Published February 22nd, 2018 by Dirk Waren
Christ noted the “key of knowledge” when addressing the legalistic Teachers of the Law:
46“And you experts in the law, woe to you because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them…
52 Woe to you experts in the law because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
As you can see in verse 46, legalists lack the capacity or desire to set people free. On the contrary, they do the very opposite—they load people down with heavy and unnecessary burdens that they’re unwilling to help carry. This is what legalists do. (For details on the pharisaical spirit see this article ; or, better yet, pick up a copy of Legalism Unmasked).
Verse 52 goes on to show that legalists aren’t interested in giving anyone the “key of knowledge.” What is the “key of knowledge”? It refers to understanding what the Law is all about—it’s simply correct interpretation of the Scriptures. In short, it’s truth, which is the only thing that can set people free (John 8:31-32), the primary truth being Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. After all, the Messiah is the main theme of Scripture (John 1:45 & 5:39-40). And the Living Word and the written Word are both truth (John 14:6 & 17:17). ‘Truth,’ by the way is alétheia (ah-LAY-thee-ah) in the Greek, which means “reality” or “the way it really is.”
But legalists aren’t interested in giving people this key because 1. they don’t really know the LORD and 2. they don’t really want people set free. In fact, they actually hinder others from discovering the truth and walking in freedom. They ironically offer the precise opposite to the services they’re supposed to provide. Is it any wonder that Christ called their converts “twice the sons of hell” as they were? (Matthew 23:15).
But why? Why don’t legalists want people set free? Why do they actually hinder others from finding the truth? Because of pride. It makes them feel needed and superior if people are weak, dependent and needy. If people are set free they’ll no longer have control over them. In fact, they’re intimidated by strong individuals who are free, which is why they wanted to kill Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:13-14 & John 8:40). As a matter of fact, legalists can’t set people free since they’re not free themselves and people can only give what they’ve got. If they don’t have freedom they can’t give freedom.
You’ll see this spirit seep into some churches or ministries. The pastor and staff will only go so far in helping others because they want to keep congregants weak and needy. It’s an issue of pride and even job security; it’s also totally absurd. It’s like guitar teachers holding back important theory and techniques because they don’t want their students to surpass them one day and steal their thunder. Ridiculous!
The true Christian spirit, by contrast, is intent on setting people free above all else. As a minister friend told me, “My job is to become unnecessary in the life of the believer.” As disciples get to know the LORD they’ll naturally become stronger and freer. In time, the minister’s services will no longer be needed.
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This article was edited from Dirk’s 2018 book Legalism Unmasked: The New Revised Edition, which is available here for just over $10 (292 pages); or get the eBook version here for only $2.99. Both links allow you to “Look inside” the book.
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