I am a Legalist

By Voyd N Ballard

Some twenty years ago when institutionalism was again raising it’s ugly head in the church, those that favored the institutions and were determined to push them onto the church, commenced a campaign against faithful preachers and brethren in which they branded us as an “insignificant bunch of antis and legalists who would soon fade out of the picture.”

I lived in Bakersfield, California when the division happened there some fifteen years or so ago. The institutional crowd threw the loyal brethren out of the property at Lincoln and Brown Streets in East Bakersfield after engaging them in a lawsuit over possession of the property. This lawsuit was instigated mainly by a few preachers who favored the institutional orphan homes and the Herald of Truth, and who branded the brethren who opposed these man made institutions as a bunch of “insignificant antis and legalists” that would never amount to anything. I well remember them bringing in Rue Porter to defend these institutions. Rue preached for over an hour one night in an attempt to defend the institutional position. During the whole sermon he used only three or four scriptures, none of which even came close to supporting the institutional cause. (Rue was a good preacher and debater, but no man can find scripture which does not exist to support that which the Lord has not authorized.) I think no man then living knew that better than Rue Porter. So Rue’s speech in the main consisted of telling how small and insignificant these “antis” and “legalist” were. I remember him stating at that time that `not more than five percent of the preachers in the church were opposed to Herald of Truth and the Orphan Homes and that this percent would decrease with time. Rue has long since gone to his reward, but he did live long enough to see time fail to sustain his prediction.

Now, once again we have raised up a group of preachers who not only want to fellowship institutionalism, but every other ism as well. These fellows have embraced the old sectarian doctrine of “faith only” and some of them are mighty close to the doctrine of the “impossibility of apostasy” so once again we are hearing the old song, “I don’t like the way you are opposing us.” “No man can be saved by obedience.” “You are just a legalist” “Man is saved by the grace of God; If the Christian ever gets to Heaven it will be by the grace of God, not by what he has or has not done.”

Well Sir, I for one very frankly confess that I am a legalist! The definition of a “legalist” or “legalism” is “strict adherence to law of prescription.” But, some say, “we are not under law, we are under grace.” That we are under grace, no one denies. However, I am willing to affirm that the grace of God is expressed (or revealed) only in and through the law (gospel) of Christ, and that no man can be made free from sin nor keep free from sin except through his obedience to this law. True, man cannot be saved by his own law. He cannot work out a law or plan of his own and be saved by the works of that plan. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).

If man could work out his own plan, he could boast of being saved by his own works, but the Holy Spirit says this we cannot do. However, this passage says we are “saved by grace through faith.” Faith then, is the door by or through which we enter the grace of God. The only faith the Bible knows (approves) is faith that moves man in obedience to the law (gospel) of Christ. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear . . . ” (Heb. 11:7). Faith that does not move man to obey God is not the faith spoken of in Eph. 2, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. The only other kind of faith spoken of is defined as “dead faith.” This is the faith devils have. I suppose these “faith only” advocates believe there is one God; That is well, but it is not enough! “the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (Jas. 2:19,20).

“The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11. How? Through Christ and his law. However, all men are not in the grace of God. If so, then we have universal salvation! Since the grace of God has appeared (been revealed) to all men, therefore, all men have access to His grace through faith. This faith “cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). In other words it comes by hearing the law or truth of Christ, and the truth (and only the truth) makes man free (John 8:32). Therefore, the faith that saves is the faith that moves man to obey the law of Christ. It is the faith that moves him to turn in repentance of his sins (Acts 17:30,31), Confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9) and be baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). This baptism puts one into Christ, into the one body (Eph. 4:4), which is the church (Col. 1:18). To be in Christ is to be in the church. All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3), so outside of Christ there is no salvation. There is not one verse anywhere in the New Testament that says one believes into Christ, Not one! Talk about “faith only” it is not in there, brother! Yes sir, I am a legalist. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism are the terms of salvation set forth by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus . . . ” (Rom. 8:2). This is the Lord’s law or prescription to the alien sinner, and I am ready to affirm that without obedience to this law no alien sinner can be saved.

