Legality, Liberty and Diversity

Randal Amos, Rochester, NY, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

In a free society promoting liberty and diversity, ‘legalism’ is a common cry. If something is judged as absolutely right or wrong, not respecting personal choice, it’s now labelled ‘legalistic’. If it doesn’t include diversity of thought, it’s branded ‘legalism’. But is legalism and legality the same? For the Christian who has a heart for the mind and will of God, how does Holy Scripture present legality, liberty, and diversity? The following is a short summary.

Legality is of God

God is a legal God. Legality upholds right and wrong, which is justice. God is revealed as ‘just and right’.1 The Lord’s law to Israel upheld social justice.2 God ordains government to uphold civil justice in punishing evil.3 Even the Lord’s universe operates by absolute laws, like the law of gravity, etc. Jeremiah chapter 31 verse 35 says, ‘the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night’. The gospel is also legal [just]. It requires punishment for sin [His death] before offering forgiveness ‘that he might be just’, which upheld the law that requires death for sin.4 Legality doesn’t function by bias or mood but by justice, which can protect and secure.

Legalism – the perversion of legality. 

Legalism is to impose man’s way on God’s people as if it were law. Legalism is to restore Israel’s law in principle, with works or rituals as a requirement to secure God’s salvation of grace.5 It includes binding Israel’s, or man’s, traditions on the church, that contradicts God’s way, as the way to worship and serve.6 It can involve man’s professional hierarchy which restricts the liberty given to the New Testament church by limiting the practice of the priesthood of all believers in the assembly meeting.7 

Caution – what legalism is not. 

To obey the word and traditions of the Lord Jesus is not legalism but love.8 Do not be intimidated by dubious cries of legalism. Express your love for the Lord who died for you by obedience to His word! 

Liberty is of God

Consider Israel. The Lord wanted them to leave Egypt: ‘let my people go that they may serve me’, Exod. 8. 1. But Pharaoh said ‘no’, as he was their slave master. Israel couldn’t serve God – they were restrained by another power. So the Lord freed them from the bondage that restrained them. They now had the ability to serve the Lord freely – this is liberty! 

Liberty is being made free from restraints that keep us from serving God. There is the restraint of the power of sin: ‘being made free from sin ye became the servants of righteousness’ is what the gospel of Jesus Christ accomplished. Free to serve! There is the restraint of the authority of the Old Testament law to form a relationship with God. ‘But now we are delivered from the law . . . that we should serve in newness of spirit’, Rom. 7. 6. The law, with its principle of judgement, stirs up our flesh, rather than produce fruit unto God. Now the church has been ‘called unto liberty’,9 free and able to serve the Lord His way! 

Liberalism: the perversion of liberty. 

Liberalism is based on my right to choose what I want – my choice of what to believe, what lifestyle I will live, how I worship, or how church should be. The Lord’s liberty is not freedom to choose my choice – but being free to choose God’s choice. It’s not freedom to sin but freedom from sin.10

Diversity is of God

Diversity is ‘including a variety’ – but a variety of what? The world is made up of diverse nations, peoples, families and languages11 – one blood (human race) with different nationalities. This happens naturally by God’s choice apart from our choice.12 The church also has a diversity of spiritual gifts.13 

The Lord’s diversity in the gospel of Christ is the equal inclusion of all believing nationalities into the body of Christ. It is without bias or discrimination. All groups are equally united in the Head. All are given the same blessings regardless of colour, culture, class, gender, prior religious heritage, or sins committed. 

Each member of this one body will have the manifestation of the Spirit with gifted abilities to serve, but the gifts will differ. The body of Christ is a diversity of God’s choosing forming the unity of the one body.

Inclusivism: the perversion of diversity. 

Biblical diversity is not the inclusion of diverse immoral lifestyles. God’s church, as the holy temple of God, is not to be tolerant of so-called believers who are living in sin. Immorality and other sins of the flesh are our choice. Our choices are not God’s diversity. 

The Lord’s diversity is not equal roles for men and women in the home or the church but diverse roles. God’s diversity is not the toleration of unscriptural practices in the church. The church, while made up of diversity, is called to a unity (oneness) in its Head. The thinking and wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ alone is to govern us.14 The church is designed to be a diversity created into a unity, expressed with unanimity of speech and thinking from its Lord. 

The Lord Jesus Himself is not pleased with a doctrinal diversity of choices or practices by His churches.15 What Paul taught in one church, he taught in all.16 The church is a unity of truth. Amazing grace!

Endnotes

1 Deut. 32. 4.

2 Deut. 4. 8.

3 Rom. 13. 4.

4 Rom. 3. 25, 26, 31.

5 Rom. 3. 28.

6 Matt. 15. 8, 9; Col. 2. 14-17.

7 Heb. 10. 19-25; 1 Pet. 2. 5; 1 Cor. 14. 23-40 (note vv. 36-38).

8 John 14. 15; 1 Cor. 14. 37; 2 Thess. 2. 15.

9 Gal. 5. 12.

10 Rom. 6.

11 Rev. 5. 9.

12 Acts 17. 26.

13 There are diversities of gifts’, 1 Cor. 12. 4. This happens supernaturally apart from our choice – but His choice, 1 Cor. 12. 11.

14 ‘Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment’, 1 Cor. 1. 10.

15 Rev. 2 and 3.

16 1 Cor. 4. 17.

 

AUTHOR PROFILE: He is a full time worker commended by Linwood Gospel Chapel and Northgate Bible Chapel and is in fellowship in the assembly at Rochester, New York. His ministry is greatly appreciated throughout N. America and he has also ministered in N. Ireland.

There are 24 articles in
ISSUE (2018, Volume 73 Issue 1)

At His Feet: John 11 - Weeping at His Feet

Bethlehem to Bethany - Jack Strahan

Character Studies in the Book of Proverbs - Part 1

Characters around the Crucifixion - Part 10 Joseph Who Buried Him

Cuckoos in the nest . . . apostasy in the church - Sam Gordon

Editorial

Ephesians - Part 12: Chapter 6 vv 1-17

First Samuel

The Gospel of Mark

Image Cover - Volume 73 Number 1

Legality, Liberty and Diversity

Mambilima Mission 1898 to 2017

The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 24

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Believer

Question Time

The Scene of the Cross of Calvary - Part 1

Seven Prophecies of the Church’s Condition Fulfilled

Sir Robert Anderson (1841–1918)

Their Finest Hour - John

Truth & Training from Titus – Part 10: Chapter 3 vv 8-11

Truth for Today – Paul’s Letter to the Colossians - Edited by J. D. Rice

What is Meant by Insiration?

A Word for Today: Missing the mark, Guilt, Sin (Gk. Hamartia)

‘I Have Redeemed Thee . . . and Thou art Mine’

This article is not part of a series

There are 14 articles by this author

The Christian Life

The One Gospel and its Dynamics

The One Gospel and its Terms

The One Gospel and its Order

The One Gospel and its New Style

The One Gospel and its Freedom

The One Gospel and its Freedom

The Church, A Discipleship Manual for the Body of Christ

The Local Church – Its Character and Constitution

Worshipping God

The Tyranny of Choice

Seven Prophecies of the Church’s Condition Fulfilled

Legality, Liberty and Diversity

Holiness