God’s Not a Legalist

The high places were not taken away out of Israel; nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect all his days.

~2 Chronicles 15:17

God’s not a legalist. Other kings were commended for getting rid of their high places, but Asa didn’t do it. Nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect, says the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.

If you’ve read the Gospels, you may have noticed that Jesus wasn’t very fond of the Pharisees. What you may not know is that the Pharisees are the descendants of the Maccabees, of whom God was very fond. The Maccabees fought for Israel, defended the temple, defended the Law and the traditions of Israel, and they trained the people to reject idols and obtain the blessing of God. They were great men of God. If you’re a Protestant who hasn’t read Maccabees because it’s in the “Catholic” Bible, you’re missing out. It’s not as exciting as watching a modern movie, of course, but there’s a lot to be learned in it.

Think of the Maccabees as being like the church of Ephesus before it lost its first love and the Pharisees as being like the Ephesians after they lost their first love. Judas Maccabeus and his brothers and descendants had their eyes on God and on the people of Israel. The Pharisees had their eyes on rules. The latter made Jesus mad, real mad. Read Matthew 23 some day. He didn’t like the doctrine of the Pharisees.

Today there are all sorts of movements insisting that some little particular is required in order to please God. The Sacred Name movement, for example, insists that you have to use Jesus’ Hebrew name (Yeshua, Yehoshua, Y’shua, Yahshua or some other version they’ve made up) if you want to be saved. Other denominations insist on some other thing.

Years ago I met a man from the Church of Christ who told me I was the only other man who would talk with him about God. No one at his church, he said, was much interested in such conversation. He was delighted to have met me. The third or fourth time we got together, however, he found out that my water baptism, years earlier, had not been for the purpose of the forgiveness of my sins. I told him, “I understand Scripturally why you would want that to be so, but it’s impossible. By the time I went to be baptized, my sins were already forgiven. I can’t change that, and I wouldn’t want to.”

That man cut off fellowship with me from that moment. I was awestruck by his legalism. He was bent on literally interpreting Acts 2:38 and 22:16, but he seemed to have no regard for Matthew 7:20, literally or figuratively. It meant nothing to him at all that his doctrine was producing no interest in God at his church so that I was the only one who would converse with him about God. His doctrine was his doctrine, and it just didn’t matter what the fruit of it was.

Let’s not be like him. Let’s be like God. God had fellowship with people like Sampson, and he believed that people like Asa could be perfect. Samuel the prophet was one of his favorite people, and he not only didn’t tear down high places, he regularly sacrificed at them, as well as anywhere else he wanted to, thus breaking the Law of Moses. Nonetheless, the Scriptures testify that God let none of his words fall to the ground. It can be very important to recognize God’s prophets, as God tends to back up their words. You won’t recognize them by some minute rule you want to enforce. You’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Don’t forget, the Pharisees were unable to recognize God himself when he walked among them.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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2 Responses to God’s Not a Legalist

  1. Shammah says:

    Thanks for your comments.

  2. It seems Abraham went to the groves also, (Gn. 21:33) and unlike things like adultery, homosexual relations, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with worshiping God amongst the trees, but as with cutting the corners of a beard like the pagans, it was disallowed due to its association. Even the brazen serpent that Moses had made (Num. 21:) had to be cut down when it became an object of worship. (2Ki. 18:4; cf. 1Cor. 4:6)

    The high places were turned into places of Jehovistic worship during some revivals, which served to keep them alive till they backslid again, and reverted back to the pagan practice. And i think i have done this.

    I see high places also being things like Christmas, part of a ritual observance of days, months, etc,. which was instituted via religious syncretism, as if God and His new creations needs help from distinctively pagan celebrations, and instead of letting it die a natural death, it was revived by souls who hoped to reform it, but which served to keep it alive, and so turn back to a pagan thing.

    Years ago God spoke to my heart that it was a overall a birthday party to which he was not invited, and while i do not make a big thing out it, as i seem to be doing here, nor do i think i have a better heart than those who sincerely want to honor Christ by it, and the principal of giving, if not ritualism and reforming paganism, is good, but it has become a form of legalism, in which one who wants to walk in the liberty of the Spirit of God rather as he sees it, will find himself being reproved as legalistic, and pressured to conform. Well, i do need to conform to Christ for sure .

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