Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Legalism, What It Is, and What It Is Not

(Modified from an article found at the Middletown Bible Church website. I found it to be a good contrast of a term many like to throw around, usually in a negative way. The true biblical definition is much different than that used today by many people. Please click the link above to see the full article.)

The term "legalism" or "legalist" is not found in the Bible, but the serious error of legalism is certainly dealt with, especially by the Apostle Paul who ever and always boasted in the cross and championed the grace of God (Gal. 6:14; 1:6). Perhaps the best way to see what Paul had to say about how the flesh wrongly uses the law is to read carefully through the epistle to the Galatians.

Legalism, What It Is
  1. It is the deadly error of legalism that teaches that justification or salvation is by the works of the law. Gal. 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
  2. The law cannot justify; neither can it sanctify. The law can show us that we are unholy but it can never make us holy. Paul argued strongly that the Christian life must be continued on the basis of faith, not on a legal basis: Holiness does not come by seeking to keep the law in the energy of the flesh. Gal. 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
  3. The believer is not under the law. In fact the believer has died to the law that he might live unto God. Gal. 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. Gal. 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
  4. The believer is not lawless. We died to the law so that we might be married to Christ and out of this relationship we bring forth fruit unto God. The life of a true believer should manifest fruitfulness not lawlessness. Rom. 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Rom. 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Legalism, What It Is Not

  1. Being obedient to God's specific commands is not legalism. 1 John 2:3-4 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
  2. Living a holy life that is set apart unto the Lord's service is not legalism. 1 Thes. 4:3,7 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
  3. Living a life separated unto Christ and separated from the fads and fashions of the world is not legalism. Rom. 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
  4. Conforming one's life to be in harmony with certain standards decided upon by Spirit-led leaders of a local assembly of believers is not legalism. Acts 15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
  5. Forgoing my personal rights for the sake of my brother is not legalism. Rom. 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

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Blogger Sis. Julie said...

Thank you for posting this info. So many do not know what the term legalist or legalism means. I didn't know until just a couple of years ago when my husband explained it to me. I hope this will help someone else who may not know as well.

11:27 PM  

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