The Snare of Legalism & Hypocrisy

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage begins with the twenty-second verse of the fifteenth chapter and continues through to the tenth verse of the sixteenth chapter. “Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no great burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:22-29).

 

            “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. And after they had tarried there s space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (Acts 15:30-35).

 

            “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylica, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

 

            “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:1-10).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continuation and completion of the convention which took place in the city of Jerusalem after there would be a conflict that would arise in the midst of Antioch. Antioch—which was that place where the believers in the name of Jesus Christ and those who walked with and followed Him were first called Christians—would be a place of great contention and confusion as there would be certain who would come from Judaea and sow confusion into the hearts and minds of those who believed on the word and name of the Lord Jesus. There is something incredibly unique about the words and language we find here in this particular chapter for within it we find one of the more subtle—if not the most subtle ways the enemy and adversary seeks to bring the people of God into bondage. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter for there is a great need to recognize the tremendous danger that surrounds this form of bondage which the enemy and adversary would indeed bring the people of God into. I have previously written how the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring men and women into bondage unto sin, transgression, iniquity and wickedness within their lives. It is absolutely no denying the fact that one of the greatest methods and means of the enemy and adversary in bringing men and women into bondage is indeed unto sin as he seeks to enslave and ensnare them—even after they were and had been set free and delivered. This is something which we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for even though one might be initially delivered and set free from the bondage and slavery of sin that doesn’t mean the enemy and adversary can and won’t seek to bring them into bondage once more. There is a great need for us as the people of God to recognize and understand that we have indeed been called to be on our guard against these means and methods of the enemy and adversary against us in bringing us into bondage.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts and I am brought face to face with the incredible need we have to indeed be aware of the means and method the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring us into bondage. It is indeed true—and many are aware of the fact—that the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring us into bondage unto sin. What’s more is there are many men and women who recognize and understand the enemy can and does in fact seek to enslave us and ensnare us in sin and transgression—even after we have been delivered and set free from that which previously held us captivate and in bondage. This is something which warrants strong consideration for if we are being truly honest with ourselves and with the eternal and living Spirit we must recognize how the enemy can and does in fact seek to bring us into bondage unto sin, unto transgression, unto wickedness, unto idolatry, unto immorality, and so much more. Even though the enemy might have had to release his grip and hold on us when we made the conscious and deliberate decision to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and confess Him as Lord and Saviour it is indeed possible for the enemy and adversary to try absolutely anything and everything to bring us into bondage once more. Oh please recognize and understand that just because the enemy released his grip on you the moment you believed in Jesus and the moment you confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believed with your heart that the living God raised Him from the dead that doesn’t mean the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring you into bondage. In fact it is when you read the words which are found in the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and even eighth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Rome you will encounter the great need for us to continue to mortify and put to death the members of our bodies that we might not yield them as instruments unto sin.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that in order for us to understand this more subtle way the enemy and adversary can and will seek to bring us into bondage there is a great need for us to recognize and understand how he can and will seek to bring us into bondage unto iniquity, unto transgression, unto wickedness and unto sin. Although we might very well have been delivered from sin, from transgression, from wickedness, from iniquity and from a life that was governed by death it is indeed possible for the enemy and adversary to seek to bring us into bondage unto sin whereby we completely and utterly forfeit that freedom. What’s more is this particular idea of the people of God being brought into bondage and slavery again is not only found in the history of the children of Israel in the wilderness but it is also true of the children of Israel even after they entered into the land of Canaan whereunto the LORD their God had brought them. Within the Old Testament books of the Law we find Pharaoh heart being hardened within him and his seeking to pursue and chase after the children of Israel in the wilderness regretting releasing them from their bondage and slavery in the midst of the land of Egypt. Pharaoh would ready horses and chariots and would pursue the children of Israel unto the Red Sea seeking to bring them back into bondage and slavery. What’s more is that even after the living and eternal God drown Pharaoh’s horses and chariots in the midst of the sea there would be times when the people of Israel would grumble and complain before and against Moses, against Aaron and against the living God and would seek to return unto the land of Egypt where they lived in bondage and slavery for four hundred hearts. There is a need for me to present this to you within this writing, however, before I do so I find it imperative to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth chapters of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:

 

            “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteousness who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather (as we be slanderously report, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just” (Romans 3:1-8).

