Propitiation – Jesus Christ is our Mercy Seat, our place of propitiation!

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Propitiation is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ by which He appeases the wrath of God and conciliates Him who would otherwise be offended by our sin and would demand that we pay the penalty for it.

Propitiation is translated from the Greek word (hilasterion), meaning “that which expiates or propitiates” or “the gift which procures propitiation”. The word is also used in the New Testament for the place of propitiation, the “mercy seat.” (Heb. 9:5). There is frequent similar use of hilasterion in the Septuagint. Ex. 25:18 ff. The mercy seat was sprinkled with atoning blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14), representing that the righteous sentence of the Law had been executed, changing a judgment seat into a mercy seat (Heb. 9:11-15; compare with “throne of grace” in Heb. 4:14-16; place of communion, Ex. 25:21-22).

Another Greek word, (hilasmos), is used for Christ as our propitiation. 1 John 2:2; 4:10, and for “atonement” in the Septuagint (Lev. 25:9). The thought in the Old Testament sacrifices and in the New Testament fulfillment is that Christ completely satisfied the just demands of a holy God for judgment on sin by His death on the cross.

God, foreseeing the cross, is declared righteous in forgiving sins in the Old Testament period as well as in justifying sinners under the new covenant (Rom. 3:25, 26; cf. Ex. 29:33, note). Propitiation is not the placating of a vengeful God but, rather, it is the satisfying the righteousness of a holy God, thereby making it possible for Him to show mercy without compromising His righteousness or justice.

The Hebrew kaphar, means “to propitiate, to atone for sin”. According to scripture, the sacrifice required by the Law only covered the individual’s sin making the sin offering and secured personal divine forgiveness. The Old Testament sacrifices never removed man’s sin. “It is not possible…”, Heb. 10:4. The Israelite’s offering implied confession of sin in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice which did, finally, “put away” the sins “done previously in the forbearance of God”. Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15, 26. The word “atonement” does not occur in the New Testament; the word in Rom. 5:11 is “reconciliation”.

The beginning of the subject of propitiation is found far back in the Bible, back to the designing of the tabernacle in the wilderness, the tent which God had the people of Israel set up which would be the center of His presence on earth.

The tabernacle occupies a large portion of Scripture, sixteen chapters in the book of Exodus and the whole book of Leviticus. Every feature of the tabernacle, of the worship carried out there, of the priestly life and duties, of the vestments of the priests, the sacrifices, the feast days–every feature was vitally important and designed by the Lord for eternal purposes. It is very important for the church age believer to have a good working knowledge of the Levitical system in order to appreciate fully the work of Christ and the plan of God as they have been instituted in the world.

There was great stress on the blueprint of the tabernacle.

Exodus 25:8-9 “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”

The pattern was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, along with the Law. Read Hebrews 8:1–6. The tabernacle was a symbolical expression of spiritual truth.

The congregation of the Jews did not go beyond the courtyard of the tabernacle. They made offerings only at the brazen altar; and only the priests were allowed to go anyplace else in the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God on earth, and God was unapproachable by sinful men. The main lessons being taught had to do with the perfection of God and the sinfulness of man.

The Furniture of the Tabernacle

Brazen Altar

This altar was the be­ginning of a person’s approach to God. Animal sacrifices made there taught that substitutionary sacrifice is the first step toward fellowship with God. When a person passed outside the gate of the tabernacle, the only thing that he could see was the smoke rising from the burnt offerings, and through the one gate could be seen the altar of sacrifice and the blood being shed. Everything else was hidden from view by the curtain. This was a continuous reminder of “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” The only thing the unbeliever can ever see is the Gospel, the good news of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for us.

A description of the brazen altar is found in Ex. 27:1–8 and Ex. 38:1-7.

The Laver

Here the priests cleaned their hands and arms before performing any service or act of worship (Ex. 30:17-21). It was placed between the brazen altar and the tent of worship (the holy place). This cleansing symbolized the spiritual cleansing which is essential to both worship and service.

The Candlesticks

These illustrated the need for illumination, the light of the world. See Ex. 25:31–40; 37:17–24.

The Table of Bread

An illustration of the need for spiritual food. See Ex. 25:23–30; 37:10–16.

The Altar of Incense

From Ex. 30:1–10, this piece of tabernacle furniture illustrated the need for acceptable worship and prayer. No animals were offered on this altar. The offering was an incense offering, indicat­ing that which is pleasing to God, divine good (gold, silver, and precious stones). The fire for the altar of incense came from the brazen altar, indicating that worship can only come after salvation. No strange fire was allowed; and Nadab and Abihu died for disobeying this rule.

The Veil

The veil symbolized the barrier between God and man; only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and that only once a year on the day of atonement, to offer the blood on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant

The ark of the covenant was located in the holy of holies of the Tabernacle. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Its dimensions were 50 inches long by 30 inches wide by 30 inches deep. The ark was a picture of Christ bearing our sins, the box part representing Christ. The wood illustrated the humanity of Christ, the gold represented His deity.

Inside the ark were three objects representing sin (Num. 17:8, 10; Heb. 9:4). The tables of the Law represented sin in the sense of violation or transgression of God’s order. The pot of manna represented rejection of God’s provision. Aaron’s rod represented revolt against God’s authority.

Over the top of the box was a lid of solid gold, the mercy seat (or throne). Over each end of the mercy seat was a gold cherub, the highest ranking angel. The first cherub represented the absolute righteousness of God, and the second cherub represented the justice of God. Together they represented the holiness of God. The cherubs faced toward each other, wings outstretched towards each other, and looked down at the mercy seat. “Righteousness” looks down and condemns (Rom. 3:23). “Justice” looks down and assesses a penalty.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest went into the holy of holies twice; once to make atonement for his own sins, and then to do so for the people. He sprinkled blood from the sacrifice on the ark, on the top of the mercy seat, between the cherubs. This was a graphic illustration of God’s grace provision for sin. “Righteousness” looks at the blood of the animal, which represents the spiritual death of Christ on the cross, His substitutionary atonement, and is satisfied. “Justice” looks at the blood and is satisfied that the penalty paid for sin was sufficient, teaching that Christ was judged and paid the penalty for us.

Therefore, the ark speaks of redemption – Christ paid for our sins, paid our ransom, to purchase us from the slave market of sin.

So we have in the ark and the mercy seat a picture of God’s satisfaction with the work of Jesus Christ known as propitiation.

Now, the Hebrew word for mercy seat is kapporeth. The Greek word used in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament is hilasterion. This same Greek word is found in the New Testament in Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:5; 1 John 2:2; and 4:10 and is translated “mercy seat” or “place of propitiation”. So there is a direct relationship between the mercy seat in the tabernacle and the doctrine of propitiation.

Summary

Because of propitiation, God is free to love the believer without compromising either His righteousness or justice. The thought in the Old Testament sacrifices and in the New Testament fulfillment is that Christ completely satisfied the just demands of a holy God for judgment of sin.

Propitiation is not the placating of a vengeful God; but it is, rather, the satisfying of the righteousness of a holy God making it possible for Him to show mercy without compromise. Propitiation demonstrates the consistency of God’s character in saving the worst sinners. Propitiation reconciles man to God. This means that sin is no longer the issued between man and God. The only issue, for the Old Testament and New Testament believers, is “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

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Reconciliation – How God the Father changes (reconciles) us to His own standards and righteousness.

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The word reconciliation refers to the process of changing something thoroughly and adjusting it to something else that is a standard. For example, when you adjust your watch to a time signal, you are reconciling the watch to a time standard. Or when you reconcile your checkbook, the standard to which you match it is the bank’s record of your account. On rare occasions the bank must reconcile its accounts to yours.

In the Bible, reconciliation is the word used to refer to the process by which God changes human beings and adjusts them to the standard of His perfect character. Rom. 11:15 refers to the “reconciling of the world”. The Greek word used here is the noun καταλλαγη(katallagei). This word is also used in Rom. 5:11, “…but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Note that man is not active in reconciliation and provides nothing toward reconciliation. Read also 2 Cor. 5:17-21.

