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Message - Re: Liberal or Legalist Posted By B. D. Phillips on 12/19/2006 1:10:00 AM - Subscribe to this discussion here - Subscribe

The terms “liberalism” and “legalism” when used in reference to certain mindsets associated with members of the church might be defined in the following manner.  A liberal attempts to ignore or bypass commands that are plainly established in Scripture, whereas a legalist attempts to establish commands not found, or not clearly stated. The liberal attempts to unbind what is bound, and the legalist attempts to bind what is not bound.

However, these terms are sometimes given a bad “wrapper” and can have valid application to things in a spiritual sense. There are certain things which require liberality; just as there are things which require legalism.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)  

“While by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;” (2Cor. 9:13)  

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  

“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)  

God’s requires that we be liberal in our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and goodness, but He also requires that we exercise faithfulness and self-control in the legal sense (e.g. fruits of the spirit Gal. 5:22-23). So there is a system of balance based within God’s determination and defining of those two terms. There are dozens of examples like this throughout the Scriptures.

I hope this helps to enlighten and inform with regard to how liberalism and legalism can be defined. If I am called liberal because I show unbiased love towards the souls for which Christ died, or if I am called a legalist for insisting that God’s Word is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice then so be it. I would rather hear people call me names such as those than to hear my Lord say, “depart from me” on that fateful Day of Judgment. God’s definitions are the best.

B. D. Phillips  
church of Christ
Town Creek, AL

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