's commandments according to their technical wording (the letter of the law). A legalistic perfection has an end and does not find a good way out, yet God commandments are exceedingly broad having abundant solutions when followed realistically and according to their intent. Psalms 119:96 very likely means "I have seen an end [unsolvable problems] with all perfection [man's technicalities, legalism and the letter of the law], but thy commandment [spirit of the law] is exceedingly broad [having abundant applications, fulfillments, and solutions]. True Christians advocate the spirit of the law and walk in the liberty of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6&17). Erring Christians in rejecting truths that they don't like, find all kinds of problems where their really is bountiful answers, and then turn around and find all kinds of so called answers where their really is mostly problems. Erring Christians strain at gnats and swallow camels (Matt 23:24). bN-12

Concerning both those who are overtaken in legalism and liberalism, neither can give realistic reasons for what they advocate. Yet it is sad that those who are involved in either legalism or in liberalism, often will justify their unrealistic reasons for their teachings. Often times when men endeavor to defend and promote their man made teachings they according to their personal liking will exaggerate little issues and minimize large issues, and thus strain at gnats and swallow camels as Jesus taught in Matt 23:24. bN-13

When man makes a decision, God wants man to find and uphold His (God's) decision on the matter. When man judges or evaluates an individual, God wants man to find and uphold God's judgment and evaluation of the individual. Thus man in judging realistically and rightly, must find and follow God's thinking in the matter. God in judging and evaluating an individual is far from being legalistic or mechanical but considers the thought and intent of the individual's heart and his situation and not only his deeds. King David ate the shewbread which was only to be for the Priesthood to eat, yet God did not condemn David for doing this, although God written laws were very strict with regards to the Holy things of the Temple. Saul could here have had a big accusation against David, quoting the letter of the law. Often times one might quote the letter of the law and thereby condemn one who whom God is not condemning. Man can often defend a wrong decision quoting the letter of the law. Jesus had much reason to say, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24). bN-14

It is very true that God will not tolerate one being casual and careless about His laws. It is very true that God will not tolerate one partly keeping his laws and partly disobeying them. God does require honest and careful obedience. Many Bible characters faced fearful punishments because of being casual about and not fully obeying God's commandments. Yet all this does not mean one should follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. bN-15

Although a murderer normally was to be put to death, a woman came to King David with a particular murder case asking for an exception to the law. This woman was a widow who had only two sons and now her sons had strove together in the field and no one was there to separate them and the one slew the other. This left her with only one son who was guilty of murder. She said that now her relatives wanted to kill her last living son, to punish him for killing his brother. This woman complained of this judgment upon her last son, saying this would neither leave to her deceased husband a name nor a remainder upon the earth (2 Sam 14:7), which was an important issue in those days (Gen 38:8, Deu 25:5-10). This widow further told David she would take the responsibility for any guilt in this matter and thus leave David's kingdom free of any guilt in this matter. David granted her request and said he would help save her son (2 Sam 14:10-11). Was David in this judgment realistic and right or was he guilty of liberalism? In this situation legalism quite obviously would have required that this last son die as the written law demanded. bN-16

King David himself in one situation fell into adultery and largely murder, yet God Himself, decided that David should not die as the written law required of adulterers and murderers (2 Sam 11&12). Was God in allowing David to live guilty of liberalism? Obviously not. Realism considers all aspects and chooses that which is best for each situation. Realism at times does not carry out the penalties included in the letter of the law, but applies mercy. Yet often time realism does carry out the penalty of the law upon the transgressor. bN-17

God strictly commanded Moses that if anyone became involved in idolatry they should be killed, even by their family members (Deu 13:6-11). The city which allowed idolatry was to be burned with fire and utterly destroyed (Deu 13:12-18). Yet when Asa was King he merely removed his mother from being queen when she was found guilty of idolatry, yet the Bible speaks of Asa's heart being perfect with God and of him being a very good King (1 Ki 15:11-14). Possibly Asa should have put his mother to death in this situation. Yet possibly in this situation since idolatry had been more common God would not have even desired Asa to put his mother to death. Possibly the harsh judgement that Moses spoke of, was mainly to be applied to those who first would initiate idolatry in the situation of it not being common. bN-20

The Jews were repeatedly and firmly commanded to kill all that breaths of both male and female among seven nations in the land of Canaan, yet in some situations the Jews left some of these people live if they cooperated with them in overtaking the city (Josh 2:12-14, Judg 1:24-25). In latter years various individuals from these nations were allowed to live among the Jews. Uriah the Hittite was from these nations which were to be destroyed, yet he was permitted to live among the Jews. Possibly since Uriah was a Hittite rather than a Jew, David felt more at ease in taking his wife and latter causing His death. Although Uriah was a Hittite God clearly did not approve of David taking his wife Bathsheba and slaying Uriah. Uriah had a very good attitude. Legalism cannot understand exceptions to the laws or rules as it does not understand the spirit and intent of the law. bN-21

Legalism tries to weed God's garden with a awkward bulldozer, while the Spirit of the law is both precise and flexible and like a hoe weeds God's garden. Legalism will disallow that which could do much good simply because it could be used wrongly, while realism simply uses it rightly. Legalism often does not deal sufficiently with man's heart, but merely keeps carnal Christians doing and looking alike. Realism focuses on dealing with men's hearts and clearly is eternally different than legalism. bN-22

Jesus is a very bright example of how Christians are not to be bound to the letter of the law. Jesus was wondrously realistic in His approach to God's laws, and fearlessly broke many legalistic laws and traditions of the Jews. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, ate with publicans and sinners, allowed sinful women to kiss his feet, spoke with and fellowshipped with the unclean Samaritans, showed little respect to those religious leaders that were older than him, and made a terrible disturbance in the Temple, and even called their Roman ruler a fox. Yet Jesus had good reason for all that He said and did. Although Jesus clearly was not legalistic, He neither was casual or liberal. Jesus rather had a strong abhorrence for the hypocrisy and errors among God's people. Jesus in His earth life was real and meant business in doing His Father's work, while it appears many Christians today are unreal and mean nothing more fitting in with their peers and their traditions. O how sad! Although Jesus was realistic and real, yet O how mad those got at Him that were opposed to Him, and how they condemned Him by the letter of the law! bN-23

It appears many Christians in our day, like the Jews in Christ's time are very guilty of advocating legalistic laws. Legalism and being narrow minded are quite related, as one who is narrow minded does not look at the whole and real picture but rather merely looks at particular and possibly favorite issues. Many Christians today are so absorbed in protecting and defending their unreal and legalistic laws that they do not seem to be able to even lift up their eyes and look at the whole and real picture (Matt 13:15, Acts 28:27). It appears Jesus in our day in speaking to many Christians would also have much reason to say, “Thou blind Pharisee” (Matt 23:26). Legalism often causes foolish divisions among Christians and Christian congregations, as legalistic Christians often are disagreed among themselves on their legalistic doctrines. What would the realistic Jesus do and say among the many plain people (such as the Amish and conservative Mennonites), in our day? And what would they do to Jesus? Would they recognize Him? bN-24

The writer hopes that this article will help someone be made free from legalism as well as liberalism. May God, give us the mind of Christ and help us see things as He sees them. May God help us to be realistic and real as was Jesus in His emphasis of God's laws and ways. Then in the end may we find ourselves a participate in God's eternal Kingdom of perfect security, joy, and love. Farewell. bN-25

040302 2443