Part 2 of a series on: Detoxing Religion
What are the rules of the New Covenant and what does working out my salvation really mean anyway?
There are three primary errors the Apostle Paul dealt with in the New Testament.
1. Legalism- Christians are still under the law, and should abide by them. 2. Galatianism - Starting off in the spirit ending up in the flesh. 3. Antinomianism- Also known as making grace a license to sin. This error says because we are under grace and not law there are no consequence to our sin.
In this blog we will expose the error of legalism.
Legalism teaches us that we are still under the law even if it’s not the Mosaic law. The epitome of the religious spirit teaches that we must merit what Christ has accomplished for us on the Cross not so much by faith but by doing more, becoming more and working harder to become more like Christ. You know we should be “working out our salvation with fear and trembling right”? Before we dive into the error of legalism let’s look at what the bible teaches about the New Covenant.
Are there any laws that we need to obey in the New Covenant?
Love fulfills the whole law!
Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Ok, so we established that the only “law” found in the New Covenant is the law of love. We are no longer under the Mosaic law. However what about all the sin in the church? Shouldn’t we still hold to the ten commandments and call people to external holiness?
Here’s what the bible teaches about the ten commandments.
The Law is for lawbreakers not for the righteous.
1 Timothy 1:9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
Paul calls the the commandments written on stone the ministry of death.
2 Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
Remember the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6)
In the New Covenant for believers the law is written in our minds and hearts.
Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.
As New Covenant believers in Christ, the Holy Spirit abides with in us, His love flows through us, His Grace causes us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, His law of love is written in our hearts as He leads us and guides us through His Word and Presence.
Most legalist would be ok with what I wrote so far. Legalism would then begin to challenge, “well it’s not just being saved by grace we MUST do something!! “ Or ,”yes the bible says we are holy in Christ but we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” To the legalist this scripture means we have to do more, pray more, fast more, tithe more in order to be right with God. Do, do, do is the voice of the religious spirit not motivated from love but for love. This is a huge distinction. Grace empowers, faith works and love compels. Working from love is different than working for love and acceptance. It’s the difference between walking as a child of God versus walking in the spirit of religion.
Let’s take a look at this scripture in context.
Phil 2:12 “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Breaking this verse down in context we see that the from Chapter 2:1-18 Paul is speaking about being like Christ on the inside. The bible calls this process sanctification.
Phil 2:5-8 Be like Christ
Phil 2:9 God exalting the humble
Then we arrive at verse 12. Take notice, “just as you have always obeyed.” Obedience is an important word in understanding our challenging text.
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, Taking this scripture out of context, or poof texting creates a huge challenge.
Paul other places teaches the opposite of this verse. Paul pens the words, “you are saved by grace through faith not by works lest any man shall boast.”
What did fear and trembling mean to Paul? Remember Paul was a man of the word.
Isaiah 66:2 “ this is the one whose I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Biblically those who feared and trembled at God’s word where the humble. This fits within the context of the chapter. Remember Paul references Christ humility on the cross in vs 5-8.
The key verse in understanding what it means to “work out our salvation” is found in vs 13,” for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
This verse is speaking of sanctification. The working out of our salvation looks like partnering with the grace of God that works with in us. Paul indicates, “as you have always obeyed” so this obedience is a “working out” due to a healthy fear of the Lord and humility.
In the new covenant in Christ the only “law” is to love. Not only are we commanded to love but we are empowered to love by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We can not make ourselves more holy or merit what Christ has accomplished on the cross but we can partner with what the Father is doing on the inside of us and obey His voice through faith.
Faith vs Law
Most people contrast grace and law. I believe it’s more accurate to contrast law and faith. We will look deeper at the definition of Grace in another blog but for the purpose of understanding I interpret grace not only as unmerited favor or even divine enablement which it is, but as a person, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the grace of God.
Gal 3: 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”
Grace empowers me but faith is a living relationship with Jesus. Under the old covenant they where obligated to be obey the law in order to have relationship with God. Which look liked following a set of rules. However faith in God hears His voice an grace empowers us to obey it. Legalistic christians may not embrace the Mosaic law but do live by little laws that they feel they have to accomplish every day in order to be “right” with God. Those “laws” maybe,” have I done enough to day?” “Oh no, I didn’t read the bible today, I failed God.” I think you get the picture. The reality is that we have been made righteous by Jesus obedience not our own. (Romans 5:19).
One Final Thought
Legalism will take something they may have heard from the Lord by faith and put that conviction on every one else. If what is in question isn’t a blatant sin then it’s just that persons conviction. For example some churches believe that participating in Halloween is opening the door for kids to get demons. To them Halloween is equal to celebrating Satan’s birthday. While other churches may encourage their people to go out and use it as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus and get to know the community. Which is correct? Ultimately it comes down to the person’s conviction. If you are convicted that it is sin to celebrate Halloween then don’t do it but don’t judge another who has a different convictions. Making people obey convictions God has given them is a true sign of a religious spirit.
Stay tuned for the third installment in the Detoxing Religion Blog we’ll look at the error of Antinomianism and dive into understanding biblical grace.
www.IvanRoman.org to catch up on former blogs.