Reconciliation also appears in the verb form καταλλασσω (katallasso), meaning “to reconcile”. It is used in the active voice in 2 Cor. 5:18 with the meaning of “reconciling someone to someone else.” In this case, God reconciles us to Himself, through the Lord Jesus Christ. This verb in the passive voice means “to be reconciled” or “to become reconciled”, and it is used in the case of man’s relationship to God in Rom. 5:10 and 2 Cor. 5:20. The passive voice is also used in cases of reconciliation between people, as in 1 Cor. 7:11 and Matt. 5:24.

Another Greek word translated “to reconcile” is ιλασκομαι (hilaskomai), meaning “to reconcile” in the sense of providing propitiation, as in Luke 18:13. It is used of the activity of the Lord Jesus Christ as high priest in making reconciliation for His people, Heb. 2:17.

Rom. 5:6-11 points out that the whole world needs to be reconciled to God. Note the adjectives in this passage which stress this need: “ungodly”, “without strength”, “sinners”, “enemies”.

Reconciliation is an important consideration in the study of the doctrine of The Barrier. By the death of Christ on the cross, the world is thoroughly changed in its relationship to God, Eph. 2:14-18 and Col. 1:20-22. That is, through the cross of Christ the world is so altered in its position respecting the character and judgment of God that God does not now impute sin to human beings. The world is therefore rendered savable!

Because the position of the world before God is completely changed through the substitutionary atonement of Christ, God’s attitude toward man can no longer be the same. God can now deal with souls in the light of Christ’s work.

Notice that God is never said to be reconciled to man. God is immutable, so He does not change. Reconciliation is only possible in one direction. What sometimes seems to be a change in God is actually an unchanged attitude of God viewing a reconciled man. God, having how accepted Christ’s work, is able to continue to be just toward man. He can now offer salvation.

A person profits from reconciliation by faith in the Gospel. Once he becomes a believer, a person can partake in all of the blessings which accompany his position in Christ, including the privileges accruing from reconciliation.

The believer, in turn, has the responsibility of becoming a minister of reconciliation, 2 Cor. 5:18–19. The truth of reconciliation is one of the key salvation doctrines to be used in witnessing to those without Christ.

Related doctrines to study: Propitiation, The Barrier and Furniture of the Tabernacle

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Redemption – A study of the doctrine of redemption, God’s special intervention for the salvation of mankind.

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Redemption is a term used in the Bible to refer to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind. This use of the word deals with the work of Jesus Christ on the cross in which He paid the price to purchase human beings and set them free from their slavery to sin. On account of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, He is called the redeemer.

There are other ideas closely related to the primary concept of redemption which relate to the necessity for redemption and its various aspects and to the effects of the ministry of God’s grace in the life of the Christian believer.

Old Testament Background and Typology

Redemption of Firstborn Sons, Firstlings of the Flock, First Fruits

The word “redemption” in the Old Testament is the translation of the Hebrew word pädäh, meaning “to deliver” or “to sever”. It was continuously stressed to the Israelites that they belonged to Jehovah because He had redeemed them (severed them from bondage in Egypt) and had provided the land of Canaan for them to use as a gift from God and for His glory. For this reason, all Israel owed their lives and their service to God, in effect making the whole nation a kingdom of priests, at least in spirit.

However, only Levi and the descendants of his tribe, who became known as the priestly tribe, were actually set apart for the service of the tabernacle. Everyone else from the eleven other tribes was to be redeemed, or purchased, from service by redeeming the firstborn of both men and animals.

A son was considered firstborn if he was the first son born to his mother. If a man had more than one wife, each wife could have a firstborn son. Each firstborn son was presented to the Lord on the 40th day after his birth and redeemed by a payment of five shekels of silver to the priests (Num. 18:16: Ex. 13:15; Luke 2:27).

The firstlings of oxen, sheep and goats were to be brought to the sanctuary within a year and eight days after their birth, and sacrificed (Num. 18:17). The firstborn of an ass, which was an unclean animal, was redeemed by sacrificing a sheep in its place; or, if not redeemed in this manner, was put to death itself (Ex. 13:12 ff; 34:20). Later, the law provided that the ass could be redeemed with money, the amount to be determined by the market value of the ass plus twenty percent, according to the priest’s valuation (Lev. 27:27; Num. 18:15).

The firstfruits of the harvest were sacred to Jehovah because He is the Lord of the soil (Ex. 23:19). These were given to the priest to be presented as an offering. The whole congregation was required to offer an annual thanksgiving offering at harvest time by presenting a firstfruits sheaf at the Passover. These were not to be burned but were to be given to the priests for their use, with the provision that only those priests who were ceremonially clean could eat the firstfruits. The amount of offering of firstfruits was not specified by the Law but was left to each person’s discretion.

Later in Jewish history, the children of Israel began to be called the redeemed of the Lord, after they had been set free from the Babylonian captivity (; Isa. 51:11). The two verses do not fit this context.

The Kinsman Redeemer

According to the laws regarding punishment and retribution for crime, when a person was assaulted, robbed or murdered, it fell to the nearest kinsman to bring the criminal to justice and to protect the lives and property of relatives. This obligation was called “redeeming and the man who was responsible for fulfilling this duty was known as a redeemer (Heb. go-el). The job of redeemer would fall to full brothers first, then to uncles who were the father’s brothers, then to full cousins, and finally to the other blood relatives of the family (Lev. 25:48). The kinsman redeemer of the Old Testament was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as redeemer. There were four requirements for the redeemer, both in the type and in Christ:

  1. The redeemer must be a near kinsman. To fulfill this Christ took on human form.
  2. The redeemer must be able to redeem. The price of man’s redemption was the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
  3. The redeemer must be willing to redeem (Heb. 10:4-10). Christ was willing to be our redeemer.
  4. The redeemer must be free from that which caused the need for redemption; that is, the redeemer cannot redeem himself. This was true of Christ, because He needed no redemption.

READ Ruth 3:9-13; 4:1-11.

The nation of Israel as a whole required a redeemer to redeem the lands which had been taken over by foreign powers, so they looked to Jehovah to become their go-el. The period of exile gave an even greater force and meaning to the term redeemer than it had before; and the book of Isaiah contains nineteen of the thirty-three Old Testament references to God as Israel’s covenant redeemer.

Redemption in the New Testament

Slavery to Sin

In the New Testament we see that all people are slaves because all are sold under sin and in spiritual bondage.

Rom. 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.”

Acts 8:23 uses the phrase “the bond of iniquity”.

READ John 8:31-36

READ Romans 6:12-18

See also Rom. 7:23; 2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Pet. 2:19.

Furthermore, all people are helplessly condemned to die.

Ezek. 18:4, “Behold, all souls are mine, saith the Lord. As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine. The soul that sins, it shall die.”

1 Cor. 15:22, “As in Adam all die…”

See also John 3:18, 36; Rom. 3:19; Gal. 3:10.

The Principle of Redemption

The principle of redemption, then, is the concept of bondage to the slavery of sin and freedom from its domination (John 8:31-36). To be redeemed means to be purchased from slavery.

The Greek word (lutroo), means “to release for ransom; to liberate; to redeem”. It comes from the word (luo) meaning “to loosen; to unbind; to set at liberty”. It is used in

1 Pet. 1:18,19, “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed (lutroo) with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem (lutroo) us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”**

The noun (lutron) means “the price paid; the ransom”, as in

Matt. 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom (lutron) for many.”

Jesus Christ purchased our freedom; and His blood is the payment for the redemption. Psalm 34:22; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 1:7.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is man’s redeemer, and as such He is divinely appointed. The redemption that He brought represents both His own love and that of the Father for the whole world.

The word (agoradzo) means “to buy; to redeem; to acquire by paying ransom”. Derived from agora, “marketplace”.

1 Cor. 6:20, “For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in you spirit, which are God’s.” This is analogous to the OT idea in which the Israelites owed their very existence to God.

Rev. 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

See also 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 14:3.

The word (exagoradzo) means “to buy out of the hands of a person; to redeem; to set free.”

Gal. 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”

The word (apolutrosis) means “to dismiss for ransom paid; redemption”.

1 Cor. 1:30, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

**Rom. 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Eph. 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.”

Heb. 9:15, “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

Rom. 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until not. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

**Eph. 1:13-14, “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

Some Implications of the Doctrine of Redemption

Redemption is the basis of our eternal inheritance. See Eph. 1:13,14 and Heb. 9:15 above.

Redemption is the basis of justification. Rom. 3:23, 24 (above).

Redemption includes the total forgiveness of sins; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14.

