Holding to the Word - Legalism?

For those who hold to the Bible as being a reliable guide whose every word is to be authoritatively weighed, comes the charge of legalism. That ugly word the Christian world spits upon. Is this a just accusation? If not, why would that charge even been leveled?

Consider the very name by which we call "The New Testament". Testament is a legal term. When we see legal papers, we take special care to make sure we're very aware of which words are used. Those words make all the difference. God's word is no different. He doesn't make statements idly.

Holding To The Word In Fighting Legalism
This is a continuation of another article entitled, "Trustworthy Biblical Foundations". In the previous article, I introduced a verse from Paul that I would like to look at again:

16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.   
Galatians 3:16

First, we need to consider the context of this verse. Paul wrote Galatians in an all out battle stance of condemning legalism (Galatians 3:1-3). He precedes the very verse quoted in that position, and closes in for the kill by calling attention to the exact usage of a word in the Old Testament. If being that technical was legalistic, Paul would not have used such a tactic to condemn the very sin of legalism. Such a passage makes a clear statement that such charges as legalism are bogus.

"Don't Hold Too Rigidly, Must Consider All Together"
Paul did make mention of those who misused his very own words:

8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.   
Romans 3:8

Paul spoke words that clearly gave light, but there were those who took them with a subtle twist to come up with a perverted teaching. That's what he's referring to in Romans 3:8. That didn't mean Paul's words were to be taken loosely saying, "If you hold too tight to what he says, you're being legalistic. No, you need to just take all of what he says all at once to have an understanding of what he really means." Besides being impractical for those of that time, that would give a just excuse to those Paul was referring to in 3:8. After all, we have the total of Paul's teachings over many epistles. Each church he wrote to didn't have all the other writings, yet they were able to understand what was being said. What's more, when they did twist what he said, as in 3:8, he held them accountable for the corruptions. He didn't say, "Well, you must realize that they didn't hear all the teachings I have given on the subject, so it is quite easy for them to be twisted to a demonic doctrine." How ludicrous such a teaching would be.

The cry of, "don't hold too rigidly, you must consider all together" is really a smokescreen. There's obviously increased knowledge and understanding with additional scripture, but the cry is given to confuse the issue. It's not an honest concern for those who find offense at every turn in God's word. When such a cry is made, it's often because holding to a passage's obvious message carries an unacceptable word. The people can't accept the word, so they have to weaken its message and change the focus to get out of the uncomfortable implication of the words. If they don't do this, they would be trapped.

Peter's Contribution

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.    
    2 Peter 1:20,21

In verse 20 we find the expression, "private interpretation". The Greek for the first word translated as "private" is defined as "one's own, personal". The Greek for the word translated "interpretation" is defined as "a release, only used here." Indicating that no prophecy comes from the prophet's own mind or personal impulse. The following verse brings through with that understanding by way of expansion.

This gives us an understanding of the power of the scripture and its true source. Any such document must be considered with the utmost diligence as to every word chosen.
Peter went on, just a little later, with the following:

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.   
2 Peter 2:15-17

We see the distortions Peter refers to of some of Paul's writings. The subjects are difficult to understand. There are those who "wrest" scriptures due to the inherent wickedness that still remained in them, that hadn't been dealt with. When we harden our hearts before God in some area, that's ground for twisting in our minds. Since we're unstable in our hearts, in that unsurrendered area, we're subject to all sorts of distortions to protect that unsurrendered area.
From this passage, we can see the danger of becoming scripture twisters falls on all of us. Peter addressed "beloved" in verse 17. That would be the saints. He went on to say, "beware lest ye also". The danger is to all Christians of drifting from the straight and narrow. Give diligence to keep a pure heart. The "good and honest heart" is the heart that makes it (Luke 8:15)!

A Sure & Certain Confidence

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.   
2 Timothy 3:16,17

"All scripture" NOT "all that is scripture" as some perverted Bible versions add to the text. Such an addition to the text of those two little words is the beginning of the Satanic work of undermining our confidence in God's word. He whispers those additional words that plant the undermining of our faith. We have to start wondering, with those challenging marginal notes on so many passages, if we are really looking at scripture. We have to start wondering, "All the scripture is inspired, but what is really scripture? I can't know!" The devil knows we can stay on the straight and narrow if we look steadfastly at God's word for our guide, as these verses attest. No wonder he aims at our road map to change and discredit it. When we allow him to succeed here, we surrender major ground.

Again consider that the scripture is given by inspiration of God for our aid. Since He went to that effort to help us, do you seriously think He would just abandon the text to the misfortunes of men's carelessness? My God is greater than that and He loves us more than that!

Accusations of legalism, slander, dishonesty of heart, doubts, all these are ways the devil has of destroying the power of God's word to transform our lives. These are things we need to repent from, and turn to God in faith. Trusting that He won't just abandon His children, but will truly provide the "sincere milk of the word" (1 Peter 2:2). He supplies for all his children. Have faith and hold strong, no matter what insults are showered, FOR GOD IS GREAT!

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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