Stewarton Bible School FAQ


Christian groups preaching the need to keep the Almighty's Sabbath days are often accused of 'legalism.'
In other words, many suppose that we are preaching 'nothing but - law, law, law!'
It is a sad accusation and untrue in most cases; but that is how many Sabbath-breakers see Sabbath-keepers.

What is Legalism?

In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when the Protestant reformation was unlocking the minds of millions of Roman Catholics to the truth about 'salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,' the term 'salvation by works' meant trying to earn salvation by acts such as:

These manmade regulations were introduced by the Roman Catholic church and influenced the lives of countless millions of believers through the dark ages. The Protestant Reformers rightly exposed these practices as being unscriptural and absolutely worthless as far as salvation was concerned. The Protestant stand was - and still is - that according to Scripture 'salvation is available - free of charge - by faith in Jesus Christ;' not by anything we could do, however worthy it may otherwise appear to be. This is what those early Protestant reformers meant when they accused the Catholic church of trying to obtain 'salvation by works.'

Centuries Passed

However, as time passed, and when the truth about the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath became widely known, those who opposed obedience to the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments began accusing Sabbath-keepers of returning to 'salvation by works,' of 'being legalistic' of trying to 'earn salvation,' of trying to 'work their way to heaven.' It is a foolish charge when one stops to consider it. Because when we preach on the other commandments such as: no one in his/her right mind would accuse us of legalism, or of preaching 'salvation by works.'

But the moment we mention the need to keep the True Sabbath Day as commanded in the Decalogue, then a cry goes up: "You're being legalistic!' 'You're preaching salvation by works.' 'You're forgetting that salvation is a free gift from God.'   'Don't you know that salvation is by faith in Jesus?'

This is a monumental tragedy of wilful ignorance. If unchecked it will lead to a stand of determined and habitual disobedience which is iniquity!  Iniquity is a wilful determination to ignore and break a known command of Almighty God. It could well be that most of the folks who take that stand, do not want to obey the Sabbath commandment in the first place. To them it is a burden, an inconvenience, an embarrassment, a constant reminder that the church made a colossal blunder when it jettisoned the true Sabbath day of the Decalogue and adopted the pagan rest day of Sunday.

Were you to preach the need to keep Sunday, there would be no charge of 'legalism,' no hands thrown up in horror. But the moment one preaches 'obedience' and the need to keep the seventh day Sabbath of the Decalogue, there is an unholy uproar accompanied by wild accusations of 'legalism.'   These folk ignore the Saviour's advice in:
Matthew 19: 17 And he (Jesus) said unto him ... if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18: He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19: Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

After reading the above statement, who in his right mind would accuse the Master of being legalistic? And yet we can plainly see that the Saviour was advocating 'obedience to the commandments' as a path to life!

Here is another stunning statement by Jesus:
Matthew 5: 17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19: Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

In view of these texts my advice to you is that you ignore those who get hung up about 'legalism.' Let them alone and bear in mind these Biblical facts.

This is what the Scriptures teach concerning obedience and disobedience. Christians who ignore these plain facts are deceiving themselves and in the Day of Judgement they will be astonished beyond words to find out how wrong they have been. Alas! many - to their utter consternation - will hear these words:
Matthew 7: 22: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

For further study, see our files on: Salvation     Faith     Works ... Are they Important?

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Author: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland
April 2000