Redemption results in adoption.

Gal. 4:4–6, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, To redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

The doctrine of redemption is used to orient believers in time of stress.

Job 19:25, “I know that my Redeemer liveth…”

At the point of redemption we can have peace of mind, stability, a relaxed mental attitude by knowing the doctrine and that God has paid for and provided for everything.

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Justification – Outline of the doctrine of Justification.

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Definition:Justification is God’s act of grace by which He pardons a sinner and accepts him as righteous on account of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Remission of sin, absolution from guilt, and freedom from punishment are part of justification.

In order to be justified, a person must be given a righteousness equivalent to God’s perfect righteousness. Hence, imputation precedes justification. Imputation is the charging to the account of one person something which properly belongs to another. The Lord Jesus Christ shares his perfect righteousness with the believer, Rom. 3:22; 4:11; 9:30-32; 4:4, 5.

Because righteousness has been imputed to us, God calls us “justified”. “Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Hence, imputation of righteousness on the basis of faith brings about justification.

The means of justification is redemption,

Rom. 3:24. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Justification produces reconciliation. Rom. 5:1

Because God the Father is satisfied (propitiation), we are freely justified.

Justification occurs at the moment of a person’s faith in Jesus Christ, Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal.3:24.

Justification does not occur through keeping the Law of Moses, Gal. 2:16.

Justification during the believer’s lifetime is described in James 2:21-25. This is the function of the faith rest principle in living the Christian way of life under grace.

The principle of temporal justification is found in Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:35.

Related Topics: Reconciliation, Propitiation, The Barrier and Imputation

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Imputation – How God the Father “credits” our sin to Christ and His righteousness to us.

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Introduction

Imputation is a wonderful principle of the plan of God, and you have been involved with imputation since the day you were saved.

To impute means “to set something to one’s account.”

In the Bible imputation is used as a legal term in several different ways. For example, when Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, he told Philemon that if Onesimus had incurred any debts they were to be put on Paul’s account (Philemon 17,18).

When a groom says to a bride “with all my worldly good I thee endow”, he is talking about imputation, placing to the bride’s account all of his property.

The Greek verb for imputation is logizomai. It is used more than 40 times in the New Testament, ten times in Romans 4 alone, the imputation chapter. In the KJV of Romans 4 it’s translated “counted” in 4:3, 5, “reckoned” in 4:4, 10, and “imputed” in 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 23 and 24.

Three Imputations in the Bible

In the first type of imputation, God imputes to us what actually belongs to us in the first place. Where Romans 5:12 says that “death passed upon (logizomai) all men, for that all have sinned”, death is part of our spiritual heritage from Adam. Death has been reckoned to our account. Adam’s sins was not his alone, but it was placed on every person’s account, on the debit side, you might say.

In the second type of imputation, God the Father imputes to the Lord Jesus Christ that which does not belong to him. 2 Cor. 5:21 says that “He (Christ) was made to be sin for us, even though He knew no sin…”. This is the Bible concept of substitution; Christ died for our sins, not his own. Isaiah 53:4-6. The verse does not say that Christ became a sinner, but that sin was set to his account that was not his.

The third type of imputation occurs when God imputes (credits) to the sinner what is not actually his. Again, 2 Cor. 5:21, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Here, the actual perfect righteousness of God is credited to us. This righteousness, which is placed on the credit side of our ledger, is known as imputed righteousness or justification.

God declares men to be righteous on the basis of faith. Read Romans 4:3. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him (logizomai) for righteousness”. God makes men righteous on the basis of practice by the Word (John 17:17) and the filling of the Holy Spirit.

logizomai from the Lexicons

A study of various Greek lexicons shows that logizomai has some very interesting uses in the Bible. If you will study each of these verses in the context, it will help you to understand the concept better, and you will find a lot of practical application for this doctrine. Here are three principal meanings for logizomai in the Bible and in other sources of New Testament Greek studies.

To reckon; to calculate

The word means “to count, to take something into account” in 1 Cor. 13:5 (cf. Zech. 8:17); 2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 4:8 (cf. Ps. 32:2); and 2 Tim. 4:16.

It is used in Romans 4:4; 4:6; and 4:11 in the sense of “crediting.”

It means “to credit something to someone” in Romans 4:3, 5, 9 and 22; Gal. 3:16; James 2:23 (cf. Romans 4:10, 23 ff; Gen. 15:6; Ps. 106:31).

In the commercial world of New Testament times, logizomai was a technical term “to charge to someone’s account” and was so used in 2 Cor. 12:6. (Other references: Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, edited by Dittenberger, 1903; and Fayum Towns and Their Papyri, by Grenfell, Hunt, et al.)

The idea of calculation is seen in other places in the concepts of “to evaluate, to estimate, to consider, to look upon as, something, as a result of calculation”. You will see this in Acts 19:27 (cf. Isa. 40:17) and Rom. 9:8; 2:26.

The word is used in the sense of “to count” or “to classify”. In Greek Papyri in the British Museum, Kenyon and Bell said of a camel’s colt: “which is now classed among the full grown.” In the Bible, see Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37 (cf. Isa. 53:12).

Still under the idea of reckoning or calculation, logizomai means “to consider; to look upon someone as”, as in 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 10:2; Rom. 8:36 (cf. Ps. 44:22); Rom. 6:11.

Think about; ponder; consider; .

This is the word logizomai used in the sense of one’s mental preparation for the act of “reckoning” or “imputing” something to someone’s account or credit. It means “to have in mind, to propose, to purpose”. See Phil. 4:8; John 11:50; Heb. 11:19; 2 Cor. 10:2, 11.

It is used as “to think; to believe; to be of the opinion” in Rom. 2:3; 3:28; 8:18; 14:14; Phil. 3:13; 2 Cor. 11:5; and 1 Pet. 5:12.

Words from the Papyri

Oxyrynchus Papyri XII, “the due amounts in money and corn are reckoned (logizomai) here” (107 or 108 AD)

ibid III, “let my revenues be placed on deposit (logizomai) at the storehouse” (2nd or 3rd Century AD)

Florentine Papyri (AD 254), “reckoning (logizomai) the wine to him at sixteen drachmae…”

Source materials for this article: Unger’s Bible Dictionary; Kittel’s NT Greek Lexicon; Chester McCalley’s written notes on imputation; Moulton and Milligan studies in the papyri.

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Pontius Pilate

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from several sources, including:

Josephus, Flavius, Antiquities; and Wars of the Jews

Edersheim, Alfred, Sketches of Jewish Social Life; The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; and The Temple.

Bond, Helen, Pontius Pilate

Background

Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea. His rule began in 26 AD and lasted until early in 37 AD. See Luke 3:1; Matt. 27; Mark 15: Luke 23; and John 18,19.

He granted the request of Joseph of Arimathea, to be allowed to bury Christ: Matt. 27:57; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:50; John 19:38.

See also Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28, and 1 Tim. 6:13.

The Province

When Herod I died in 4 BC, Augustus upheld his will and divided the kingdom between three of Herod’s surviving sons. Antipas was allotted Galilee and Peraea, and Philip was given Batanaea, Trachonitis, Auranitis and certain parts of Zeno around Panias (or Ituraea). Both were given the title tetrarch, literally the ruler of a fourth part of a kingdom. The remainder, amounting to half of the kingdom and comprising of Idumaea, Judaea and Samaria, was given to Archelaus with the title ethnarch.

Ten years later a combination of dynastic intrigue amongst the Herodians, Roman expansionist policies in the Near East and perhaps Archelaus’ brutality, again led to Augustus’ intervention in Judean affairs. Archelaus was exiled and his territory transformed into a Roman province. Although it included Samaria and Idumaea, the new province was known simply as Judaea. The year was 6 AD.

Judaea was formally a third class imperial province. These provinces, which were few in number, tended to be those which were least important in terms of expanse and revenue. Often they were territories in which the indigenous population presented particular problems.

The governors of these provinces were drawn from the equestrian rank and commanded only auxiliary troops.

Though technically independent, the new province was to a large extent under the guidance of the powerful and strategically important neighboring province of Syria. The Syrian legate, a man of consular standing, had three Roman legions at his disposal to which a fourth was added after 18 AD. He could be relied on to intervene with military support in times of crisis and could be called upon as an arbitrator by either the Judean governor or the people if the need arose.

