Thursday, January 19, 2006

Legalism and the Jesus Community (part three)

Legalism as understood from Galatians is an addition to the gospel that nullifies the gospel (Galatians 1). Christ and his death are supplemented with some teaching or practice that makes one "in". Legalism cuts one off from the grace found in Christ and from the work of the Spirit. It ends up being of the flesh and brings its adherents into bondage.

Grace as in Christ and by the Spirit is where we're to live. This means a life in the Spirit which fulfills the goal of the law. A life of freedom as God's children.

The law in itself is not our goal. It is a guide to lead us to faith in Christ as Savior. And it is summed up in "the Jesus Creed": to love God with one's entire being and activity, and to love one's neighbor as one's self.


Rusty Peterman said...


I had a professor in seminary, Jack Macgorman, who led our Greek class though a translation and verese-by-verse examination of Galatians.

Something Dr. MacGorman said about legalism has stuck with me all these years:

"Legalism views the work of Christ on the cross as necessary, but not sufficient."

Thanks for this series,

Ted Gossard said...

Rusty, good quote. Thanks.

RonMcK said...

I agree with what you are saying, but I do not like the expression legalism, because it creates a negative attitude to the law. The result is that we do not know how to handle the Law correctly. We then have no guidance for organising Civil Sociey.

Ted Gossard said...

ronmck, you may have something there.

"Legalism" here is certainly not meant to be antinomian/anti-law. I was trying to deal with what Paul is saying in Galatians. That in Christ, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law.


RonMcK said...

What do you mean that we are no longer under Mosaic law?

Ted Gossard said...

ronmck, somehow Paul's argument in Galatians is with reference to Judaizers insisting that one must accept Christ and still remain under the Law as Israel in old covenant times. But in Christ a new covenant was coming to replace the old.

Galatians 3:23-25 indicates that since Christ has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law, which was meant to lead us to faith in Christ. And, as we are led by the Spirit, we are no longer under the law- 5:18. I know there are interpretive issues here, and also I believe that Paul looks at the Law in more than one way.

But the Mosaic Law does not have the precise same function today for God's people as it had in Old Testament/Covenant times. -e.g., We don't go to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer animal sacrifices.

Yet the Old Testament/covenant as part of Scripture is important for God's people today. To understand Christ and the new covenant aright in which we live, we need to work at understanding the old covenant. And God and humans in the story of the Old Testament have much to offer us for our faith and life today (e.g., Heb 11).

Sketchy, but does this help you see a bit where I'm at? and what do you think?

Thanks brother,

RonMcK said...

We need to be clear about what is fulfilled and what remains.