February 5 I Saturday
“Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’”
In all of our human institutions, rules are introduced to try and monitor human behaviours. A few years ago, my sons joined a new hockey league and they sent videos for parents to watch in preparation for being in the league. This was new to me. I did not know that parents had to watch instructional videos on how parents are to conduct themselves during their child’s game. The video showed inappropriate behaviours of parents yelling at children on ice, saying obscenities at the referee and chewing their child on the ride home by telling them that they did not play hard enough. There was even a test at the end of the video to make sure parents actually know how to behave. I wondered if all this was necessary, but going to my child’s hockey game and seeing grown adults yelling at children on ice, I realized that a game that is meant to be fun can be ruined because of the mindset of parents.
Hence, in all realms of life, rules are introduced to try and monitor behaviours, which are good. But in the New Testament, we find that the Pharisees were not only the enforcers of the Law, but of religious rules that were not even part of Scripture. For them, the Sabbath became a burdensome book of external rules to govern the flesh. Thus, instead of enhancing life, it was suffocating it.
This legalism that can set in is not just a Pharisee problem—it is a human problem. Our interpretations of God’s law and our additions to His Word can actually get in the way of His plans. We can slip into a religious rules-centered mindset and drift from a Christ-centered mindset. Our church history reveals that we have wandered into extra-biblical rules that are beyond the scope of Scripture in order to make things a little more legalistic. In fact, the early church wrestled with this; thus, Paul wrote saying, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). When the Reformation took place 500 years ago, it was a reaction to some of the corrupt practices that had grown into the church with teachings on indulgences and things that were beyond the scope of the authority of Scripture. Altogether, the tendency to be legalistic can creep into our lives if we are not careful.
How do we escape legalism? When we place our faith in who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf, we acknowledge that it is not our legalistic righteousness that earns us favor with God, but resting in His finished work.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the reminder that my legalistic righteousness does not earn favour with You. I am simply welcomed into Your kingdom by trusting in Jesus and resting in His finished work. Amen!