Legalism is a system of living whereby we try to make spiritual progress or gain by following a system of rules or ordinances. The fundamental idea is to try to make ourselves presentable to God by doing right. We find this concept in all religions, Christianity is no exception. Paul said in one of his epistles that we no longer know Jesus after the flesh. This is the antidote to legalism. When we know a so called spiritual leader merely after the flesh we immediately begin to wish to emulate that person’s behavior, thinking and attitudes. This is the principal motivation behind legalism; man imitating man, or man attempting to please a distant God.
The other extreme is those spiritual systems which emphasize the spiritual dimension only. One of their favorite assertions is that the material world merely is an illusion, that the only reality is the spiritual. Today’s New Age movement in many ways belongs to this branch of the religious world. However, if we are to find the right balance we cannot exclude the flesh, that is, our soul and bodies. Jesus came in the flesh as a real person. We thus cannot ditch our own flesh. Fred Pruitt puts it like this: “He was flesh and blood real, which is why it is the real and actual sacrifice of His Body and His shed blood can be efficacious in our lives. We can know our humanity filled with God and doing His will by us, only because we have been shown another humanity which was/is just the same. We MUST keep the human side, and not toss it out in favor of a Spirit-side only.”
John writes in the first chapter of his gospel: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It was spirit manifested in flesh that enabled the disciples to behold Jesus’ glory. As sons of the Most High we are also spirits manifested in flesh, and that is our glory. If we exclude any of those attributes we have left true Christianity and are an easy prey to aberrations. The Spirit was the basis of Jesus’ life, works, thoughts and attitudes. That was His rest and that is our rest. A Spirit led life isn’t about imitation, because “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” The Spirit-flesh dimension encourages us to acknowledge that life is about diversity, different gifts and personalities, different paths and uniqueness.
To know Jesus no longer after the flesh is to recognize that there was/is an additional dimension to His life which we also are partakers of. Fred Pruitt writes: “Jesus only walked out as a parable what was already true in the Spirit, from the way and manner in which He lived and walked, to the Cross which is a real space-time event on earth, but which cut across all divisions between time and eternity and bridged the gap. We must have them both, not one or the other. We live in time and eternity, and in Christ become “masters” of both. Boehme said we have in a sense two eyes, one which sees forward into eternity, and the other which sees backward into time. One who has overcome will understand this and live it.”
The resurrected Christ manifested Himself to the disciples and Thomas in particular. Jesus was so real in the flesh that he challenged Thomas to put his hand into His side. He showed Thomas His hands. Jesus said: “Stop doubting and believe!” Then Thomas exclaimed:”My Lord and my God!”