Just What is Legalism ?

Throughout Christiandom, the term “Legalistic” or “Legalism” is used in referrence to any form of biblical law-keeping and should be avoided. The word is used widely , especially against practices as keeping the Sabbath on Saturday or adhering to other laws given in the Old Testament.
However, this use of the word is incorrect. It is not legalistic to obey God’s laws correctly. To be legalistic is to misuse God’s laws in a way they were never intended to be used. Such was the case of the Pharisees’ interpretations, which actually undermined God’s law.
The Pharisees, an excessively strict branch of Judaism whose religious interpretations dominated popular thinking at the time of Christ, were examples of this. They added many of their own humanly devised rules and regulations to God’s laws, which had the effect of misrepresenting and misapplying them.
Their added interpretations of God’s laws so distorted the original intented purpose, that they rendered them ineffective [Matt. 15:6], nullifying them. By following the Pharisees’ interpretations and edicts, the people were no longer following God’s law [John 7:19]
This mistaken view of God’s Law led many to reject Yahushua, Christ Jesus, as the promised Messiah, even though that very law had prophesied of Him [ John 5:39,40 & Luke 24:44]
This was why Christ so strongly condemned the lack of understanding and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His time. He taught a return to the correct teaching and practice of God’s laws according to their original intent and purpose, and also that He was the promised Messiah.
The apostle Paul also wrote extensively against those who would pervert the proper use of God’s laws. This is particularly apparent in the book of Galatians. What Paul addressed was not the correct keeping of God’s law, which he himself elsewhere upheld [Romans 3:31 ; 7:12,14,22,25], but a claim of justification [ the forgiveness and restoration of a sinner to a state of righteousness ] could be achieved by circumcision and strict observance of the law.
Some false teachers [ Galatians 2:4; 5:10,12 : 6:12-13] subverted the Galatian churches by wrongly insisting that circumcision and the keeping of the law were sufficient requirements for justification and salvation, apart from faith in Yahushua, Christ Jesus.
Paul condemned this bad teaching by stating that obedience to the law has never made eternal life possible [Galatians 3:21] Paul made it clear that justification, that is, being made right in God’s eyes, is only possible through the blood bought sacrifice of Yahushua, Christ Jesus [ Galatians 2:16; 3:1-3, 10-11,22 ; 5:1-4 ] Paul made it clear that forgiveness of sin requires a sacrifice, and even the strictest observance of the law can’t remove the need for that sacrifice.
To rely ipon the keeping of any law to make one righteous in God’s eyes, instead of faith in Christ, IS LEGALISM.
If all one focuses on is obedience to the law apart from the motivation of pleasing God The Father, Loving Him and loving our neighbor, this distorts the purpose of the law [Matt. 22:36-40 & Rom.13:10]
and is legalism.
If we believe that any keeping of God’s law, in itself, can earn salvation as our reward, we are guilty of legalism.
Technical obedience, or strict obedience to the exact letter of the law, while searching for ways to get around the original purpose and intent of the law, is legalism.
But, Yahushua, Christ Jesus, and the remainder of the Bible make onething perfectly clear; Proper obedience to the law of God IS NOT LEGALISM.
After conversion, a Christian is given, or should be given by The Holy Spirit, a much fuller understanding of the intent and purpose of God’s law. The laws of God were given FOR OUR GOOD, not our slavemasters. He understands the importance of faith in the person and sacrifice of Yahushua, Christ Jesus. He is given a more complete understanding of why he is to be obedient, but it remains for him to obey. That is NOT LEGALISM.
To obey God’s biblical commands in a proper attitude is NOT LEGALISM, but showing our Love for the one who first Loved us!!



Filed under Bible, cessasionist, evangelical, faith, God, Grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Love, Pentacostal, religion, sin, Spirit of God, theology

5 responses to “Just What is Legalism ?

  1. Uriel A

    Dude, legalism is putting your faith in the law (whether the Torah or Jesus’ commandments) as opposed to putting your faith in Jesus. The Pharisees knew the law and thought that by keeping the law they would be saved. But they did not know Jesus. They rejected Jesus because they were so busy establishing their own righteousness via the law. Jesus came not to just to teach a better understanding of God’s law — but to reveal *Himself* — which leads to a better understanding of God’s laws.

    The difference is really motive – I obey because I am saved (grace). The legalist obeys in order to be saved.

    • Hi Uriel,
      I liked your last few words there on your reply.
      Did you read my post, though? If you had, you would know that following God’s Commands is something that we do because of our love for the One who first Loved us, and that as A New Creature, Born Again, these things aren’t what we do, but become who we are. It is easier for me NOT to sin today, than it is for me to sin. Hope you see what it is I am saying

  2. Yeah I did read your post. I was a little confused by it because you seem to go back and forth between grace and legalism. Usually Christians who defend law-keeping are like modern day Galatians — they want to stay in grace but at the same time they want strict adherence to the Bible, like keeping the Sabbath. (This is fine with me, if you happen to be one of those — there are multitude of opinions in Christianity — as long as we remember that adherence to the law is not a condition for salvation).

    However, what I do want to point out is that in Jesus Christ we are dead to the law. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t obey but rather that we shouldn’t focus on the law. When we do, we lose sight of who Christianity is all about — Jesus. When we instead focus on Jesus, we *automatically* keep the Spirit of the law — we automatically do what God intended for us to do, as we focus on our relationship with Jesus (Gal 5:16).

    • Uriel,
      There is another post I did a couple of years ago on this site. It is called ” A Sinner Saced By Grace, Well which one are you “.
      I think if you read it, you will get an understanding of where I am coming from.
      Have fun and thanks for coming by LBOLM.
      You may also want to check out my other site, which is a network of believer from around the world. There you can join in, blog, post picts video, etc; Check it out at ; http://www.livingbreadoflife.ning.com

    • jeff

      here is some good sites to check out http://www.sabbatarian.com go to the tsn videos and watch them

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