Aside from the brief reign of Herod Agrippa I ( 41- 44 AD), Judaea continued as a Roman province from 6 AD until the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt in 66 AD. Its borders remained unchanged throughout the first period of Roman rule but underwent some alterations in the second, 44-66 AD.

The province of Judaea was extremely small. In its first phase, to which Pilate’s governorship belongs, it measured only approximately 160 km north to south and 70 km west to east. Yet despite its size, the population of the province came from ethnically diverse groups – Jews, Samaritans and pagans. This last group were located particularly in the pagan cities of Caesarea and Sebaste. To a certain degree, the province had two capital cities. The traditional capital, Jerusalem, continued as the focus of Jewish religious; but the governor resided in Caesarea together with his troops and entourage, transforming the city into the Roman administrative headquarters. On occasion, the governor would move to Jerusalem, particularly during festivals both to keep the peace and to hear criminal cases.

The Governor

Rank: As was customary in relatively unimportant imperial provinces, the governors of Judaea were usually drawn from the equestrian rank. Equestrians formed the middle rank of the Roman nobility and under Augustus their order provided suitable men for a variety of essential public offices ranging from military commands to the collection of taxes and jury work.

Duties: Rome had few officials in its provinces; an imperial province would be administered by only the governor and a small number of personal staff. The governor’s concerns, therefore, had to be limited to essentials, principally the maintenance of law and order, judicial matters and the collection of taxes. To enable him to carry out his duties, the governor possessed imperium, or the supreme administrative power in the province.

Law and Order: The primary responsibility of the governor of Judaea was military. This crucial aspect of the governor’s task is emphasized by his title which, in the period before Agrippa I reign ( 41 to 44 AD) was prefect(praefectus/eparcos). The appointment of men to a military prefecture shows the determination of early emperors to hold on to a newly subjugated territory and to bring the native inhabitants firmly under Roman control.

Under Claudius, however, prefect was changed to a civilian title, procurator (procurator/epitropos) which may have been designed to underscore the success of the pacification process. This change explains the confusion in the literary sources regarding the governor’s title.

The governors of Judaea had only auxiliary troops at their disposal. These appear to have been descendents of the Herodian troops drawn predominantly from Caesarea and Sebaste. They amounted to five infantry cohorts and one cavalry regiment scattered throughout the province. One cohort was permanently posted in the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem.

Judicial Matters: The governor possessed the supreme judicial authority within the province. He would presumably have had a system of assizes to which cases could be brought and receive a hearing. The precise division of judicial competence between the governor and native courts varied in different provinces. There is not enough evidence to determine whether or not Jewish courts could inflict the death penalty at this period; scholarly opinion is sharply divided on this issue. The Roman governor would doubtlessly wish to maintain his jurisdiction over political offences but it is not impossible that Jewish courts were able to execute when their own law had been contravened.

Collection of Taxes: Rome relied to a large extent on the help of local authorities and private agents in the collection of taxes. Supervising these was the governor, acting as the emperor’s personal financial agent. The heaviest of these taxes was the tributum; by the first century AD this was primarily a tax on provincial land and the amount of tribute required from each person was worked out by means of a census. Only one census appears to have been conducted in Judaea, that organized by Quirinius at the formation of the new province in 6 AD

General Administration: In accordance with general Roman practice, the entire day-to-day administration of the nation was left largely to the Jewish High Priest and aristocracy in Jerusalem. The Romans expected them to uphold imperial interests whilst the local aristocracies could expect their own privileged positions to be safeguarded by Rome in return. The Roman governors recognized the political importance of the High Priesthood and sought to keep a tight control over it, appointing and deposing High Priests at will.

Pontius Pilate

Nothing is known of Pilate prior to his arrival in Judea. Advancement at the time depended on patronage; a man’s chances of promotion to public office depended on connections and influences in the imperial court. In all probability, Pilate was helped to office by powerful patrons, perhaps even Tiberius himself or his powerful friend Sejanus.

Pilate may well have had previous military experience before coming to the province, but records are completely lacking. Most governors ruled over Judaea between two and four years; Pilate and his predecessor Gratus, however, each governed the province for approximately eleven years. This is probably not an indication that these two governors were especially competent since Josephus tells us that part of Tiberius’ provincial policy was to keep men in office for a long time.

In general, Pilate’s term of office corresponds to the general picture of Judean governors sketched above. Two points, however, distinguish Pilate’s governorship to some extent from the others.

The first is the lack of a Syrian legate for the first six years of Pilate’s term of office. Tiberius appointed L. Aelius Lamia to the post but kept him in Rome, presumably trying out a form of centralized government. This may not have been altogether successful as subsequent legates governed from the Syrian capital, Antioch. The implication of this is that for the early part of his governorship Pilate had no legate on hand in Syria on whom he could call in an emergency. Unlike his predecessors, Pilate could not rely on the immediate support of the legions in case of unrest. This would mean that Pilate was more than usually dependent on his auxiliaries and that any potential uprising had to be put down quickly before it could escalate.

A second distinctive feature of Pilate’s governorship is that, unlike his predecessor Gratus who changed the High Priest four times in his eleven years, Pilate made no change to the incumbent of the High Priesthood. This was presumably not out of any wish to respect Jewish sensitivities but rather because he found in Gratus’ last appointee, Caiaphas, a man who could be relied on to support Roman interests and who could command some respect amongst the people.

Sources of Information for Pilate’s Governorship

These fall into two groups: archaeological and literary.

Archaeological. We have two archaeological links with Pilate. The first is an inscription found on a block of limestone at Caesarea Maritima in 1961. Much of the inscription is mutilated, but the lettering is still visible.

The inscriptions are tentative and extremely hypothetical in nature, three things are evident. The first is that the second line refers to Pontius Pilate, giving the first of his three names in the mutilated left side. Secondly, his title is clearlypraefectus Iudaeae, prefect of Judaea. Thirdly, the inscription appears to have been attached to a building known as a “Tiberiéum’’. This was presumably either a temple or a secular building dedicated to Tiberius.

The second archaeological link with Pilate is a number of bronze coins struck by the prefect from 29 to 32 AD. Each depicts a distinctively Jewish design on one side along with a pagan symbol on the other. The first shows three ears of barley on the obverse and a simpulum (a sacrificial vessel or wine bowl) on the reverse. The second and third both contain the same design with a lituus (an augur’s crooked staff or wand) on the obverse and a wreath with berries on the reverse. This blending of Jewish and pagan designs may stem from an attempt to integrate the Jewish people further into the empire. That the coins were not generally regarded as offensive is apparent from the fact that the coins would have been used until Agrippa’s reign and he only changed the design in his second year.

Literary Sources. Specific events from Pilate’s governorship are recorded in the writings of six first century authors – Josephus, Philo and the four Christian evangelists.

Josephus

By far the greatest amount of information comes from the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus who composed his two great works, the Antiquities of the Jews and the Jewish War, towards the end of the first century. Important as Josephus’ accounts are, however, they can only be used with a certain amount of caution. Apologetic and rhetorical motives have shaped each narrative to a large extent, particularly his desire to impress on other nations the futility of revolt against Rome, his attempt to stress the antiquity of Judaism, and his endeavor (in the Antiquities) to put some of the blame for the Jewish revolt on the Roman governors of Judaea.

In all, Josephus describes four incidents involving Pilate. His earlier work, the Jewish War, describes Pilate’s introduction of iconic standards into Jerusalem and his construction of an aqueduct for the city. The Antiquities repeats these two stories (with slightly different emphases) and adds two more – the story of the execution of Jesus of Nazareth and an incident involving Samaritans which eventually led to Pilate’s removal from the province.

The Standards (War 2.169-174, Antiq 18.55-59)

Josephus accuses Pilate of deliberately bringing standards containing offensive effigies of Caesar into Jerusalem by night. The Antiquities account goes so far as to accuse Pilate of deliberately wanting to subvert Jewish practices. Seeing what had happened, the Jewish people flocked to Caesarea and surrounded Pilate’s house for five days, imploring him to remove the standards. When Pilate eventually encircled the people with his troops, they declared that they were willing to die rather than see their ancestral laws contravened. Amazed at their devotion, Pilate had the standards removed.

Josephus has clearly allowed his rhetorical concerns to influence this story, particularly the description of Pilate’s deliberate provocation and the people’s unflinching devotion to their ancestral religion. Yet it may be possible to piece together something of the historical event behind the narrative.

