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A Day Long Remebered

A Day Long Remembered

Most of us can clearly remember some special Christmas day in our childhood. The older we are the quainter our remembrance of that day. Near the end of life, F. B. Srygley recalled a Christmas he had long remembered “distinctly.” He was hardly more than six at the time and the terrible War between the States was in its final throes. Union and Confederate armies moved back and forth in and near the Tennessee Valley. One or the other was often seen in the vicinity of Rock Creek, even large armies passing along the road that ran by the Srygley’s farm.

On December 25, 1864, J. H. and Sarah Srygley sent their young son Filo away from his Rock Creek home to spend the day with a cousin that lived in a different neighborhood. One thing that [was] impressed that day on [the] young boy’s memory was very likely the reason his parents, unknown to him at the time, sent him away from home on such an important family occasion. An encampment of Confederate soldiers staged what they called a “sham battle” on a hill a mile south and in sight of the Srygley farm. The anxious parents had no way of knowing what the outcome of that might be for the people of Rock Creek.

For Christmas, Filo and his cousin each received one Florida orange and about fifteen firecrackers, which as he remembered “we used up very soon.” He made no mention of their eating the oranges, but the boys likely devoured them as quickly as they used up their firecrackers. “Then, all we could do to make a fuss was to burn some bright coals and lay one on a stump, spit on it, and hit it with a small axe. It sometimes would pop rather loud, as we believed; but we soon got out of spit and had to quit.” The cousins no doubt had a good time, but it turned out to be a day of great disappointment that lingered with Srygley for more than seventy years.

“That night when I got home I found that I had been cheated out of seeing the sham battle.” What boy would not rather see real soldiers in time of war, with real firepower, engaged in real war games, than to set off fifteen comparatively muted firecrackers? To be “cheated” in childhood by one’s own parents is a serious charge for one to make so late in life. The old warrior apparently believed that his good parents had deprived him of an experience that would have been even more unforgettable than remembering what he missed that day.

Thousands of men and boys died in that war and many more were maimed for life. The land around Rock Creek soon became filled with widows and orphans of war and veterans with severed limbs and worse. But the Srygleys were fortunate in the safe return of Felix, their oldest son and brother. “When the South surrendered, Bud came home, arriving late at night, and he went to bed in my mother’s room. When I got up, my mother said: ‘Bud got home this morning.’ I slipped to the door and looked at him as he slept, and I thought he was the finest looking young man I had ever seen. I never thought after he went to the war that I would ever see him again” (Gospel Advocate, Sept. 23, 1937).

While Srygley didn’t get to see the “sham battle,” the war that engulfed the land was genuine to its people and he experienced much of it firsthand, including hearing the artillery roar on “bloody Shiloh hill.”

Before the day was ended,

the battle ceased to roar,

And thousands of brave soldiers

had fell to rise no more;

They left their vacant ranks

for some other ones to fill,

And now their mouldering bodies

all lie on Shiloh Hill.

He became and remained a pacifist for the rest of his life both because of the word of God and his own experiences as a child at Rock Creek during the conflict. He believed there is only one war that Christians should engage in, the war against sin and error. “The only thing that will bring peace to the world is the gospel of Christ, and the only uniform for a Christian are the habiliments of heaven, and the only weapon is the sword of the Spirit.” (Ibid., Sept. 9, 1937)

Earl Kimbrough

Biblical Insights September 2012

“Legalism” Is Not a Four-Letter Word

by Kevin Kay

 

“Legalism” – it’s one of those words, we don’t like to hear or say. It makes us cringe inside. It leaves a bad taste in our mouth when it crosses our lips. Yet I wonder if those who accuse others of “legalism” know what the word really means. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “legalism” as “strict, literal adherence to law.” The Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says that it means “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.” Now, what’s so terrible about that? Is “strict, literal adherence to law” something that we should abhor? Is it antithetical to the teachings of Christ in the new covenant?

