RE: Legalism

[In an earlier post James wrote]
> How on earth do you arrive at the conclusion that Wally is denying
> and baptism for remission of sins from what he wrote?<<
> Eric here: Did Wallace not write, “Salvation by law-obedience – – a
works-merit system – – would require perfect obedience”?
> Notice now, “Salvation by law-obedience”! Must one obey law to be
saved? I say yes, what do you say? If you say no, I will be

[James answers]
We must obey to the best of our knowledge and ability, and even where
we fail to do so, God will in mercy forgive. Perfect law keeping is
impossible (Gal 2:16, Acts 15:10).

[Eric asked:]
> And why did you mention baptism for the remission of sins, above?

[James answers]
Because you wrote in a previous post:

[Eric wrote]
>> Baptism is a work (Col. 2:12). But these are works of God. Those
are the works that save, not works of righteousness which WE have done
(Tit.3:5), an example of which can be found in Acts 7:41.<<
>Question: MUST one obey God to be saved? The answer is either yes or
it’s no. Which is it?<<

[James replies]
It appeared to me that you were saying that Wally was denying that one
had to be baptised to be saved because it was a work.

[Eric wrote]
> Eric asked: >>Question: MUST one obey God to be saved? The answer
is either yes or it’s no. Which is it?
> James: >>Of course men must obey God to be saved (Php 2:12, Acts
2:40), but how does what Wally wrote deny baptism and obedience? It
appears to me that he was decrying the legalistic attitude that makes
you a child of the devil if you disagree with me in anything.<<
[Eric asked]
Would you have a “legalistic attitude” if I affirmed that a mechanical
instrument was permissible in Christian worship? You would DISAGREE
with that, wouldn’t you? Would that make you a “child of the devil”,
if you were to disagree?

[James replies]
I disagree that instruments may be acceptably used in worship to God,
but, Eric, I disagree with everyone that I ever met and ever will
meet. They are all different from me and disagree with me. That does
not make them a child of the devil nor do I regard them as such. God
is able to make His servant stand even if the servant is not totally
compliant with God’s will (Rom 14:4). However, disagreeing with
someone is not what I meant when I said these men regard others as a
child of the devil. These men so regard the others as a child of the
devil because the others do not practice God’s word the way that they
themselves understand it. Since the others are different, and the
legalists are right, then these who differ do not abide in the
doctrine of Christ and do not have God (II Jn 9). Because the others
don’t have the doctrine of Christ, they have not God and are lost.
That is what I meant by these men regarding you as a child of the
devil if you disagree with them. The attitude of these legalists is
not my attitude. I believe we must increase in grace and the
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pet 3:18), and do
the will of God (Lk 6:46, Mt 15:8) but God will make up that which on
our part is lacking (Rom 14:4, I Jn 1:7).

> James: >>These are the legalists who insist that you must know and
keep the law perfectly in order to be right before God (II Jn 9).
They believe that a child of God who does not know and keep the law
can be right with God temporarily after he asks for forgiveness, but
they do not believe he can be safe in his daily walk with God.<<
> Eric here: 2 John 9 reads, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not
in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the
doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” I believe
what this says. You said:

[James replies]
Then, Eric, you probably are one of those who would say that the
points wherein we differ consign me to hell because you are confident
you have the truth, and because I do not believe what you do in exact
detail on every point. I do not have the attitude toward the
scriptures that you must know and obey all teaching to be acceptable
to God. For one thing, I do not believe that II Jn 9 means that
anything we hold that is a departure from absolute truth is sinful. I
believe that II Jn 9 in the context has a specific reference to those
who denied that Jesus came in the flesh (II Jn 1:7). John is speaking
of the doctrine about Christ rather than the doctrine that Christ

[Eric wrote]
You [James] said:
> >> They believe that a child of God who does not know and keep the
law can be right with God temporarily after he asks for forgiveness,
but they do not believe he can be safe in his daily walk with God.<<
> Eric here: I don’t know what you mean by this. Can you expand on
this a little bit?

I mean these men hold the view that a child of God is only okay with
God from the time that he asks God to forgive him until the time that
he violates a precept of God or fails to perform a good work he should
have done, either knowingly or through ignorance. At that point the
child of God is lost unless and until he asks God’s forgiveness.

> James: >>The guys with this attitude are the ones who write creeds
like Ron Halbrook did. That is Wally’s complaint. You have jumped to
the wrong conclusion about Wally. He certainly teaches that one must
obey God to be pleasing to him.<<
> Eric here: I know of no creed that Halbrook has written. Is there a
web site that has it?