Due to its position at the beginning of the accounts in both the War and the Antiquities, most scholars assume that this incident took place early on in Pilate’s term of office, perhaps as early as winter 26 AD. A squadron could not be separated from its standards; if new standards were brought into Jerusalem that meant that an entirely new squadron was being stationed in Jerusalem, one which had not been used in the city previously. As a military prefect, Pilate’s interest would have been in the troops themselves and their strategic positioning; the particular emblems on their standards would not have been particularly important. As a new governor, Pilate may not even have realized that this particular cohort would cause offence in Jerusalem because of its standards. Or, if he had been warned, it might have seemed absurd to him that troops which could be deployed in Caesarea could not be moved to Jerusalem. The account gives the impression of a new governor anxious to take no nonsense from the people he is to govern. The fact that he was willing to reconsider the position and did eventually change the troops shows a certain amount of prudence and concern to avoid unnecessary hostilities.

The Aqueduct (War 2.175-177, Antiq 18.60-62)

Again Josephus accuses Pilate of deliberately attempting to arouse hostilities, this time by using temple money to build an aqueduct for Jerusalem. Matters came to a head during a visit of Pilate to Jerusalem when the people rioted and many were killed.

As with the previous incident, Josephus’ bias is evident, particularly in his description of Pilate’s motivations. The building of an aqueduct for the city was surely a commendable undertaking, one which would have benefited the inhabitants enormously. The point of conflict seems to have been around the use of temple money for the project. Pilate must have had the co-operation (whether voluntary or forced) of Caiaphas and the temple authorities whose duty it was to administer the treasury; if he had taken the money by aggression Josephus would surely have mentioned it. What may have led to hostilities, however, was if Pilate had begun to demand more than simply the surplus for his building venture. The War’s use of the verb exanaliskon in 2.175, whilst perhaps over-exaggerated, may imply that Pilate began to demand ever increasing amounts, draining temple supplies and treating the treasury as his own personal fiscus. The date of this incident is unknown.

The Execution of Jesus of Nazareth (Antiq 18.63-64)

This passage, recorded only in the Antiquities, is generally referred to as the Testimonium Flavianum. Scholars are generally agreed that it has suffered at the hands of later Christian interpreters and that the original wording is now lost. Given the context, the original text probably recorded another disturbance in the time of Pilate, centering on Jesus or his followers after his death. As it now stands, the Testimonium Flavianum adds little to our picture of the historical Pilate. He is shown working closely with the Jewish hierarchy to eliminate a common threat. It may also be significant that he has only the messianic leader executed and not his followers, a fact which may show a dislike for excessive violence. This event is usually dated to either 30 or 33 CE on the basis of astronomical and calendrical information derived from the gospels.

The Samaritan Uprising and Pilate’s Return to Rome (Antiq 18.85-89)

According to the Antiquities, a messianic figure stirred up the Samaritans to climb Mt Gerizim with him. They assembled in a nearby village carrying weapons and prepared to ascend the mountain. Before they could get very far, however, Pilate had his men block their route and some were killed. Many prisoners were taken and their leaders put to death. Later, the council of the Samaritans complained to Vitellius, the legate of Syria, about Pilate’s harsh treatment. Vitellius sent his friend Marcellus to take charge of Judaea and ordered Pilate to Rome. Pilate hurried to Rome but reached the city after Tiberius’ death (March 37 CE), suggesting that he was ordered to leave the province in the first few weeks of 37 CE.

In view of the fact that the Samaritans appear to have been armed as they undertook their trek up Mt Gerizim, Pilate’s actions do not appear to be unnecessarily severe. Any Roman prefect neglecting to deal with such an uprising would surely have been failing in his duty. As in the previous incident, only the ringleaders were executed.

What happened to Pilate in Rome is unknown. The fact that the new emperor, Gaius, did not reappoint him does not necessarily indicate an unfavorable outcome to his trial. After eleven years in Judaea, Pilate may have accepted another commission.

Philo of Alexandria

A fifth incident from Pilate’s term of office is described in Philo’s Legatio ad Gaium, an incident in which Pilate set up gilded shields in Jerusalem (Legatio 299-305). Although written only a few years after Pilate’s departure from Judaea, this work is highly polemical in nature. The story is part of a letter, supposedly from Agrippa I to Gaius Caligula, in which the Jewish king attempts to persuade the emperor not to set up his statue in the Jerusalem temple. Philo uses all the drama and rhetoric at his disposal to cast Pilate in a particularly brutal light and to contrast him with the virtuous Tiberius, an emperor who (unlike Gaius) was intent upon preserving the Jewish law.

Pilate is described as corrupt, violent, abusive and cruel (§§ 301, 302). He is accused of intentionally annoying the Jewish people by setting up gilded shields in Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. These shields contained no picture but only an inscription stating the name of the dedicator and the name of the person to whom they were dedicated. When the significance of this inscription was widely known, the people chose four Herodian princes to appeal to Pilate on their behalf and ask for the removal of the shields. When Pilate refused, they threatened to send an embassy to Tiberius. According to Philo, this worried Pilate enormously because of the atrocities committed throughout his governorship. The embassy went ahead and Tiberius upheld the Herodian complaints, ordering Pilate to remove the shields to the temple of Augustus at Caesarea.

Although Philo’s picture of the ruthless Pilate is obviously over-exaggerated in accordance with his rhetorical aims, there is clearly some basis to the story. The most important starting point for any reconstruction is the shields themselves. Such honorific shields were common in the ancient world; generally they would contain both a portrait and an inscription. Pilate’s shields were of this type, but even Philo has to admit that they differed by the fact that they contained no images. This suggests that, rather than deliberately acting against the Jewish law, Pilate took steps to avoid offending the people. Furthermore, they were set up inside the Roman governor’s praetorium in Jerusalem, surely the most appropriate place in the city for such shields.

If this event occurred after the commotion caused by the introduction of iconic standards narrated by Josephus, then Pilate’s behavior was both understandable and prudent. He wanted to honor the emperor without antagonizing the people. Where he went wrong, however, was in the wording of the inscription. This would have contained both Pilate’s name and that of Tiberius. In official inscriptions the emperor was referred to as: Ti. Caesari divi Augusti f. (divi Iuli nepoti) Augusto pontifici Maximo.The reference to the divine Augustus could have been seen as offensive by some Jews, particularly when it was situated in the holy city. That not everyone found this immediately offensive is suggested by Philo’s description of the Jewish reaction which is rather oddly put in § 300; it seems to give the impression that the wording of the inscription was generally known before its significance was realized. This reconstruction fits in well with the final part of the story. If Pilate had set out to be deliberately provocative, it is extraordinary that he would allow an embassy to go to Tiberius and inform the emperor of his atrocities. If, however, the shields were designed to honor the emperor and Pilate had deliberately tried to avoid offence by omitting images, his decision to allow Tiberius to adjudicate makes perfect sense.

The date of this incident is uncertain, but it probably occurred after the incident with the standards.

The Gospels

The trial of Jesus of Nazareth before Pontius Pilate is described in all four gospels (Mt 27.1-26, Mk 15.1-15, Lk 23.1-25 and John 18.28-19.16a). Although Matthew and Luke – and quite possibly John – used Mark’s version as a source, each of the trial narratives is quite different and reflects the concerns of their own particular early Christian community. Similarly, the portrayal of Pilate in each is significantly different. It is often assumed that Pilate is a “weak’‘character in the gospels in contrast to the “harsh’‘prefect of the Jewish sources. When the gospels are read more closely and in a first century context, however, this generalization does not hold. In Mark’s gospel, Pilate’s repeated references to “the King of the Jews’‘and then “your king’‘seem calculated to embitter the crowd who shout all the more for Jesus’ execution. In the same way in John’s Gospel, Pilate orders the execution of Jesus only when he has pushed “the Jews’‘into declaring Caesar to be their only king (19.15f). Pilate is weak in Luke’s gospel and it is this weakness which allows Jesus’ opponents to have their own way. Nevertheless, as a Roman judge, Pilate’s three-fold declaration of Jesus’ innocence serves an important apologetic point in the two-volume work Luke-Acts. In Matthew’s narrative Pilate plays a secondary role, the emphasis is rather on Jesus’ Jewish protagonists. Pilate is often referred to not by name but by the rather vague title hegemon, perhaps indicating that for Matthew he is representative of other Roman judges before whom members of his community may be forced to stand trial.

