• David Lee Brown

Legalism vs. Liberalism



I’ve noticed a strong trend toward liberalism in American churches and while strict legalism can make Pharisees out of people, it is still more biblical than liberalism. What I’m saying is that once a person is saved, born again, accepting Jesus as both Lord and Savior, they begin to grow in the Lord through prayer and study of the Bible. As they study the Bible they discover how God wants us to live, interact with others and interact with God. This is what legalism is all about, if you don’t go crazy and expect yourself and others to be perfect. Only one human made it through their life perfectly in accordance with God’s will and that was Christ Jesus. We can’t be perfect, but after we are saved, out of love for our Lord, in obedience to God, we strive to become as like Jesus as possible. That’s legalism – not strict legalism, but realistic and obedient legalism.

The following is a liberalism allegory:

A Christian man wakes up one morning after accepting Christ a few weeks prior. His liberal pastor preached about grace and the fact that all his sins are forgiven – past, present and future. The liberal pastor tells him it’s all about grace and nothing else matters. So, this liberal Christian understands that he’s not supposed to sin, but reasons, “My sins are gone, so I can do anything I want within reason. Neither the laws of man or the Old Testament law apply to me.” (He neglected to read Hebrews 13, Titus 3 or 1 Peter 2) He gets in his car and starts driving down the wrong side of the road, against traffic and speeds right through a traffic light slamming into a car with a family of 4 in it and the two kids are in their late teens. Everyone in the car is dead and only the mother was a born again Christian. The liberal Christian is alive and starts praising God for saving him, showing little regard for the 3 people he just sent to an eternal hell. While they were alive, they could have accepted Christ, but now they have no chance. This never happened. It is allegorical.

What’s this story have to do with liberal Christians? Well, just like the laws of man that the authors of Hebrews, Titus and 1 Peter, say we should obey so we don’t bring reproach on God, we should also strive to obey the laws of God too, and for the same reason. We can’t pick and choose what we will obey and what we will ignore, it’s all or nothing. Driving on the wrong side of the road is like knowing you are sinning but doing it anyway. For example: sex prior to marriage. You know you shouldn’t, but you do it anyway and then say to yourself, “Oh, God has already forgiven me for that sin and will continue to forgive me, so I’ll just keep doing it.” The problem is that you’re not living in His will or for Him; you are living to fulfill your own lusts.

Cruising through the traffic light and plowing into a car is like forgetting the second greatest commandment “…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Mark 12:30-31. We must have regard for others and God and try to do the right thing all the time. We are instructed by God to not put a “…stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his [our] brother's way.” Those 3 people in the car have no chance to get into heaven because of the stumbling block the liberal Christian threw in front of them. Throwing stumbling blocks can be drinking alcohol in front of people who are impressionable. Then they say, “Well, if it’s okay for them, it must be okay for everyone.” Even if we only drink an occasional glass of wine with supper, that other person may not have our restraint. They may go out and get drunk, which is a sin. It’s their sin, but we contributed the stumbling block. We must live in a manner that reflects Christ, obeys the law and doesn’t cause others to stumble and fall. Or, God forbid contributes to a person failing to accept Christ because they feel we are hypocrites. Saying one thing, but doing another in the presence of a believer or non-believers can cause irreparable damage to your testimony and their walk with Christ or potential acceptance of Christ.

Last, but not least, after killing the people in the car the liberal Christian stepped out and praised the Lord that he was okay. That is self-centered, uncaring and a slap in the face to God. It’s like hearing about a tragedy in the world or in your church family and exclaiming, “I’m glad it wasn’t me.” It’s not about you, it’s about God and His will. If you really think God will appreciate the praise when others are lying dead, then you are way too liberal.

Folks, legalism is not just playing by old outdated rules, it’s about obeying God’s precepts to honor God. It’s about lifting up and praising God for providing his wisdom within the pages of His Holy Bible. It’s about showing a good example. It’s about being a good example. It’s about the two great commandments in Mark 12:30-31. It’s about not being a stumbling block or throwing stumbling blocks in front of anyone. It’s about love and respect – agape love – selfless giving love in accordance with God’s perfect will, shared with us through His precious Word.

Liberalism embraces sin and tries to justify it by abusing the gift of grace. It glorifies a feel good religious experience instead of honoring God. It limits growth; buy enticing people to ignore the rich wealth of wisdom in the Old Testament. It creates a self-centered Christian, praising God for grace, praising Him for blessing, welcoming the feeling of His presence, but not developing that personal relationship that comes from prayer and study of scripture, so that they can learn about God’s character, knowledge and wisdom found only in scripture.

Legalism – not strict legalism, but realistic and obedient legalism – is the proper path, as long as you understand that you are not perfect and you can’t expect others to be perfect. We are all a work in progress, sinners saved by grace, clay for God to mold over a lifetime. Studying the entire Bible, prayer and adherence to God’s perfect precepts will help you develop a close personal relationship with God. That’s what it’s all about.