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!
Great stuff, brother. Awesome. I was just heading to my site to post this sermon to my archive when I saw your post. If you don’t mind, I will share the link here, too. God bless, and keep up the fight – legalism kills.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Please share here as much as you like!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Excellent truths brother!
Your message here reminds me of posts I’ve made, because we have a similar journey, and can’t forget the damage that legalism has done to us in the past.
Keep preaching this brother!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From your friend Lee, who’s the righteousness of God.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Lee, I appreciate your work as well. Keeping the faith!
LikeLiked by 1 person
[…] Click here to go to his blogsite. […]
You know the hardest part is being robbed of 10 years of life I could have experienced. When I say life I mean everyday things like going to the movies or wearing pants on a beautiful morning hike. From my own personal experience, I grew up in a small country church with really the sweetest Pentecostal people I ever met and still to this day I would say that. Grant it there was legalism, but it was not presented to me in an abusive narcissistic way. Some people came to church with different views, but all were kind to each other. It was when I married my husband and started attending a massive UPC church that I really seen pure nastiness in the way people were treated.The gossiping about sister so and so skirt length. The don’t sing on the pulpit if you are not wearing pantyhose. The demanding my boyfriend, now husband, at the time to contribute MORE time to church activities without asking him. Watching my friends want to be ministers and being told its not their time (10 years later in the same place). Going back to visit and immediately being prayed for as if we were the most awful people. For me, this way of life was unknown. I grew up under an apostolic preacher. My grandfather and grandmother was one as well. Yes, he raised me in skirts, but I was able to trim my hair and wear jewelry. He was not as strict as others. To this day, I respect my parents for the way I was raised, as it did mold my character. I say this because I was raised in a legalistic manner, but my parents never attacked anyone with it and was truly kind hearted to many bad off people. They taught me how to truly love an individual. My father preached in baptist, trinity and other denominational churches. Not to convinced them to turn, but because he had other minister friends that he fellow shipped with regardless of religion. In fact, towards my fathers final days he would say he just loved God as to not wanting to be attached to a religion. I have seen a side of this where people truly love God and believe what they believe. I have also seen the narcissistic craziness side of it as well. That side is what truly caused me to see the anger and abuse. I was never so disturbed as to when I visited a UPC church. I found myself having anxiety attacks right before walking in the door. One may say you did not find yourself robbed growing up, and honestly, I did not. I only knew the loving example set before me. I started to feel robbed when I started attending a UPC church. I always felt like I was less of a person and never good enough to sit in the pew. The day my husband said research it, was the day I began my journey. My mom remains Pentecostal and not once has she condemned my way of life. She loves me and even listens to my thoughts. I give her the same respect as well. However, when I run into people from the UPC church, I feel the judgmental thoughts. Like I said before the difference is LOVE.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow @Heather, that is so good! LOVE. That is what we are supposed to offer people and legalism robs us of LOVE.
Thank you so much for sharing this story! You had/have amazing parents and it reminds me so much of my mother before she passed. She never judged a single soul, she just loved Jesus and loved people.
Blessings on your journey!
There are definitely people who believe they are doing the right thing through legalism. The brunt of legalusm, unfortunately, often is felt by women.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You are correct Heidi, and even within my old church they openly admitted to that, but carried it as a source of pride.
Thank you so much for writing this article I very much needed to read this.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am new to this site and I am so appreciative for your posts. Your willingness to share past hurts and experiences has brought a lot of healing and insight! The LORD bless you brother!
Hey! My neighbors are some type of Oneness Pentecostal- I’m curious about what led you to the truth? My husband has given Bible verses to back up what he is telling him about the gospel, but our neighbor just says that those verses aren’t the true Scriptures. Apparently, they have hacked out quite a bit😐
How did God get your attention? They are sweet people but are trusting in themselves, not what Christ has done.😞
LikeLiked by 1 person
@Linz Thank you for taking the time to comment.
My conversion out of the false religion known as Oneness Pentecostalism was a multi-year process of God making it stink to me. I can remember three events clearly that led up to the culmination of realizing the error.
The first was during a Sunday school bus trip. We picked up two beautiful little kids, a brother, and a sister. The older sister as she boarded the Sunday school bus, had toes sticking out of her little shoes. I felt so bad that after the bus dropped them off I ran to a shoe store, bought her some shoes, and asked the Sunday school teacher to put them on her. That night before our Sunday night service, I started to reflect on the 13 years I had been in this church. I gave them tens of thousands of dollars a year in tithes and offerings, love offerings, building fund offerings, benevolence offerings, evangelist offerings, missionary offerings. Yet through all that, we didn’t have a single food service, clothing bin, homeless outreach, nada. We did nothing to serve the community. But I remember the million dollar homes the pastors lived in. (James 1:27, Ezekiel 34)
The second occasion that got my attention was in a prayer service. It was expected to pray for 30 minutes before every church service, called pre-service prayer. Most of the men would kneel at the altar pounding on it, praying loudly. Or we would walk around the sanctuary moaning and speaking in tongues. We would even be chastised by the pastor if we weren’t praying loud enough. On prayer service I was walking around praying loudly, as was normal, and in the midst of my prayer, I remember saying, “oooooh Goddddddd, i want to hear the small still voice!…” And I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks, silenced, and I seemed to hear, or feel the answer, “If you would be quiet, you could.” (Matthew 23:5)
My final experience was with speaking in tongues. This is a requirement among Oneness Pentecostals, in that they believe speaking in tongues is a sign of the spirit, if you don’t speak in tongues you have not the Spirit of Christ, and are not a true believer, and moreso that you should speak in tongues daily or all the time. I remember really starting to see the error of this as it was never explained in Scripture that this was the case. In fact, Paul condemned the act of the whole church speaking in tongues at once – but constantly we would hear preachers say, “Come on church, it’s tongue talking time!” and everyone would just start speaking in tongues, completely ignoring Scripture. I found myself unable to pray and I would kneel in my pew and ask God to tell me if this was real or not. Service after service my prayers were hindered and instead, I was made to just listen. And then something amazing happened. I started listening to all these tongue talkers and they all sounded the same and were simply repeating nonsensical syllables. I can still repeat most of them. They would say, “Oh Jeeeeeeesus… eyandadadadadadaaadadadadadada.” or something similar.
Through those events, I realized, even after I had graduated from an Oneness Pentecostal Bible College with a 4.0GPA – that most of the things they taught were absolutely incorrect, abhorrent, against scripture itself. I remember reading Jesus telling the the people, “When you pray, don’t be like the Pharisees who pray out loud, on the streets and in the synagogues to be seen of men.”, and then the pastor would teach that if he couldn’t hear us pray, we weren’t praying and we needed to get loud and make a noise. They were literally teaching the opposite of Scripture.
Through those events, God opened me up to realize it was all error, and was not the Jesus of Scriptures. I eventually made my way out, studied the Scripture from a blank slate, found the Father of Grace, and have never looked back.