Has the Term Legalism Gone Too Far?

Has the Term Legalism Gone Too Far?


Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people angry over legalism. What is legalism? I am sure if you asked multiple people what it is you’d receive a lot of different answers.

Legalism: An adherence to the law as a means of salvation, feeling justified by their own works and religious facade.

This seemingly attainable type of mindset eliminates the need for a Savior and yet it falls so far from the truth because no one is perfect (Romans 3:23). Bottom line, we need a Savior. Jesus fills the gaps of our imperfection and provides a means for salvation. However, sometimes I feel people take the term legalism too far, falsely assuming many matters the Bible discusses as debatable. This is dangerous because it undervalues the fact that God placed it in the Bible for a reason.

The legalism of the Pharisees

The Pharisees struggled with legalism; they were hypocritical, self righteous, and arrogant. Boasting of their laws and their direct affiliation with God. They were the farthest thing from close to God, because they rejected Jesus and the mercy He offered on the cross. Yet in their disillusioned reality they thought they were living right before God. Sometimes what we think is so far from the truth.

Is it legalism or obedience?

On the contrary, there are those so scared of receiving this persona of legalism that they fail to obey even the blatant truths in God’s word; this too should be avoided. I have to admit when I hear people blatantly condemning legalism, I question what indeed they are condemning. The art of communication is a complex thing; one word could have various interpretations.

Is the bigger issue today leniency?

I know legalism is present, but in todays society I feel the bigger issue is leniency. With a holy God shouldn’t you shoot for holiness? Although unattainable, it’s the heart issue, what is overflowing from our heart. Is it a desire to please and honor God? We live in a society that Christianity is a pick and choose religion. One minute one could be spewing praise and worship songs, the next minute getting drunk with their friends. As far as joy is concerned, where is it? Where are the hearts that love God unchained and unrestricted?

The more sin and baggage we are carrying clouds our judgment from the purpose and direction God has for our life. We need to start afresh and become passionate about God once again.

If I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus would I desire to be a Christian based on the average Christian? It breaks my heart to say, but I really don’t think so. I desire to follow after God because He changed my life, the revelation of who He is, and His constant leading, but not because of the majority of fellow Christians. I have a healthy fear of God and want to give other people the same opportunity to get to Heaven as I did. This is one of the reasons it saddens my heart when I see fellow Christians no longer seeking after God, but rather the temporary satisfactions that this world has to offer. The more sin and baggage we are carrying clouds our judgment from the purpose and direction God has for our life. We need to start afresh and become passionate about God once again.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left…How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Hebrews 10:26,29

A changed life

Once we are saved, have a revelation of the truth and taste His goodness and joy we sincerely need to start acting like it. Are we supposed to be fake? No. Are we supposed to live like before we asked Jesus into our heart? No. We are called to be set apart, to show the world that there is a God that is bigger and mightier than us. That loves us enough to die on the cross, yet holy enough to set the standard of our life higher than what we could attain before we had the knowledge of Him. We should not be living a life with our face slumped in our hands ashamed that we are standing up for the convictions of God. Matthew 10:28 talks about not fearing man but rather to fear God. It breaks my heart when Christians are willing to laugh at sin, excited that they are so comfortable to entertain things that should not be present, or even worse yet try to encourage others down that path. If we want to see mountains move, we need to start acting like a church that is sold out for God. A representative that is joyful to be called a Christian (Christ follower) That loves others deeply. Sharing the truth in all its entirety with hope and conviction. A life that we can humbly admit is changed by Jesus and Him alone we put our trust.

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him. Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

Psalm 4:3-5

Please Share Your Thoughts

  • Melanie

    Great post, Grace. Have you read Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace Truth Paradox”? Love it. The main idea of the book-“Grace without truth deceives people, and ceases to be grace. Truth without grace crushes people, and ceases to be truth. Alcorn shows the reader how to show the world Jesus — offering grace instead of the world’s apathy and tolerance, offering truth instead of the world’s relativism and deception.”

  • Margaret

    Legalism crushed me. It caused me to wander around in a waste land of trying to be good enough. The problem with legalism is it’s man’s attempt to define what a christian is suppose to look like. Whenever I try to share with someone how God opened my eyes to understand grace better, they will always bring up the argument that somehow if you’re depending on grace then you’re going to sin. That’s so far from the truth. Grace is the Holy Spirit living in me, directing me and loving me. I don’t want to sin, because God has given me a new heart. He has recreated me. The one book that helped me to understand God’s love for me is, “The Power of the Blood Covenant,” by Malcolm Smith. It’s a must read for all Christians. selah.

    • That’s what its about God given you a new heart, and the Holy Spirit directing your path. In Matthew 23:26, it talks about cleaning our heart, instead of just making ourselves look good on the outside without a heart transformation. That is what true repentance is. That is awesome to hear that your life is changed. I know you said legalism crushed you, and it will crush you, but hopefully as mentioned in the article you see their is a difference between legalism and following what God says in the Bible. Legalism is man made laws, but obedience is following after precepts that God showed in the Bible that will bring life. In 1 Cor. 10:23 it says I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.” May God Bless you as you seek Him.