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Where’s the danger?

The New Testament has many warnings regarding our natural perversion of the gospel.  We need to take them seriously.  But I wonder if, often, we misdiagnose the problems.

Here are five little warning passages from the Bible.  How do you instinctively characterize the bad guys in the following:

Those who walk away from Christ's 'hard words' in John 6

They're headed for lawlessness right? We imagine they can't handle Christ's heavy discipleship programme, that's the problem, right?

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The wolves of Matthew 7:15-19.

They're liberal bishops right? (This is probably the association that Anglican evangelicals make most readily!)

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The wolves Paul warns of in Acts 20:29-32

They'll 'devour the flock' by preaching licentious living, right?

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'The doctrine of demons' as outlined in 1 Timothy 4

Orgies and heathen idolatry, surely!?

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The dangerous "drift" of Hebrews 2:1-3

This must be a drift away from the law.  Mustn't it?

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Come on, admit it.  Your gut reactions cast the bad guys as lawless liberals right?

But no.  The hardness of Christ's teaching in John 6 is his relentless call away from the "works that God requires".  What they find so hard is Christ's insistence on faith alone in His (flesh and) blood alone.  The false prophets of Matthew 7 and Acts 20 are, in the context, the legalists.  The doctrine of demons is asceticism.  The dangerous drift of Hebrews is towards the law.

So, by all means, be warned.  But be warned in the right way.  Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Teach sound doctrine.  Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.  Do it because the freedom of the gospel is at stake.  And we dare not enslave ourselves again.

6 thoughts on “Where’s the danger?

  1. Si Hollett

    Are liberal bishops lawless? Sure they might not be Lawless-with-a-capital-L, but they can't have Christ as anything but example, and moralism and 'right on' causes is all they are left with to justify themselves. Oh and not being one of those nasty/stupid/nasty and stupid conservatives! It's about being a 'nice' person and doing the right thing. That's surely legalistic, just with an often different law to the Law-with-a-capital-L.

    Then again the next bit doesn't say "Lord. Lord. Did we not protest against the bankers in your name, and lobby the government to fight climate change in your name and do many nice acts of in your name?", but likewise it's not "Lord. Lord. Did we not protest the abortion clinic in your name, and lobby the government to fight moral decline in your name and do many self-denying acts in your name?" - it's the charismatics who rely on their works and don't know Jesus that get singled out for a special rebuke :P

  2. Pastor Laurel

    There is a way that seems right to a man...the flesh either wants to throw off the fetters of God or equally in rebellion, take it on when it is not lawful to do so...I agree and understand what you are saying and have preached it myself. There is only one way to be lawless since the Cross of Christ, and that is to be found under the Law. If you break one, you have broken them all. The lawless, workers of iniquity are so because they have not found the blessedness of Grace...It is a dangerous doctrine that turns the Word of God into a weapon that kills the soul. They look to works and obedience, outward signs. It sounds righteous to defend the Commandments of God, but if it is demanded, it is not grace. If we are called to follow the Master, the I AM that gave the Commandments to Moses, we are called to walk in it as a walk of love to Him, for He does not demand that obedience to save or sanctify. These are His commands that must be followed, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and love one another". The first is the Way, the second is the fruit of the first. Shalom.

  3. Rich Owen

    In my view, it's usually gossips. They might be liberal, they might be of the evangelical elite. But usually, they are gossips.

  4. Chris W

    But liberalism IS legalism so very often. They want Christians to feel:

    1) worried to death about global warming
    2) guilty about the crusades
    3) bound by the shame of our own intolerance

    ...and a whole bunch of other things. I've heard an awful lot of guilt-inducing legalism proclaimed amongst the liberals and much Grace, love and freedom in Christ proclaimed amongst the inerrantists. It's not universally so, but that's the general tendency.

    Anyone with similar experiences?

  5. Glen

    Great thoughts everyone. Si and Chris raise the issue of legalistic liberals. Totally. We live in Eastbourne (Daily Mail territory) and spend days off in Brighton (Guardian central) - they're both as self-righteous as each other!

    And Theo, I agree - with the knowledge that, as we've discussed, legalism and antinomianism aren't really opposite poles of the same spectrum - they're both expressions of self-righteousness. Only the gospel frees us - and lifts us clear off the "spectrum"

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