The Heart and Bible Study
- To be with/in the Word is to be in God’s presence. 2 Timothy 3:16-17;Hebrews 4:12-13 cf John 1:1-4,14;Revelation 19:11-13
- Meekness James 1:19-25 cf Philippians 2:12-13 See also 1 Samuel 3:1-10,19
- Prayer and submission Psalm 119:18,27,36
- Laying aside things in order to receive the Word James 1:19-21;1 Peter 2:1-3;Psalm 119:113
- Desire to be changed in order to glorify God Psalm 119:7,32-33;139:23-24
- Crave the Word and cry aloud for understanding. 1 Peter 2:1-3;Proverbs 2:1-5 cf Psalm 119:131;James 1:5 and diligently apply yourself to learning 2 Timothy 2:15
- Meditate Psalm 1:1-6 Notice that the one who meditates in the Word and enjoys the Word is described as a godly man who will stand in the judgment. Cf Joshua 1:7-8
- Godly fear and trembling Habakkuk 3:16-17;Isaiah 65:1-2
- Be committed Psalm 119:50-51;112,143 cf John 8:31-32
Of Legalism And Holiness
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24–25)
As it is obvious from the title, this article is about legalism and holiness. It seems that these two terms are often viewed as being synonymous, yet they are vastly different. There are many people today who are legalists who think that they are holy, and there are many holy people who are called legalists by others. Can one be a legalist and be unholy? Can a person be holy and not be a legalist? What in the world is legalism anyway? And what is holiness?
We must begin by defining the terms. Legalism– The belief that salvation demands or depends upon total obedience to the letter of the law. Examples of legalism include an excessive concern for minute details of the law coupled with a neglect of its fundamental concerns, and a preoccupation with human legal traditions.1 To this we can add that legalism is often seen in the effort to establish our sanctification by external fleshly means rather than by living in the grace of God by faith. Holiness- The quality of God that sets him utterly apart from his world, especially in terms of his purity and sanctity. The holiness of God is also manifested in the persons and work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Believers are called upon to become like God in his holiness.2 I believe that it is obvious to even the most casual of readers that holiness and legalism are different things, although they have one similarity in common, which is an adherence to certain standards that are found in God’s Word. The difference is what is the great thing, and that is the motivation behind the rule keeping and standard following. Why does a person do what he does? Does he do it to be saved? Does he do it to earn brownie points with God so that God will hear his prayers and count him holy? Does he do the things he does to honor God and yield his flesh, mind, and heart to Him?
Our text above comes from the book of Galatians, and I want us to spend most of our time in Galatians as we consider this issue.
In chapters one and two of Galatians, Paul takes a very strong stand against legalism. There were those who were preaching a so-called gospel that was anything but good news. It was not revealed by God, not given by God, and was accursed of God. The Spirit of God is so vehemently opposed to the idea that a person can work for salvation or add works to faith for salvation that He pronounces a curse against anyone, even angels, who would preach such a perverted gospel! Paul then tells us about rebuking Peter for acting hypocritically and refusing to fellowship with Gentile believers because they were not circumcised. In a strong blast against legalism, Paul said that he was trusting Christ alone to be saved and to live the Christian life. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20–21)
Chapters three and four present the believers as being heirs of God in Christ and partakers of the Abrahamic blessing and covenant. Paul stands strongly against the idea that one’s salvation is completed by fleshly works, reminds them that the law brings a curse, and the none of us have obeyed the law or will fully obey the law. Instead, the good news is that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and counts us righteous by faith alone. Because of this we are God’s children and heirs according to the promise.
