Today there is a common stigma, that to obey God’s commandments is “legalistic.” The term legalism is tossed around by many Christian leaders as a reason not to obey or be held to God’s commandments. Many teach that Jesus came to destroy all of the legalism that was present in the days of the Pharisees 2,000 years ago. I think that we can agree that Jesus did come to destroy legalism, but what does legalism really mean? To understand this, we must dive into scripture to see what Jesus was really doing in his ministry. When we look to God’s laws, there is one command in particular that is overlooked by most Christians today. It comes from Deuteronomy:
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” ~ Deuteronomy 4:2
This was a clear command of God that had been overlooked by the Jewish leaders known as “The Pharisees” for many years prior to the birth of Christ. Because they ignored this commandment, they had added many man-made laws to the law of God. This can be seen even to the point that people had to wash hands, pots, pans etc. at certain times according to their man-made traditions. Many of these rigid laws still remain in effect today in Judaism under the Talmud (a book of the law written by the Pharisees). Their laws were and continue to be many, and were extremely detailed:
“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” ~ Mark 7:1-9
This is a startling passage from Jesus’ teachings. Here Jesus clearly scolds the Pharisees for their many traditions that have nothing to do with the commandments of God. He indicates that they even taught these man-made things as “doctrines” as if they came from God, yet they were only commandments of men. These were “added laws” that were not authorized by God. Some of these added man-made laws would even cause the people to have to disobey God’s true laws:
“For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” ~ Mark 7:10-13
This is a reference from Jesus indicating one of the traditions of the Pharisees that contradicted God’s commandments. The Pharisees were more concerned with collecting their “gift”/money, from the people- than they were with encouraging the people to give to their father and mother in honor of the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20). Jesus adds that the Pharisees “make the word of God of none effect through their traditions”, and that they had “many such things (traditions) like this” that they held. This is legalism! This is the legalism of the Pharisee that Jesus battled against, and it had nothing to do with obedience to God’s laws, and everything to do with the teaching of obedience to frivilous man-made laws that contradicted God’s true laws of the covenant. Legalism according to the New Testament record, was nothing more than the belief and teaching that obedience (in action) to the many man-made laws of the Jewish leaders would bring salvation, all while in truth the people were led to disregard God’s laws given through Moses. The people were under heavy burdens via the added laws of the Pharisees. They were in chains to many rules, traditions and regulations that had nothing to do with God’s true law. This is why Jesus said- “The truth shall set you free”, and “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The focus of Jesus’ ministry was to bring the people back to God’s true freeing law and will, and to denounce the foolish laws and traditions of the Pharisees. We can find the same account written in the book of Matthew:
“But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” ~ Matthew 15:3-9
The many added laws of the Pharisees created a legalistic society where the masses believed that they would be saved by God according to their works in obedience to these many frivilous added laws. Obedience to these man-made laws did not come from love for the Father or love for the neighbor, rather it was a “going through the motions” of man-made tradition. They were taught that by obeying these many man-made laws, that they would be granted salvation, yet they didn’t realize that in obeying these man-made laws, they were disobeying God’s laws. Legalism of the Pharisees led the multitudes away from God by leading them to disobey God’s simple laws of the covenant.
Today there is a push by many Christian leaders who maintain that God’s commandments are no longer binding, and that obedience to God’s commandments is legalism. This is not true. Some ministers today refer to the letter to the Galatians or Ephesians to defend their right to break God’s laws while missing the entire point found when considering the entirety of scripture. To understand these books, one must understand the definitions of the terms being used (See Paul’s Writings Page). The New Covenant is a circumcision of heart (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 11:19-21, Ezekiel 36:25-28, Hebrews 8), which causes the believer to obey God from the heart. A “going through the motions” in any way will not bring any soul to salvation, rather obedience to God’s law through Christ- because of love for the Father and love for our neighbor- this is the path of salvation. After cleansing ourselves from sin (disobedience of God’s law) in the blood of Jesus through baptism with water and the holy spirit- we find the path of salvation through Jesus where through the spirit, we are able to walk in obedience to God from the heart. Legalism of the Pharisee created a condition known as the “stony heart” which in no way could operate in love. Jesus came to uphold and teach the true law of God, and taught his followers to do the same:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:17-20
It is evident that God’s true law was starkly different than the laws of the Pharisees. Having this understanding we can now pose some questions: …..1. Does God’s law of the covenant differ from the laws and traditions of Christianity today? Yes! This can be seen in the many traditions of Christianity that have no foundation in the scriptures which we will explain more in detail. 2. Has Christianity today exceeded the righteousness (obedience to God’s law) of the scribes and Pharisees? I say no, rather we have fallen into the same foolishness of the Pharisee holding to man-made traditions rather than the commandments of God! 3. Does “legalism” exist as biblically defined in Christianity today? I answer yes- legalism is rampant. Most of the traditions of Christianity today have nothing to do with the law of God and are merely man-made “added” laws and traditions by which the follower is taught they can find salvation. Speaking against these man-made Christian traditions today brings about swift verbal persecution in many Christian groups, just as it did with Jesus and His disciples among the Jews 2,000 years ago. To further explain, let’s consider some of today’s “Christian” traditions:
- Sunday worship, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, eating ham on Easter Day, Infant Baptism, Confirmation, worship of church leaders, Day’s of the Dead, worship at alters, statues, images, and in buildings even referred to as “God’s House”
Depending on what denomination of Christianity you belong to, I’m sure you can identify with one or all of these traditions. While many Christian leaders today maintain that these are “Christian” things and that they are “good”, recognition and holding to these traditions and laws of men causes many to disobey God’s laws of the covenant, which we will explain in further detail later in this article. These are traditional beliefs and “laws” that have no root in the bible and contradict God’s law. Of the list of Christian traditions provided, I challenge any Christian to identify where in the scripture any of these traditions or beliefs were commanded by God, Jesus, or the Apostles. God’s simple commands were given with extreme clarity in the scriptures, and today’s traditions have strayed far from it.