As often as many people condemn “legalism,” one might think that the terms “legalism,” “legalist,” and “legalistic” are scattered all through the Bible; but in fact they are not used a single time. Of course, the NT does say quite a lot about “law.” For example, it teaches that: the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus (Jn. 1:17); no one will be justified in God’s sight by the deeds (or works) of law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16); we are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14); if righteousness comes through law, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21); etc. Many people read passages like these and conclude that the NT condemns “legalism” (as that term is defined in the dictionary); but is that really true?

Before we explore that question, let me remind you that any Bible passage must be interpreted in such a way that it harmonizes with the rest of Scripture. If the Bible is really the word of God (and it is), then it does not contradict itself. Therefore if we interpret one passage in such a way that it contradicts another passage, we must conclude that we have either misinterpreted the first passage, or the second, or both. This means that whatever the Bible teaches about “ law” and/or “legalism”: (1) One passage is not going to contradict other passages; and (2) All the passages will harmonize together if they are properly understood.

With this hermeneutical principle to guide us, we must conclude that when Paul says “for you are not under law but under grace: (Rom. 6:14), there are several things he simply cannot mean, because otherwise he would contradict many other clear Bible passages.

Paul Cannot Mean:

The Christian is not under any kind of law at all. When Isaiah prophesied the establishment of the Messianic kingdom, he said, “for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2-3). When Jeremiah prophesied that God would make a new covenant with Israel and Judah, he indicated that this new covenant would have a law from God (Jer. 31:31-34). The NT clearly states that Christians are under law to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). It specifically talks about: “the law of faith” (Rom. 3:27); “the law of God” (Rom. 8:2); “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2); “the law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25; 2:12); and “the royal law” (Jas. 2:8). Furthermore, the very existence of sin implies the existence of law, because sin, by definition, is the transgression of law (1 Jn. 3:4). Where there is no law, there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15). You can’t break the speed limit if there is no speed limit law. Since Christians sin from time to time (1 Jn. 1:8-10), they must be under law.

Law is antithetical to love. Some people seem to have the idea that “law” and “love” are like oil and water – they just don’t mix – they don’t go together. However, Jesus taught that one of the ways we express our love is by obeying His law (Jn. 14:21, 23-24), and John echoes Jesus’ teaching in his epistles (1 Jn. 2:3-6; 5:3; 2 Jn. 6) To profess love for Jesus and then neglect to obey His commandments is patently absurd (Lk. 6:46).

Christians can continue in sin. Paul clearly teaches that Christians who are “not under law but under grace” may not continue to practice sin (Rom. 6:1-4, 11-19).

“Strict, literal adherence to law” is unnecessary. God repeatedly taught the Israelites under the old covenant that they were to strictly obey His law. Before his death and before Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses repeatedly emphasized the importance of strict obedience to God’s word. He told them to be careful to obey all the commandments (Dt. 5:31-33; 6:24-24; 7:11; 8:1; 11:22-23; 12:32; 15:4b-5; 28:1, 13, 15; 32:46), with all your heart (Dt. 10:12-13; 11:13-15; 26:16), all your days (Dt. 4:9-10; 6:1-2; 12:1). Jesus repeatedly taught the importance of strict obedience. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that those who broke the least commandment would be least in the kingdom (Mt. 5:19), and that doesn’t mean they’ll have to sit in the cheap seats in the nose-bleed section. It means they won’t get in (cf. Mt. 18:1-5). He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). Although He rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting “the weightier matters of the law,” Jesus did not condemn their punctilious tithing of their herbs; in fact, He commended it (Mt. 23:23). When Jesus gave the Great Commission to the apostles, He taught them to make disciples by baptizing people and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:18-20). Please read that again. Strict obedience to Jesus’ teaching is a part of discipleship. The apostles taught early Christians the importance of strictly obeying God’s law (1Cor. 7:19; 2 Cor. 2:9; Col. 3:17; 2 Th. 2:15; 3:4; 2 Tim. 1:13; Jas. 2:10-11). Many people today seem to have the idea that obedience is not something we must do to be saved, but rather it’s something we do because we are saved. However, the NT teaches that obedience is both an indication of salvation (1 Jn. 2:3-6, 29; 3:24) and a condition for salvation (Mt. 7:21-23; Rom. 2:8-10; 6:16-18; 2 Th. 1:8-9; Heb. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 2:17).

