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Archive for September 26th, 2010

This was over at Vincent Cheung’s website.  I thought it was worth sharing.  The law is useful for evangelism, to convict sinners their sin and some may wonder what do you do with a legalists who claims to be righteous by the law.

I don’t think I can look at a legalistic self-righteous person the same again after this…

(email)

My in-laws have decided to adopt Judaist lifestyle and to follow the Levitical laws. They continuously argue with us, saying that we should do the same. I have directed them to Galatians and Acts, but to no avail. I hope that you can lead me in the right direction.

Since I lack many details — whether they claim to be Christians, whether they consider it necessary for salvation to follow the Law, etc. — I can offer only a broad answer. But I will show you a strategy that is biblical, powerful, but that not many will have the Christian courage to recommend.

Yet the New Testament teaches that the Law is supposed to bring men to Christ. What this indicates to me is that they are not taking the Law seriously, just as the Jews, contrary to their own claim, did not take the Law seriously. Your approach, then, should be to force them to take the Law seriously, and to force them to feel the full power and burden of the Law. To do this, you should have a good knowledge of three things: 1. The Old Testament Law that they claim to follow (or what is truly required by the Law), 2. Their interpretation of what is required by the Law (you should either correct their lax interpretation, or make them live up to their own traditions also), and 3. All the New Testament arguments against dependence on the Law. As your knowledge of these three things continue to grow, you will be able to implement the following with increasing power and effectiveness.

Now, we are ready to discuss the method:

They have already heard about Christ, and they have already rejected him. And they reject him because of their wrong thinking, not only about Christ (they do not acknowledge him as a sufficient, exclusive, and once-for-all sacrifice), but about the Law (they think they can keep it). Therefore, in the near future, remove emphasis on defending the freedom that Christians have in Christ. Again, this is not to retreat from declaring the gospel, since they have already heard it and rejected it. Rather, before attempting to assert the gospel again, perhaps we can remove some of the obstacles.

Then, and this is the main thrust of the strategy, from this moment forward, demand them to perform perfectly all that the Law requires. For now, do not talk to them about what you believe, and do not let them talk to you about what they want you to believe or practice. Talk to them about what they believe and whether they live up to the Law that they claim to live by. Be fair, be accurate, but be completely merciless and relentless in your application of the Law to their lives. Beat them down with the Law that they insist on keeping. Criticize them over the smallest infractions. Deal with them exclusively on the basis that they want to be dealt with.

Examine what they eat. Examine what they say. Examine what they do, and at what time they do it. Examine how they wash their hands. Examine what they wear. Criticize even what they seem to think — they Law says “Do not covet.” Criticize everything about them, on the basis of the Law. Cite the Law against them at every turn. If they have children, criticize their children openly when they violate any detail of the Law. Call them up on the Sabbath. Ask them what they are doing and whether they are allowed to do it by the Law. Are they even supposed to answer your phone call? Why?

Become the Law personified. Become their worst nightmare. If they run, pursue them. Run them off the cliff with the Law. Obviously, they do not understand or believe the Law enough to experience despair. So produce the despair in them. The truth is that they silence the Law when they want to ignore it. So become the voice of the Law and torment them day and night. On the basis of the Law, can they live where they live? Can they associate with whom they associate? Can they remain in their current vocations?

If they fail in any one point, no matter how insignificant it seems, then they are lawbreakers. This is why I say you should become familiar with the New Testament arguments. If they break one law, they have transgressed against the Lawmaker. How will their sins be atoned? Do they perform animal sacrifices? If they do not, how are they following the Law? Where is their temple? Where is their priest? And can their animal sacrifices, if they even have them, atone for their sins? Then how come they need to do it again and again? (This is another one of the New Testament arguments. Learn them.) What if they sin and die without a final animal sacrifice? If they have made modifications to the Law by their traditions, demand a justification for these, or accuse them of subverting the very same Law that they claim they follow.

Can you see what you should do? You have to know the Law, know what they believe and how they live, know the New Testament arguments, and then, metaphorically speaking, drive them straight to hell with these. Show zero mercy, and make them feel the strictness of the Law. Make their lives miserable. Do not let them pester you about living by the Law. You have already defended your faith in Christ. Now go on the offensive, and stay exclusively on the offensive. Introduce a previously inconceivable level of fear, pain, and annoyance into their lives. Peter said that the Jews ought not to impose on the Gentiles a burden that they themselves could not bear. Make sure they feel this burden in all its fullness. They do not feel it, because their respect for the Law is a lie. They are just pretending because it makes them feel good, or because it makes their religion feel concrete (they need this because they are unspiritual). So you make it real for them.

This is the way. This is how you win this. Whether you care enough about God’s honor and their salvation to do this and stick with it is up to you. If you are willing, I say that you should keep at it for at least a whole year. After that, if they count themselves unworthy of eternal life, then brush the dust off your feet and turn to others. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

Wow. What a strategy, but effective in revealing the hypocrisy of those who think they can be self-righteous by the Law.

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