Legalism and Obedience

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.

–Romans 14:22

This week, we’ve been looking at the problem of legalism in the Colossian church. Now let me point out two important principles from this passage for us today.

First of all, we ought to deal with other Christians on the basis of grace, not the law. Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not judge one another anymore.” In those areas the Bible is silent about, we are to quit judging other people. If you feel it’s wrong for you to drink alcohol or gamble, then I’m happy God has led you to that conviction. But don’t make your conviction somebody else’s command. We ought to deal with other people on the basis of grace.

Second, we need to differentiate between legalism and obedience. Somebody might read this passage and think, That means I’m free to do whatever I want to do because I’m under grace, not the law. No, we are to obey God’s commands. Even though the only Old Testament laws that apply to us today are the ones repeated in the New Testament, there are some rules we follow–not to earn our salvation but to merit God’s favor in our lives. God says if we follow His principles about morality, attitudes, and family, we’ll have better lives than if we disobey those principles.

We’re also to obey those whom God has placed in authority over us. For example, if you’re a teenager, don’t tell your parents, “Pastor Jeffress says it’s okay for me to have a can of beer.” Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” If your parents say you can’t have alcohol, that means no alcohol.

We’re to obey governing authorities as well. Romans 13:1–2 says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. . . . Those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” In the United States, the law says you’re not to drink under the age of twenty-one. We are to submit to that authority. It is the same way with our spiritual leaders and our employers. Obeying God means obeying those who are in authority over us.

Remember this: grace is not the freedom to do what we want to do. Grace is the freedom to obey God out of love rather than fear. So many Christians are still living as slaves to sin and slaves to the law. If you’re a Christian, you are free from the burden of trying to earn God’s approval. Instead, you are free to serve God out of genuine appreciation for all He has done for you.

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Today’s devotion is adapted from “The Joy Killers” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

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