Monday, August 24, 2009

What Legalism Really Means

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight. -Romans 3:20

Charges of legalism are rampant in parts of the Christian world. Some seem to gain a lot of satisfaction in calling people names for Jesus. Specifically, some seem to delight in calling legalists those who are against the recreational use of mind altering drugs (alcohol, marijuana, etc.).

Some say legalism is believing something is wrong that is not explicitly stated in the Bible. If that is true, however, then those who oppose slavery are legalists. After all, the Bible does not actually say, “Thou shalt not own a slave.”

Some grant that you can have a quiet personal conviction, but if you say that practice is wrong for others, then you are a legalist. So apparently you can be personally opposed to slavery and be acceptable, but if you think slavery is wrong for others, you are now a card-carrying legalist.

With this definition those who oppose pornographic DVDs are legalists. After all, the Bible says nothing about DVDs, DVD players, TV, or Computers. Some people love loopholes.

With the above definition the list of legalists would be long. The biblical loopholes would be vast. The “non-legalists” can then say, “Ah, the Bible doesn’t exactly, specifically, precisely, in so many words, say not to do it, so go for it!” The Bible, however, gives clear teaching and principles that do cover issues like the ones above. (See Gulf Coast Pastor alcohol articles for July, 2009.)

To some, legalism is simply when you are against anything they’re for. Some have called anyone who opposes sex outside of marriage a legalist. One fellow called others legalists because they would not agree with his getting “spiritually married” to someone when he was still legally married to another.

Sure, people can get too picky, too judgmental, and demand that everyone do exactly what they say. But that’s not legalism. We should be able to consider whether biblical teaching applies to a practice without hurling charges of legalism and Pharisaism. And legalism is certainly not trying to live a godly life with biblical convictions.

On the other hand, some have turned the tables on the accusers: “A legalist is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” ”When there is something in the Bible that churches don’t like, they call it ‘legalism.’”

The true definition of biblical legalism.Legalism is a false belief that attempts to merit favor with God by the works of the law, by doing good deeds. Legalism is condemned in Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16. Rather than by the works of the law, we are to obtain favor with God through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus (Romans 3:21-28); then we are to do good works.

A few quotes:“…legalistic, a religion of achievement, giving ground for human pride (cf. Rom. 3:27-28; 9:11, 32; 11:6).” -Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, Intervarsity Press. 1993; p. 843.
“…legalism, the attempt to merit favor with God by good works.” -Ibid; p. 976.

“The Jewish legalists had perverted the divine intention of the law and made it into a way to gain God’s favor based on personal merit.” -Robert H. Mounce, Romans, The New American Commentary, Broadman, Nashville, TN, 1995; p. 208.

Speaking of Romans 3:20, “In this verse ‘law’ both times is without the definite article in the Greek; so it means ‘legalism.’” -Herschel H. Hobbs, Romans, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1977; p. 44.

“Biblically speaking, ‘legalism’ is trusting in the law for salvation. In Galatians (which is a good example of legalism), the Judaizers were saying that without circumcision one could not be saved. Paul blasted that idea to smithereens! ‘Legalism’ is a word greatly misused and maligned by uneducated preachers and Christians today, who refer to standards about holy living as legalism. If someone, shall we say, preaches against booze (or tobacco, or movies, or dancing, or whatever) some immediately shout ‘legalism,’ showing their ignorance.” -Dr. R. L. Sumner; Editor, Biblical Evangelist; author.

“More precisely, legalism is the false belief that keeping certain laws - whether biblical or not - can be used as a condition for meriting God’s grace, whether for justification or sanctification (see Galatians 3:3). But one can legislate wise laws about human behavior without being legalistic in the biblical sense of the concept. Otherwise, laws against drunk driving and illegal immigration - and a host of other things beneficial to society - would be legalistic and, thereby, wrong.” -Dr. Norman L. Geisler; president, Southern Evangelical Seminary; author.

Those who oppose what you are for, are not legalists; unless they maintain their practices are the way to get to Heaven. Argue your case on the merits, but don’t start calling the fellow who may be winning the argument, a legalist.

- by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 24, AD 2009

Charles H. Spurgeon on Alcohol
Alcohol Condemned in the Bible
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Other articles in lower right hand margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Church Buildings - Dos and Don'ts #3

21. A little extra money when the building is being built, can save a ton of money and trouble in the future.

22. Sometimes volunteer help can get mighty expensive. Make sure they know what they’re doing.

23. Never put a 90 degree angle in a drain line. If you have to turn 90 degrees, do it with two 45 degree angles. 90 degree angles get stopped up more easily. Never lay a too small drainpipe. I’ve actually seen a church drain line of ½ inch pipe and 90 degree angles through the concrete foundation; it was also stopped up.

24. Make the church sign extra large. Consider how fast people are driving by in front of your building. Put up a temporary sign, drive by 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit (with the highway patrol‘s permission, of course :-) ), and see if you can easily read it. Digital signs are nice, fancy, and convenient, but most people driving by do not have time to read your message.

