A Good Read at this Time portion II partial paste**** post by Katrina Schumacher
by Jim Peacock MA (Hons), Diploma of Teaching.
1 Preface 2
2 Contents. 3
3 Overview. 4
4 What Is Legalism?. 6
5 The Religious Legalism Of The Scribes And The Pharisees. 9
6 Jesus Likened The Teaching Of The Pharisees To “Yeast”: Matthew 16: 6, 11-12. 12
7 An Argument Over The Sabbath: Mark 2:23-28 (Matthew 12:1-8). 13
8 Breaking God’s Word To Keep Human Tradition: Mark 7:1-13. 16
9 The Legalism Of The Judaizers. 19
10 Legalism Perverts The Grace Of God: Galatians 1: 6-9. 21
11 Legalism Results In Hypocrisy, Fear, And Error: Galatians 2:11-14. 23
12 Salvation Is By Grace Not Works: Galatians 2:15-16. 25
13 Salvation Is By Faith In Christ Alone: Galatians 3: 1-9. 26
14 Freedom From Rules: Reality Is In Christ: Colossians 2: 16-23. 29
15 Guidelines To Avoid Legalism. 33
16 Abbreviations. 34
17 Bibliography. 35
18 A Prayer Of Commitment. 35
19 Appendices. 36
14.3 Legalism, Mysticism and Asceticism.
The problem at Colossae was syncretism, i.e. the merging of the historic gospel with aspects of other religions. The result was legalism, mysticism, and asceticism based on false humility and pride. These believers were opening themselves to all kinds of demonic activity.
First there was legalism (verses 16-17). Human nature has an amazing capacity for complicating the gospel. The false teachers wove a web of rules and regulations around the Colossian believers. As in Galatia it was taught that Christians should also keep the Jewish weekly, monthly, and annual feasts. Paul criticizes the loss of Christian freedom to religion of ritual and external rules.
Paul indicates that since the Law has been fulfilled and replaced by Christ, there is no need for such law-keeping. Verse 17 says, “These things are mere shadows of a coming reality; the reality has now come and it is found in Christ.” The Colossians were mistaking shadow for substance. OT Jewish ritual was only a foreshadowing of the truth and the “reality” found in Christ. The “ things that were to come” have come with Christ. The Jewish food laws were of little importance compared with the overriding truth of the Cross. The letter to the Hebrews is a commentary on this verse (cf. Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Human nature enjoys “religious duties” but any system of salvation that encourages the idea that man’s religious practices can contribute to his own salvation is contrary to the gospel of the grace of God.
Secondly there was Eastern mysticism or visions with hidden meanings (verses 18-19). The false teachers were busy with mystic visions based on human imagination, contemplation, special experiences, speculation, and types of worship that ignored and demoted Christ. Paul’s main point is that nobody need more than Christ offers. It is loss, not gain, for a Christian to turn to Jewish ritual, angel-worship and the cloudy world of visions. Worship belongs to God and to Jesus Christ.
Paul warned his readers about him whose “unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions” (18, NIV) or “puffed up by his sensuous notions and inflated by his unspiritual thoughts and fleshly conceit” (Amp. Bible) or those “inflating themselves to a false importance” (JB). The false teachers prided themselves on special visions of secret things that ordinary Christians did not understand and which (they considered) gave them a superior spiritual experience. “The most devastating criticism [of Paul] is that by using their own private religious experiences as the basis of their authority they were in fact rejecting Christ as their Head.” [75
The third strand was asceticism or severe self-discipline and abstinence from pleasure for spiritual reasons (verses 20-23). The false teachers believed the suppression of evils in the human body would free the soul. The Law prohibited certain foods but not beverages. Thus these prohibitions went beyond the Law and encouraged the deadly sin of spiritual pride. The Colossians were told they must not handle, taste nor even touch certain things, according to external rules that were “based on human commands and teachings.” (22), or “human doctrines and regulations” (JB) cf. 1 Timothy 4:3.
On the surface this may appear to be humility and wisdom, but human traditions, as Jesus taught (Mark 7:8-9) may mean the heart is far from God (Isaiah 29:13). Such asceticism is of little value and only serves to indulge unredeemed human nature. Jesus himself taught that it made no difference spiritually what a person ate or drank (Mark 7:14-23) unless one is considering Romans chapters 14 and 15. This devotion was a self-imposed form of worship which man devises for himself and it only panders to human pride (23).
Since God has done all that is necessary for salvation in Christ, man-made ideas displace and insult Christ. True freedom in the Holy Spirit only comes from a complete and final forgiveness of sin. If we have doubts about whether or not God has accepted us, we are likely to follow rules and regulations of some kind, but trying to obey rules is a poor motive for holy living. A more powerful motivation stems from love for Jesus Christ whose sacrifice makes forgiveness possible.