 

            “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth Goode, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: There feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).

 

            “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make voice the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).

 

            Here are the words which are found in the fifth chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse of the chapter:

 

            “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).

 

            “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not impaired when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto man. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).

 

            Consider now the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome beginning with the first verse:

 

            “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).

 

            “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to them ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity: even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:15-23).

 

            Having just presented the words which are contained in both the third, fifth and sixth chapters of this New Testament epistle I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the seventh and eighth chapters of this same epistle. It is here within these epistles where we truly get the strong and powerful sense of the enemy and adversary seeking to bring us into bondage once more unto sin, unto transgression, unto wickedness, unto iniquity and unto that which is displeasing in the sight of the living God. With this in mind I invite you to first consider the following words which are found in the seventh chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “Know ye not, brethren, (For I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become death to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the old ness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-6).

 

            “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid, Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet, But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7-13).

 

            “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).

 

            Here are the words which we find in the eighth chapter of this same epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus beginning to read with and from the first verse:

 

            “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sins full flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:1-17).

 

            The words which we find here in these passage of Scripture call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth that it is indeed possible for us as the saints of God to be brought into bondage unto sin—even after we have been delivered from sin and from the life of sin which we had previously lived prior to believing on the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the incredible truth surrounding the desire of the enemy to bring us into bondage unto sin and to completely eradicate and destroy the freedom we have been given in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ—through His death upon the cross, through His sacrifice, and through His blood—hath made us free from the law of sin and death within our mortal members. Christ did indeed and did in fact die once and for all for our sins that we might not be in bondage unto sin but might walk in newness of life. There is absolutely no denying and no mistaking this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how He brought freedom within our lives after we made the decision to call upon His name that we might be saved. We must needs recognize and understand how absolutely tremendous this truly is when we take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding just how much the enemy and adversary desires to bring us into bondage—even after we have been delivered and set free.

 

            If there is one thing the narrative of the children of Israel in the Old Testament book of Exodus reveals it’s that although Pharaoh allowed the children of Israel to go free from their slavery and bondage after four-hundred years he would harden his heart toward them. As a direct result of this hardening of the heart of Pharaoh he would mount his horses and chariots against them that he might once more bring them into bondage and slavery. Undoubtedly Pharaoh regretted allowing the people of God to go free and sought whatever means he could to bring them back into bondage and slavery once more. Pharaoh would indeed mount his horses and his chariots and a great force to pursue the children of Israel through the wilderness that he might overtake them in the place they were encamped between the Red Sea and the wilderness. There were the children of Israel with their backs to the Red Sea and with the enemy coming towards them in the wilderness and they could not be sure if Pharaoh chased after them to kill and destroy them or to bring them back into slavery. There was no communication between Pharaoh and Moses nor from Pharaoh unto the children of Israel and the only thing they knew for sure was that Pharaoh had pursued them in the wilderness seeking to overtake them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding the picture of Pharaoh pursuing the children of Israel in the wilderness for one purpose—not to destroy them but to bring them into bondage and slavery once more. We must needs recognize and understand that Pharaoh didn’t pursue the children of Israel into the wilderness seeking to destroy them and put them to death but rather to enslave them and bring them back into bondage and slavery within the land of Egypt.

