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Acts 15:1-5

1And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, “ Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”

2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, “That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses .”

We’re told here the explaining of the Word of God to do with law and grace when it spread to the early church was received gladly.

These new converts loved God and were filled with joy because their sins were forgiven, and they had experienced the indwelling presence of God in their lives.

They were also enjoying the fellowship of other people who received Jesus Christ into their lives and were growing in the faith with them. Even the persecution they faced from friends and family did not cause them to reconsider their decision to follow Christ.

But then something unexpected happened; a small group of zealous, Jewish Christians from Jerusalem came to pay a visit. They were born Jews and had carefully followed the Jewish faith, in observing all the laws of Moses and the traditions of Judaism.

But when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they assumed that they should continue to follow all the Jewish laws and traditions. [Which is works]

When these Jewish Christians came to Antioch, they tried to impose these rules on the new Christians.

The first thing they said to these new Christians was: v.1“Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Instead of helping to open up the way to Christ, they put boulders of does & don’ts in their path. They made the way to God more difficult, instead of more accessible. They created unnecessary obstacles, instead of removing them.

This often happens in the life of a new Christian. Some people feel it is their business to remind them of all the things they are no longer supposed to do. They put shackles around the feet of new Christians.

They become the religious police, so to speak, investigating new believers to make sure they are not doing anything wrong.

This new believer needed to understand that to come to Christ means a whole new way of living, and that there are moral laws that are important to observe. But the danger was that they made it appear that a person still must do certain things in the Law of Moses to be saved.

They made it sound like a person’s relationship with God was dependent on how well they kept the law, rather than by the free gift of his grace through Jesus Christ.

Legalism is seeing the Christian life as a list of things to do, and also a list of things, which you are not permitted to do. It makes it appear that a person is justified before God by one’s own obedience, rather than the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Legalism acts as though a person earns their salvation, rather than receiving it as a free gift of God.

Legalism sees the Christian life as a list of rules rather than spiritual principles. Legalism majors on prohibitions rather than emphasizing positive transformation. Legalism looks at the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law. It looks at outward observances rather than an inner change of heart.

Legalism is a scourge in the church because it is not real Christianity.

· Why is legalism such a problem in the church?

There are several reasons, but the first is:

Legalism turns a relationship of ones love of God into a religion of laws. Primarily, our relationship with God is supposed to be a relationship of love, instead of going by a list of laws.

Let me point out right here, that Gods moral laws are still in force today, [the10 commandments of Exodus 20: with the exception of the Sabbath day law which is altogether Jewish] there is the “mosaic law of does & don’ts, [lev, -duet] there is the ceremonial laws, there was the civil laws, these were all for the Jewish people, Gods chosen people, He meant for them to be a separated people unto Himself. Ps. 147 19He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.

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