“God help me not to be legalistic.” There is a constant Christian movement to separate oneself from legalism. Yet, some are legalistically opposed to legalism, so every other belief system is legalistic or liberal. That mentality does not certainly does not allow one to express respect to other belief systems. The movement considers past generations of their heritage to be archaic and too rigid.
In opposing legalism, this movement opposes part of that heritage. Within that heritage, one preacher in particular wrote a long letter to a congregation regarding what he understood to be errors about a number of issues. He encourage the church to return to the traditions that he delivered to them. One might wonder where any preacher believes he gets the authority to correct other Christians in other churches. This letter will very likely challenge what is considered “legalism”. Let’s take a look at this preacher’s letter in summary since the letter is long. Notice all the laws and commands that he gave to this church. What do you think about this?
Summary of the Letter:
In good presentation, the preacher wrote to this congregation accepting them as a church of God and he blessed them. He said that he gave thanks to God for them. Then from here, he began to address the errors that he believed that they had committed from what he had heard from the one of the families of the church. He addressed them as brethren saying that he heard that they were split up into different groups within the congregation. He appealed to them in Jesus’ name for them to be of one mind. He knew of a report of them arguing among themselves and following different religious leaders. He told them that their divisions were contrary to Christ since Christ is not divided. This preacher reminded them of how he once preached to them and that he would send his aid to help them. He even asked them if they would rather he come with a rod or with love.
The preacher got on to them about a man in their congregation who was openly having a sexual affair that is even looked down upon in the world. The preacher called them arrogant. He suggested that they mourn and remove this man from among them. Then, the minister said that they should get together as a congregation and deliver this man to Satan. He told them to cleanse themselves of this person. He told this church that they needed to judge the members of the church and get rid of the evil people therein.
The preacher had just begun. He admonished them for using the courts to resolve issues among them. For this, he believed that they should have shame. He reminded them that evil people like homosexuals, people who have sex outside of marriage, and drunkards are not going to Heaven. Then he addressed marriage. He told this church that any of the members who separated from their spouses must remain single or get back together with their spouse.
The preacher also wrote about where they go out to eat. He told them that they should not eat somewhere where other members of the church would be appear to have forsaken God, so that other Christians would not stumble into other temptations. Next, the minister changed the subject again to paying ministers for which he tells them that they should pay their preachers. He also commanded this church to keep the traditions that he gave them.
This minister continued on. He went into the subject of how their assembly is done. He said that they did not get together for the better, but for the worse. He asked them if they despised the Church. He instructed them that they should eat the Lord’s Supper together when they come into their assemblies, and not to eat it for hunger or thirst. He informed them that each person must judge oneself before partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and he said that many of them were ill and had died because of not judging.
Now the preacher took a break from writing about the assembly to also note that they being many members must be one, since they became members of the one Church by baptism in one Spirit. Therefore, he told them that the greatest gift that they have is love. From here, he return to the matter of edifying and worshiping in the Assembly. He told them that their teaching and preaching should be understandable in language, so as to intelligibly edify the congregation. He told them that they must do everything in the Assembly unto the edification of the mind and to stop thinking like children. He commanded them that their singing must be with understanding and with the right spirit, so that they should teach, preach, pray, and sing unto the building up of the mind as well as the spirit. He gave further instructions to have the preachers and speakers speak in turn and that no women are to speak in the Assembly since it is shameful. He told them that he has the commands of the Lord and that their assemblies are to be kept respectable and in order.
Now, the preacher did remind this church of the Gospel being the death, burial, and resurrection and how they must stand upon this gospel by which they were saved. He also went into detail regarding the resurrection being true since some of them did not believe in resurrection. He instructed this church that if the resurrection is not true then their faith is futile and vain, and that if there is no resurrection, then he and other preachers are false witnesses. He told them that by the resurrection they will be raised up spiritually in the end.
From here he concluded in telling the church to have their collection every first day of the week from what members have prospered. He wrote that he would like to visit with them if the Lord allowed. He instructed them to stand strong in the faith and to do everything in love. Finally, he concluded by love in Christ.
**Those who are familiar with this preacher and know who he is and who he was writing to, please do not present that information in the comments, since it would defeat the purpose of this discussion.**
Questions for Discussion:
*Is this minister a false teacher?
*Is this minister a “legalist”? Why?
*What denomination do you think this preacher is a member of? Why?
*What things was this minister correct about? Why?