 

            The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the fact that one of the greatest tactics and strategies of the enemy and adversary within our hearts and lives is to bring us into bondage and slavery unto sin. With this being said, however, there is a great need to recognize and pay attention to the fact that if the enemy and adversary can’t enslave, ensnare us and bring us back into slavery unto sin he can and will seek to do something entirely and altogether different. The enemy and adversary can and will switch tactics and switch methods to bring us into slavery and bondage a different way—not unto sin or transgression but rather unto religion, unto works, unto self-righteousness, and unto legalism and hypocrisy. That which Jesus condemned and indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew as well as that which Jesus indicted in His parable to the Pharisee and the publican is the very same thing the enemy and adversary can and will seek to enslave and bring us into . If the enemy can’t assault and attack our righteousness by enslaving and bring us into bondage unto sin then he can and will seek to enslave and ensnare us by bringing us into bondage through legalism, through self-righteousness, through works and even through hypocrisy. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely astonishing and powerful truth that we cannot and must not allow ourselves to be brought into bondage unto this subtle means of the enemy and adversary. It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. It is in this epistle we find the apostle Paul writing unto these churches concerning the snares and wiles of the enemy and adversary to bring them into bondage—not unto sin but rather unto self-righteousness and unto legalism and hypocrisy. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this epistle beginning with the first and opening chapter:

 

            “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I. Now again,  if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).

 

            “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews? We who are Jews by. Nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:11-21).

 

            “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having been in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:1-5).

 

            “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law the against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should aftewards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:19-29).

 

            “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11).

 

            “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye m ought affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (Galatians 4:16-20).

 

            “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased. I would they were even city off which trouble you” (Galatians 5:1-12).

 

            We as the saints of God must needs recognize and understand the significance that is found within the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Galatia. It is as and when you read the words presented in this epistle you will encounter the threat and danger which these saints did indeed and did in fact face. The apostle Paul made it very clear that there were not only those who were infiltrating among them bringing forth and preaching a new gospel but the apostle Paul also wrote and spoke of them being brought into bondage and captivity again after being delivered by the cross of Christ and through the Spirit of liberty. The apostle Paul recognized that there were some who were present among them who troubled them in preaching circumcision. There were those who had entered in among them preaching that they needed to be circumcised in order to experience salvation and to be justified in the sight and presence of the living God. There were those who did in fact preach a false gospel which was not a gospel and would preach legalism and hypocrisy unto and among them. Such individuals were not seeking to bring them into captivity or bondage unto sin and rebellion against the sight of the living God but rather bringing them into captivity and bondage unto the Law itself. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it is possible to be slaves to the Law of Moses just as much as we can be slaves unto sin itself. As surely as we can be slaves unto sin, slaves unto unrighteousness, slaves unto wickedness, slaves unto iniquity, slaves unto idolatry and immorality so also can we be slaves unto the Law. What’s more is that not only can we indeed be slaves unto sin and unrighteousness but we can be slaves unto the Law and unto a righteousness that is not of God but a righteousness that is of works and our own deeds and merits which we think we have in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the enemy and adversary seeking to bring us into slavery and bondage unto the Law of Moses. This is something which warrants strong consideration for there would be those who don’t think nor do they feel that the Law can indeed be something we are slaves to and yet the truth of the matter is that not only is the Law something we can be held captive and in bondage to but the Law is also something that can lead us into a place where we trust and rely upon our own works, our own “good” deeds, and even our own righteousness. Lest you think that this is something that cannot be found within our hearts and lives I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. What’s more is I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician—the same one who wrote this New Testament book of Acts. In the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find and encounter the absolutely astounding indictment the Lord Jesus pronounced against and upon the scribes and the Pharisees for their trust in the Law—and not only for their trust in the Law but also their trusting in their own righteousness and their works. The scribes and the Pharisees sought to present themselves as being outwardly righteous—even in the sight and eyes of others—and yet they completely and utterly neglected that which was present on the inside. Oh there is something we must needs recognize and understand when considering Jesus’ indictment of the scribes and the Pharisees for He not only condemned and rebuked them for their refusal to enter into the kingdom of heaven but He also rebuked them for their legalism and hypocrisy.

