Monday, April 30, 2018

The Subtlety of Legalism

Acts 16:31 NASB - "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” 
There are two great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Both are dangerous and potentially damning to the soul. One is antinomianism, which denies the proper place and use of the Law in the life of the believer. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The other is legalism which places confidence in the works of the Law and human effort as the means of salvation. Both can be very subtle, which is what makes them so dangerous. 
In the book, “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” there is an interesting dialogue between an able minister of the Gospel by the name of Evangelista, and a legalist by the name of Nomista. Nomista is certain of his salvation and takes exception to Evangelista’s suggestion that he may be among the thousands who believe themselves to be Christians, but have actually denied the Gospel. Nomista’s defense of his conversion is revealing and describes just how subtle legalism can be. In fact, Evangelista warns that there is a touch of this legalism in us all. “Many poor ignorant souls amongst us, when we bid them to obey and do duties, they can think of nothing but working themselves to life; when they are troubled, they must lick themselves whole, when wounded, they must run to the salve of duties, and stream of performances and neglect Christ.” 
As Nomista describes his experience, he speaks of having been convinced of the futility of his religious condition, and was told by a minister that he must listen to godly preaching, keep the Sabbath, leave off swearing, beware of lying, and read good books.  He began spending the Lord’s Day in public and private exercises of worship and keeping God’s Commandments. Many Christians observed this change and offered the right hand of fellowship. He still felt empty, however, and realized that it was all external; that he wasn’t changed inwardly. So, he gave himself to performing duties not only outwardly, but also inwardly from the heart. He was careful to govern his thoughts and passions and suppress the risings of lust and gave himself to hearing and praying from the heart. But then he realized that God required not only active obedience, but also passive—that he had to be willing to suffer. He began to be troubled at his impatience under God’s correcting hand and his inward murmurings. He gave himself to quietly submitting to the will of God. He soon became troubled over his sleepiness, drowsiness, and heaviness in prayer and in other duties. Another minister told him not to worry, that even the best of Christians have their failings. God will accept the will for the deed; and wherein you come short, Christ will help you out. So now he felt confident that what he could not do Christ would do for him.
Do you see what was lacking in Nomista? He was trusting in his actions as the basis of his salvation. Is his experience like yours? Salvation is not doing our best and trusting Christ to do the rest. Salvation is faith in Christ’s righteousness ALONE and trusting in His atoning sacrifice ALONE. The Gospel demands faith in Christ ALONE. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

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