Later References to Pilate

Church tradition portrayed Pilate in increasingly favorable terms. In the second century Gospel of Peter, Jesus is condemned not by Pilate but by Herod Antipas. Tertullian asserted that Pilate was a Christian at heart and that he wrote a letter to Tiberius to explain what had happened at Jesus’ trial (Apology 21). Eusebius cited a tradition that Pilate had committed suicide in the reign of Gaius Caligula out of remorse for his part in Jesus’ condemnation (Hist. Eccl. 2.7.1). The fourth or fifth century Gospel of Nicodemus (which contains the Acts of Pilate), though far from “Christianizing’’ Pilate, also depicts the governor as more friendly towards Jesus than any of the canonical gospels. Pilate was canonized by the Coptic and Ethiopic churches.

Quotations from Original Sources

Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.169-174

“Pilate, being sent by Tiberius as procurator to Judaea, introduced into Jerusalem by night and under cover the effigies of Caesar which are called standards. This proceeding, when day broke, aroused immense excitement among the Jews; those on the spot were in consternation, considering their laws to have been trampled under foot, as those laws permit no image to be erected in the city; while the indignation of the townspeople stirred the country folk, who flocked together in crowds. Hastening after Pilate to Caesarea, the Jews implored him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to uphold the laws of their ancestors. When Pilate refused, they fell prostrate around his house and for five whole days and nights remained motionless in that position. On the ensuing day Pilate took his seat on his tribunal in the great stadium and summoning the multitude, with the apparent intention of answering them, gave the arranged signal to his armed soldiers to surround the Jews. Finding themselves in a ring of troops, three deep, the Jews were struck dumb at this unexpected sight. Pilate, after threatening to cut them down, if they refused to admit Caesar’s images, signaled to the soldiers to draw their swords. Thereupon the Jews, as by concerted action, flung themselves in a body on the ground, extended their necks, and exclaimed that they were ready rather to die than to transgress the law. Overcome with astonishment at such intense religious zeal, Pilate gave orders for the immediate removal of the standards from Jerusalem.”

Josephus, Antiquities, 18.55-59

“Now Pilate, the procurator of Judaea, when he brought his army from Caesarea and removed it to winter quarters in Jerusalem, took a bold step in subversion of the Jewish practices, by introducing into the city the busts of the emperor that were attached to the military standards, for our law forbids the making of images. It was for this reason that the previous procurators, when they entered the city, used standards that had no such ornaments. Pilate was the first to bring the images into Jerusalem and set them up, doing it without the knowledge of the people, for he entered at night. But when the people discovered it, they went in a throng to Caesarea and for many days entreated him to take away the images. He refused to yield, since to do so would be an outrage to the emperor; however, since they did not cease entreating him, on the sixth day he secretly armed and placed his troops in position, while he himself came to the speaker’s stand. This had been constructed in the stadium, which provided concealment for the army that lay in wait. When the Jews again engaged in supplication, at a pre-arranged signal he surrounded them with his soldiers and threatened to punish them at once with death if they did not put an end to their tumult and return to their own places. But they, casting themselves prostrate and baring their throats, declared that they had gladly welcomed death rather than make bold to transgress the wise provisions of the laws. Pilate, astonished at the strength of their devotion to the laws, straightway removed the images from Jerusalem and brought them back to Caesarea.”

Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.175-177

“On a later occasion he provoked a fresh uproar by expending upon the construction of an aqueduct the sacred treasure known as Corbonas; the water was brought from a distance of 400 furlongs. Indignant at this proceeding, the populace formed a ring round the tribunal of Pilate, then on a visit to Jerusalem, and besieged him with angry clamor. He, foreseeing the tumult, had interspersed among the crowd a troop of his soldiers, armed but disguised in civilian dress, with orders not to use their swords, but to beat any rioters with cudgels. He now from his tribunal gave the agreed signal. Large numbers of the Jews perished, some from the blows which they received, others trodden to death by their companions in the ensuing flight. Cowed by the fate of the victims, the multitude was reduced to silence.”

Josephus, Antiquities, 18.60-62

“He spent money from the sacred treasury in the construction of an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem, intercepting the source of the stream at a distance of 200 furlongs. The Jews did not acquiesce in the operations that this involved; and tens of thousands of men assembled and cried out against him, bidding him relinquish his promotion of such designs. Some too even hurled insults and abuse of the sort that a throng will commonly engage in. He thereupon ordered a large number of soldiers to be dressed in Jewish garments, under which they carried clubs, and he sent them off this way and that, thus surrounding the Jews, whom he ordered to withdraw. When the Jews were in full torrent of abuse he gave his soldiers t he prearranged signal. They, however, inflicted much harder blows than Pilate had ordered, punishing alike both those who were rioting and those who were not. But the Jews showed no faint-heartedness; and so, caught unarmed, as they were, by men delivering a prepared attack, many of them actually were slain on the spot, while some withdrew disabled by blows. Thus ended the uprising.”

Josephus, Antiquities,18.63-64

”About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

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Judgment Seat of Christ – A brief study of the thrones upon which Christ will sit, in heaven and on earth, after the Church Age.

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There are three thrones on which the Lord Jesus Christ will sit.

  1. The judgment seat is in heaven after the rapture.
  2. The throne in Jerusalem during the millennium.
  3. The great white throne in heaven after the millennium.

There is a general principle of scripture that every member of the human race is accountable to God.

God will evaluate every man according to his deeds. Jer. 17:10; 32:19.

All unbelievers will be evaluated at the great white throne. Rev. 20:12.

All believers in Christ will be evaluated at the judgment seat. Matt. 26:34-40 and 2 Cor. 5:10

The judgment seat of Christ is an evaluation of a Christian’s production during his Christian life on earth. There is no judgment of sin at the judgment seat. Believer’s sins were judged at the cross and Christ was our atonement for sin. (2 Cor. 5:10)

In John 15 and Gal. 5, bad deeds (phaulos), refer to actions, which may not be sinful, but which are worthless in the sight of God. These are human choices which do not measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. These deeds are human good (wood, hay and stubble), which are produced by believers when they are in a carnal state, not filled with the Holy Spirit, during periods when sin is not being confessed on a regular basis.

Divine good (gold, silver and precious stones) is agathos, which is production by a believer who is walking in fellowship and who is controlled by the Holy Spirit. In fellowship, a Christian will be controlled by the Holy Spirit, will be occupied with Christ in his thoughts and speech, and will live in the Bible. The power for his production comes directly from God and not from himself.

All production of the Christian believer (phaulos or agathos) will be evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ. The instrument of evaluation is fire. The production which is not burned up during the evaluation (the gold, silver and precious stones) is the basis of eternal rewards for the believer.

1 Cor. 3:11-14

A believer should never try to evaluate another believer’s production. “To his own master he stands or falls…”

Matt. 7:1,2; Rom. 14:4

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The importance of the doctrine of Circumcision in Church Age teaching.

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One of the first acts of circumcision in the human race involved Abraham.

Genesis 17:6-11

And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

This initial act of circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of possessing the land. It was the indication that Abraham believed God’s word. Abraham separated himself unto the Lord and to the Lord’s promise.

Circumcision is, therefore, a sign of regeneration for the Jews. It was to the born again Jew what water baptism is to the born-again believer in the Church Age, a sign.

Circumcision is also used by God as a teaching mechanism, a visual aid to provide a picture of regeneration by faith. The circumcision of male children on the 8th day was an act of dedication by the parents. By this means they declared that they would teach salvation by faith to their children. They anticipated that their children would become believers.

Col. 2:11-13

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

Circumcision is also a picture of positional truth, especially the identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

There can be no victory in the Christian way of life without victory over the old life, over the sin nature. This is the application of positional truth to experience.

The Lord also used circumcision as a picture of Israel’s restoration to fellowship and service.

READ Joshua 5:1-9

This restoration, by faith, was necessary for the victory the Israelites were about to experience (Jericho) and for the time of rest they were about to enter. There can be no victory over Canaan until there is victory over carnality (Egypt). Circumcision denotes separation from the world and the flesh, self-judgment, yieldedness, dedication, commitment.

