Legalism and License: A Biblical Definition!

Definitions are crucial or no-one knows what you’re talking about. Humpty-Dumpty said that a word meant what he chose it to mean, neither more nor less, and his philosophy has increasingly caught on. So when it comes to teaching God’s Word it’s vital that we carefully define our terms in order to make crystal clear what we mean by the words we use. So I am going to periodically do some posts by way of defining, in biblical terms, various words and phrases that are used regarding the content of scripture and the Christian life. So let’s start with the terms legalism and license:

Legalism is when Christians require more of each other than the Bible does!

License is when Christians don’t require as much of each other as the Bible does!

Many believers are roundly in one camp or the other, but even those of us who try to get the balance right by staying out of both camps will tend to vacillate between the two. It is quite possible to be legalistic about some things whilst being licentious regarding others, so we must be careful not to let our guard down on this.

I therefore leave you with a couple of examples, after which you can run with the ball yourself:

  1. Any assertion that Christians must follow a particular diet regarding food and drink, or that it is wrong to watch Star Trek, would be examples of legalism.
  2. Any assertion that women can teach and/or be elders in a church, or that if believers’ marriages fail they are free to just go and find someone else to marry, are examples of license.

Wow! That was easy! More biblical definitions to come to come in due course!


None But The Brave!!!

If there is one thing I am not, it’s brave! Indeed, I am an accomplished practitioner of cowardice in all it’s myriad forms, and courage is as alien to me as is flying to your average prairie dog. And if there is one thing I try to avoid even more than putting myself in harm’s way, it’s putting Belinda and Bethany in harms way too. Yet with that said, I can honestly report that we have just spent three whole weeks in the most complete and perpetual danger. Indeed, never more than a few feet away from both imminent and painful death.

“Were you smuggling Bible’s into North Korea?” I hear you ask. “Or preaching the gospel to cannibals in the Amazonian wilderness?” “Did you climb Everest to give out tracts at the summit?” Well, no! It was actually worse than any of those things. We were – prepare to gasp in horror – with a church in…….Western Australia! That land down under where the ten most most deadly everything-in-the-world were lurking in both the undergrowth, and ocean, wherever we walked, paddled or swam.

Our hosts assured us that it was perfectly safe, but of course I didn’t believe them for a moment. Their assurances that they had never even seen a snake, or a red-back spider, counted for nothing as just about everything that was dangerous in the antipodes – the deadly blue-ringed octopus included – either slithered, skulked or swam in front of us pretty much wherever we went.

So hey! Maybe I’m not such a coward after all!  I have, let’s face it, been for many years in close contact with Americans, and can now add Aussies to the list. I can only say, “Strike a light Cobber! Let’s get some Sheilas in with a couple kegs of the amber nectar and we can dig into our tucker bags down by the billabong!”

But seriously though! It was both a great joy and privilege to spend time with a fairly newly formed church of the Lord’s people who truly are committed to living every aspect of their lives purely on the Word of God in obedience to their Saviour! It is a rare thing, to be sure, and we were greatly blessed to be a small part of it for three wonderful weeks.

The family whom the Lord primarily used to start this church – Gary and Helen, Dan, Becky and Rachel – were friends of ours here in England before they emigrated. They pioneered a biblically based church in their home whilst still living in Yorkshire, but England being England, it just never took off as it should. However, the Lord eventually led them to Australia, and although at the time it was sad and perplexing for us (why would the Lord remove one of the very few families in England who actually understood church life?) it is both wonderful and encouraging to know that such a church now exists down under.

Being with Gary and Helen and the kids again was brilliant, and getting to know the folk in the church there was just the icing on the cake. We never know what the Lord is going to do next, and our loss here in England has certainly turned into Perth’s gain. I am increasingly of the conviction that the Lord has pretty much finished with the UK, and that the judgement of a famine of the Lord’s Word is now the result. But I am thrilled to be seeing encouraging things happening elsewhere, and having the privilege of being a tiny part of it.

