Text: Micah 6:1-8
I. At times when I study with someone, I’m told that taking a firm stance on certain matters is legalism. People believe that religion is supposed to be about accepting other people, no matter what they believe (well, within reason).
A. When you insist that only one way is correct, then the response is you are narrow-minded.
II. Exploring Narrow-Mindedness
A. When a lawyer states that a deed of trust must be written in a specific manner and must be filed in a certain way, is he being narrow-minded? Why couldn’t it be right to do things in a different way? Why wouldn’t it be just as acceptable?
B. When the mechanic says that a Ford carburetor will not work on an Oldsmobile, is he being dogmatic? Has he ever tried to put a Ford carburetor on an Oldsmobile? Does he really know that it will not fit or work? Is he prejudiced against Fords?
C. When an electrician clearly says that a 20-amp fuse will not be enough to protect a circuit, isn’t he being too blunt? Why is he insisting on having his own way? Maybe he is just stuck in a rut because that is the only way he has done things.
D. Obviously, we don’t think this about these people. Why? Because they have authority in these matters.
1. A lawyer knows what is required for a piece of property to be sold with clear title.
2. A mechanic knows what is necessary to repair an automobile.
3. An electrician knows what is essential in wiring and circuits to be safe and properly functioning.
4. They are narrow-minded to the extent that what is right, what will work, and what is required must be done to accomplish the desired result.
III. When it comes to spiritual matters, the same principle applies. If we want to accomplish the desired end of reaching our heavenly reward, we must be narrow-minded or legalistic towards the truth.
A. Moses and the rock - Num. 20:1-13
1. God expected Moses to follow His word precisely, without any alterations.
2. Even though earlier God said to strike a rock to bring forth water, even though God told Moses to bring Aaron’s rod before the people, Moses was expected to understand that he was only to speak to the rock. That is all that God authorized.
B. Saul and the Amalekites - I Sam. 15:13-26
1. Saul was expected to follow God’s word precisely and without any alterations.
2. He wasn’t allowed to mostly fulfill the command and say it was close enough in spirit.
3. He wasn’t allowed to alter the command so that God could get some extra worship He wasn’t expecting.
4. God’s first priority is obedience, not sacrifice - Jer 7:21-23
a. Saul altered God’s Word to fulfill a technicality of the Law, but it was not something that God wanted.
b. Similarly, we cannot alter God’s will to suit our own desires.
C. God is picky about His commandments. They are precisely what He wants done to achieve the exact effect He wants on the hearts of mankind. God is the ultimate authority!
1. Even in reading God’s word, seemingly minor things become major points.
a. Seed versus Seeds in Gal 3:16
b. What if some scribe along the way thought to correct what appeared to be a minor mistake on the ending of a word?
IV. Were not the Pharisees guilty of legalism?
A. They “interpreted” God’s commands, adding rules and regulations that did not exist.
1. Matt 15:1-11
a. They used the law to avoid responsibility
b. They modified the law and used it as a weapon against others
2. The number of regulations on minute matters is staggering in today’s Jewish laws that are codified in the Mishna and the Talmud. I glanced at an index of the Mishna that was over 1000 pages in length, and this just indexed the highlights of the Mishna!
B. They emphasized the physical over the spiritual
1. Matt 23:23-24 - They were careful about tithing to the smallest part, but they could easily overlook greater matters, such as justice, mercy, and love.
2. Matt 23:25-31 - They look good on the outside, but they were corrupt on the inside.
C. They misapplied God’s law - Matt 12:1-8
1. There was an apparent conflict between two laws
a. No work on the Sabbath - Ex 20:10
b. Gleaning food for the hungry - Deut 23:25
2. What is the purpose of the Law?
a. Do you follow it so blindly that someone goes hungry?
b. Jesus points out that God never intended this interpretation.
3. David ate the showbread when he and his men were starving. David was venerated and yet broke the law. The disciples did not break a law and yet were condemned.
4. No work did not mean a total abstinence of all work. For example, the Sabbath was not violated when the priests preformed their duties — even though they were working.
D. Notice that none of these examples imply a free-for-all.
1. Matt 23:3 - Jesus told the people to do as the Law taught, just not as the Pharisees did.
2. Matt 23:23 - Jesus said it was right to tithe of the little things, but they shouldn’t have forgotten the weightier matters. They were supposed to do both!
E. The Pharisees were not picky about the Law. They picked and chose which laws they wanted to follow. They followed laws without regard to their meaning.
1. In a sense they had a knowledge of the facts of the Law, but they did not understand how to apply the Law.
V. We need to make sure that we are not like the Pharisees. We need to keep all of God’s commandments as carefully as we can.
A. Many religious errors come when people faddishly follow a small set of ideas.
1. Faith and only faith - faith alone can save a man.
2. God is in control, so there is nothing I can do to effect the outcome.
3. Spirit - the Spirit of God must consume us.
B. Often times, the right answer is in the middle ground, carefully preserved and zealously guarded.
C. It is not within man to direct his own steps. Let us admit that God’s way is better. - Jer 10:23
D. God is the authority, let us follow His advice.