Romans 4:9-13

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Circumcision is a sign of imputed righteousness; it is the sign that one has believed and is cleansed by the blood of Christ and has God’s Righteousness credited to his account. Gen. 15:6; 2 Cor. 5:21.

The true significance of circumcision was not in the physical act being perpetuated but in the reasons the ritual was begun in the first place. Circumcision was a sign that something had already taken place, namely, Abraham’s salvation.

Circumcision was also a seal. A seal indicates the validity of the thing to which it is attached. It has no significance apart from that which it covers. Circumcision was a seal attached to something valuable, salvation.

During the Church Age, water baptism is the outward sign of an inward faith. Circumcision was the outward sign for the Jews before the Church Age.

Religious Jews tried to make the seal valuable in itself. They attached spiritual value to the act of circumcision, ignoring the substance. They contended that circumcision was needed for salvation, which led to the formation of a ritualistic religion.

Abraham was saved by faith, long before he was circumcised. He is, therefore, the “father of all who believe” because he is the pattern of those who were saved in status quo uncircumcision, whether Jew or Gentile.

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The importance of the doctrine of Circumcision in Church Age teaching.

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One of the first acts of circumcision in the human race involved Abraham.

Genesis 17:6-11

And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

This initial act of circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of possessing the land. It was the indication that Abraham believed God’s word. Abraham separated himself unto the Lord and to the Lord’s promise.

Circumcision is, therefore, a sign of regeneration for the Jews. It was to the born again Jew what water baptism is to the born-again believer in the Church Age, a sign.

Circumcision is also used by God as a teaching mechanism, a visual aid to provide a picture of regeneration by faith. The circumcision of male children on the 8th day was an act of dedication by the parents. By this means they declared that they would teach salvation by faith to their children. They anticipated that their children would become believers.

Col. 2:11-13

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

Circumcision is also a picture of positional truth, especially the identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

There can be no victory in the Christian way of life without victory over the old life, over the sin nature. This is the application of positional truth to experience.

The Lord also used circumcision as a picture of Israel’s restoration to fellowship and service.

READ Joshua 5:1-9

This restoration, by faith, was necessary for the victory the Israelites were about to experience (Jericho) and for the time of rest they were about to enter. There can be no victory over Canaan until there is victory over carnality (Egypt). Circumcision denotes separation from the world and the flesh, self-judgment, yieldedness, dedication, commitment.

Romans 4:9-13

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Circumcision is a sign of imputed righteousness; it is the sign that one has believed and is cleansed by the blood of Christ and has God’s Righteousness credited to his account. Gen. 15:6; 2 Cor. 5:21.

The true significance of circumcision was not in the physical act being perpetuated but in the reasons the ritual was begun in the first place. Circumcision was a sign that something had already taken place, namely, Abraham’s salvation.

Circumcision was also a seal. A seal indicates the validity of the thing to which it is attached. It has no significance apart from that which it covers. Circumcision was a seal attached to something valuable, salvation.

During the Church Age, water baptism is the outward sign of an inward faith. Circumcision was the outward sign for the Jews before the Church Age.

Religious Jews tried to make the seal valuable in itself. They attached spiritual value to the act of circumcision, ignoring the substance. They contended that circumcision was needed for salvation, which led to the formation of a ritualistic religion.

Abraham was saved by faith, long before he was circumcised. He is, therefore, the “father of all who believe” because he is the pattern of those who were saved in status quo uncircumcision, whether Jew or Gentile.

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Legalism – The greatest distortion to Grace is religious legalism.

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Introduction

God’s plan is a grace plan. God the Father does the work, man receives the benefit. God receives the glory for His own works; man receives no glory.

The greatest distortion to grace is religious legalism!

Religion and legalism are Satan’s ace and king of trump or the primary means by which he blinds the minds of those who seek Christ and which are included in Ephesians 4:14 as part of “…every wind of doctrine, sleight of men, cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive.” By these means, Satan tries to disrupt the plan of God and blind people to grace principles.

I use the word “religion” in a strict sense here, not in the general sense of “the service or worship of God.” In the general sense, of course, Christianity could be viewed as a religion. But most religion is legalistic, and I want to distinguish the Christian way of life from other religious practice. So the definition many Bible teachers use is:

Religion is any system in which man by his own efforts tries to earn the approval of God.

Furthermore, the definition for legalism in this paper has to do only with religious legalism, so:

Legalism is a religious system that teaches that a person can do something to earn or merit salvation or blessing from God.

The purpose of this article is to help you identify religious legalism in all of its forms. The article will define and illustrate the concept of legalism, and show you how to distinguish legalism from grace thinking and activities. There are also numerous references to Bible teaching on legalism, particularly from the epistle to the Galatians, where the Jews had a very difficult time reconciling law and grace.

It is very important that you understand the doctrine of grace also. Grace is an extensive Bible category. The majority of the blessings and privileges of the Christian life depend on knowing and using grace principles. So it’s vital that you master the subject.

To understand these concepts clearly, you should also study some of the other topics which are related to legalism, especially grace.

Some categorical studies which you can request from Grace Notes are: The Barrier; Circumcision; Confession of Sin; Grace; Judgment, Justice, and Judging; Satan; Spirituality.

Defining Legalism

The standard (Webster’s New Collegiate) definition for legalism is: strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.

This definition does not seem very clear. What is, after all, excessive conformity to the law? I suppose it would be excessive to insist on driving 55 mph on the interstate when people are stacked up behind you wanting to go 70 mph. Legalism on the highway is sometimes dangerous.

But, strict obedience to God’s laws is not wrong. In fact, failure to obey is sin. Also, you can certainly decide to set a high standard for yourself in some area, based on your understanding of the obligations of the Christian life. This is not wrong, and it is not legalism by our previous definition of religious legalism, even though it might be strict conformance. It is legalism, however, to think that by maintaining high standards you are somehow doing something to merit salvation or to earn blessings or rewards.

For example, your view of the moral code of Rom. 14:21 may lead you to adopt abstinence from alcohol as a standard, out of your regard for weaker brethren who might be caused to stumble. This would certainly be a strict and legal conformity; but it’s not legalism, because you are not trying to earn points with God by your actions. Someone else may consider this excessive, but it is none of their business. It is not wrong for you to set high standards for yourself, and neither is it religious legalism. In fact, quite often what a grace believer calls legalistic is really someone else setting high standards for himself.

A stricter general definition of legalism is found in the Oxford English Dictionary: The principles of those who hold a theological position of adhering to the Law as opposed to the Gospel; the doctrine of justification by works, or teaching which savors of that doctrine.

Romans 4:4,5 states the case succinctly, “Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that works not, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

And Romans 11:6 is clear, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Our human system of work and reward is like this: I work for you and you pay me. This is obviously legitimate, it is the way commerce works under divine institutions and free enterprise.

But the religious legalist is convinced that God works by the same system or at least he hopes so. He says: I work for God and God rewards me by saving me and blessing me in some way.

That is not how God operates. He has no need or desire for our works; in fact, our works are offensive to Him. Isa. 64:6, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” If I try to impress God with my works, He discards them as filthy rags.

That is why we say that religious legalism, which tries to promote a works approach to God, is a “system that teaches that a person can do something to earn or merit salvation or blessing from God.

The word legalism also refers to any merit system which operates by works, by which a person tries to please God, or to assist God, or to glorify God by human power.

Religious legalism also refers to any system of religious bondage imposed on someone by another individual, or by an organization, that attempts to make that person a practitioner of legalism. Bullying tactics are often used: “Unless you accept our point of view, you are not one of us!” Ostracism is a very powerful persuader of novice Christians.

So, while it is not legalism to have high standards, it is legalism to try to impose those standards on others as a system of salvation or spirituality.

The word grace is used in the Bible to refer to all that God is free to do for mankind because of the work that has already been performed for us by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Grace means that man has received from God that which he has not earned or deserved. Nothing that we are, and nothing that we can do, is enough to qualify us for anything that the Lord has to give us. In fact, our works cause us to be arrogant in the presence of God, something He will not tolerate.

Read Romans 2:17-23, A Portrait of a Boaster

Read Romans 4:1-6, “But Not Before God…”

Systems of Legalism

There are four principal spiritual transactions in which works are not accepted by God: salvation, spirituality, maturity and reward.