No one denies that salvation is by faith, but just remember this, no man in any age was ever said to be justified by God on account of his faith until that faith was expressed in obedience to the will of God. If I am wrong about this let one of these “faith only” boys step forward and cite a case. And I will tell you something else: If you do find anywhere in the Bible (Old or New Testaments) just one single person that was ever said to be justified by God on account of his faith before that faith obeyed God, you will do something that no denominational preacher has ever done, and I have been calling on denominational preachers to produce just such a case for the past forty years! I have issued this challenge to Baptist debaters that had this Calvinistic “faith only” doctrine down to a gnat’s eyebrow long before some of these “faith only” “grace only” boys in the church were dry behind the ears.

These boys get all mixed up on what the grace of God is, how we come into it, and how we stay in it. One of the main reasons they get into such a mess is because they fail to take into consideration that there are three different classes of works mentioned in the Bible. These are:

1. The works of man, which I have discussed above and which Paul was talking about when he said, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Man cannot be saved by his own works, plan or system. He is saved by God’s plan which is described in Eph. 2 as the grace of God. This whole plan of redemption originated with God, was revealed in the gospel by God, is “the gift of God” and therefore, the grace of God by which man is saved.

2. The works of the law of Moses: This law was never intended to bring man to justification. Men were justified by their obedience to God long before the law was given. This was justification through obedience based upon the promise of the coming “seed” at which time the grace (whole plan of God) would “appear” (be revealed) through Christ. “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made . . . ” (Gal. 3:19). Therefore, man cannot boast of salvation either by his own works nor by the works of the old law. Neither could save. The promise of salvation was made to and through Christ.

3. The works of Righteousness: “Therefore by the works (deeds) of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; Being freely justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . ” (Rom. 3:20, 24).

This redemption that is in Christ Jesus is justification by the grace of God. But note that it is redemption in Christ Jesus. The grace of God is therefore in Christ Jesus, and nowhere else. The grace that saves is the grace we enter through faith and this is an obedient faith that “delivers us from the power of darkness, and translates us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through the (his) blood, even the forgiveness of sins . . . ” (Col. 1:13,14). Redemption-, even the forgiveness of sins is therefore in Christ, His Body which is the church or Kingdom. The man does not live that can produce a passage of scripture showing any hope of salvation outside the church or kingdom of Christ, and it takes more than “faith only” to put us into that kingdom. It takes the works of righteousness. These include baptism into Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26,27). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, (water baptism-who wants to deny it) and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 2:5).

The law of the spirit of life in Christ not only frees us from the law of sin and death by putting us into covenant relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in the kingdom or church, but our continued obedience to this law is the only thing that will keep us in this relationship. The man does not live that can prove there is a difference between the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of Christ. Paul preached the gospel of Christ as the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16) to every one that believeth; not just to the alien sinner, but to the saints as well. He told the saints in Rome: “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” This statement was addressed “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). In the 16th chapter at verse 25 he said the Lord was able to establish them “according to my gospel.” But in chapter 6 at verse 17 he said they had “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” He affirmed that their obedience to this doctrine resulted in their “Being made free from sin” and “becoming the servants of righteousness.” So these people obeyed the gospel or the doctrine of Christ (one and the same) and their obedience made them “free from sins,” “saints of God” and members of the “one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5) They were admonished to be legalists. Their eternal salvation depended upon their “strict adherence to the law of Christ” and they were to “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:18). Any man who thinks he can ignore the law of Christ and still be saved by the grace of God is in for a rude awakening at the judgment. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he bath both the Father and the Son.” This is the Lord’s “prescription” for being saved and for keeping saved. After all, He is the Great Physician and he has the authority to prescribe (Matt. 28:18,20.) He has certainly prescribed the law of salvation to the alien sinner, and has set forth the conditions by which the sinner comes into the grace of God. He has also prescribed that we continue to obey Him after becoming Christians if we are to remain in this grace. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. . . ” (Titus 2:11, 12).

I am therefore a legalist, for I believe these scriptures which teach me that I must follow the law of Christ.

Truth Magazine XXI: 8, pp. 118-120
February 24, 1977