 

            There is something we must needs recognize and understand when we come to Jesus’ indictment against the scribes and the Pharisees for He would more than once call them hypocrites. What’s more is that not only would He call them hypocrites but He would also call them a generation of vipers—much like John the Baptist would call them when he saw them coming unto his baptism. Jesus would indeed indict the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy—and not only for their hypocrisy but also for their legalism and their self-imposed rules, regulations and traditions which they would seek to impose upon those who were present during those days. It is in the fifteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the scribes and Pharisees seeking to rebuke and condemn the disciples of the Lord Jesus for not washing before they ate bread. This is something which warrants strong and careful consideration for in response to their attempt to condemn and indict the disciples Jesus would flip the script and would indict them for their own self-righteousness and for preaching as doctrine the commandments of men. Jesus would turn the tables on the scribes and Pharisees by indicting them for preaching their own traditions and the commandments of men and seeking to pass them off as doctrine and as that which the eternal and living God had spoken and commanded. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth that surrounds the scribes and the Pharisees and how during the days of the early church—although the scribes and the Pharisees weren’t necessary those who would stand to oppose the believers—there were those who would take a page out of their book and seek to bring the people of God into bondage. The same way the scribes and the Pharisees sought to bring into bondage the people of Israel during the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth is the same way these false brethren and imposters would seek to bring the saints of God into bondage once more—bondage not unto sin and unrighteousness but bondage unto the Law and unto self-righteousness. Oh with t his in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew as well as the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke:

 

            “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and aid unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

 

            “And he called the multitude and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they devil the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:10-20).

 

            “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not yet after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a presence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him two fold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:1-15).

 

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so. Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachis, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23: 23-39).

 

            Consider if you will when you come to the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke and the parables which the Lord Jesus told describing the self-righteousness, the legalism and hypocrisy present within the hearts of the scribes and the Pharisees. The words which we find here must needs be carefully considered as they call and draw our attention the tremendous and inherent danger of allowing ourselves to be captivated and ensnared by our own self-righteousness and even legalism and hypocrisy. Jesus deliberately and intentionally indicted and condemned the scribes and the Pharisees—not only for their own self-righteousness but also for their hypocrisy as well. This is something which warrants strong and careful consideration as it calls and draws our attention to the dangers which face us within our generation. We must needs recognize and understand that if the enemy and adversary can’t bring people into bondage to sin and unrighteousness he can and will seek to bring them into bondage to self-righteousness, to works, to legalism, to religion and even to hypocrisy. It should be worth noting that—at least from what we see in the four gospels—the scribes and the Pharisees were never indicted or rebuked for blatant and fragrant sin but rather for legalism and hypocrisy. The scribes and the Pharisees were never indicted for murder, or theft, or adultery, or idolatry or anything that might have been listed in the Ten Commandments, however, that which they were indicted for was in fact legalism and hypocrisy. This is something that must be carefully considered—particularly and especially when reading the words presented in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts—as we must needs recognize how the enemy and adversary can and will seek to ensnare and enslave us into a web of religion, legalism, hypocrisy and the like. It is with this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke beginning to read with the seventh verse:

 

            “And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bad thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:7-14).

 

            Consider also the words which are found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of Luke and the parable which Jesus delivered concerning those who trusted in their own righteousness before and in the sight of the living God—even in the eyes of the men and women around them whose praise they deliberately and intentionally desired:

 

            “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abused; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

 

