Psalm 119:41-46, “Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation, according to Thy word. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in Thy word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in Thy judgments. So shall I keep Thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts. I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.”
In our fundamental churches and schools, we have some rules and standards. We have rules about dating, rules about hairstyles, rules about clothing, rules about smoking and dancing and rock music, rules about speech and respect and behavior, rules about contact with the opposite sex, and rules about many other matters. Immediately the accusations begin to roll: “Legalism! Legalism! Legalism!”
Such statements are often made by men with neo-evangelical hearts who masquerade in fundamental clothing.
Sometimes they are made by men who have been fundamentalists and yet have become weary of the battle and yearn to return to the onions, watermelons, leeks, and garlic of acceptance.
Then this cry of legalism often comes from the desks of colleges and seminaries built on a fundamental foundation with walls of compromise and a leaky roof of pseudo-liberty.
‘Tis sad but true, we have grown to desire that our truth be accredited by worldly error. We want a license from wrong to do right. We want darkness to approve light. We want the unclean to accredit the clean. We want Belial to give Christ the right to exist. In so doing, not only are we betraying the standards of our forefathers, but we are betraying our own standards of a few years ago.
If we cannot have padded pews AND Hell-fire and brimstone preaching, then let’s return to the sawdust trail in a storefront building! If we can’t have organs AND trained choirs without the sevenfold amens and crusty anthems, then let’s go back to the piano and the tuning fork! If we can’t have a marriage of proper grammar and mourner’s-bench Christianity, then let’s go back to splitting infinitives, dangling participles, and hanging gerunds! If tiled restrooms and chandeliers aren’t conducive to the old-time religion, then let’s mark off a path, build an outhouse and use 60-watt light bulbs! If we have to include Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, and Brunner in order to be theologically intellectual, then let’s go back to the blue-back speller, the A,B,C’s, and the Word of God!
We have listened too much to the worldly psychiatrists and not enough to the prophets of God. We have listened too much to humanistic philosophers and not enough to men of God.
The beautiful feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace have historically been shod with common shoes. The hands that have wielded the Sword of the Spirit have historically been callused ones. The eyes that look through the helmet of salvation have been tear-stained ones. The bodies that have been protected by the shield of faith have been pure ones. Yet sad to say there are those who would have us forsake our standards of behavior and they cry, “Legalism! Legalism! Legalism! ”
Someone needs to inform these dear souls as to what legalism really is.
Legalism is attaching something besides faith to salvation. Salvation by faith plus works is legalism. Salvation by faith plus baptism is legalism. Salvation by faith plus keeping the law is legalism. Salvation by faith plus communion is legalism. Salvation by faith plus confirmation is legalism. Salvation by faith plus Sabbath-keeping is legalism.
The legalist is not the godly mother who insists that her daughter be modest. The legalist is not the dedicated old dad who takes his son to the barbershop. The legalist is not the faithful pastor who insists that his Sunday school teachers do not drink or smoke. The legalist is not the godly educator who forbids his students to dance or listen to Satan’s music. The legalist is not the man of God who cries aloud and spares not concerning the evil of our generation.
- Was Paul a legalist when he told men not to have long hair?
I Corinthians 11:14, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told ladies not to have short hair?
- Was Moses a legalist when he gave us the ten commandments?
- Was Paul a legalist when he admonished the deacons in I Timothy 3 not to be double-tongued, and to be the husband of one wife, be honest and temperate?
I Timothy 3:8-13, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told pastors to be sober, the husband of one wife, not given to wine and greedy of money?
I Timothy 3:1-7, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the Devil.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he admonished Titus to tell the aged men to be sober, grave, temperate, sound, loving and patient?
Titus 2:2, “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told Titus to tell the aged women to be holy and temperate? Titus 2:3, “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told Titus to teach the young women to be sober, love their husbands, love their children, etc.?
Titus 2:4, 5, “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told Titus to tell the young men to be sober minded, clean, pure, etc.?
Titus 2:6-8, “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he told Titus to exhort the servants as to their behavior?
Titus 2:9, 10, “Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”
- Was Paul a legalist when he gave us standards for women’s dress?
I Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”
Now, why do we have these rules?
Notice Psalm 119:45, “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.” The Psalmist says here that he walks in liberty because he seeks God’s precepts or because he keeps His commandments. Modern thought teaches us that if we walk in liberty, we don’t have to keep commandments, but the Bible says liberty is in keeping the commandments and not in being free from them.
The Scripture here deals with walls. The Psalmist is likening commandments to a wall of protection around a city. The ancient Eastern cities had walls built around them in order to keep the enemy from the people. Now, these walls were not to keep the people from liberty, but to keep the people in liberty and free from those who would kill them or enslave them. Suppose an attack was to come from without and the enemy armies would begin to advance. Where would the people be free? Inside the walls or outside the walls? Inside, of course! The walls were built around the people in order that they may be free from the bondage of the enemy attacking from without.
Rules and standards do not enslave; they liberate! The very purpose of commandments, rules, and standards is to build a wall so those things which could enslave cannot reach our people.
We have a rule against drinking because drinking enslaves. Hence, it is put outside the wall. We have a rule against narcotics because narcotics enslave. Hence, they are put outside the wall. We have a rule against stealing because stealing enslaves. Hence, stealing is placed outside the wall. The very purpose of rules is to build a place of freedom so those things that enslave us cannot reach us.