[James replies]
No, he sent out the 25 questions. I am sure you remember. I take it
that you do not believe Halbrook wrote a creed. No matter. It is
tangential to the underlying question of acceptable obedience anyway.

[Eric wrote]
>You say Wally teaches that one must obey God to be pleasing to him.
We were not talking about “pleasing” Him. But being saved by Him.
“MUST one obey God to be saved?” That was my question.

[James replies]
Yes, one must obey the initial plan of salvation to be saved. And no,
one does not have to obey every precept exactly in order to be saved.
It is not possible for a child of God to know and to keep God’s word
perfectly (II Pet 3:18, II Pet 1:5-10, Php 3:16, Col 1:9-10). After
initial obedience to the gospel, the newborn child of God desires the
milk of the word (I Pet 2:2) that they may grow. Growth in the
knowledge of God’s word presupposes a current state of less than
perfect knowledge and ability. The milk of the word is less than the
meat of God’s word (Heb 5:12). One must try to obey God to the best
of his ability. God will make up that which we lack. That is what
grace and mercy provide.

One must do his best to serve God. However, one does not have to obey
God perfectly in order to be saved, and indeed one cannot (Rom
3:19-20, Acts 15:10, Acts 7:53). That is what growth, mercy and grace
are all about. God’s mercy and grace supply what is wanting in us.
Growth allows us over time to operate at a higher level of service.
Is it possible for a child of God to be lost? Yes (Heb 10:39, I Cor
9:27). Is is possible to impose upon God’s grace by using it as a
license for sin? Yes (Rom 6:1, Jude 1:4). However, in the ordinary
walk of the Christian, he is to walk by whatever level of knowledge
and maturity he has currently attained (Php 3:16), and if he does so,
he will be covered by the blood of Christ (I Jn 1:7) and justified.
The fact that the child of God is filled to the brim with knowledge,
yet is to increase (Col 1:9-10) shows that our ability increases by
growth. As we attain new knowlege and ability, God raises the
standard that He expects of us.

Does God’s grace excuse sin? No (Rom 6:1), but it does accommodate
man’s weakness (Mt 26:41). My view of the Christian walk is one of a
parent/child relationship. We are born into God’s family by being
begotten of God (I Jn 5:18) and the seed, the word of God (Lk 8:11, I
Cor 4:15). Through rising from the watery grave of baptism, we rise
to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). We then are a new creature (II
Cor 5:17) in a right relationship with the Father. We are in the
family of God (Eph 2:19). As you know, kids are a lot of trouble.
They certainly do not always do what they are told. They may even
disobey a lot, but they are still our children. We punish and
discipline our children for their misbehavior (Heb 12:9), but we do
not disinherit them for their imperfections unless they become
willful, continuous, and excessive. However, it is possible for our
children to take the inheritance and go into a far country (Lk 15:13).
At that point they have separated themselves from our grace. In the
same way we as Christians can separate ourselves from God’s grace (Gal
5:4). Only if they (and we) repent and return to His service do we
once more partake of His grace. However, as long as we remain
attempting to serve God, He will in mercy forgive our trespasses. He
does not disinherit us over every infraction. It is open rebellion
that separates a child of God from His Father (Lk 15:13, Jn 6:66, I Jn

During the OT period, nobody kept the Law perfectly (Gal 2:16, Gal
3:19-20). In fact II Chr 30:26 says that Israel had not kept the
Passover such as it was kept in the days of Hezekiah since the days of
Solomon. That was about 250 years. Should we conclude that all those
people during that 250 years including Amos the prophet died
unacceptable to God because they had not properly kept the Passover?

Seventy years later King Josiah instituted a major restoration of
worship in Israel (II Ki 22:3ff). He reformed the observance of the
Passover so completely that the prophet wrote of the Passover in
Josiah’s day, “Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the
days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the
kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah” (II Ki 22:22). The
prophet tells us that the observance of the Passover was wanting for
over 750 years from Joshua’s day to Josiah. That period included even
the Samuel, David, Solomon and all the judges. Were all of these men
lost because the Passover was not properly observed? No, God’s grace
covered their imperfections. God even called David, “A man after His
own heart” (I Sam 13:14), but II Kings shows that David was wanting in
some aspect of the observance of the Passover. God covered the lack
in David’s observance of the Passover, and even David’s sin with
Bathsheba (II Sam 12:13).

These things show that anyone who is saved, is saved by the unmerited
favor extended to him by God. We should obey God to the utmost of our
ability, and trust God to make up that which we lack either through
ignorance or weakness of the flesh.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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