Jesus Christ — The full meal deal

The Judaizers in Galatia did not see their distinctive – the rite of circumcision – as problematic. They could claim biblical authority for it in Genesis 17 and the Abrahamic covenant. But their distinctive functioned as an addition to the all-sufficiency of Jesus himself. Today the flash point is not circumcision. It can be Reformed theology. But no matter how well argued our position is biblically, if it functions in our hearts as an addition to Jesus, it ends up as a form of legalistic divisiveness.

Paul answered the theological aspects of the Galatian error with solid theology. But the “whiff test” that something was wrong in those Galatian churches was more subtle than theology alone. The problem was also sociological. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17). In other words, “The legalists want to ‘disciple’ you. But really, they’re manipulating you. By emphasizing their distinctive, they want you to feel excluded so that you will conform to them.” It’s like chapter two of Tom Sawyer. Remember how Tom got the other boys to whitewash the fence for him? Mark Twain explained: “In order to make a man or boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” Paul saw it happening in Galatia. But the gospel makes full inclusion in the church easy to attain. It re-sets everyone’s status in terms of God’s grace alone. God’s grace in Christ crucified, and nothing more. He alone makes us kosher. He himself.

The Judaizers would probably have answered at this point, “We love Jesus too. But how can you be a first-rate believer, really set apart to God, without circumcision, so plainly commanded right here in the Bible? This isn’t an add-on. It’s the full-meal deal. God says so.”


3 thoughts on “Jesus Christ — The full meal deal

  1. spadinofamily

    This controlling attitude we all have is a very subtle thing. We don’t even see our controlling ways. We justify it as being a part of God or having more truth than others. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden is typically oversimplified to be man taking on some immoral, disobedient lifestyle. However, that is the superficial interpretation of Genesist that focusses only on external behavior. What we lost in the Garden was a trust relationship with God. Trusting in his plan for our life. The serpent said surelt you will not die and know good and evil like God. The serpent tempted us with being our own God’s. He started a lust after divinity in the human soul.

    For the people that are the legalists or what I now call the externalists that concentrate on external behavior and controlling the bad behavior of others you need to understand that this is a very damaging thing and damaging to the Christs’ bride. WE NEED TO CVOME ALONG SIDE OTHER SINNERS RECOGNIZING OUR SIN BUT LIFTING EACH OTHER UP. Sorry for shouting.

    For those that want to come along side other sinners and lift them out of this muck of a world…. God will bless your hands and feet.

    In Christ,


  2. theoldadam


    Nice post.

    I like the term you have used, “externalists”. Luther called the same folks “enthusiasts”. When you do not place value on the external Word (preaching, teaching, and SACRAMENTS, you by default will head inwardly to your own feelings, emotions, and actions. This is where the externalists are. Just look at the American church landscape. This stuff is everywhere!

  3. spadinofamily

    I am trying to use a more modern and indicting term than ‘legalist’ to reflect todays culture. Many legalists are embedded into CHurch leadership and believe they have more truth and are more mature than other people in the Church — just like the pharisees. In my book legalist = pharisee.

    I consider the harm of legalism to go mostly unchallenged in Churches today.

    My words for legalists are:

    1. Externalists – seeing sin 90 % of the time as something external to them. Using what they think as Gods way to sit on their own self proclaimed throne and judge other Christians.

    2. 3rdpersonitus — always seeing sin in the third person.

    3. Moralists — people who have equated morality as THE acid test of our sanctification. Not leaning on trusting God but leaning on moral performance.

    The real issue is they think they are in more “truth” as the call sin sin in the face of other sinners. However the damage they do to Gods character is extreme. Rather than exposing our sin they drive it under\ground.

    They have essentially created Churches that are sanctuaries for saints as opposed to hospitals for sinners.

    Matthew 9:13
    But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


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