            As I sit here today thinking about the incredible significance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but return to the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts. It is here in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts we encounter and come face to face with certain of the brethren which came down from Judaea unto those in Antioch. These brethren which came from Judaea would come bringing and sowing confusion into the hearts and minds of the believers and brethren which were present there in Antioch for they would declare unto them that unless they were circumcised after the manner of Moses they would and could not be saved. What’s more is that in the fifth verse of this same chapter you will find and discover how there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed and would also say that it was needful to circumcise them and commanded them to keep the Law of Moses. It is absolutely necessary we recognizE and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for not only did these brethren and those of the Pharisees seeking to bring the Christians in Antioch into bondage to the law but they also sought to bring them into the bondage of circumcision. This is precisely why the words and language presented in the epistle written unto the churches in Galatia is so incredibly important for within this epistle we find the apostle Paul warning them of those who would enter in among them preaching a false gospel that was entirely and altogether different from the gospel which they preached—the gospel of Jesus the Christ. There were false brethren who would enter in among them and who would sow discord, division and confusion as they would seek to bring them into bondage unto the Law of Moses as well as unto circumcision. Such brethren sought to bring them to the place where they would believe that unless they were circumcised according to the custom and Law of Moses they would and could not be saved. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words presented in this passage as it calls and draws our attention and focus to what is perhaps the most subtle bondage the enemy and adversary can bring us into.

 

            The more I read the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the fact that the enemy and adversary might very well agree to release us from the bondage and slavery of sin which we were in prior to believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, however, that does not at all mean that he cannot and will not go quietly. I am absolutely convinced that even though the enemy and adversary might very well release us from our bondage and slavery to sin that doesn’t mean that he cannot and will not seek to enslave and ensnare us to religion, to legalism and hypocrisy. What is so incredibly dangerous about this is that it presents the traditions, the commandments, the rules and the regulations of men as doctrine and that which has been spoken by the living and eternal God. What’s more is that it makes that individual who is a slave to such a system slaves to the Law of Moses—and not only slaves to the law of Moses but also slaves to absolutely everything that is contained within it. This is precisely why when the apostle Paul was writing unto the saints which were at Rome he spoke of Christ as being the end of the law as well as when writing unto the Philippian saints he would also go on to write of how he did not pursue his own righteousness which was of the Law but was found in the person of Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the following words which are found in both the tenth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints:

 

            “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (That is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel” (Romans 10:1-16).

 

            Consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi beginning with the first verse:

 

            “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing, ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, where to we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).

 

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in these two epistles for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous danger in pursuing our own righteousness and/or a righteousness that comes from the Law. The inherent danger surrounding this is that when we do in fact pursue a righteousness which allegedly and supposedly comes from the Law we limit, prohibit and restrict ourselves from experiencing the righteousness that comes through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What was so incredibly diabolical about that which is present in this passage of Scripture is that it attempted to bring men and women who were free in Christ and who found righteousness in Him alone through faith into bondage to the Law of Moses. What’s more is that not only did it attempt to restrict and destroy the freedom they had in the person of the Lord Jesus but it also brought them into the place where they believed they could only find righteousness in the Law of Moses. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for one of the greatest deceptions of the enemy and adversary is that we can be righteous in and of ourselves—and not only righteous in and of ourselves but also that we can be righteous according to the Law. Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that the enemy and adversary can actually use the Law against you? Would you believe me if I told you the enemy and adversary can indeed take the Law and manipulate it to bring you into bondage? Lest you think this is not the case I would remind of how he twisted the word and command of God in the garden to beguile Eve and attempted to use the word and the Law to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. If the same serpent who used the word and command of God to beguile Eve was able to use the word and Law to tempt Jesus what makes you think that he cannot and will not attempt to use the Law itself to bring us into bondage? This is what was so incredibly dangerous about the scribes and the Pharisees and the whole religious system during the days of Jesus for they were bound—not necessarily to sin as it pertains to murder, or adultery, or fornication, or idolatry, or theft, or covetousness but rather to self-righteousness, to legalism and to hypocrisy. What we find here is a powerful picture of those who would seek to enslave and ensnare the brethren to the Law—and not only to the Law but also to circumcision. It is necessary for us to recognize and understand this for we as the disciples of Jesus must needs guard the freedom we have in Christ as well as guar ourselves from bondage unto sin and unrighteousness as well as from bondage unto religion, self-righteousness, legalism and hypocrisy.

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