If “legalism” is “strict, literal adherence to law,” that’s not something the Bible condemns, it’s something the Bible commands. If “legalism” is “strict, literal adherence to law,” then Moses and Jesus and the apostles were “legalist.” Friends, what some people call “legalism,” the Bible calls “righteousness.” “And they [Zacharias and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Lk. 1:6).

What Does Paul Mean?

When Paul says “for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14), what does he mean? He means that the Christian is not obligated to keep God’s law perfectly to be saved. Paul’s fundamental argument in Romans and Galatians can be stated in the form of a syllogism.

Major Premise: Law demands perfect obedience (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10-12)

Minor Premise: Man does not deliver perfect obedience, because he’s a sinner (Rom. 3:9-12, 23; 7:14-24; 8:3)

Conclusion: Therefore man cannot be justified on the basis of law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16)

Fortunately, for sinners like you and me, God has provided a plan whereby we can be saved by means of an obedient faith through the sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). When Paul says we are not justified by “works” (Rom. 3:20, 28), he’s not saying we don’t have to obey Christ (cf. Rom. 1:5; 16:26), and he’s not saying we don’t have to strictly obey Christ. He’s saying we don’t have to perfectly obey Christ. When it comes right down to it, the only man who can “earn” his salvation, the only man who can point his finger in God’s face and say “You owe me” is the sinless man. This becomes apparent when we carefully consider the contrasts that Paul draws in Romans 4:1-8.

The “Legalism” Jesus Condemns

I want to emphasize that there is a kind of “legalism” that the NT clearly condemns. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for: (1) setting aside God’s commands because of their own man-mad traditions (Mt. 15:1-7); and (2) teaching the doctrines of men as the commandments of God (Mt. 15:7-9). The apostle Paul also condemned those who would require men to do things that God has not required (cf. Gal. 2:3-5; Col. 2:16-23).

When we commit ourselves, as the Bible teaches we should, to a “strict, literal adherence to law” this does not mean that we earn or merit our salvation in any way. Jesus said: “So likewise you, when you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Lk. 17:10) The very first sin you ever committed forever placed you in debt to God for your salvation, because your first sin made it impossible for you to “earn” eternal life, and its forgiveness required a perfect sacrifice that you could never provide. Fortunately, out of His love and mercy and grace, God provided that sacrifice in His Son Jesus Christ who died for your sins; and you can have that salvation as a gift, if you will accept it with an obedient faith.

If other people call you a “legalist” because of your insistence on “strict, literal adherence to law” don’t let that bother you. Jesus said: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is you reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5:11-12; cf. Lk. 6:22-23, 26)

 

Kay, Kevin. “’Legalism’ Is Not a Four-Letter Word.” Biblical Insights July 2012: pp. 9-10

We have a tendency to lose track of time. Life catches up with us. We work and play. Spend time with friends and family. There never seems to be enough time to do all the things we want to do. We are bad managers of our time, but for the most part we are just to busy.

Well it’s been almost five months. We had our second son in January. His name is James Adon Graves. He is named after his maternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather. The reason for the odd spelling of Adon, as opposed to Aidan, Ayden, etc., is we wanted a slightly unusual biblical name. I really liked the name Adonijah because it means “My Master is Yah.” Yet, we shortened it to Adon. He is six months old now, and he loves his big brother Isaac. He smiles at us, but squeals at Isaac. I am an only child, so seeing siblings interact is a wonderful new experience for me.

My sister-in-law recently got married. I was privileged to be the Best Man. I’ve known him his entire life, being brought up in the same congregation, and have known my sister since she was ten. They are a wonderful couple, and I am so glad that they are in my life.

