Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Joys (and dangers) of Legalism Part II

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He *said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. Mark 3:1-4

The Gospel of Mark records a number of confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. These altercations were rooted in the conflict between their "kingdom of legalism" and the true Kingdom of God.  As self-proclaimed guardians and keepers of the Law, the Pharisees wrongly believed they had a corner on the Kingdom of God. They were so presumptuous that they added 619 different commandments to the Ten Commandments. In addition, they added 358 prohibitions regarding the Law, including 39 different additions to just the Sabbath law.  From the time Jesus began His earthly ministry, the Pharisees were opposed to Him. There are several instances in scripture where they questioned Jesus and His credibility but in Mark 3 we find the worst of the confrontations, when Jesus comes into the synagogue again. In these verses one can discover the distinctions between the counterfeit and the genuine Kingdom of God.  

Mark 3:1-6 tells the story of a man with a withered hand.  Jesus enters the synagogue where the man was and all the Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath all for the purpose of accusing Him of violating the Sabbath.  The story of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6 is, in reality, about legalism. The real story is the conflict between the Pharisees with their legalism and Jesus Christ with the new kingdom principles.  Jesus did heal the man.  

Legalism is all about what is on the outside, while Jesus was concerned about what was on the inside. The Pharisees were about ritual; Jesus cared about relationships. You find those opposite extremes whenever you see conversations between the Pharisees and Jesus, but this is the clearest scriptural example that explains what authentic Christian living is–what we are to be about. The contrast is clear:

Legalism is unmoved by Scripture and moral reasoning.
At the end of Mark chapter 2, Jesus begins to reason with the Pharisees about the Sabbath. In verse 25 He appeals to them on the basis of Scripture: "Have you never read what David did…?" Then in verse 27, He appeals to them on the basis of moral reasoning: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Incredibly, they were unmoved by either appeal. Legalism is always like that. These Pharisees exemplified the mindset that says, "When I get my rules all in an order, when I get my thinking all figured out, I’m not going to be moved by anything else, whether it’s Scripture or moral reasoning." In the Case of the Withered Hand, Jesus found that they have not changed one bit as a result of His words.
There’s something symptomatic of spiritual death when we are unmoved by Scripture. I’ve heard people say, "Well, I know that’s what it says, but this is what I really believe."  That’s a dangerous place to be, where you’re not even moved by the Word of God or the moral reasoning of Jesus Christ.  Be careful and guard yourself against falling into that pit. 

Scripture to Claim:
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Galatians  5:13-14

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