25. Usually a church sign is best if it is placed perpendicular to the main road in front of the church. If you are on a corner, don’t be tempted to angle it toward both roads; that just makes it difficult to read from any direction. Pick one road or the other, and place it perpendicular and as close to the road as possible.

26. If you have leftover dirt from a retention pond, etc., make a berm in an area that will not affect drainage; or drainage can be diverted around it. A berm is a gently rolling hill. Make the slope gentle enough that it can be easily mowed. The kids will love playing on it.

27. A nice nursery and outdoor playground is an advertisement that young adults and kids are welcome. If nothing else, just build a solid, safe, swing set and treehouse out front or to the side of the building.

28. If you have a church parsonage, never locate it next to the church building. A pastor and his family need their privacy. A parsonage should be at least a mile or two from the church.

29. State conventions and LifeWay have helpful, often free, information on constructing church facilities.

30. God bless Volunteer Christian Builders, Texas Baptist Men, and other Christian groups that volunteer to construct buildings for churches and Christian camps. If they come to your church, feed them well!

I know there are many other considerations. But the above can save you a world of aggravation. (Church Buildings - Dos and Don’ts; part 3 of 3)

-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 18, AD 2009.

More articles in lower right margin.  

Monday, August 17, 2009

Church Buildings - Dos and Don'ts #2

11. All exposed wood should be resistant to rotting. Use only treated wood, cedar, or hardiplank. Never use untreated wood when that wood may be exposed to moisture.

12. Have someone who is knowledgeable about drainage to keep an eye on all building and dirt moving. Often people trying to solve drainage problems, instead make them worse. Remember that in a heavy rain massive amounts of water will be pouring off the roof. Proper drainage will allow that water to quickly flow away from the building.

13. Have outdoor water faucets on each side of the building. This helps tremendously with landscaping. If you can’t easily water plants, they usually will not be watered. Have an outdoor above ground water cutoff. Outdoor electrical outlets are also convenient.

14. Make the building safe, solid, and able to stand the test of time. Get the advice of good carpenters. Spend some extra time and money to build it right.

15. It may help to place the restrooms, kitchen, and any rooms that need water in the same general vicinity. A shower or two in the restrooms are also convenient.

16. Make large, nice restrooms. Make both adequate, but make the ladies restrooms larger. Don’t force them to stand in line.

17. Keep the building well lighted and inviting during evening services. Never use light bulbs with a tiny amount of wattage. After all, we are to be the light of the world. I once changed a tiny light bulb with a much larger one in a church entrance; it made such a difference people thought the room had been repainted.

18. Place long, narrow, vertical windows on all the classroom doors so people can see in. This is for convenience and can deter any improper activity in the classroom. Outside glass doors are inviting to visitors and welcome people in.

19. A church cannot hardly have too much property. Until needed, extra land can be rented out or if in the country, let the neighbor run cows on it. Use it for a baseball field. It is much better to have too much property than not enough.

20. A church building can scarcely have too much storage space. Build extra and larger closets. (Church Buildings - Dos and Don’ts; part 2 of 3)

-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 17, AD 2009.

More Articles in lower right margin.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Church Buildings - Dos and Don'ts #1

I’m not an expert in architecture or carpentry. But there are some obvious things I’ve noticed through the years that can make a significant difference in church buildings and landscaping. Some can save a world of headache down through the years. This is primarily related to small churches, but most will apply to churches of all sizes. These comments are in no particular order.

1. Never have flat roof on a church building. Years ago SWBTS professor Dr. Gary Waller noted that they always seem to put the drain at the high point of that flat roof. So there is standing water on the roof just trying to find a way in.

2. Tie down the roof with hurricane clips, galvanized metal straps, or whatever will work in high winds. Build it extra strong and secure.

3. Use galvanized nails or outdoor/exterior screws in all areas that may receive rain or moisture. Regular interior nails and screws can rust out.

4. Always put the church parking lot at the front, or at least to the side of the buildings. A full parking lot that can easily be seen is free advertisement to the church. I had a preacher friend with nice, new facilities and plenty of room. But the parking lot was behind the church building. On a Sunday morning with a full church, people driving by thought the church was empty or abandoned.

5. Build up the church foundation at least six inches higher than needed. A little extra cost to prevent flooding will make a world of difference in years to come. A building on a concrete foundation cannot later be raised. So haul in extra dirt and build it high.

6. Never make the sidewalks the same level or even close to the same level as the inside of the church building. This forms a moat and encourages flooding and soggy ground.

7. When laying the sidewalks, every so often put drainage pipes (3 inch pvc pipes minimum) under the sidewalk. Especially put them in natural drainage areas. Or you can lower the sidewalk in certain areas to allow rain water to flow over it.

8. Do not bring the pavement right up to the foundation of the buildings. Leave at least 10 feet between pavement and the church building. Over 10 feet is even better. Leave room for a green space, shade or fruit trees, shrubs, some kind of landscaping. This can really improve the appearance of your buildings. Too many leave no space or just two or three feet between paved areas and the building; that is not nearly enough room and nothing of significance can be planted in such a confined area.

