The Error of Legalism

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-ninth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

Each of Job’s three friends and one young upstart have tried to convince him that he is in need of repentance— His devastation is so comprehensive that only God could have effected it! This proves that God is angry with Job which proves Job has done evil deeds.

But Job is not evil and God is not mad at Job. There is much fallacious logic in the Book of Job. It would be interesting to have philosophy students pore through it to find all the illogical arguments of Job’s detractors.

Job 38:1-3 NIV Now, in Job 38, God himself takes the stage, not to explain his actions, but to wake Job up from his misconceptions.

By these words, we perceive that God judges Job to be a man in need of correction, of deeper insight. Some commentators view his opening statement to be directed to Elihu: was not he the one darkening God's counsel? Yet it is clear that God is addressing Job. He has come to answer him by imparting wisdom, while not offering specific answers to his questions.

Job 38:4-7 NIV Since the Lord’s opening words are an obvious effort to lower Job in his self esteem, do they show that God considered Job his enemy or an evil man? No, he merely desires to correct his doctrinal error — his belief that he was due God’s favor and explanations based on his behavior, also known as the false doctrine or error of legalism or works righteousness.

Can a person pave his own road to eternal life? No? Why then did Christ state: …except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:20)?

Righteousness is a prerequisite to companionship with the Lord, is it not? Don’t good works prove our faith? Can we be saved without them?

True, our works show our faith, but if they are not enabled by oneness with God and not the works God has called us to do (Eph 2:10), then we are doing them in our own wisdom and strength, in isolation from God, we might say. If we believe these works are tickets to God’s favor and honor, then we have misjudged our powers and rights in this universe.

Though Job could not have known that God would require the sacrifice of his only Son as the means for men to receive his mercy, he could nevertheless understand that God as the Creator of all, and by his revelations to men of that time in history, could not — cannot be manipulated to respond and perform by man’s behavior. If that were true, who would be in control of the world? Who would be sovereign?

Yet, though we may not force his hand, we can enjoy him. We can walk with him and serve him. We can pray for his help and receive it. We can take pleasure in obeying his commands. We can put him first and wait patiently for his answers, by his help.

There is no fine line between doing good works to earn his help and doing good works by his help. There is a vast gulf, a huge divide, in the difference between self promotion and understanding God’s mercy. If Job would know God and the enjoyment of a relationship with him, then he must realize that he was not God’s puppet master. He needed to have a new vision of God and to consider his place in the scheme of things as the creature, not the One in charge.

Job 38:8-11 NIV Imagine the intelligence and strength of the Lord!

Job 38:12-15 NIV Imagine the brute rebellion of men who believe Evolution is the force behind Creation. Job was not presumptuous as they, yet it is said that overturning pride in a religious man who believes false doctrine can be more difficult than convincing an unbeliever.

Job 38:16-21 NIV Light shines by God’s design and illuminates the deeds of the wicked; God displays the beauty of the earth and hides wisdom from evil men.

Job 38:22-30 NIV Job is reminded that he is very young in years compared with God.

Reading God's questions to Job is humbling, yet uplifting. We are called to consider the greatness of the Lord. Do we normally do this on our own recognizance?

Job 38:31-41 NIV For a blog post, this is long enough. Enjoy reading the rest of Job 38.

The opposite of courage, part 1 - Cain

Seventh in the COURAGE series

For the next several posts we will look at some of the cowards in the Bible, and some who had a brief lapse into cowardice. By understanding what a thing isn't, we can see better what it is.

The first coward was Cain, the firstborn human. As the eldest son of Adam and Eve he should have set an example for Abel, but parenting had not yet become an art.

When it came time to bring an offering to God, Abel was the exemplary son. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. (Gen 4:4, 5)

At this, Cain's countenance fell, but he was not sad; he was mad! (vs 5).

The Lord explained to him that it was only a matter of bringing an appropriate sacrifice. He would then be in God's "good graces" so to speak, but if he did not, then he was opening a way for the evil one to take control: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Gen 4:7)

"The Lord has no grandchildren" (only children), so he personally explained to Cain that a confrontation was imminent unless he brought an acceptable offering. Satan was taking him apart; Cain must regain "the upper hand." Resist the devil! (Jas 4:7)

Cain talked with Abel, but later in the field, killed him. Then, when asked by God, Where is Abel thy brother?, he denied that he knew. Am I my brother's keeper? (Gen 4:9)

For this murder the Lord's sentenced Cain to hard labor, that is, the earth would not yield a good return for his work, and he would be a fugitive and vagabond on the earth. (Gen 4:12)

Cain whined that the judgment was more than he could endure. I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. (Gen 4:14) No one would like him! He was afraid of enduring in his person what he had done to Abel.

The cowardice of Cain is shown in three ways:

  1. He did not stand against the devil. Though warned that the enemy was at hand, he ignored the message and the Messenger. The heart of a rebel does not want to hear from the Lord, preferring its own ways and choosing the path of least resistance. It takes great bravery to come against the devil!
  2. He would not confess his sin. Considering oneself to be in the wrong requires strength of character. It takes deep humility to repent. We must be bold to break down our own walls of defense against the Lord's exhortations. We all need to pray for help to be humble and repentant.
  3. He would not accept his punishment. We should face the consequences of our sins without railing or complaint. (1 Pet 5:6-11) Have courage and take your lumps.