Legalism in our Churches

I need to say, by way of preface that in this blog I don’t mean to offend anyone. However this blog has been read in 22 countries by more than 2000 different people and when I start talking about something I am bound to offend someone, especially when I start talking about how different churches are run. So please keep in mind that if you read something you don’t agree with, it’s not personal, it’s just my opinion.

Legalism happens when churches make rules in addition to what the Bible says. It’s not necessarily wrong or bad but it can be a hindrance when it comes to the gospel, what I mean by that is if one of our man made rules gets in the way of spreading the love of Jesus Christ then that man made rule should probably be broken.

I’ve been to a church where men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle, again that’s not wrong but what happens when a newcomer walks through the doors and sees everyone separated by gender? The world already sees us Christians as being divisive, if they see us dividing ourselves by sex then the newcomer isn’t going to see a place for himself.

I have not read in scripture a single verse where Paul, Peter, James or John separated men from women when it comes to preaching. Now I do understand that sometimes cultural rules need apply, at times the church needs to make rules so as to make others comfortable enough to want to come to church. We must recognize though that some rules are cultural and not necessarily biblical, and that’s okay as long as we know the difference.

Other churches make rules about their worship music that again are fine but not necessarily indicative of biblical teachings on music. The book of Psalms tells us about music and musicians, it tells us about what instruments those musicians used and I can only imagine that it must’ve sounded absolutely heavenly. The psalmist talks about the hundreds and even thousands of people all singing and playing their instruments all in praise of our glorious God.

Despite the biblical teaching on music, many churches refuse to fully embrace the use of instruments during their worship. I feel I need to say this, that is NOT wrong, I just don’t want people to confuse the ‘no instruments’ rule as something that comes from the Bible, because it doesn’t.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
Psalms 150:1-6 KJV

I took that from the King James because I know I have several KJV only readers, and to show that yes, the King James talks about the use of loud cymbals, stringed instruments, organs, timbrels and trumpets. That is drums, guitars, pianos and not to mention that word that none of the fundamentalists like, dancing. Yes dancing for the Lord is found in the Bible.

Furthermore the Psalmist talks about making “joyful noise” that is a loud sound coming from your mouth in praise of God! It’s okay to shout out in praise for the Lord.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Psalms 95:1 KJV

So one more time I want to clarify so as not to offend anyone, the use of instruments in the Bible is neither prohibited nor promoted, it is however, permissible. If a church decides not to use guitars or drums that is OK, and sometimes after considering the surrounding culture it may even be the better choice, but the Bible does not condemn churches who do use instruments and neither should other churches.

One more group I need to offend before I go, all you suit and tie on Sunday morning people. Don’t get me wrong, wearing a suit for church is cool with me just don’t tell me that Jesus taught His followers to put on their Sunday best before they could walk with Him. In fact I have yet to find a single verse written in red that implies a person must be dressed nice to go to church.

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.
1 Timothy 2:9 NLT

Here, Paul tells Timothy about how a woman ought to dress, not just for church but everyday. There are more than likely some women reading who would not like to hear about the “expensive clothes” part. Again wearing nice clothes for church is not wrong, wearing your Sunday best is not wrong but neither is wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Did the disciples dress up every time Jesus started to preach? No they didn’t because they would just be walking along and suddenly Jesus would stop and start teaching, I don’t think they made Him wait so they could change into nicer clothes.

Okay, so for the last time, I don’t mean to pick on any one person or group. What I’m trying to do is reveal three areas where churches tend to make up some of their own rules. These rules could be based on where in the world they are geographically, they could be based on cultural preferances and for the most part the churches rules are just fine.

A Christian church in Africa may have completely different rules than one in America and that’s good because the people would be very different from one place to the next. As long as we recognize which rules come from the church and which rules came from God, they may not always be the same and in case of disagreement, God’s rules should be paramount to church rules, no matter how long they’ve held that tradition.

Whether a church uses instruments or not, or a person dresses nice or not, or someone prefers one translation of the Bible over another, or if somebody wants to dance while praising God, or if someone raises one hand, two hands or no hands during worship, or where in the church a person sits, NONE of it matters. What matters is Jesus, He matters because He saved us, He matters because He loves us and He matters because He matters.

Worshipping Jesus is not about us.
It’s about HIM!

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