So thanks for having us Yanchep church! It was great! I hereby welcome you to the rather small and completely non-influential company of Christians whose burden it is to live as comprehensively as we can according to scripture, including church life!








Now there’s a thought…!!!

As both an elder and a Bible teacher I would rather deal with, and be the victim of, the abuse of the freedom biblical church life grants the Lord’s people, than the perpetrator of spiritual retardation and damage amongst them through the exertion of a completely unbiblical hierarchical authority and control.

That the entire edifice of the church life of the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians should be built on a system of leadership and hierarchy that is itself entirely unbiblical beggars belief!

As for me and my house, we will go by scripture!


Heaven…quite literally!

I have long been perplexed by the fact that just about everyone, Christians included, spell Heaven with a small h. Heaven is, if I am not very much mistaken, a place, and places, if I am not even more mistaken, are proper nouns which should always be capitalised. This fact can’t just be put down to the fact that most people don’t believe that Heaven is a real place because most people don’t believe in such places Asgard, Valhalla or Narnia either, yet such are nevertheless always capitalised. No, the presumption of a place being fictitious doesn’t change the fact that it should be still be spelt with a capital letter. Whether it be Thomas More’s Erewhon, Dylan Thomas’ Llaregub or Gene Roddenberry’s Vulcan, places, whether believed to be real or fictitious, are always started with a capital letter. So why not Heaven? And especially, why don’t Christians capitalise it?

At least most people get Paradise right, even though it’s only a part of Heaven, much as London is only a part of England. So wouldn’t it be strange if I were to capitalise London, yet spelt England with a small e? What on earth is going on?

Well, I actually have no idea, this adding to the sheer extent of my perplexity. So all I can do is put forward a tentative theory, and it is this: What if it’s part of a ploy by the enemy to minimise the reality of Heaven in people’s minds by reducing it more to a state of being than an actual place? I talk a lot about the Early Church Fathers in my teaching because their thinking has had a monumental effect on the Christian faith over two millennia, partly good, but partly too a complete disaster. And one of the more disastrous aspects was the influence they laboured under from Greek thinking and philosophy which understood the physical material universe as being inherently evil. This led, quite logically, to the idea that anything really spiritual must also be non-physical, hence the traditional Christian art that depicts Heaven as comprising non-corporeal-type beings floating around on clouds. To the modern mind such a notion quickly translates into the idea of an almost metaphorical spiritual state of being as opposed to an actual place. So what does the Bible say?

It is simply not possible for us to get our minds around the idea, in any significant way, of there being something outside of the Universe, but that is precisely what we are dealing with when we speak of Heaven. The Lord has lived there throughout eternity, the angelic realm having come into being and living there too before the creation of the actual Universe. So Heaven, this place God calls His home (it even has a garden), is therefore somewhere completely other than in the cosmos in which the rest of God’s creation exists. What we can, or at least vaguely, get our heads round though is that just as Jesus got a resurrection body which, although physical (he ate and drank in it), was so much more than that, being a vessel perfectly fitted for a human being to be able exist in God’s home outside of the Universe, so too will we, as God’s people, eventually get the same type of body. But there is just so much more!

Not only will we one day be physical beyond our comprehension, but the Lord is actually going to create a completely new Universe made from the same ‘stuff’ as Jesus’ resurrection body (I call it ‘miracle matter’), and Heaven is going to actually enter that Universe and land on the newly created Planet Earth, the Lord thus making His home with us as promised in His Word.

Let’s get this straight once and for all. Heaven is a literal place outside of this literal Universe, and should therefore, as a place, be capitalised when written. Jesus is literally God become a man, and He was literally raised from the dead in a literal physical ‘miracle matter’ body, being now literally back in the literal place outside the Universe called Heaven. Believers literally join Him there when they die; and folk who don’t believe such to be literally true, and who just laugh and scoff, are in for a terrible shock when they discover, when they die, that Hades and the Lake of Fire are literal places too!

What a wonderful salvation and eternity Jesus has won for us, and for any who will yet humble themselves, repent of their sins and simply receive it as a free gift from Him. I am literally cock-a-hoop about the whole literal thing!