Legalism in Salvation

There are many religious systems which teach salvation by works, or which try to mix works with faith, such as:

  • Believe + keep the Law of Moses
  • Believe + be circumcised
  • Believe + water baptism
  • Believe + confess your sins
  • Believe + give up your bad habits and fully surrender
  • Believe + make a public display or have great sorrow of a show of tears
  • Believe + church membership

The Gospel is believe in Jesus Christ plus nothing else!

Legalism in Christian Living

Here are some types of religious legalism imposed on Christians:

Taboos: Thinking one is spiritual because he abstains from certain things or follows a certain system of dos and don’ts.

Imitating Personalities: The idea that living the Christian life is conformity in dress, mannerisms, speech, etc., with those who seem spiritual.

Relative Righteousness: Your sins are worse than mine, therefore I am more spiritual. I am spiritual and you are carnal.

Ecstatics: Spirituality by speaking in tongues, groaning, getting in a trance, fainting is required.

Asceticism: Spirituality by self-sacrifice or extreme self denial; giving up normal activities or even necessities in the mistaken notion that God is impressed.

Ritual: The idea that one is spiritual because he goes through various forms of ceremony or ritual. In the Apostle’s day, the Jews promoted circumcision as necessary to the Christian walk. These days, baptism or one of the other sacraments is promoted as being necessary to salvation.

Confusing Means with Results: The idea that you are spiritual if you are faithful in praying, giving, witnessing, attending church and so forth. But -these legitimate activities are a result of Christian growth and the filling of the Holy Spirit. They are not the means for spirituality or growth in Christ. It is important to distinguish this difference.

The grace principle is this: when you are in fellowship, occupied with Christ, and controlled by the Holy Spirit, all of your activities bring eternal reward like gold, silver and precious stones. You are producing divine good and the spiritual power for your efforts comes from God as a grace provision.

When you are out of fellowship (sin not confessed), you are occupied with yourself, you control yourself, everything is chaos. Even with your good works you are only producing human good like wood, hay and stubble. There is no spiritual power supporting your efforts and there is no reward for them in heaven.

Obedience to God’s word is not legalism. Remember the definition. Everything you do has the potential for reward in heaven, under the right circumstances.

But the legalist thinks that the good works he does for God will not only keep him in fellowship and walking with the Lord but will also make him more spiritual and a great Christian.

Characteristics of the Weaker Brother – Romans 14

[Please read Romans chapter 14 before going through the discussion in this section.

Romans 14 has a splendid description of the characteristics of a legalistic person who is called the weaker brother. This is a great passage about how to think grace toward someone who does something obnoxious or unspiritual. Remember, we all have areas of weakness. You may be the stronger believer in some of your areas of strength and a weaker brother in areas of weakness. The idea in both cases is to avoid legalism and judgmentalism.

The strong believer in Romans 14 is mature, oriented to grace, the plan of God, occupied with Christ and operates in fellowship most of the time under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The weaker brother is disoriented to grace, especially in the area of spirituality and practices one or more forms of legalism. He is not comfortable unless he is judging the stronger believer in some gray area of behavior. The weaker brother has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The weaker brother is strong on scruples, but not well informed about doctrine or divine viewpoint.
  • The weaker brother operations on criteria of feelings, emotions, traditions, experiences, background, instead of Bible truth.
  • The weaker brother operates in the energy of the flesh, producing human good like wood, hay stubble which he thinks is divine good like gold, silver and precious stones.
  • The weaker brother is proud and critical of the strong believer, always judging him.
  • The weaker brother sticks his nose into the affairs of others by gossiping, maligning and judging.
  • The weaker brother likes to set up a mold and try to squeeze everyone into it, so he is a bully.
  • The weaker brother has a guilt complex, so he is emotionally unstable; he is sensitive and demands attention; he is full of self pity and lusts for approbation in his sin nature.
  • The weaker brother is jealous of others and tries to discredit them; he nit picks and condemns the activities and projects of others.

Note: The weaker brother is weak because he resists grace doctrines. He can recover quickly by confessing sin, being controlled by the Holy Spirit and pursuing a program of intake of Bible truth which will make him spiritually strong.

Illustration from Galatians

It is important that you read the entire epistle to the Galatians prior to reading this outline review of legalism in the Galatian church. The sequence of events was:

  1. The Galatian believers came under the influence of Judaistic legalism from the circumcision crowd, that is, Christian Jews who still followed Jewish practices.
  2. They took themselves out from under the grace principle and put themselves under the Law.
  3. They soon adopted a practice of observing the days, months, times and years.
  4. This influenced their appreciation of their teacher and turned the Apostle Paul into an enemy.
  5. Their growth process was stopped and Christ was not formed in them, so they were not growing into maturity.
  6. As a result of slowed growth and the absence of maturity, bona fide production by means of the filling of the Holy Spirit was curtailed and their only production was a false production expressed as lusts of the flesh.
  7. Along with this pseudo production went many other factors:
  • The glory-seeking concept of 5:26
  • The practice of straightening everyone else out, 6:1
  • The concept of weariness with actual doctrinal spiritual production, 6:2-6
  • The program of impressing others, peers, subordinates or superiors, 6:11-13
  • The idea that man gets the glory, God is left out, the antithesis of grace, 6:14,15

The principles to be derived from the example of the Galatian church are listed below:

  1. Legalism is a result of a process of turning away from the truth. It is therefore a deliberate choice or (volitional.
  2. The type of legalism which a person follows is often be related to some kind of background exposure, practice or principle. A person’s culture and upbringing will determine what type of religion he follows. Galatians deals with religious legalism which came out of Jewish law and practice.
  3. Legalism always has a pseudo content or, another gospel of a different kind. Gal. 1:6.
  4. Once legalism begins to operate in a believer’s life, he becomes suspicious of another person’s motives, methods and message. Gal. 1:10-12.
  5. A mature Christian who has been in a legalistic religion can spot legalism a mile away. Paul was at the top of Judaism before his conversion. Gal. 1:13,14.
  6. Legalism sometimes uses techniques of infiltration or spying to gather information, while operating under a cloak of respectability. The legalist will bide his time until it suits his purpose to act. Gal. 2:1-4.
  7. When legalists are met with truth, in terms of content and procedure, it crumbles and is unable to fulfill its objectives. Strong teaching keeps legalists from getting their campaigns launched. Gal. 2:5-9.
  8. When legalists lose a battle on one front, they will regroup and form another base of operations on another front. When legalists cannot get a grasp on a person when he is in the company of strong believers, they will concentrate on him when he is standing alone.
  9. Legalism is often seen in leadership before it is seen in the congregation. And when a leader gets involved in legalism, he influences others to go with him. This happens often when a project is going sour and the leader is desperate for support. Example: When there is financial trouble, there is a great temptation to get away from principles of grace giving.
  10. The content of legalism is often something that has a bona fide function in some other context. In the Galatian churches, legalism was a distortion of the Law. The Law has a real and bona fide function, to bring us to Christ, and legalism distorted it. Other examples: Legalism takes the doctrine of separation and makes it the doctrine of spirituality; it takes the doctrine of baptism and makes it the doctrine of church membership.

The term bondage in Gal. 5:1 means the slavery to the principles and ways of regular human living. This is not the idea of degraded lasciviousness or debauchery. The Law was bona fide and circumcision was bona fide. But these were distorted by legalists to that they became the master of the person instead of his tools.

  1. The legalistic person has been bewitched. This terms means to have evil brought upon you by vain praise. Legalism appeals to a person’s lust for approbation and tries to drag him into legalism to satisfy it. Gal. 3:1-3.

The person in legalism is described as foolish, meaning not understanding. Legalism is one of the greatest robbers of Christian benefits; it robs people of their understanding of the word of God and all of the benefits of the grace life.

  1. The legalist does not learn from experience. He has great tenacity; and despite many failures and vain strivings, he still can not see his error. He sees his program not working, so he has to go from one thing to the next, always looking for something better, never satisfied and never satisfying others. Gal. 3:4.
  2. The very thing that the legalist puts himself under is that which rises up to smite him. When a Christian puts himself under the taboos of others, he can’t measure up. So he puts himself under a church organization and he still can not measure up. The very system that he embraces proves him to be deficient by always presenting a moving target. Grace is the only system which does not magnify the believer’s deficiencies.

Grace to you, and peace…

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