Friday, February 24, 2006


Legalism has the tendency to pervert the law. It is often through not hearing all that the Law says. Legalism is always out of balance. It must sustain its point to the expense of other vital truths. Faith only, to the exclusion of baptism, is a kind of legalism--though its prononents think of themselves as understanding grace better than others. Some KJV-only people among us make laws from their devotion to the KJV to the exclusion of anyone else's understanding. The one-cup brethren lose sight of various passages implying the need for multiple cups and stress the one cup to the exclusion of any other option. When the canon came down that one could not be a good Christian without observing Christmas and Easter, we see legalism clearly.
Legalism is always out-of-balance. The Pharisees embraced their oral torah so strongly that they rebuked Jesus for not observing the traiditon of the elders (Matthew 15; Mark 7). They did not realize they had given a place to their humanly-devised tradition that equaled written revelation. They supposed Moses had orally handed down their traditions. It was not that Jesus was unclean but that he did not follow their tradition. At the same time, they replace the written revelation about honoring parents with their self-serving practice of making contributions.
Legalism despises the true law of God. It edits it, confuses it, ignores it, annuls it, or changes it to the benefit of the legalist.
A legalist will blast others for not following his revered edicts. Like the Pharisees, he will assign others to condemnation for not following his rules.
Jesus shows the folly of not following His words in Matt. 7:21-27 (cf. John 8:31), but He is no legalist. There is a difference between the real Divine standard of truth and the humanly devised one. The problem comes in that the legalist is fully persuaded that his humanly-devised belief or practice is from God (when, in point of fact, it is not).
To press what God says to the exclusion of other revealed matters can become legalistic. But to press what God has said in context, because God said it is not legalism. It is obedience and compliance.
If I press John 3:3-7 to a Baptist friend, I am no legalist. I should press it, because the Lord pressed it. If I press immersion to a sprinkled friend, I am no legalist. I should by all means press it, because it is indeed the only manner of baptism into Christ. Now, I didn't make up baptism or immersion. I can read it in Scripture.
What is legalistic is when someone defends the notion that sprinkling an infant is as good as immersing a penitent believer. They are saying their humanly-devised practice is as valid as God's own way. This is an editing of the command that in reality despises it. It says we have a better way that is just as good as the Scriptural way.
The Pharisees were blind guides, and legalism tends to blind people to the truth. They must turn their eyes from the whole picture that they might press others with their partial picture.
I want to know and hear about the grace of Christ, but not to the exclusion of His teaching on truth and repentance. I want to hear of the need for unity in Christ but not to the exclusion of the Truth which is the basis of that unity. I do not believe in a baptism without faith or without repentance or without love.
Legalism is out-of-balance because at its heart is the desire to pepetuate the doctrines of the self more than the doctrine of God.

Who Is My Brother?

My comments in the Christian Chronicle have spurred a bit of controversy that put me out of favor with some of our more conservative brethren. Some have already seen fit to judge me as a "liberal" and a "compromiser."

I believe that those who are baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus as penitent believers so that their
sins can be washed away are my brethren. I believe that the cause of their new birth was their obedience to the Truth of the Gospel (1 Pet. 1:22-25). It is the imperishable seed that causes one to be born again, not human judgments on the matter.

While there are independent Chrisitan churches that may have divergent views, those with whom I have had contact taught the gospel of Christ and have asked people to respond scripturally. If indeed one has responded scripturally, then I regard that person as my brother, regardless of who did the baptizing. I believe that it is the Gospel that produces the salvation (1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:16; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-25), not who does the baptizing. I do not regard the independent Christian churches as a denomination. I believe they are brethren who are in error over the instrument and other issues.

I know the young man who spoke up to Ralph Gilmore at FHU's open forum. He has been one of my students, and I admire him for many things. I believe that day he was out of place. The "all things" of Matt. 28:20 comes after baptism, not before. I have never held the view that one must know everything first to become a Christian. I do believe there are some things necessary to know.

I do not believe men have a right to annul what God says. When a person has scripturally obeyed the gospel, they are born again of that imperishable seed, brothers in Christ. Only the Word has a right to determine the boundaries of who is and is not a brother. No human can presume to do that.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Imperishable Seed

Please help me get the word out about my blog. I plan to put something up most weeks. Today's topic, which I plan to flesh out this week is "The Imperishable Seed."

The Imperishable Seed
Phil Sanders

We are born again of an imperishable seed, the living and abiding word of God. (1 Pet. 1:22-25).

It is a living seed, and that is why it can bring life and can cause one to be born again. Life can only come from life, and an imperishable life can only come from an imperishable seed (1 Pet. 1:23). Our faith is more precious than perishable gold (1 Pet. 1:7). Our hope is living and our inheritance imperishable (1:3-5), all because we have been redeemed not with perishable things but with the blood of Christ (1:17-19).

This seed can only produce after its own kind. Vegetation and trees only produce after their own kind (Gen. 1:11-12). Sea creatures, fish, and birds produce after their kind (1:21). The beasts and creeping things produce after their kind (1:24-25).
Jesus observed that a tree is known by its fruit. “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush” (Luke 6:43-44). Plants and animals can only produce after their own kind; this is God’s unalterable law of propagation.

When men add to the imperishable seed, it will produce some other than what the imperishable seed produces. When men take away from the imperishable seed, it will produce something other than what the imperishable seed produces. A seed can only produce after its own kind, and a perverted seed will produce a perverted kind.

But when men preach the pure gospel, unaltered by the traditions or the desires of men, that gospel can only produce what it was designed to produce—children of God, born by the will and purpose of God. The pure gospel alone will produce only Christians, nothing more or less. Anyone who has heard and accordingly obeyed that God-given, God-willed, and God-empowered message is my brother. He is not my brother because I proclaimed him so; he is my brother because God begat him through his imperishable seed. What God Himself begets through that imperishable seed belongs to God; it is produced by His power and with His blessing.

Time will not diminish the power of the imperishable seed. Though we are centuries removed from the first gospel preaching, the imperishable seed can still produce after its kind, and only after its kind.

The edicts of men will not diminish the power of the imperishable seed. Though some man or group of men should make a law respecting what they believe; this will not stop the imperishable seed from producing after its own kind. The imperishable seed is not subject to the will of men; it cannot be. The imperishable seed produces by the will of God (John 1:12-13). The edicts of religious councils and creeds cannot keep the imperishable seed from doing what it was designed to do—produce after its kind. The laws of emperors and kings cannot keep the imperishable seed from doing what it was designed to do—produce children of God, born by the power and in the will of God.

Though the Sanhedrin commanded the apostles not to preach in His name, though emperors have burned copies of the word of God, though a church chained Bibles to its pulpits, and though men have died for translating the Word of God, the imperishable seed remains alive and powerful, fully able to produce after its own kind.

Men cannot overrule God. What God plants cannot be uprooted by men; but what men plant will surely be uprooted by God (Matt. 15:13). Some men deceive themselves in thinking they can plant their own plants and find God’s blessing, but man-made religion has never found the approbation of God. One cannot make the man-made holy any more than Jereboam’s golden calf was Jehovah.

Nor can any man long take that which is right and holy and proclaim it profane. That which God does is not subject to man’s editing. What God has cleansed, no man has a right to consider unholy (Acts 10:15). Conscientiousness is not a license for presumption, and the traditions of the elders will not annul the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-9). No man has a right to bind what God has not bound, nor to loose what God has not loosed.