Thursday, June 9, 2011

Legalism

Legalism is a theological term that was coined circa 1830 – 1840. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines legalism as: (a) preference of the Law to the Gospel, (b) doctrine of justification by works, (c) exaltation of law, (d) formula, or (e) red tape. “Legalism” is a Christian term that Christians apply to Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who promote the function of “Law” as it pertains to righteousness and salvation. The Oxford definition postures that some individuals prefer the Law over the Gospel, pitting the two concepts against each other, when in reality the Gospel was given in conjunction with “Law.” The Law specifies what is good and acceptable conduct according to YHWH, and provides guidelines for righteousness and repentance, which are integral components of “the Gospel.”

From the ancient Hebrew letters that spell Torah (mistranslated as “the Law”), a word picture emerges that means, the “Seal or Covenant-Head of Man-Revealed.” Torah is the Covenant and Seal that YHWH progressively revealed to mankind through Adam, Noach, Awraham and all His chosen prophets and people. The word Torah contains the Hebrew sound “owr” which means light. YHWH declared through Isaiah: “to the Torah (Law) and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The Psalmist teaches that the Word of YHWH (Torah) is a Light unto our paths.

Torah means instruction in righteousness and is likened to a person aiming and shooting at a target. Unfortunately, sometimes we miss the mark and “sin.” A child is not expected to hit the mark as well as an adult, but when YHWH gave Torah He did not make His instructions impossible to “hit” as many have been led to believe.

The instructions (Torah) of YHWH have been progressively revealed from Adam and Chawwah (Eve) right through to Mashiyach. However, many Christians muse that Torah is “legalism” and something that is supposedly impossible to keep and, consequently, they have replaced Torah principles with the more popular Christian traditions of the post-apostolic Gentile Church founders.

We are introduced to the consequences of breaking “the Law” (Torah) in the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 3) where the very first case of blatant disobedience occurred – an act that impacted the children of Adam and Chawwah and every single generation of man since then! Because of that one act of disobedience, man has been “born into a world full of death and evil” ever since; constantly forced to battle the wiles of the Evil One and facing possible eternal separation from YHWH. Before sin, Adam and Chawwah were clothed in righteousness (the Light of Mashiyach); but haSatan exposed their nakedness through guilt, shame and condemnation. Guilt (which results from wrong-doing is spiritual separation), is a function of the Ruach haKodesh; it is a spiritual force that motivates us to make it right with YHWH and one another. The guilty parties – not knowing whether they will be forgiven their transgression until they confess and present their case – feel sorrow, emptiness, depression and despair for breaking faith and violating the peace and harmony of Mashiyach. The shame that Adam and Chawwah experienced was compounded in the knowledge that their sin had been preventable, and that they had needlessly and willingly exposed themselves to a difficult situation that caused them to risk everything without considering the consequences.

The curses against Adam and Chawwah became part of universal natural law that applies to all inhabitants of the Earth. “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…” (Genesis 3:22). Man was formerly a sinless and immortal being who became as the "angelic" hosts to know good and evil; therefore, YHWH provided redemption through death and resurrection. The plan of redemption is the Good News that Mashiyach demonstrated through his resurrection as the “Firstfruits” of all Creation. Mankind has always been sustained according to the Word of YHWH, “For YHWH is our judge, YHWH is our lawgiver, YHWH is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

Long before Y’hoshua arrived on Earth, Torah Observant Jews were teaching that “her seed” points to Mashiyach who is the foundation of all “Good News”: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Hebrews 4:2 states that “the Gospel was preached unto them” – therefore, those who left Egypt were given the opportunity to respond to the Gospel; therefore, the Gospel originated long before the First Century.

A popular theological spin on “the Gospel” is that “Jesus kept the Law” (Torah) so that Christians wouldn’t have to. The anti-legalist Christian purports “freedom in Christ” which is simply religious justification to break Torah and put the full responsibility and penalty of past, present and future sins upon “Jesus”. However, those branded as legalists are trusting that Y’hoshua empowers them to be renewed in body, mind, and spirit so as to put away their own carnal flesh that desires to break Torah.

There have been many lawgivers but it is YHWH’s Torah and His Mashiyach that sustains the plan of Redemption. His Word is His LAW! Therefore, all theological posturing that pits Torah against the Gospel is deception. Having Torah “written upon the heart” is at the heart of the Renewed Covenant which completes the revelation of “the Good News.”

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, unto Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10). The Scepter is the imperial rod of divine lawmaking and justice. YHWH holds the Scepter who is Mashiyach. The “lawgiver from between his feet” refers to the lineage of Yehudah (Judah); therefore, successive generations of Yehudah “hold” this Scepter until Shiloh (Mashiyach) takes his seat over all other “lawmakers.” Therefore, the “Way” of righteousness was, is and always will be prophetically connected through the Judaic and Hebraic-based Faith that Mashiyach Y’hoshua revealed to the world. Through belief in him, the Final Sin Sacrifice, we are able to receive YHWH’s Mercy and Favor which assures us eternal life in heaven.

