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Gamaliel's Desk
Monday, April 10, 2006
Legalistic Hypocrites and Hypocritical Legalists
I don't know how many times I have been called a legalist simply because I believe in setting standards of decency and decorum for church attendees and workers. I am fed up with these slanderous and hypocritical accusations. Let me state for the record that I do not have a problem with legalism because I am not a legalist. And people who accuse me of such are hypocrites because they want to apply their standard of legalism to my expression of the Christian faith. What they really object to is how I tell them they are wrong for holding to the error of their ways, but they have no objection to telling me that I am wrong. If this is not the height of hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Truth be told, I never make personal, slanderous accusations about them. I only point out the Truth of God's Word, while they levy ad hominem attacks against me of a very personal nature even to the point of questioning my very salvation. Of course, most of my critics are unsaved to begin with, but if they were, I would never question their personal relationship to God as they do mine.

Let me start by making a comparison. I believe and practice that people who come to our church to serve and worship should dress like Christians. My critics say that I have set up a standard that is not biblical and so end up being a legalist. Well, let me ask this – would they allow someone to attend worship or serve in their church dressed in a bikini? If they wouldn't, then why not? I will tell you. It is because they have standards of dress for their worshippers and worship leaders. So, it is not a matter of my having standards, it is a matter that my standards do not suit them. Everybody has standards - minimum expectations of dress and behavior. It is clear that by comparing my standards to their standards that mine are higher. They admit this themselves. But for some reason, they view my higher standards as being "legalistic" but they don't view their standards which are much lower (and would have the same effect of denying a bikini-clad woman a place in the church choir) as being just as legalistic. If anything, they should be ashamed that they take such a low view of God and worship of Him as to allow clothes in the congregation that they would never allow in the workplace or school.

The error of their low form of legalism, which criticizes my high form of legalism, is that it allows them to offend those who are weaker in the faith and in so doing, to condemn them to God's displeasure. If someone sees them exercising their "Christian liberty" and decides, based on watching the Christian libertines, that they can exercise the same liberty, then the weaker brother is under the condemnation of God. These weak Christians are using substandard Christians as spiritual leaders to set the standard for their behavior before God. If leaders set a low standard, then their followers are going to miss out on God's good pleasure. Even worse, these weaker brethren are basing their decisions about practical spirituality on what they see others do, rather than on what they see God revealing through His Word. This is not of faith and therefore it is sin. Everyone should be using the Bible as their Sole Rule of Faith and Practice which, if properly read, understood and followed, will lead them to adopt the same standards we have adopted. So these lower level legalist brothers are twice condemned – once for practicing a low form of spirituality and once again for leading weaker Christians to join them in their shoddy, slovenly, sloppy practice of Christianity.

I believe that my critics have a lower form of spirituality because they lack the necessary personal resolve to abide by my higher standard of Christian conduct. They are tempted by the worldly allure of Contemporary Christian Music. They are drawn away of their own lusts and enticed to dress in immodest attire and excite the passions of others. They are attracted by the pride of life that craves peer acceptance in a sin-cursed world so they can be thought of as "cool" instead of Sold Out for Jesus. I am not tempted by any of these – the lust of the eyes (or ears), lust of the flesh or pride of life – because of my steadfast resolve to live a godly life. If they would simply devote themselves to living out the Gospel by applying higher standards to their lives, then they would enjoy God's favor like I do.

My critics would argue that I create extra-biblical standards but this is not true. First of all, there is no biblical standard that says people can't wear bikinis to church, yet they themselves don't allow such practice. So if the standard is extra-biblical for me, it is just as extra-biblical for them. The truth is that every standard we set is based on the Bible and biblical discernment that comes from rightly dividing the Word of God. The Bible doesn't list every possible sin which we could commit. Instead it gives us principles that apply to our daily lives across cultural boundaries. Modest dress is modest no matter what culture we are in. Godly music is honoring to God no matter what culture in which t is played. To the ignorant it may appear we are adding to the Bible but to the spiritually discerning, it is a godly interpretation of the rules set forth in the Bible.

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
Matthew 23:2-3 (NIV)

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