Some of the greatest pain I have had to deal with as a Christian leader has come from what I call Organic Church legalists. They are an elite group of immature, prideful, arrogant believers with huge identity issues. “Wow,” you say, “Those are some strong words!” It’s the strongest I can muster while still praying for them to repent. Some may not even be born again, but I am not their judge. I am simply warning the Lord’s people because their legalism naturally attracts the younger believers who have not yet shed all legalisms from the religious system they have left.
A genuine believer hates division. We seek to love and that which produces the unity of the Body. The problem is, these loud legalists naturally produce division.
I Cor 18-19 First of all, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 And indeed, there must be differences among you to show which of you are approved.
One thing we can be sure is that the Holy Spirit will clearly bless that which has the Lord’s backing. The Lord Himself is jealous for His Bride and will not allow her to be confused for long. Do not be a Christian loner, for you will surely fall prey to the legalists. The church together must open her eyes and follow what and whom the Lord approves.
To help the Body Identify these Legalists, I have included some of their practices below.
They do not celebrate Birthdays, Anniversaries, or any Holidays, such as Christmas.
They have a myriad of excuses for not celebrating any special days. They believe themselves to be truly Holy and not part of the pagan systems of this world. These actions bolster their “elite status” opinion of themselves. They are people of works and do not know what grace is. They hate the Catholic church and their practices, but they themselves have their own rituals that make them “Holy.” The legalists have no concept of Christian liberty.
Rom 14:4-5 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards a certain day above the others, while someone else considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
They would have scolded Paul for trying to get back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.
Acts 20:16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, because he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.
They are in Idolatry with the Bible.
They are Bibliolaters. They are in idolatry with the Bible. They believe that man cannot be trusted to hear the Holy Spirit accurately. God only speaks through the Bible. Only they are qualified to fully interpret what the Bible says because nobody studies it daily like they do. They are fascinated with Scripture texts, the oldest manuscripts, & Bible languages — anything that can humanely make them rise above who they think they are in their mind. The Holy Spirit who lives in His Body is the Gift the Father and Son left on earth today!
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19In a little while the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.
They are Anti – Leadership of any kind.
This guarantees them complete un-challenged freedom to say and do whatever they want. They are beyond reproach. They claim to be under Christ, but only they interpret what He is saying to them. They are those Corinthians who claimed they could divide the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ because only they were of Christ!
I Cor 12-13 What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided?
Their definition of Christian leader comes from the Religious System which they claim they left but are still carrying around the baggage of their past wounds. A leader is a servant for the good of the Body. A true leader does not need a title or a position. He leads with His example and he ministers to others with the Love of Christ with no hidden agenda. According to the legalists, no one is worthy to inspect their life and practice.
They are obsessed with truth as they see it.
Unity for them and with them can only come from doctrinal uniformity. They live in the fallacy of biblical certainty. Yes, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, but my understanding of Him is not. The very scriptures they worship say that, “Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We are all on the same road, growing closer daily as we mature. To believe we understand the God who Created the Heavens and the Earth because we have read through the Bible a few times is real ignorance. If you meet the legalists, they will lead with their recipe for truth to test you and check you out. You will be allowed to participate with them based on your agreement with them. Of course, the legalists will tell you that you are in agreement with God if you are in agreement with them.
They are always blaming others
The blame game is as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden. It is always someone else’s fault. For the legalists, there always must be a scapegoat.
In the American church, there is always the usual battle between liberals and conservatives. Things are so divided in America; the most common division is always between those who are members of the local church and those who have just left and gone elsewhere. The world is at fault. Society is at fault. The rich are at fault. The government is at fault. The church is never at fault.
In the Hispanic Church world, they see everything that is wrong or does not agree with them as coming from Satan and/or the Catholic Church. The legalists must blame others because they dare not look at their mistakes and sins. When the legalists turn their judgmental guns on themselves, a crash and burn is sure to follow. I have counseled many truly depressed legalists. An understanding of grace is what they need and especially for themselves!
Phil 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.
Their lives reveal an absence of Joy and Peace in the Holy Spirit
Their faces look sad; they never smile. They are contentious. They do not listen well. They are always looking beyond others’ comments. They are not teachable at all. When confronted they will argue with you, and instead of listening to what you are saying, they will judge you to deflect the actual issue. God’s people live to learn to love all His people, even our enemies. The legalists live to get everyone straightened out in their little group. Everyone must adhere to their pet doctrines. It’s a tiring work; that is why they have such sad faces, and many hide their faces on social media. The legalists make for poor employees and poor spouses. We forget that these words below were written to believers.
Rom 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow wickedness, there will be wrath and anger.
They are very vocal, but only the immature are listening to them.
The legalists exemplify the verse below.
Rom 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal.
They live in their own little world. They are constantly writing in social media even if nobody is commenting on their posts. They do not care about dialogue; they are only focused on dumping their truth on you, and of course it’s backed by their interpretation of scripture. If they are in a chat group, they simply use it to promote their opinions. No one relates, discusses, or responds to the other. Remember, they do not care for feedback. They only come online to express their opinion, and that somehow satisfies their narcissistic desire to tell others the truth.
Their Spiritual Life focuses on a Posture of All they are Against
This is how they validate their truth. The legalists say they alone are holy because they are set apart and exclusive. What I mean here is they dwell in the world of what they cannot do as Christians. What the legalists are for is what they are against. The legalists really do not “see” their condition. Their focus in life is self- righteousness based on their adherence to their works. It makes for a huge deception because they do not notice they have no real friends. The legalist is naturally a self-centered person, so he/she has no real devotion to others. This makes for shallow relationships. If only the Body of Christ can heal the Body of Christ, then they have little chance for their healing.
Real Christian Unity based on the Love of Christ is Ecumenism
They believe any type of Christ-like inclusiveness is of the devil and leading the Church to the One World Order. They do not participate in any unity events or gathering of saints with varied Christian views. They believe there is one Church, and they are it. It’s strange because as we discussed in #8, they have no type of brotherhood or care for each other. Their end time views read like the directions on the side of a medicine bottle. Everything is figured out! God is going to do just as they say. Do I believe some Catholics are saved? Yes, just like I can believe some Pentecostals, some Baptist and some Methodists are saved. Salvation respects no human labels and there certainly will not be any in heaven. We have been left on earth to embody the Lord so others can see His love in us and want what we have.
Billy Graham said it best, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
It is my prayer that this article be used to help the Body of Christ not fall into the legalists trap. This article in no way is an advocacy for liberalism and/or conforming to the spirit of this age. Also, I seek no condemnation, even for them. As I have said before, I am not their judge. It is my prayer that the reader would hear the Spirit and the purpose for this article. If the Lord’s Church is to make a difference in this fallen world, she will have to shed the webs of legalism.
Rom 14: 11-13 11 It is written: “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.…
Jose L. Bosque