Legalism Part 3: The First Legalist

Red Apple. Used white paper behind apple and a...

See also Part 1 and Part 2

As I pondered the apple, it surprised me to think that legalism is something that finds its roots in the very beginning of the Bible.  Our first mother was also the first legalist!  You see, the legalist thinks they’re safe from doing bad things because they follow the strictest rules possible.  They’ve got the guardrails constructed to keep themselves from going off the road.

You see, Eve did just that.  Remember when the snake started talking to her about eating the fruit from the tree?  The snake questioned whether or not God really said they couldn’t eat from the tree.  Eve responded that they shouldn’t eat from the tree and that they couldn’t even touch it.  But this part about touching it wasn’t recorded in what God said to the couple.  Nope.  Eve had added this guardrail rule to keep her from violating God’s rule.  Somewhere along the line it became elevated to the same level as God’s law.  Imagine little Eve farming in the garden and always cutting a careful path as far from the tree as possible.  Whenever Adam would go near the tree to plant some flowers she would remind him, “Don’t get that close!”  But now Eve was the one standing there by the tree talking with Satan about not even touching the fruit or the tree.  It makes me wonder if maybe after Eve finished telling him that the fruit was not to be touched, he may have touched it himself or just pushed Eve into it.  I imagine the snake chuckling and saying, “See, you can touch it.  I wonder what else God has lied about?”  Far from protecting her, Eve’s guardrail only opened the door to sin.  It was like thin plastic in the face of a flame.  The broken image of God was not able to be prevented by a little legalism, what makes us think that it will be restored by a little legalism?

Eve was the first of our family to be a legalist, but she wouldn’t be the last.  Throughout Scripture we have examples of people who practiced the methods of Eve.  For example, I always find it interesting that when God came to earth, He didn’t spend a whole lot of time dealing with those who went around doing what would seem to be the worst sins of the race.  He actually spent most of His time addressing those who practiced the methods of Eve: making up rules to keep them from breaking God’s rules.  Why not address those who broke God’s rules instead of those who were trying to keep them?  Perhaps Jesus saw something here that we miss.  Perhaps Jesus knew that it is as much a sin to prohibit what God permits as to permit what God prohibits.  The Pharisees were going around promoting their prohibitions on everybody.  They were setting up a standard of righteousness that was choking out everyone around them.  You see…legalism is not just a sin against ones’ self.  I think this is why Jesus went after the Pharisees so hard.  Legalism has disastrous effects on the whole community.

7 thoughts on “Legalism Part 3: The First Legalist”

  1. Righteousness does not come from the law.

    Righteousness is imputed to those who Believe through the Blood of Yeshua.

    Believers are and should be obedient to the Torah because Yeshua wants us to be LIKE He is.

    Torah is a way of life.

    In this message, you mentioned that Legalism was from the beginning. This may be true. Mankind has always tried to add to the Commands of God.

    God’s commands are just and pure and holy and good for all doctrine, reproof, correction in righteousness so that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished for every good work.

    Just like Legalism started in the Beginning, God’s plans and the revelation of His Son and the ultimate reality have also been taught from the beginning. Look at this prophesy from the mouth of Isaiah:

    “declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
    saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” — Isaiah 46:10, ESV.

    God’s plan started in the beginning to– before Mankind came along. By the very Words of God, I suppose by the word of life (Chaya), the beams of the earth were made.

    1. I’m going ahead and approving this comment because it is at least somewhere in the ballpark of what I’m talking about, but I still think all you’re trying to do here is to find a window to push your ideology. My post here is about those who fence in the commands of God or add commands in order to feel righteous or safe from sin. The whole issue of the relation of the Christian to the Torah is a theological point regarding God’s covenant with a nation at Sinai and how the laws that reflected His character in that context apply to Jew and Gentile Christians in a variety of contexts today. This is not the focus of this particular post. I’ve already corresponded with you about this point of theology. I’d ask you to please email me back when you’re ready to discuss these points. Perhaps I’ll open a thread dedicated to this issue at some point, but for now I’m addressing the issue of works-based justification and sanctification.

      1. If you are God’s voice speaking to me, then why, in our previous correspondence, were you telling me to essentially disregard God’s Word — the New Testament? If anything, this kind of moral superiority where people start thinking that they speak for God while devaluing what He has spoken also goes back to the Garden of Eden…but that voice didn’t come from Eve.

      2. Hey man. I was simply stating that what we have are copies of what was inspired. Not the inspired texts themselves.

        You never brought up anything about preservation or anything like that. It’s a well known fact that nothing survives of the originals. :/

      3. But your argument was clearly intended to debunk the validity of the NT. You said yourself that you consider it to be something less than Scripture, namely a commentary on the OT. To me, whether you are arguing this point on the basis of transmission or canon, there’s little difference. The problem is that all we have are copies of the OT as well. If copies and translation eliminates inspiration, then you’ve got an even bigger problem cut out for you when it comes to the OT. The weapon you’re trying to use here is a double-edged sword.

        My point is that your argument (namely that for some reason or another the NT is somehow less authoritative than the OT) is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ own witness. He commissioned apostles who would write about His works and their implications (Matt. 28:16-20; Jn 14:25-26). These apostles recognized each others’ writings as Scripture. So either (a) Jesus’ witness and commissioning of the apostles was faulty or (b) the NT is Scripture.

        So what this really comes down to is this: do I trust in Jesus and His commissioned apostles or do I trust Clayton? I think you know the answer to that question.

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