Chapter five of Galatians is where the rubber meets the road for Christian living. It is there that we see the issues of legalism and holiness in stark contrast. There are those who seek to be holy by fleshly effort. They think that there are things that they do which will cause God to love them more, to hear their prayers, and to bring blessing upon their lives and families. They are seeking to earn the blessings of God which only come by grace. This is a form of legalism regarding sanctification. (As an aside, it should be noted that it has much in common with the paganism that treats God as one who has needs and will repay us as we help Him out. It also has much in common with the modern paganism of the prosperity gospel, which speaks of doing certain things in order to move or manipulate God to bring health and wealth to us.) When Paul calls on us to walk in love and walk in the Spirit instead of walking in the flesh, he is fighting against two extremes: one is that of yielding to unbridled lust and sin in the name of freedom and the other is that of trying to please God by fleshly efforts. Both of these have the same results: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21) It cannot be said too strongly that legalism will often lead to immorality, because legalism is living in the flesh. This is why we are told to walk in the Spirit and live the life of one whose flesh has been crucified and continues to be mortified.
As we look at the issue of walking in the Spirit, however, we do see that there are standards of holiness mentioned to us. We are to measure our lives by what we need to get rid of (Galatians 5:19-21) and by what we add, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who live in the Spirit have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires and are commanded to walk in the Spirit. This means that we are to follow the leadership of the Spirit in the Word of God and trust in the power of the Spirit of God to enable us to glorify God in our bodies. These standards of holiness are to be evident in our lives. They are not optional. They are essential to Christian living. Paul stated that those who lack those things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
While these standards do not earn our salvation, they are things that we should use as a measure of our sanctification. I need to be sure that I am growing in godly love, possessing and spreading joy in the Holy Ghost, learning to suffer long in adverse circumstances, growing in kindness and gentleness, controlling myself both in the passions of anger and fleshly desires, and ever yielding myself to God. As we read and study God’s Word, we find that these things will show up in the things we wear, the places we go, the things we do, and the words we speak.
With this in mind, we must recognize that there are some of us whose standards may be what appears to be more strict concerning certain things such as clothing, music, various media involvements, and perhaps other things. A person can have standards that are more strict that yours, and you can disagree with them on those things, and yet that person may not be a legalist. If they are seeking to walk in the Spirit, and they are convinced that these things are part of walking in the Spirit and helpful in submitting the flesh to God, then they are more likely holding to these standards as an issue of holiness rather than legalism. In such a case, it would be very uncharitable to label such a person a legalist. In fact, in our day when folks seem so prone to saying, “Judge not!” it is very judgmental to declare a person is trying to earn their salvation or earn the blessing of God when they are simply trying to yield themselves to God and walk in the Spirit. It is crucial that we understand this.
Finally, Paul uses chapter six of Galatians to call the saints to live out their faith in Christ by showing mercy and kindness to sinning brethren, to sow to the Spirit, and to not give up in their walk with God. He assures them that who faithfully serve God will reap the good results of sowing to the Spirit in God’s time. As he concludes, Paul warns against those whose legalism was real, who took pleasure in appearances, and who tried to lead others to follow them for the sake of appearances alone. He declares that all boasting and glory belongs to God alone, is to be in Christ alone, because of His cross that is the means of our salvation and sanctification. We must recognize that anyone can glory in appearances, whether the legalist who walks in the flesh or the one given to license and walks in the flesh. One glories in the appearance of holiness while the other often glories in yielding the flesh and the appearance of liberty from the legalism under which he or she long lived. Both are sinning by not giving the glory to God. I pray that we will all take the time to soberly meditate on these things, live in the grace of God, and show one another the meekness that God’s Word commands.
1 Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).
2 Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).
Here are numerous files that are helpful in studying and referenced in the audio of Hermeneutics lesson one.
“And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. ” (Genesis 9:20–28, KJV)
Does This Passage Teach That The Black People Are Cursed?
There are some who, to this day, teach that the black people are cursed and should be servants because of the sin of Ham which brought a curse upon Canaan1. Does the above passage of Scripture teach that the black peoples are cursed? To put it concisely, no. The Scripture does not teach that the black people are cursed.
When one reads further in Genesis (See Genesis 10:6-20) he will find that the descendants of Canaan settled in the land called Canaan. One will also find that those who have been called Negro (black) peoples are the descendants of Ham’s son Cush. The Cushites settled in North Africa and not in Canaan.
Sadly, this passage has been used to encourage slavery, racism, and white supremacy. That is unbecoming a Christian people. Neither does it edify anyone. It simply needs to be discarded as inaccurate and sinful.
