Christian Legalism (Part 3): The foolish ignorance of opposing God’s Grace

Grant Swart

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient “ (1 Tim. 1:8-9).

At the heart of Christian legalism is a denial of the truth of the Gospel, and therefore a denial of God’s Sovereignty, of His Son and of the work of His Holy Spirit. It places God’s people into cruel, oppressive bondage and replaces the perfection and completion of the salvific work of Jesus Christ, with sick, depraved human traditions. Speaking out against the error of legalism, as I have done previously in Parts 1 and 2 of this article, by accepting the example set by Jesus, in no way constitutes creating a licence to sin. There are no two things in the world more directly opposed to one another than law and grace.

Righteousness and our acceptance by God can never come by way of legalism. Neither can justification, nor sanctification. By no means do I intend to indicate hereby that true, saved believers are antinomian (against the law), which seems to have become a fashionable term being bandied about with much self-righteous zeal. The boundaries which govern that which constitutes true antinomianism are subject to a million varied interpretations, remain practically undefined and are all subject to human interpretation. However, many legalists seem to be under the impression that every true believer who opposes legalism and works based salvation, or for that matter is found to have committed sin, is by definition antinomian.  Continue reading

The (Im)Morality of Tattoos

Grant Swart

(with sincere appreciation to Lorne Zelyck)

The (Im)Morality of Tattoos was originally an assignment for a Contemporary Moral Issues class offered at Phoenix Seminary. After the original writing, it was modified to also address the ethicality of body piercings. The modified version was published as “Under the Needle: An Ethical Evaluation of Tattoos and Body Piercings” in The Christian Research Journal (Vol. 28/ No. 06/ 2005) available at http://www.equip.org. The author (Lorne Zelyck) reserves all editorial rights and privileges of this paper.

The (Im)Morality of Tattoos

 

I. A Brief Historical Timeline of Tattoos

In October 1991, a five thousand year old corpse was found frozen in a glacier between Italy and Austria. The body of this man (later called Otzi) is considered the best preserved corpse of the Bronze Age every found, and dates to around 3300 B.C. The skin of Otzi has become of great interest because it bears several tattoos: a cross, six straight lines fifteen centimeters long, and numerous parallel lines.1 Continue reading

Christian Legalism: The Dark Side of Christianity (Part 2)

Grant Swart

Although legalism and the error it represents cannot be taken lightly, I thought it might be apt to place this well known bit of humour before Part 2 of this article. It (sort of) addresses legalism, yet it is contradictory as there is no pre-requisite for us to “earn” life eternal in lieu of the perfection of the sacrifice made by the Lamb, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  

Of course, there are those out there who love and cling passionately to their legalism, who would fault the relevance or suitability of even this humour. I am well aware of some of them who do read my articles and in particular, I refer to those of immature contentious spirit who confuse a regard for the severity of sin, repentance and true sanctification with the gross error of legalism.  

A man dies and goes to heaven.  He is met at the Pearly Gates by a Heavenly custodian.

The custodian says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. Continue reading

Christian Legalism: Mission Impossible (Part 1)

Grant Swart

It is with daily regularity that I encounter certain fellow Christians, although I suppose in some instances they are merely professing Christians, who practice or promote the errors of legalism. I’m sure that we all do, that is, cross paths with people who endorse and encourage some or other form of legalistic practice everyday. The heresy of legalism is rooted in an erroneous teaching or understanding which continually attempts to place the Christian under some or other system of law and thereby attempts to make salvation, or at the very least a few percentage points of our salvation, dependant on man’s own efforts.

Legalism promotes the belief that one can be saved by keeping, or to the best of one’s ability attempting to keep, God’s commandments. Very often adherence to additional rituals and rules are encouraged by the legalistic system in order to retain salvation. Certain aspects of human life are often considered taboo and are presented as being detrimental to the legalist’s success in ‘achieving’ salvation. Legalists believe that they can, through their own efforts at self-righteousness and legal obedience, impress God sufficiently so as to influence His attitude toward them, and therefore reward them with eternal salvation.

Legalism can be described as a false doctrinal position or worldview within certain Christian Continue reading