False teaching develops when Christians stop resting on the finished work of Christ or rejoicing in the fullness of life in Christ. False teaching also caters to intellectual pride and replaces the simplicity of faith in Christ with something more sophisticated. Any religion that is based on human speculation rather than God’s revelation results in pride. This type of false gospel leads its followers to see themselves as a spiritual elite; they are often intolerant, judgmental and dictatorial in their attitudes. They believe that theirs is the only valid form of Christianity and they quickly exclude all who disagree with them.
Christians should accept their identification with Christ as the controlling principle for their lives as Christians are dead to, and therefore delivered from, the “elemental spirits of the universe” (verse 20, NEB, RSV), or “the principles of this world” (JB). This probably refers to the spiritual forces that controlled their lives before they came to Christ. Christ is our life in the sense that our fellowship with God flows from him. He is sovereign over all areas of life; it is a life that the world does not control. Why then take up with speculation, fantasies and mere shadows when you have spiritual reality in Christ? The regulations of the old Law were just a shadow, not the reality which is Christ himself. Be aware of bondage to human tradition.
The source of the life of the body, the Church, is Christ himself for he is the “Head” (19). If there is to be growth in the Christian life, it must come from Christ alone. Christ himself is the benchmark of all teaching and of the teachers themselves. We have died to religious self-indulgence like legalism and risen to freedom in Christ. Christ alone makes the Church, his body, live and grow spiritually (19). In the parallel passage in Ephesians 4:15-16, the binding force of unity is love.
The world’s way of religion such as legalism, man-made restrictions, abstinence and asceticism, is only another form of “sensual indulgence” (23, NIV), or “the indulgences of sinful human nature.” (Barclay). The RSV (margin) says “serving only to indulge the flesh” i.e. these practices tend to increase man’s sensuality and pride, not diminish it. Physical discipline for health’s sake is one thing (1 Timothy 4:8). But physical self-denial in an attempt to live a holy life is another matter. This false spirituality usually brings out the worst not the best in people.
G. P. MacLeod warns that “not holding fast to the Head (Christ)” (verse 19, NASB) is a fatal error:
“When men are persuaded to accept the church, its teaching, fellowship, and programme, as the source and goal of all Christian living, we are “not holding fast to the Head.” In and by itself, as a human institution, the church, or any branch of it, can become, as the Colossian teachers were threatening to make the church at Colossae, a seller of its own ideas, an apostate church, teaching a code of conduct and a way of salvation that depart more and more from God’s revelation of his will and purpose in Christ. Christianity is more than the church. It is Christ. He is the head.” 
(1) The Christian is under the grace principle of life; this is main guideline. In the NT Paul insists on the freedom of the Christian who has been delivered by Christ from bondage to a set of religious rules. He said to the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1). Christians with a tender conscience should not allow themselves to be condemned by those who claim to be superior spiritually.
(2) Apart from specific biblical commands, the believer is to live toward God and others with the understanding that s/he owes everything to God. Christian freedom means that we positively seek the good of others; we are not completely free to please ourselves. We follow the example of Christ (Romans 15:3).
Paul emphasized, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13). Paul rejected both legalism and lawlessness and approved unselfish, disciplined, responsible Christian living directed by the Holy Spirit. “Do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) is a useful guide and a test of our actions and of our activities. I.e. “If I do this, will I honour God?” Or, “Would someone be helped or hindered by what I do?”
(3) In every instance of “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1 NIV), or “personal opinions” (TEV), we should decide on the basis of love for one another (Romans 13:8-10). The new rule of love is the true fulfillment of the Law. Paul was voluntarily a slave of Christ and others for love’s sake.
(4) We are to accept and not judge one another in matters of conscience (Romans 14:1-12). It is better to be a “strong” believer than a “weak” one, but every believer is probably a mixture of both strong and weak depending on the issue.
(5) Be aware that legalism appeals to the “flesh” or fallen human nature which enjoys being religious and boasts about its religious achievements. The legalist measures and compares himself with others whereas the true Christian measures himself against Christ, not other believers.
(6) Understand that we were not only initially saved “by grace through faith”, but we must continue to live the Christian life daily “by grace through faith.”
(7) Understand that sanctification is both positional and instantaneous and progressive and practical. See Appendix 4.
(8) The basis of Christian freedom is the person and work of Jesus Christ. Therefore test all teaching against who Christ is and what he has done. Test what is not sure against the sure. Hence the need to know God’s Word. Jesus replied to the Sadducees, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Mark 12:24).
<<<<< end of paste. abbreviations, Bibliography.....Appendicis can be read at link.