“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.”
A pitfall that bedevils the child of God is legalism. Verses 16-19 set before us warnings against legalism.
There are two dangers in the Christian life; one is the extreme of the other. We can under-live or over-live the Christian life. If an airplane pilot undershoots the runway or overshoots it, he can die at either end. We do not want to believe anything less than that which is in the Bible. Neither do we want to accept any more than is in the Bible.
The devil tries to push us to either end. Here he attempts to make us overshoot the runway through legalism. Legalism is pseudo-spirituality. Religious types believe that there is something spiritual in asceticism. The idea is the more they deny themselves, the more they impress God. Or, the more miserable they make themselves, the better their place with God. Our passage sets all this in contrast to Christ’s finished work on the cross.
“So let no one judge you”
Note the word “so.” This word sends us back to verse fourteen. Jesus wiped out the ordinances against us on the cross. God abolished Old Testament rituals, restrictions, and regulations on the cross, yet many Christians today hang onto them. They have hangovers from their religious training. They do not realize that Jesus met all the demands of the law on the cross.
When a legalistic person observes a Christian operating on the principle of grace (v.15), he judges him as operating on license. Spiritual bullies use the standard of self to measure others. To defend his position of legalism, he must attack those who act on grace. The bondwoman (law) always persecutes the freewoman (grace; Galatians 4). Legalism constantly criticizes grace (Romans 14:4). The legalist wants to superimpose his system upon the grace believer. He loves to meddle in the affairs of other believers. He tries to run their lives. He sets himself as the criterion of spirituality; the idea is this, “You are not spiritual like me unless you have given up….” However, the principle here is we cannot build our spirituality on someone else’s lack of spirituality or apparent failure to meet our standards.
Legalistic Christians have declared war on Christians who live by the grace principle. It is open season toward biblically oriented believers. People love to pass judgment on believers who live by the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is also a favorite indoor sport of some Christian legalists to reproach those who live by God’s grace. Christians love to judge other believers. Matthew 7 argues against the judgment of others:
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
3 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
4 ″Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and look, a plank is in your own eye?
5 “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The Christian who accepts the finished work of Christ should never let legalists judge him.
If we are in the habit of passing judgment on other Christians, we will find ourselves the victims of judgment one day. We tend to give hasty, censorious conclusions about others because we do not know all the factors, only later to find that we were wrong. We prematurely judge others when we do not possess all the facts. If we did obtain all the information, we would withhold judgment or temper our judgment with mercy. But if we judge without knowing the whole situation, we would have done so much damage that we can do nothing to undo it.
Some people seek to build their righteousness on criticism and judgment of those who violate their standards, not God’s.