The Legalist and the Licentious have Much in Common

A Word to the Licentious

Jesus takes the Law of God most seriously. According to him, God’s rules are not negotiable, and they are matters of life and death. He is not a licentious antinomian minister who winks at God’s Law. He is not one who relaxes the holy standards of the Holy God.

Jesus assesses my law-keeping most thoroughly. He sees all I do. He misses nothing and forgets not one little thing. Watching and recording my obedience is a big deal to him.

Jesus maintains a righteous standard that is extremely high. He grades not on a curve, and in his eyes there are only “A’s” and “F’s.” Partial credit is never given by him for my good attempts, and he never provides make-up tests or extra-credit opportunities. One shot at getting a 100% is all I get, and if I hit the perfect standard, his commendation and reward I am sure to receive. However, when I prove to be anything less than perfect, condemnation and damnation are that which are promised to come my way.

Jesus finds deplorable those who discount the Law of God. Listen to his words:

“Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”

According to the teaching of Jesus, it sounds as if licentious antinomian ministers will not have their kingdom credentials revoked, but their annual review will not be promising. According to Jesus, such errant law-belittling ministers are viewed as “least in the kingdom of heaven.”

A Word to Legalists

However, let all my law-loving, legalistic, liturgists stop pointing your fingers. Before you utter forth your hearty “Amen!” against your antinomian brothers, perhaps you ought to ask a couple key questions:

  • Do you really take the commands of God as seriously as Jesus?
  • Do you honestly assess your law keeping as does Jesus?
  • Do you maintain the same high standard of acceptability as does Jesus?
  • Do you hit the perfect standard?
  • Do you relax any of God’s commands?

Oh stricter brother, do you really view the Law as does Jesus? If you read Matthew 5:1–48 you will be reminded that in order for you to be righteous, you must always:

  • Be meek and never arrogant
  • mourn over sin and never be casual about iniquity
  • Hunger and thirst for righteousness and never want evil
  • Endure persecution and always persevere
  • Be salty and bright in your world; never be passive
  • Visibly do good works before others causing them to ask divine questions
  • Uphold and never relax even one of God’s commandments
  • Teach people to obey
  • Do all that you teach
  • Live life more honorably than the most pious churchman (I.e. Pharisees)
  • Safeguarding life
  • Abstain from self-centered anger
  • Use words well and never insult
  • Love neighbors
  • Reconcile with brothers prior to worship – Ask forgiveness and grant it freely
  • Be perfectly faithful to our spouse
  • Avoid any lustful thought or desires of a non-spouse
  • Practice marriage rightly
  • Speak honestly
  • Have such a reputation for integrity that swearing is not needed
  • Pass on vengeance
  • Sacrifice personal rights and property
  • Prefer neighbors as better than self
  • Love your enemies
  • Pray for your enemies
  • Perfectly trust the God of providence in all things
  • And … be perfect as your Father is perfect.

Friends, this you must do, and this is not all you must do. This list is not even close to an exhaustive list. These particular commands are merely representative, and they come from just one of Jesus’ many sermons. The rules of God go on and on, and they cover how we desire, think, talk, and live. Yes, there are thousands of commandments to keep, and one must keep them all — internally, externally, according to the letter, and according to the spirit, without fail.

A Word to All — The Licentious and Legalists

That being said, I might suggest that the Legalist and the Licentious have at least seven things in common — regardless of how they think, teach, and live:

  1. They are both required to internally love God’s Law.
  2. They are both required to verbally teach God’s Law.
  3. They are both required to perfectly keep God’s Law.
  4. They are both regarded as violators of God’s Law.
  5. They are both deserving of holy damnation — hell-fire.
  6. Consequently, they are both tempted to “relax God’s Law and teach others to do the same.” Oh, they do so for different reasons, but both parties consistently relax God’s rules and lower God’s standard. Licentious preachers tend to say, “It is no big deal; God doesn’t really mean what he says.” Legalistic preachers are tempted to lower the “too high” standard in order to find a more reachable one. They are even willing to add new laws in order to find some they can keep. This then allows them to see themselves as more righteous than others, more righteous than their licentious brothers, and righteous enough in the eyes of God. Therefore, in the end, all are licentious — some in speech and practice, and others only in practice.
  7. However, regardless of their form of lawlessness, both parties are encouraged by Christ and his Law to abandon personal merit and run to the all-sufficient grace of God. Yes, Jesus offers full, free, and permanent salvation to all who admit their disobedience, admit their spiritual poverty, and beg for Christ’s substitutionary death and righteousness. Both should hear God’s good Law as it screams to them, “Find comfort in Christ alone. Find comfort in the Gospel.”

Oh friends, do not listen to licentious preachers who lower the law. Find yourself another minister and another church. Jesus does not lower his law, and neither should anyone else.

Do not listen to legalistic preachers who lower the law in order to find a reachable standard. They cannot keep God’s Law, but they want you and others to think they can and do. They will burden you with extra laws not found in the pages of Scripture. They must in order to foster a false righteousness. Friends, if you are led by such, find yourself a more suitable, humble, and honest minister.

Do not listen to the false media that comes from your soul. As you find yourself congratulating yourself for your own goodness — in view of a diminished law and in comparison to depraved neighbors — go back to Matthew 5 and be reminded of the perfect, high, unreachable, standard of God. There is no one righteous. There is not one. Not even you. You are not the exception, and you never will be.

All of you, listen to Christ and his good Law. They are both saying the same thing:

“You do not measure up; you cannot measure up; you cannot hit the perfect standard; you cannot be righteous on your own; based on your law-keeping you are hopeless.”

Listen as they scream:

“Look away from the Law and look only to the Gospel; live looking at the Gospel. Trust only in the undeserved grace of God that is granted without any works whatsoever.”

Oh friends, whether you be of the licentious or legalistic brand, there is hope for you, but only when you admit your lawlessness and turn away from the Law. There is hope for all who humbly fall, confess, repent, and come to Christ by faith alone. This is the Gospel. This is Good News. And this applies to all who keep not God’s commandments, regardless of your titles.

Matthew 5:1-48     Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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