Thanks to His Mercy and Favor – which in no way negates Torah! – we were loved while we were yet sinners. Therefore, how much more do we desire to please our Father? We demonstrate our acceptance of what Y’hoshua did for us by becoming a Torah observant, law abiding people. That is the meaning of the Scripture when Y’hoshua teaches:

Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. For anyone that asks will receive, and that seeks, will find. And to him that knocks, it will be opened to him. Or whom among you fathers if his son asks of him for bread, why to him would hold out a rock? And if he asks a fish of him, why to him would hold out a snake? And if, therefore, you who are imperfect know to give good gifts to your sons, how so much more your Father who is in heaven will give good to those that ask Him. All that which you desire that the sons of men should do for you, also like this you do to them. This is for Torah and the prophets. Enter by the straight door, for wide is the door and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many are they, those that go in it” (Matthew 7:7-13).

Most people understand how the Gospel works, but here’s a small example: Early in our children’s lives, we explain to them the cause and effect of good and evil. For instance, we teach them that lying is wrong and that, if the behavior continues, it can destroy their lives. After that, we praise them when they try to behave properly, and punish them whenever they misbehave or fail in their efforts to always tell the truth. Obviously, it is inconceivable to punish a child every time they fail, especially if it is evident that they are genuinely sorry and regret what they did. So instead, we continue to reinforce proper behavior and hug our children and love them even when they fail, and explain that we, too, occasionally failed to “be good” when we were children, because we all have to go through a learning process. The end result of this learning process in the lives of our children is that one day they will realize on their own that lying brings destruction, curses and shame, and it puts them in disfavor with YHWH and others because YHWH hates liars.

This is essentially what YHWH did for us through Mashiyach: Although He had every right to punish us for our disobedience, He chose not to. Instead, after the “Fall” He saw our need as His children to be instructed in righteousness and to be loved and taught. Therefore, He sent His only Son, Mashiyach Y’hoshua, to teach us face-to-face, personally demonstrating how to keep Torah and walk according to YHWH’s will. Y’hoshua demonstrated perfect patience and love towards YHWH’s creation before pouring out his own life as the Final Sin Sacrifice – which forever abolished the need for mankind to kill an innocent animal to atone for our sins. Thus, Law and Favor (Grace) have been applied in a functional way so that all YHWH’s children understand the cause and effect of sin and righteousness.

YHWH’s Good News (Gospel) is the Way of Truth which is a continuum of truth revealed of YHWH’s intent to redeem fallen man. This plan of redemption is what provided protection to Cain after he killed Abel, when YHWH showed great Favor to Cain after he murdered his brother. It was haSatan who had put the envy, hatred, evil imaginations and jealousy in Cain’s mind against his brother. The Law at that time was a spiritual consciousness, and Cain knew that he had committed murder by acting out very wicked thoughts about his brother. Fortunately for Cain, the applied Gospel kept YHWH from killing him, and ultimately also kept him from being killed by others.

In Noah’s days evil was rampant upon the Earth, much like today, and the Gospel went something like this: Get on the boat, or you’ll have to tread water for 150 days without food or fresh water… will you receive “the Gospel” and get on the boat? The Good News applied was that Noah invested 100 years of his life building a big boat. Within that span of time every human being on Earth would have heard of YHWH’s intentions to flood the Earth – but of course, the “riff raff” scorned and mocked the Gospel of Noah…

Abraham and the men of his household agreed to be circumcised and enter into Covenant with YHWH. The Gospel went like this: There is ONE ELOHIM, whose Name is YHWH; either accept the Covenant of Promise or you will not receive YHWH’s blessing. Circumcision symbolizes the separation of good from evil as a part of the flesh is cut away. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of YHWH, to do justice and judgment; that YHWH may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).

Mashiyach’s followers were referred to as those of the WAY! Peter issues a clear warning when he said: “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known it, to turn back from the Set Apart Commandment that was delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:21). The Gospel and “the Way of righteousness” are synonymous with the Kingdom of Elohim which advocates individual personal responsibility to uphold Torah observant, righteous conduct.

Mosheh received “Ten Commandments” written by the Finger of Elohim, but if you went your own way and kindled a fire on Shabbat or ate barbequed pork, you were “cut off” (killed) because YHWH gave us all the choice to either follow or ignore Him. That was the Gospel according to YHWH revealed by Mosheh. As a sovereign individual you can choose life or death by your obedience or disobedience; not by a cerebral theology that makes you “acceptable.” Mosheh preached the Gospel to all the Israelites; however, in the course of time the Levites (leadership) turned away from YHWH: “But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the Torah; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says YHWH of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law” (Malachi 2:8-9).

Without “the Law” (Torah) there is no Gospel. Torah reveals and defines good from evil and reveals the elements of Covenant. About 6,000 years of human experience on this planet witnesses that YHWH’s Laws are Set Apart and Just. YHWH’s Law provides the parameters for Freedom, Peace, Justice, Judgment, Equality, protection of personal liberty and property and the protection of the sovereignty of each individual. To pit the Law against the Gospel is a false Gospel as Rav Shaul teaches:

I am stunned into silence, as if dead, that you have so quickly forgotten Mashiyach who has called you to his favor and gone to another gospel that is non-existent, but there are men who agitated you and desired to pervert the Gospel of Mashiyach. For if us, or even a Messenger from heaven, preach outside from what was preached to you, let them be cursed. As I said before, so I say again: whichever man preaches to you outside of what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-10).

