Some preachers teach that obedience is legalism, is that true?

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Christ Obeyed Unto Death

Some preachers teach that obedience is legalism. The Bible teaches that this is not true. For Christ demonstrated His obedience to the Father to the point of death and was perfected. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

It was humiliation for God to become man; and then, being man, to die a dreadful death on the cross. As Isaac had been willingly submitted to his father when shown that he was to be the sacrifice, so Christ, who could have refused the cross, yielded willingly, to redeem mankind.

Christ’s obedience was of the same kind as ours must be. It was “in the flesh” (Romans 8:3) that He offered this obedience. He was man, with the same wish to save His life as we have. He was tried by the devil, but overcame him by the power of God, even as we may do. He used no power for himself that is not available to us.

For this reason, He was qualified for to be our compassionate High priest (Hebrews 5:1–3). “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Obedience is directly involved in the plan of salvation, not that salvation is earned by obedience, but that faith leads to obedience.

Obedience Is Not Legalism

The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). It is grace on God’s part and faith on man’s part. Faith receives the gift of God. It is through the act of trusting ourselves to Him that we are saved, not that faith is the means of our salvation, but only the channel (Romans 4:3).

Salvation is not gained by obedience, but true faith will always give the fruit of obedience. The function of the law is to convict of sin and thus leads the sinner to Christ for cleansing (Galatians 3:24). Then, faith and love will bring forth a new obedience to the law of God (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

Faith in Christ involves a personal relationship with Him. It implies an attitude of love and gratitude toward the Savior in response to His love. It means a trust and confidence in Christ that makes us willing to take Him fully at His word and do His will. Without such faith there can be no justification. God is not concerned merely with forgiving our past sins. He is primarily concerned with our restoration to His image. Therefore, justification cannot be separated from the transforming experiences of conversion, which is sanctification.

Christ Magnified the Law

The Son of God came to this earth to magnify the law (Isaiah 42:21). He said, “ “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17,18).

Christ revealed by His life of perfect obedience that we can, through His empowering grace, to be obedient to His law (Philippians 4:13). The plan of justification by faith reveals God’s regard for His law in demanding and providing the atoning sacrifice. If justification by faith abolishes law, then there was no need for the atoning death of Christ to release the sinner from the demands of the law, and thus restore him to peace with God.

Genuine faith will give us willingness to fulfill the will of God in a life of obedience to His law (Romans 3:28). The fact that Christ endured such suffering because of our transgression of God’s law is one of the strongest motives for obedience. We will not want to do an action that would hurt a person that love us. In the same manner, we will hate the sins that inflicted such pain on our Redeemer.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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