I am presently reading “What Did You Expect?” by Paul David Tripp and the Gospel Advocate Commentary on Romans by David Lipscomb and J. W. Shephard. I’ve recently read “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas and Timothy J. Keller. I loved the book, but evidently there are others I need to read. Also I have read “Reading Romans” by Robert F. Turner, “Religious Affections” by Jonathan Edwards, and “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals” by John Piper. I’ve got at least two more commentaries that I want to read on Romans (Lard, Hamilton), and “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan.

I have a new blog that I really enjogy, Bible Design and Binding. Be forewarned, that large sums of money could be lost after reading this blog.

I will have a post up in the next couple of days containing an article by Kevin Kay entitled, “‘Legalism’ Is Not A Four-Letter Word.” This was published in this month of July by Biblical Insights.

Shalom Aleikhem

And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luk 19:2-10 ESV)

 

A name can tell a lot about a person. Zacchaeus’ name means “pure” according to Strong’s and is the Greek form of the Hebrew, Zakkai. How befitting is his name after his encounter with Jesus. He was a “chief tax collector”, that is a “superintendent of customs and tribute,”[1] as well as a rich man, due, not only to the richness of the city[2], but also probably because of his unrighteous handling of the revenues.

 

Yet we instantly see a change in Zacchaeus. We see determination and excitement at the prospect of seeing this “prophet from Nazareth”[3], as he, “ran on ahead.” Due to his stature, he climbs a tree in order to see Jesus, which would have, due to etiquette and social status, been undignified.

 

Now whether Jesus and Zacchaeus had ever met before, Luke does not tell us, but I believe it is safe to assume they had not. So when Zacchaeus hears Jesus call out to him by name, he “[hurries] down and receives [Jesus] joyfully.” One wonders, at that moment, if Zacchaeus spoke in his heart the same words of Nathanael:

 

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Joh 1:49 ESV)

 

As we have already noted, there is no indication that Zacchaeus had ever met Jesus before now. Had he heard any of Jesus’ teaching? How much had he learned from others? Luke, who I believe is given to detail, does not tell us. However, he does tell us that:

 

Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”(Luk 19:8 ESV)

 

Why did Zacchaeus make such a statement? Being a “son of Abraham,” he would have known the Law and the Prophets, thus knowing that his riches were gained unrighteously and that restoration would have been required. He knew this beforehand, before his encounter with Jesus. Something was different now. Something was compelling him to do the right thing. Something had made joy to be found within him. It was the fact that he now stood in the presence of the Lamb of God. Jesus did not have to tell Zacchaeus what to do. He did not have to tell him how to feel. Zacchaeus did not respond with constrained obedience, but joyful obedience.

 

I hope you see the point. When we come to know our Saviour we should act towards him as we did/do with our new found love/spouse. They do not have to tell us to do things to show our love, we naturally just do them because we love them. We should feel the same way about obedience.

 

Jesus told Zacchaeus “I must stay at your house,” and Zacchaeus responded not only joyfully, but obediently. Jesus tells us:

 

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (Joh 14:23 ESV)

 

Jesus is saying to us “I must stay at your house today.” Will you “receive him joyfully?” And because of His presence, not constraint, relish His glory and holiness, and be obedient?


[1] Fausset

[2] “The palm groves of Jericho and its balsam gardens (now no longer existing) were so valuable that Antony gave them as a source of revenue to Cleopatra, and Herod the Great redeemed them for his benefit.” Fausset

[3] Matthew 21:11

Scot McKnight has written a few posts on his dealings with Calvinism and has done a series of post on the warning passages in Hebrews.

Here are the links to the posts.

Calvinism: My History 1

Calvinism: My History 2

Calvinism: My History 3

Calvinism: My History 4

Calvinism: My History 5

Calvinism: My History 6

Calvinism: My History 7

Remember that sometimes the gems are in the comments.

Electronic or Bound

Was reading Weekly Meanderings on Jesus Creed and came across this article. What are your thoughts?

5 reasons to use your bound bible & not your smartphone in church

In case you haven’t already read these excellent articles, check out Edwin Crozier’s articles.

Five Lies Pornography Tells Men

Five More Lies Pornography Tells Men

A Final Five More Lies Pornography Tells Men

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