Legalism is a two-headed, fire breathing monster. Christians get devoured by this beast on a regular basis. Not just individuals, but entire churches. How do we go about lopping off these ugly heads?
What is Legalism?
Legalism, as I understand it, can be defined two ways:
1. By adding to the Law of God (see Deut. 12:32, Matt. 15:1-9).
2. By thinking we can justify ourselves by keeping God’s Law (see Rom. 3:19-20).
The first person doesn’t think that God’s Law is holy enough, so he adds to it. The second person thinks God’s Law is less holy than it is, and so he thinks he can keep it in his sinful condition. In each of these scenarios, both people have one thing in common: a low view of the Law of God.
A High View of the Law
When Christians have a high view of God’s Law, it breaks the spine of legalism in both forms. The man who sees God’s Law rightly won’t try to add or subtract anything, but rather will declare with David the perfections of God’s Word (see Psalm 19). The second person, when he sees the Law aright, realizes how far he actually falls from keeping it. A high view of the Law shows this man his sin, and leads him to Christ for forgiveness and redemption. A low view of the Law leads to a low view of sin; a low view of sin leads to a low view of our Savior.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners,
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither;
and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.