9. Some quick landscape notes: Keep string trimmers and mowers away from all trees and shrubs. Don’t let a trimmer ever touch the trees. Damage the bark and the tree is seriously damaged. Trimmers are murder on trees! Countless trees have been slowly killed this way. Plant trees in a well drained sunny location, plant them an inch or two higher than they were growing in the pot, water in well, and keep the ground around them covered in mulch. Water them often for the first month or two until they are established.

10. Do not use the cheapest, or the most expensive building materials. If at all possible, especially don’t use the cheapest.

-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 12, AD 2009.

Church Buildings - Dos and Don'ts #2
Church Buildings - Dos and Don'ts #3
Adrian Rogers on "Wit & Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Brief History of the SBC Conservative Resurgence

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. -Psalm 119:160

1. In the 1970s Southern Baptists were still strong in doctrine and evangelism, but slowly headed toward theological liberalism. This had already occurred in several mainline denominations. Once it happened, it seemed there was no turning back.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) had historically believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. This view, however, was being seriously challenged in SBC seminaries and literature.

3. The SBC was firmly controlled by moderates and some liberals.

4. Previously conservatives had passed motions against liberalism. These had very limited success. Officials and trustees were often defensive, obstructive, even deceptive in dealing with doctrinal concerns.

5. Real, lasting correction would only occur by changing SBC leadership: the president, committees, trustees, agency leaders.

6. To change these leaders, conservatives would have to attend the SBC in large numbers, vote for solid conservative presidents, who would then make solid conservative appointments. This would eventually filter down to the trustees and the leadership of our agencies. Since trustee terms are staggered, this process was estimated to take at least ten years.

7. Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and a multitude of pastors and laymen began to explain these issues to the churches and common people of the SBC. It all centered around the necessity of Baptists attending the convention as duly elected messengers and voting their convictions; especially voting for a conservative president. Some of these meetings were large, most were small. Some meetings involved as few as two or three, but the message was spread.

8. The primary issue was the inerrancy of the Bible. Conservatives believed our mission money should not go to support those who believe the Bible contains errors.

9. The Conservative Resurgence was a spiritual concern. Conservatives prayed and voted, out of a profound concern for the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. They poured out their hearts and souls to ensure future generations would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in truth and clarity.

10. In the year of our Lord 1979, conservatives came to the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas. Many attended at great personal sacrifice. The majority were just common Baptists from some of the largest, and smallest, SBC churches.

11. The election was between six nominees. On the first ballot, Adrian Rogers was elected the new president of the SBC. He then appointed and nominated conservatives to SBC committees.

12. Conservatives stayed faithful to the cause. Against great opposition, they would continue to elect conservative presidents, and confirm presidential nominees. Conservative presidents included: Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman, Ed Young, Jim Henry, Tom Elliff, Paige Patterson.

13. Some conservative changes were made as early as 1979 and 80. Substantial changes began to be made in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s all the presidents of our seminaries would affirm the inerrancy of the Bible.

14. The Conservative Resurgence firmly established that Southern Baptists believe the Bible is without error. Inerrancy is a crucial, basic doctrine. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (doctrinal statement of the SBC) would affirm, “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.”

15. Southern Baptists owe undying honor and respect to conservative leaders Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman, Ed Young, Jim Henry, Tom Elliff. They saved the SBC from liberalism.

16. Southern Baptists owe great respect to those multitudes of dedicated, common, regular Baptists who faithfully attended the conventions in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s and voted their biblical convictions. Because of their sacrifice and dedication, millions will be blessed.

17. Baptists should never forget that we have historically held to the inerrancy and final authority of God’s Word. We should never forget the battle that was fought over inerrancy. Teach it to the generations to come. Be eternally vigilant in keeping the Southern Baptist Convention lashed to the infallible Word of God. Never forget!

1. Conservative - believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and considers it a non-negotiable. Insists SBC leaders, professors, missionaries, employees believe that God’s Word is totally true and trustworthy. Our mission money should not go to support those who believe the Bible contains errors.
2. Moderate - someone who may or may not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. What contrasts him from conservatives, is that with him inerrancy is negotiable. A moderate will tolerate, accept, ignore, protect, maybe even welcome SBC leaders, professors, missionaries, employees who do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.
3. Liberal - in the context of the SBC, one who believes there are errors, or could be errors in the Bible.
4. Inerrancy - the Bible is inspired by God and is without error. It is totally true and trustworthy. This refers to the original manuscripts of the Bible, not to a particular Bible translation. “Infallible,” “totally true and trustworthy” are used synonymously with “inerrancy.”

Read more about it:
The Truth In Crises by James C. Hefley, Hannibal Books, Garland, TX, (six volumes); 1986-1991.
A Hill On Which To Die by Judge Paul Pressler, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, TN; 1999.
The Baptist Reformation by Jerry Sutton, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, TN; 2000.
Anatomy Of A Reformation: The Southern Baptist Convention, 1978-2004 by Paige Patterson, Office of Public Relations, SWBTS, Fort Worth, TX; 2004.
Subscribe to The Southern Baptist Texan

-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 3, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 1
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 2
Differences Between the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message