Legalism

In Acts 15, the legalists came from Jerusalem with their unsolicited and unendorsed opinion that Gentile converts must be circumcised and follow the other laws of Moses to be forgiven and to have eternal life.  This doctrinal challenge spurred the first church council in Jerusalem to arrive at an official opinion regarding the essentials of saving faith.  Peter, after the long discussion among church leaders, summarized their conclusions succinctly that, “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” 11.  He pointed out that God made no distinction between Gentiles and Jews in the way they received forgiveness and eternal life.  “So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?”  9-10

Today, we also need to guard against the well-meaning tendency to load additional, non-essential burdens on new believers, extra baggage we attach to the gospel we share with seekers.  Sadly, this can keep them from being able to rejoice in the free grace of God.  We naturally develop personal habits that we think help us to live the life He wants for us —  things that we think will help us be better children of God, more useful servants of His.  But we get so earnest in keeping our new applications of practical faith, that they become a set of rules which we then press others to do.  We are sure that what has helped us in our Christian walk will help them, too.  We inadvertently create a new religion of rule-keeping that can take us and our disciples far from joyful gratitude for grace.

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