What is truly interesting is that there are parents who have born children of different colors. In fact, there have been twins born and one of them was white and the other black.2 Is one cursed and one ok? One could run into some very strange problems holding to this foolish doctrine of the Hamite/Canaanite curse being on the black people.
The Hamite/Canaanite Curse Being Upon The Negro Peoples Has More in Common With Darwinism Than With The Bible
The good folk at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) have the following to say:
Social Darwinism, with its imperialist and racist emphases, became exceedingly strong in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and, even though it went into partial eclipse after World War II, its tragic aftereffects are with us still. Racism reached its zenith under Hitler in Nazi Germany, and the “biogenetic law” of Ernst Haeckel was largely responsible.
“Recapitulation was Haeckel’s favorite argument … Haeckel and his colleagues also invoked recapitulation to affirm the racial superiority of northern European whites, … Herbert Spencer wrote that ‘the intellectual traits of the uncivilized … are traits recurring in the children of the civilized.’ Carl Vogt said it more strongly in 1864: ‘The grown up Negro partakes, as regards his intellectual faculties, of the nature of the child…. ’ “
“(Haeckel) became one of Germany’s major ideologists for racism, nationalism, and imperialism.”
“In essence, Haeckel and his fellow social Darwinists advanced the ideas that were to become the core assumptions of national socialism.” Lest anyone misunderstand, although all the above authorities (as well as all those quoted previously in this paper) are evolutionists, they do not
believe in either recapitulationism or racism. The quotations are necessarily brief, but they do not misrepresent their authors. Much more documentation to the same effect could be provided if space permitted. 3
Racism is a Darwinist idea. The last thing Bible-believing Christians should do is embrace a theology that has more in common with evolutionary theory than with the Bible. The Scriptures remind us that we all have one ancestor; Adam. In fact, the apostle Paul spoke of our descent in this fashion:
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; ” (Acts 17:24–26, KJV)
Inspired Scripture says that we are all from one ancestor. We are all made of one blood!
What Should Our View Truly Be?
There are a few important things that Christians should keep in mind while considering the issue of our associations with others:
- We should mistreat no one. We are to love our neighbor as ourself. (See Matthew 22:35-40)
- There is a need to be culturally conscious instead of color conscious. The division of people groups was so that we would seek God (See Acts 17:24-27). Multiculturalism does much damage. All cultures are not the same. Some cultures are have a greater connection to the Scriptures, having been influenced for many years by God-fearing people. Other cultures are more godless when it comes to the influences upon them.Culture is a vehicle that God can and will use as a tool to bring people to Christ. Mingling various cultures and individuals from various cultures could lead to confusion and strife. Cultural distinctions and practices can be difficult to learn, thus making it relationships difficult and stressed because of communications problems and problems understanding one another. We must be conscious of culture when interacting with people so that we do not offend or take offense. Cross-cultural marriages will be very likely to be beset with extra difficulties, too. The Bible does not prohibit cross-cultural relationships, but we would do well to carefully consider culture when entering into relationships due to the difficulties that may arise due to cultural differences.
- Christians should be concerned that their children marry Christians. This is the most important issue that we see in Scriptures regarding whom to marry. (See 2Corinthians 6:14-18) That should be the distinction that concerns us.
2See http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v3/n2/twins-black-and-white Accesssed 04/26/2010 See alsohttp://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2082429.ece http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,384862,00.html
3http://www.icr.org/article/heritage-recapitulation-theory/ Accessed 04/26/2010
“Surely he scorneth the scorners: But he giveth grace unto the lowly.”
Proverbs 3:34 KJV
THE SIN OF SCORNFULNESS
Our text is quoted in James, where he says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6) Two things are to be noted: first, God scorns the scorner and, second, that God resists the proud scorner. One thing that I know is that I want to have the blessings of God rather than the opposition of God. I want God to speak well concerning me rather than having God scorn me. With this in mind, we will simply get into our lesson, so that we might learn how to avoid the sin of scornfulness.