Nearly all Christian denominations ply the term “legalism” against others in one form or another. However, the second definition of legalism is the “Doctrine of Justification by Works.” Essentially any Christian who does “good works” could be disgraced as a legalist; the intentions of their hearts being judged by the naysayers as though their “good works” are done for “justification” or salvation. Rav Shaul (Paul) put it this way: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?” (Romans 14:4).

The religious stance is that you can do nothing to bring about justification or righteousness for yourself, but in reality, Salvation isn’t a mindset as much as it is a lifestyle, and a transformation from a carnal to a spiritual man. Salvation comes about by being conformed into the Image of Elohim. Each soul must co-labor with Mashiyach for salvation which must be evident in this lifetime, in the here and now; the work or service “of the heart” is to guard the heart and mind from degradation or backsliding into a carnal, worldly lifestyle. It is ironic that the individual who Gentile Christians have discredited for bringing an end to Torah was thus spoken of: “you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the Torah” (Acts 21:24). Paul the Apostle emphatically lived and taught the importance of Torah being written upon the heart!

The dilemma many Christians face is what to do when they discover their church hierarchy has been promoting a doctrine of demons by teaching against Torah. What can be done when Christians point their fingers and call you a legalist for desiring to live according to the Word of the Living Elohim? In reality it is the power of Favor that strengthens each soul to cease from breaking Torah and to stand up for what is right. The religious power of the word “legalism” is simply designed to keep souls in bondage to false religion and keep them from leaving the comforts of “the church,” but there is a huge gulf between being imbedded in a church and being embedded in the Kingdom of Elohim! Apostle Paul taught: “As a result, Torah is Set Apart; and the Commandment is Set Apart, and righteous, and good” (Romans 7:12).

Christians who are often quick to condemn others as “legalists” have never learned the most rudimentary principles of Torah. It was the pre-incarnate Mashiyach who said: “If you shall hearken unto the voice of YHWH your Elohim, to keep His Commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the Torah, and if you turn unto YHWH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul. For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command you this day to love YHWH you Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to keep His Commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply: and YHWH your Elohim shall bless you in the land where you are going to posses it. But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other elohim, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days upon the land, wither you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live: That you may love YHWH your Elohim, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may cleave unto Him: for He is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which YHWH swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (D’varim/Deuteronomy 30:12-20).

Torah is freedom. We are either walking in Torah and are free from sin, or breaking Torah and in bondage to sin. All the religious posturing and propaganda in the world will NEVER substitute for truth and righteousness.

The fourth definition to legalism is “a formula” which is defined as: a set form of words, or something definite or authoritative, or a procedure to be followed or something prescribed for a specific occasion. However, this certainly sounds much like a “statement of faith” does it not? This fourth definition simply suggests that one denomination’s (or person’s) formula is better than yours. All preachers have their own “formulas” – the fact that they would preach, hold a “service” or teach others simply means they have their own model of belief, or “formula.” Most theologians have received their credentials from some university so they can “authoritatively teach” denominational formulae. If someone asks, “What must I do to be saved?” any answer could be construed as a “formula.” So, in reality, those who point fingers at your “formula” as “legalism” are simply suggesting that their formula is better than yours.

Finally we come to “red tape” as the fifth definition of “legalism.” Traditionally, official Vatican documents were bound in red cloth tape, and this is also where the 17th to 18th Century British Monarchy derived their government tradition. During the Fourth Century, the Roman Empire was “made Christian.” Rome was the “superpower” that controlled all religious and governmental matters and Rome invented her own anti-Torah, anti-Semitic and anti-Mashiyach “Christianity.” Apostle Paul issued a very strict warning: “For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Master shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause Elohim shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12).

The applied thinking of the term “legalism” within Christianity epitomizes the work of the “mystery of iniquity.” There is no better way to define man’s religion than “red tape.” Religion is man’s carnal response to YHWH; it makes rules, traditions, buzz words, status quo trends and puts walls between YHWH and His people. YHWH sent Mashiyach to expose and take down the false traditions of man, but many love the bondage of religious traditions far more than they love the freedom of Truth. What Mashiyach did for us came at a very great price, and it is because of what he did that his followers become empowered to observe Torah by Favor (Grace), not of our own strength lest any man should boast.

All who point their fingers at others and call them legalists are showing solidarity to their own religious tradition. Condemnation of other human beings is, in fact, acting as haShatan’s “little helper.” Where did Christians learn this ministry of condemnation? “For Elohim sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). “Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Those who label people as legalists are simply asking for judgment to fall on their heads! See Romans 14:12; James 4:10-12; 5:8-11; and Isaiah 58:9.


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