There is that word again! Legalism. Give it a rest will you? Nope. It’s just too important. Probably as important as Christian Liberalism – anything goes – no holds barred. But since I was freed from legalism, I write a lot about it. Being free of Legalism is being grounded in Grace.
What is important to know, about Legalism, and Liberalism (not talking politics here) is that it shuts the door of heaven to people who are trying to get in! It is literally a stumbling block to those who would sincerely desire to make heaven their home. I certainly know, that the people in the legalistic church I attended for 15 years had a sincere desire to make heaven their home and would do anything to believe they were going to make it. Anything.
“But woe (judgment is coming) to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are [in the process of] entering to do so. – Matthew 23:13
Pharisee’s and the Modern Legalists
Matthew 23 is a book to study long and hard if you want to get an understanding of legalism. Oh, and Galatians – do not forget about Galatians! But Matthew 23 goes straight for the jugular of the evil beast. Consider verse 13 above.
The legalist is literally shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people who desire to enter, and are in process of entering. What does this mean? It means that people who are seeking after God and salvation by faith (the right way) get ensnared by Satan, and his workers, who would tell that person they won’t ‘make it’ unless they perform unless they measure up, and unless they ‘do’ certain dogmatic sacraments.
Look – in the Oneness Pentecostal world, they teach and believe that they, and they alone are God’s people. That no other religious group will make it. Not you Baptists, not you Nazarenes, nor the Catholics, not the Lutherans, Episcopals, Unitarians, etc. Why?
You aren’t ‘doing’. You aren’t baptizing correctly, you aren’t speaking in tongues all the time, you aren’t dressing correctly, you are still wearing makeup and jewelry, getting tattoos, you aren’t following the Apostles Doctrine, you aren’t obeying the commands of the pastor – you simply aren’t doing enough to make it. Do, do, and do some more. All you need is Do. (Thank you Beetles!)
You are asking questions. You women have cut your hair and aren’t wearing dresses. You men are being men and leading your families without asking the pastor ‘permission’ where you move, what house you buy.
Legalism is the message of ‘do’. Do this to be saved, do that to be saved. Didn’t do this in the right order and formula? Sorry, you can’t be saved! You aren’t doing enough outreach, or working around the church, or giving enough money. You aren’t doing.
Let me ask this one simple question: Who does legalism benefit? (not what, who)
- Does legislating the behavior of believers and forcing dogmatic standards on believers make Christians or obedient followers of man’s rule?
- Does the Kingdom of God enlarge and grow stronger through controlling the behavior of believers or does it create more controversy, public shame, rebellion, bitterness and hate towards God?
- When loyalty to a man/woman is required to make it to Heaven, who benefits? God, His Kingdom, or the man?
Legalism is Satan’s Most Powerful Tool
In the beginning, if you believe it was Satan in the Garden of Eden that tempted Eve to disregard God’s warning, it was Liberalism that worked. Do as you please, God didn’t really set up any boundaries. In fact, you’ll be like God if you just ignore what He said and eat of that forbidden fruit anyway…
Now? Now it is Matthew 23 legalism that works. The Pharisees had a pretty good game going. They controlled the masses, and as Jesus spoke in Mark 7:7, has subjugated the people with man-made commandments that they taught to be God’s doctrines.
‘They worship Me in vain [their worship is meaningless and worthless, a pretense],
Teaching the precepts of men as doctrines [giving their traditions equal weight with the Scriptures].’
The reality is this – any tradition/standard that needed to be set, WAS set in Scripture. There is NO private (got a revelation in a back room) interpretation that allows men, either parishioners or pastors, to create extra-Biblical rules and doctrines. Any man who does so is adding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and according to Scripture, brings damnation upon themselves. This is equally true for someone who takes away from the demands of the Gospel.
So if your church teaches that you cannot make Heaven your home if you don’t obey doctrines they create, that you absolutely cannot find in Scripture, Satan is winning, and benefitting from your loss. The division legalism creates is a jackpot for Satan. The brethren split on dress standards ensures an easy victory for the enemy of your Soul.
If you see legalism, FLEE from it and run towards Grace! For it is by GRACE you are Saved, through FAITH alone. Not as a result of your WORKS, or attempt to keep Mans LAW. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Paul taught us, that if you attempt to justify yourself through the keeping of the Law, Old Testament or new man-made doctrines, you have fallen from Grace, and brother, sister, if Grace is what now saves us, and you have fallen from Grace, then Legalism causes people to be lost.
You have been severed from Christ, if you seek to be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] through the Law; you have fallen from grace [for you have lost your grasp on God’s unmerited favor and blessing]. – Galatians 5:4, AMP
The Grace of God is unmerited and unearned! You can’t earn it through good works and obedience to man-made laws, you can’t dress holy enough, clean the make-up off deep enough, avoid jewelry long enough, wear sleeves long enough…Faith is placing your trust in Jesus Christ and the blood He Shed, believing He took all the requirements of Sin for you. If you trust in that, through Faith, you have found His grace. That Gospel has come to you.
But if you build up pride that you did more than the next guy so God is going to bless you more – you’ve fallen from Grace – you’ve become a legalist. Recover yourself from this lie and tool of Satan, for it is at this point he [Satan] is winning and devouring your soul! Sin is a cankerworm, but the Word promised to restore what you lost to it. But legalism is the weapon of the enemy and if you pick up the wrong sword, it could cost you your soul!