What Is Scornfulness?
As we study scorn and scornfulness, the meaning is that of being a proud boaster, a mocker, or a scoffer. Have you ever seen a person who is constantly making fun of others, or perhaps they are always critical of others? That person is scoffing or scorning. Mockery, when people ridicule others for no good reason, is the same as scoffing or scorning.
It is useful to note that we are to be very careful how we speak of others, lest we find ourselves to be scorners who are resisted by God. Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat. 5:21–22) While much more could be said about this, let it suffice us to understand that Jesus is telling us that we are to refuse to speak scornfully of others. When we say that a person is worthless, a fool, a moron, an idiot, a dumbbell, or use us some other derogatory term, we are saying that we count them unworthy of living. Sometimes we even say, “They ain’t worth knocking in the head!” Jesus is teaching us that such words are scornful words, and they show a disregard for those who are made in the image of God.
Sometimes we are harshly judgmental of others when we have no reason. James rebukes us of such and reminds us that judgment is God’s place and not ours. He asks, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) The scorner is always finding fault with others and deciding what God ought to do with them. Let us beware, because such criticism is ungodly scornfulness and unacceptable to God. Who do we think we are to do this?
The Bad Character of The Scorner
A scornful person is a person of bad character. The first Psalm presents to us the scornful person as one who is ungodly and who does not enjoy God’s Word, and whose final end is to not abide the judgment. Solomon, in the Proverbs, presents the scorner to us as one who:
- Is not humble (Proverbs 3:34)
- Hates correction (Proverbs 9:8)
- Will bear his sin (Proverbs 9:12)
- Refuses to listen to the rebuke that would help him change (Proverbs 13:1)
- Refuses to listen to his parents (Proverbs 13:1)
- Will not seek wise advice (Proverbs 15:12)
- Deserves to be punished (Proverbs 19:29)
- Is a person of a bad temper, or wrath (Proverbs 21:24)
- Causes strife and reproach (Proverbs 22:10)
- Should be refused our good company (Proverbs 22:10)
When we consider these things, the scorner is certainly a person who is on their way to destruction. The scorner will often ruin relationships, mistreat other people, break up families, destroy churches, and refuse to listen to those in authority over them. This person is convinced of his righteousness, not realizing his need for God’s righteousness. The scornful person is often quick to criticize and very slow to compliment. The scornful person is defensive and will usually argue with anyone who seeks to help them correct their errors. Their sinful pride will often wear a mask of humble holiness and goodness, while they spend their time talking about what everyone else is doing wrong. They may have a look that causes others to think that they are humble, but their self-righteous and critical spirit will show their pride. The scornful person has a very bad character.
The Scorner Contrasted With The Wise
The Scripture contrasts the scorner with a wise person. Although the scorner refuses to be corrected, the wise man will love the person who cares enough to help him fix errors and sins in his life (Proverbs 9:8). The scorner will not go to seek wise counsel or advice (Proverbs 15:12), but the wise person seeks after these things and learns from them (Proverbs 1:5-9). The scorner will be punished in life for his pride and for the foolish and hurtful things he says and does, yet he will not learn from his bad experiences. The wise person, however, will learn when he is instructed (Proverbs 21:11).
It is very important to note that this scornful person is not simply scornful of men, but his mockery extends even to the God he rejects and refuses to learn from. He will receive the righteous results of his sinful pride. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7–8)
Proverbs was written to direct us into wisdom and we should seek to learn the way of wisdom concerning scornfulness. Let us recognize that scornfulness is a sin of pride that moves God to work against us. There is a way to move beyond being a scorner. James told the scornful and proud people that were fighting one another and destroying the churches that they were to turn to God, draw near to Him, and humbly and sorrowfully repent so that God would lift them up (James 4:8-10). I am so very glad that God will always hear the humble plea of the broken repenting person and forgive them! Seek God. Humble yourself before Him. Learn from those God has placed as teachers in your life. Meekly accept correction and instruction. Submit yourself to God. These things will help you overcome or avoid being a scorner, and they will take you far in the pathway of godly wisdom.