The heavy-handed application of Matthew 18:15-20 leaves a trail of pain, broken relationships, and human carnage among God’s people. Controlling authoritarians use Matthew 18 to silence dissenting speech, prophetic criticism, and to label people as trouble makers–sources of contamination in the assembly that must be purged.
Within Charismatic circles, there is a widely influential subset group called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). One of their strongly held beliefs is the necessity of submitting to an alleged “apostolic covering” or maintaining what is called “governmental alignment” to a “covering apostle.” It is alleged that failure to do so, cuts off heavenly blessing and opens the individual to spiritual dangers and demonic attacks. The Protestant forefathers must be rolling over in their graves. They gave their life’s blood to do away with the belief system that required a class of religious professionals to broker or mediate the blessings of heaven to the believer. It is beyond painful to see the resurrected form of this doctrine being espoused in so-called apostolic churches and foisted under the banner of “new revelation,” “restoring apostolic covering,” and “restoring apostolic authority.” It is not new revelation. It is old heresy in a new dress.
Spiritual covering is a biblically illegitimate, bad idea, that just won’t go away.
Perfectionism is the state of soul of a person bound by legalism. The perpetual striving to perfectly live up to “principles from the Bible,” not only empowers legalism, but also spills over into how a person engages the universe and others. It is a relationally destructive power. The legalist is in some ways a perfectionist, and deliverance from perfectionism is often an element of freedom from legalism.
The Galatians did not wake one morning with a surprise case of spiritual apostasy— infected with some unseen virus. They had witnessed not only conversions, but also miracles in their midst (see Gal. 3:5), yet they took to legalism like trout to PowerBait. Why did the Galatians, who had “begun in the Spirit” (Gal. 3:3), so readily take the bait of an alternate reality? What made them bite? There are at least six ways that performance-based religion, including mandatory Torah observance, appealed to the Galatians and continues to appeal to believers in every generation.
Church culture, not scripture, often has a profound influence on the question of what is holy and what is legalism.
Frequently legalism manifests in church culture variations that are not in the realm of right and wrong, sin or not sin. They are in the gray areas where only secondary and inferential arguments can be made from scripture. Like a toxic mold in damp and cool closet, legalism thrives in the gray areas of life.
A subtle and silent killer flows in the life stream of the Body of Christ—a virus of devilish design and effectiveness. This masquerader promises life, but provides only death. Sweet to the mouth but bitter to the belly, it is the Venus Flytrap of the kingdom, sending out promising fragrances, only to devour those who succumb to its allure. Like a stealth bomber or hypertension, it avoids detection until the damage is done. Preying on the weak and strong alike, it effectively neutralizes thousands of unaware believers. Its discreet presence belies its leavening permeation, devastating individuals, families, local churches, and ultimately the Gospel. What is this silent killer? Legalism.
Would you listen to, or value the opinion, of someone who has memorized a restaurant’s menu, can explain it in flawless detail, can argue why their restaurant preference is better than the restaurant down the street, but who has actually never tasted the food on the menu they are talking about? We do it in Christianity all the time. We think accurate mastery of Bible stuff = life and substance. We think because we can explain the life of Jesus or Paul, that we possess the life of Jesus or Paul. Not necessarily. Just because someone has a strong opinion on a trendy topic based on the latest book they’ve read, or can debate this or that doctrine, or understands the Bible, etc., does not mean he or she is worth listening to . . . even if their stuff is “right.” It is those for whom the word has become flesh, those who are living it, not philosophizing about it, that are worth being listened to. Any fool can have an opinion on the restaurant. Only those who have paid the price to eat a meal there, are worth listening to.
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Understanding Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 is critical to understanding all of the new testament and the genuine spiritual authority of a new covenant priesthood. These two Psalms are the scriptural base the apostles used to “justify” the existence of a new order of priesthood based on resurrection life! It is not an exaggeration to say, that the apostle’s interpretation and application of these two Psalms is the doctrinal foundation of the entire new testament, as they tried to explain the “Christ-event” to their generation.