There are also many other unspoken and widely accepted laws in Christianity today as well. Have you ever heard in a Christian circle- “If this or that person doesn’t get to church, they are going to hell?”, “You can only be blessed by God if you go to the church.”, or “Unless you follow this church leader or that church leader, you will not get to heaven.” Many also say- “You can only hear God speak if you come to the church service.” And “If you don’t come to church on Sunday, you can’t get your sins forgiven or connect to God.” These “laws” are taught in many Christian circles and many are judged according to these laws in their social circles. Again I challenge any honest Christian to identify in the scriptures where these laws come from. I can tell you already, they aren’t there. These are man-made added laws, no different than the laws of the Pharisees that Jesus clearly condemned.
As mentioned earlier, many of today’s Christian traditions and laws contradict the laws of God, just as the traditions of the Pharisees contradicted God’s law. To explain, Sunday worship came from Sun God worship and does not fall on the true Sabbath of Scripture- see “God’s Calendar” page. This violates God’s Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20) of the covenant. Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter are all rooted in ancient Babylonian idolatry, the observance of which either knowingly or unknowingly violates God’s First Commandment (Exodus 20). Eating of Ham on Easter Day is a pagan practice from Babylon and violates God’s dietary law. Worship at alters, statues, images and in “holy” buildings all violate God’s Second Commandment (Exodus 20) which was removed by Catholicism (The Beast) in the early centuries AD. Worship thought to only properly occur in buildings/God’s House is idolatry as well. The earth is God’s footstool, he created all things and cannot be held to a church, building or temple.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” ~ Acts 17:24-25
“Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” ~ Acts 7:48-51
Calling up the dead on “Days of the Dead”, violates God’s command to flee necromancy (the calling up of the dead for any reason). Do you see the danger in legalism today? These traditions and laws of men have contradicted God’s laws, and we must remember what God said about His laws of the covenant- God’s commandments are binding:
“For I am the Lord, I change not” ~ Malachi 3:6
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.“ ~ James 1:17
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” ~ Hebrews 13:8
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.“ ~ Psalm 89:34
Denominational Christianity today is in danger of “worshipping in vain”:
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” ~ Matthew 15:3-9
Again, while Jesus is honored with the lips of many, and many speak and preach about Jesus, their heart is far from Christ. This comes in situations where God’s commandments aren’t obeyed from the heart, but rather are choked out by the many and various traditions of men that tend to contradict God’s commands. Numerous Christian leaders have chosen the praise of men over obedience to God. Remember that true obedience to Jesus brings with it persecution. Ask yourself, do today’s Christian leaders encounter persecution for their various teachings which in general are in agreement when it comes to today’s Christian traditions and pagan practices? They receive praise from the world, not persecution. The true gospel message of the bible will not be received well today even by the majority of denominational Christianity. If you desire to know the truth, seek out the message that is receiving persecution today. Seek out the message that the world hates to hear. The world hated Jesus, and continues to hate His true gospel message. The world hates those that speak out against Sunday worship, Christmas, Easter, pagan practices, all forms of idolatry, necromancy etc. These traditions of men are honored worldwide, and lead the multitudes away from obedience to God. I’m telling you the truth. Ask yourself- does reading this article make you angry? Do you feel anger towards the writer, to the point that you’d like to give me a “piece of your mind?” Then ask yourself….Will I be among the persecutors, or the persecuted?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness).” ~ Matthew 7:21-23
You can see here, that many were prophesied to be doing great works in Jesus’ name, even casting out devils etc- yet Jesus will tell them “I never knew you.” Confused? Why would people that are preaching and doing great works in Jesus name not know him? Why would they be turned away? Allow scripture to explain:
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” ~ 1 John 2:3
This tells us that to “know God” or “know Jesus” we keep his commandments. This reveals to us that it is not those that merely use Jesus’ name and believe in Jesus that will enter the kingdom- rather those that do the “will of the Father” by obeying His commandments. Remember that even Satan believes in Jesus. Please know, God’s will is spelled out clearly in His commandments. Jesus indicates those that will be turned away from the Kingdom are those that work iniquity or lawlessness (disobedience of God’s law). Please don’t make this mistake, learn the law of God and cherish it out of love for the Father and love for your neighbor from the heart. We encourage you to examine closely all of your handed down doctrines in the light of God’s word in the bible. You will find in prayerful study of God’s word everything that you will need to find the narrow path to salvation. We also encourage you not to take any man’s word over that which is written as was warned by Apostle Paul:
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” ~ 1 Corinthians 4:6
We beg you to return to God’s true Commandments of the covenant. We urge you, don’t become like the Pharisee of Jesus’ time. Cleanse yourself in the blood of Jesus, pray for rehabilitation, become baptized and walk in the spirit free from sin (disobedience to God’s law) from the heart. The end times saints will have one thing in common:
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” ~ Revelation 12:17
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” ~ Revelation 14:12
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” ~ Revelation 22:14