There is a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Now, where is freedom? Inside the commandment or outside the commandment? Inside, of course! A man may say that he is free to kill, but he loses his freedom when he kills. The same is true with adultery, dope, drink, smoking, rock music, homosexuality, and other things that enslave.
Humanistic universities often shoot their satiristic barbs toward fundamental schools and say they are prisons. Nothing is further from the truth! The humanistic school is the prison. Many of the students there are bound by liquor, bound by narcotics, bound by homosexuality, bound by immorality, bound by nicotine, and bound by rock music. No one loves them enough and no one is wise enough to build a wall of standards around them in order that they may be free from those things which enslave. Freedom is not in a university that has no rules; freedom is in a university that loves its students enough to build rules of protection around them. Love is not breaking down the walls; love is building the walls! Love is not freedom to go to the captor; love is freedom from the captor!
Recently I was in southern California. It was a beautiful morning, so I took a walk. I saw a perfect illustration of this point. I walked by a corner house that had a fenced-in backyard. Inside that fence was a little Chihuahua dog and outside the fence was a giant bulldog. The little Chihuahua began to run up and down the fence barking. Then I thought I heard him speak a little bit. I think I heard him say, “Let me out! Let me out! Let me out! I want my freedom! I’m tired of being a slave. Let me out. I want to be free. Let me out!”
How foolish that little dog was! The big bulldog had already put his napkin around his neck and said grace. Now, where was the freedom for the Chihuahua? Inside the fence or outside the fence? Inside, of course. There are millions of young Americans like that Chihuahua. “Let me out. I want to be free. Woof! Woof! I want to be free. ” Then they are allowed to leave the freedom provided by the fence. They leave what they think is slavery and are soon captured by those things from without which hitherto were not allowed to reach them because of standards and rules built as a fence for their protection. When I was inducted into the Army in World War II, the first night I slept in a tent in Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. A sergeant came to me and said, “Private Hyles, do you see that fence over there?”
I said, “Yes, I do.”
He said, “Those men on the other side of that fence are the worst of the German prisoners of war. You are not allowed to go over there.”
Brother, he wasted his time and effort in making that last statement. I wasn’t about to go over there, for my freedom was provided by that fence. The boundary itself gave me freedom. To go across the boundary would be a loss of freedom.
Many years ago when I was pastoring in Garland, Texas, I had a daily radio broadcast. Ordinarily, the broadcast was live. However, on occasion, if I were scheduled to be out of town for a day or so, I would make a tape and take it to the radio station located on the eleventh floor of the Stoneleigh Hotel of Dallas, Texas. On one occasion I took a tape to the station. When I got on the elevator, I told the operator, who was an attractive young lady, that I wanted to go to the eleventh floor. She didn’t hear a word I said! She was in a daze because Elvis Presley had just ridden her elevator.
Finally, I convinced her that I needed to go to the eleventh floor, and all she talked about was the fact that she had been alone with Elvis Presley for a few minutes. She finally gathered herself together and took me to the eleventh floor. She waited as I took the tape across the hallway to the station and then took me back to the main floor. On the way, however, she stopped the elevator, and Elvis Presley got on. He had on a green satin suit and at that time was in his heyday. I introduced myself to Elvis, we shook hands, and then I asked him, “Elvis, do you know, if you died today, you would go to Heaven?”
His answer was startling. “I certainly do,” he said. “I was saved when I was a child.” Then he proceeded to tell me the circumstances. As best I remember, he said that his grandmother or some other relative had taken him to hear an old-fashioned Gospel preacher. He had received Christ as his Saviour. He told me in clear, positive language of his salvation.
I then looked him square in the eye and said, “Elvis, how could a person who is born again live the kind of life that you are living?”
He said, “Jack, I got tired of the rules. I wanted to be free.”
Need I say more? The very type of death that he died is living proof that though he thought he was leaving slavery to go to freedom, he was leaving freedom to go to slavery.
We have the idea that freedom is detachment, but this is not so. Freedom is being delivered from one master to a higher form of servitude to our Deliverer. Freedom is deliverance from the law for a higher law. Freedom is a higher law liberating me from a lower one. Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Freedom is deliverance from that which God did not intend for me to do in order that I may be a servant to that which God intended me to do.
Jeremiah put it this way. Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.” (Jeremiah 28:13b) Abstinence from liquor is a yoke of wood; when it is broken, its place is taken by alcoholism which is a yoke of iron. Abstinence from narcotics is a yoke of wood; but when it is broken, it is replaced by the yoke of iron which is addiction.
David said, “I will be free,” and in so doing, he became a slave to his passions. Lot said, “I will be free,” and in so doing, he became a slave to the sins of Sodom. Samson said, “I will be free,” and in so doing, he was bound to the mill with his eyes blinded. Solomon said, “I will be free,” and in so doing, he became a slave to lust.
I thank God for an old-fashioned wall-building mother who built around me a wall of rules that kept me free from those life-ruining things that would have enslaved me.
I thank God for an old-fashioned wall-building preacher who preached multitudes of “thou shalt not’s” and in so doing kept me free from the captor. I thank God for old-fashioned schools, churches, and preachers who still in this permissive society build little places of freedom and wall these places with rules so that our young people cannot be captured by the enemy.
Choose if you will, the bondage of compromise, but build for me the liberty of fundamental separation, or as one has previously said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
by Jack Hyles