What is and is not legalism? New audio teaching on the OT and the NT…
The law and works are not the same thing. Discover what is and what is not legalism in this new audio teaching!
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We have a radical misunderstanding of what legalism is in the church, and it’s resulting in a compromised, tainted bride of Christ.
Listen to the message from this past Sunday where I clearly share on the call to work and produce as a member of the Kingdom.
Can faith save us apart from works? No. Shocking? It shouldn’t be. It’s in the Word: James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
Here’s my personal notes so you can follow along:
a. Divisions of scripture
i. Here is a very good reason to be a teacher of truth!
1. Malachi 2:1-9 (ESV) 1 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the LORD of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
2. We see the importance of scripture in the NT as well:
3. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV) 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
1. The word ‘testament' comes from the Greek word diatheke and can also be translated as a contract (as in a will) or a covenant.
a. The OT (39 books) deals with the line of people who would bring forth the Messiah, who was descended from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Boaz, David, and Solomon (Mat 1:1, Luke 3:23).
2. The Hebrew Old Testament was commonly divided into three sections:
a. The Law (Torah), five books:
i. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
ii. The Pentateuch, the first five books of OT, were written by Moses (circa 1500 BC).
b. The Prophets (Nebhiim), eight books:
i. Former Prophets—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings
ii. Latter Prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Twelve
c. The Writings (Kethubim), eleven books:
i. Poetical Books—Psalms, Proverbs, Job
ii. Five Rolls (Megillot)—Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes
iii. Historical Books—Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah (in the Hebrew canon, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were combined), Chronicles
1. The NT contains 27 different books and was written between about 50-95 AD.
2. The NT (27 books) was commonly divided into four sections:
a. Biographical (four books): Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
b. Historical (1 book): Acts
c. Pedagogical (twenty-one books): Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
d. Prophetic (one book): Revelation.
1. The first Bible to be published entirely divided into verse was the Geneva Bible of 1560.
1. The Bible is one Book, but it is also many books written by at least forty different authors, over a period of not less than fifteen hundred years, many of whom never saw each other.
2. Backgrounds of the writers
a. Two of the writers were kings—David and Solomon.
b. Two were priests—Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
c. Luke was a physician.
d. Two were fishermen—Peter and John.
e. Two were shepherds—Moses and Amos.
f. Paul was a Pharisee and a theologian.
g. Daniel was a statesman.
h. Matthew was a tax collector.
i. Joshua was a soldier.
j. Ezra was a scribe.
k. Nehemiah was a butler.
i. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant …” (Jeremiah 31:31a)
ii. Jesus said, “… all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44b)
c. Similarities between OT and NT
i. The theme of both Books is redemption, and in both Books redemption occurs through faith.
ii. The Redeemer is the same in the Old Testament and the New – though it was not as clear in the Old.
iii. The OT starts with the Tree of Life and the NT ends with the Tree of Life.
1. Revelation 22:1-2 (ESV) 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
iv. God always had the plan of sending His Son to become the Redeemer by dying for the human race (see Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22).
v. It is frequently thought that the OT depicts a God of anger and judgment, while the NT depicts a God of love, however a careful reading will probably show a similar balance between love and judgment in both testaments. If you read the book fairly, you’ll find that the God of the OT is very clearly the God of the NT as well.
1. OT: 551 God’s love/mercy occurrences; 308 God’s hate/wrath occurrences
2. NT: 291 God’s love/mercy occurrences; 71 God’s hate/wrath occurrences
vi. The OT reveals the beginning of the world and the NT reveals the end of the world.
vii. In the OT we see the destruction of the Earth by water, in the NT we will see the destruction of the Earth by fire.
viii. In the OT there were 12 tribes, in the NT 12 apostles.
ix. The OT was written over a long time (1500-400 BC). The NT was written in a short time (40-95 AD).
x. In the OT salvation came to the Jews, in the NT salvation came to the world.
xi. In the OT Jews were circumcised, in the NT Christians are baptized.
xii. Also, in both the Old Testaments and the New, the blood of sacrifice is necessary for redemption.
1. A blemish free lamb had to be killed and sacrificed to atone or give the Jewish people a temporary covering for their sins.
2. Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
3. No animals will ever need to be sacrificed again to get forgiveness from God.
4. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is an extension of the lambs used by His Father in the Old Testament to give God’s chosen people a temporary covering for their sins.
d. The law
1. I’ve often heard Christians say that the OT does not apply to us anymore. What? It’s an evidence of biblical ignorance.
2. Some Christians mistakenly think we no longer have to obey any of the basic laws and commandments set out by God the Father in the Old Testament since we are now operating under a new covenant with Jesus. But this view is wrong. Jesus Himself says that He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.
3. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
4. “Therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2, KJV)
5. There are three kinds of laws in the OT:
a. Ceremonial laws
i. These are related to the priesthood, sacrifices, the temple, and cleanness. These are now fulfilled in Jesus (for example, nearly the entire book of Hebrews addresses this issue for Jews who struggled with the Old Testament laws once they were saved). These laws are no longer binding on us because Jesus is our Priest, Sacrifice, Temple, and Cleanser.
b. Civil laws
i. These refer to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding on us. As Romans 13 says, we must now obey our pagan government because God will work through it, too.
c. Moral laws
i. Moral laws prohibit such things as stealing, murdering, and lying. These laws are still binding on us even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements through His sinless life. Jesus Himself repeats and reinforces nine of the Ten Commandments. The only exception is the Sabbath, because that is part of the ceremonial law. Now our rest is in the finished work of Jesus, not just a day.
6. First we need to understand that the law and works are not the same thing!
a. We are still called to good works… while the law refers to a specific set of commands found in the OT.
b. Adherence to the law is not a part of salvation. Works, however, is. Faith alone can’t save us.
i. James 2:14 (ESV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
ii. Check this out… there is a certain type of works that does no good:
iii. Romans 3:28 (ESV) 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
iv. …of the law. In the OT it was the Mosaic law that was their only hope. In the NT, faith in Jesus that’s evidenced through New Covenant obedience and works is what saves us.
v. Joseph Tkach: The New Testament does give us rules and behavioral expectations, but these should be seen as the result of a faith relationship, not as the basis for it.
vi. Romans 3:29-30 (ESV) 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
vii. We don’t have to be circumcised, but we do still have to obey, to respond to God’s NT commands.
c. The New Testament contains hundreds of commands. Although some of Paul's comments about the law seem negative, Paul himself gave us hundreds of commands.
i. How does Paul unite the concepts of liberty and obligation?
ii. Galatians 5:13 (ESV) 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
iii. Galatians 5:16-21 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
d. Look at Matt 22:
e. Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
f. The power of that scripture is that God’s attributes are affirmed. Loving God and others covers a lot of ground!
g. In the OT obedience was required and in the NT obedience is required.
i. The difference? Jesus often told people to obey God, but Moses is not the standard by which obedience is now measured.
h. Jesus told his disciples to preach the gospel throughout the world. This gospel focuses on the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.
i. We don’t take the cross lightly, but we realize how profoundly it obligates us to obey the One who gave himself for us.
j. Matthew 28:20 tells us that Christians should be taught to obey their Lord and Savior in addition to believing in him.
k. Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
l. They had to obey then, and we have to obey now. Why?
7. God has never changed and never will!
a. Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
b. Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
8. The call is actually greater in the NT than in the OT! Only by grace can we fulfill this mandate.
a. Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
b. Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV) 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
i. Some Christians commit adultery multiple times every day! In the OT you could get away with this… but not in the NT!
c. Matthew 5:31-32 (ESV) 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
d. Matthew 5:38-39 (ESV) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
e. Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
9. So, in the OT, you commit adultery and the law requires you be put to death. In the NT, you simply lust and you are guilty, but you aren’t put to death…there’s the window of grace in the mix that Jesus provided!
a. But, if we die in our unrepentant sin, the result is still eternal death.
10. When considering what was fulfilled and is no longer applicable, ask whether it’s part of the Mosaic ceremonial law or not. There are moral laws in the OT that absolutely do still apply.
a. This is critical!
i. The call to morality doesn’t cease in the NT—it increases!
b. The Mosaic law came 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant. This is the law that was fulfilled.
