Throughout my life of involvement in various churches, it has never ceased to amaze and amuse me how much some denominational-minded church folks get hung up on legalistic hang-ups. Jesus Christ saved us to make us free, but it seems there are many who won’t be satisfied unless they can place us under the bondage of their religious legalism.

puppet master control freakI’ve been told things like “Christians aren’t supposed to watch movies”, “Churches are in sin when they allow any musical instruments for worship”, “Churches are sinful if they have any other instrument besides a piano and organ”, “You’re not really saved unless you’ve been baptized in our church”, “It’s a sin not to have church services on the sabbath (Saturday)”, “It’s a sin not to go to church services on Sunday”, “God doesn’t like it when you don’t kneel or bow your head when you pray”, “Women wearing makeup is a sin and shame before God”, and the list goes on.

Paul had a run-in with similar folks who went around teaching that in order to be saved, a man had to be circumcised and heed Mosaic law. Here’s his take on the situation:

But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: Galatians 2

Paul did not mince words here. He straight up called them false brethren. Why? They preached salvation by works–a counterfeit gospel. Paul called them out for wanting to come into the church and enslave people who had been freed from the bondage of sin. They were religious control freaks and he did not give in one inch to their demands because the truth of the gospel was at stake. One thing that helped Paul justifiably stand his ground was the fact he was not one to put people on pedestals because of their title or position (v. 6).

Several chapters later, Paul exposes why legalistic control freaks are so adamant about their views when he says

12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… Galatians 6

There are at least 2 reasons why control freaks (who often become cult-like) do what they do. (1) They’re afraid of being persecuted by a certain group, so their constraints are pushed to appease a group that is threatening to reject them; (2) They want to boast about how they made you give in to your fleshly nature to cave to their fleshly wishes out of their fleshly pride in exercising power over you. To add insult to injury, according to v. 13, they are some of the biggest hypocrites who don’t even practice what they preach themselves.

Ultimately, our peace of mind and fellowship with God is strengthened when we resist them.

Harry A. Gaylord

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