11. Some people try to interpret biblical laws with this rule: “Old Testament ceremonial laws are valid unless the New Testament specifically says they are not.” But this rule is not true. It is proven false by Hebrews 8:13.
a. Hebrews 8:13 (ESV) 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
b. “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:21)
12. Michael Morrison The laws we keep today may be in the old covenant, but if so, we keep them not because they are in the old covenant, but because they are also in the new.
13. Michael Morrison The old covenant is obsolete. This does not mean the covenant is mostly valid, except for those laws specifically rescinded. No, it means the covenant itself is obsolete. It is like a law code that the government has declared invalid. It is not a valid source for rules about Christian behavior. Of course, some individual laws, such as the prohibition of adultery, are valid, but their validity is based on something more permanent than the old covenant — the more basic law that existed before the old covenant was given and still exists after the old covenant became obsolete.
14. In fact, in the NT we see that all scripture… which includes fulfilled laws… is profitable for instruction in righteousness:
a. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
15. The law of Moses included laws of ritual purification, prophecies about the Messiah, rules about treating livestock, and civil laws about penalties for religious crimes.
16. The Abrahamic covenant was characterized by God’s promise while the Mosaic was characterized by God’s law.
a. The law was temporarily necessary to deal with sin… it revealed how common sin is…
b. Romans 7:7 (ESV) 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
c. …the promise was not annulled… it was made available. The law of Moses, with its worship rituals, civil laws and other customs, was temporary. In the NT, the ceremonial law was dealt with by Jesus.
d. The clearest way to understand what still applies is by studying to see what is re-emphasized in the NT. What OT law was reaffirmed in the NT?
e. Example: Tithing was both pre-law and affirmed in the NT:
i. Matthew 23:23 (NIV) 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
f. Nine of the Ten Commandments were reaffirmed in the NT (all except to keep the Sabbath).
i. For example, in the OT, stoning was the penalty for those caught in adultery (based on the Mosaic covenant)…
1. Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) 10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
ii. …but in the NT Jesus affirmed that the sin of adultery was not acceptable, but he would be the one to take their punishment… if they repented.
iii. In the OT, wrath of God was on that person. In the NT, Jesus took the wrath on himself… UNLESS the individual is unrepentant!
1. John 3:36 (ESV) 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
2. Living without Christ in the NT is very similar to living pre-Christ in the OT.
g. The OT is an excellent resource to learn how God feels about certain activities, sins, behaviors.
i. God never changes. He still hates sin. He hates murder. He hates adultery. He hates sexual sin.
ii. However, his wrath was placed on Jesus instead of us, which should compel us to make Jesus our Lord and Master with expedience!
h. In Acts 15 Peter addresses the laws that concern diet and circumcision… but moral laws remain.
i. In the OT if you see regulations and ordinances that are a part of the law, you can be sure they no longer apply—unless they are either reaffirmed in the NT or are covered by the Great Commandment—to love God and others.
j. Some examples of obsolete laws:
i. Animal sacrifice (Go PETA!)
1. Hebrews 10:4 (ESV) 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
ii. Food and drink offerings and ceremonial washings
1. Hebrews 9:6-10 (ESV) 6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
iii. Wearing distinctive clothing
1. Numbers 15:37-38 (ESV) 37 The LORD said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.
2. Numbers 15:39 (ESV) 39 And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes…
3. The principle is upheld in the NT, but not the requirement. We are still to obey, but we don’t dress with tassels to remind us to.
iv. Annual festivals (Feast of Tabernacles, Yom Kippur, Passover, etc.)
1. The old covenant required annual worship festivals. It specified the date and the place, the manner and the people to whom the commands applied. God did not command gentiles to keep this festival. It was one of the ordinances that separated Jews from gentiles, and the early church did not require gentile believers to travel to Jerusalem, to make offerings, to gather palm branches or to live in booths. Those things were part of the old covenant, which God made with ancient Israel. They are not part of the new covenant.
v. Dietary laws and uncleanness
1. You became unclean for a variety of things including touching a corpse, lepers, etc.
2. Numbers 19:11-13 (ESV) 11 “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.
3. Matthew 8:2-3 (ESV) 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4. Bill Johnson: In the OT if a leper touches you, you become unclean. In the NT if you touch a leper he becomes clean.
vi. Some types of foods were unclean
1. Romans 14:20 (ESV) 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
2. The Great Commandment is at work here.