Legalism

legalismThis is NOT written about UBF. This is from Tough Topics by Sam Storms on legalism, which is related to my previous post: Galatians Set Me Free From Legalism.

You didn’t do what I want! “Legalism is the tendency to regard as divine law things that God has neither required nor forbidden in Scripture, and the corresponding inclination to look with suspicion on others for their failure or refusal to conform.”

Become my slave. “There are professing Christians, who are determined to bring you under their religious thumb. They are bent on making you a slave of their conscience. They have built a tidy religious box…and they strive to stuff you inside and make you conform to its dimensions. They are legalists, and their tools are guilt, fear, intimidation, and self-righteousness. They proclaim God’s unconditional love for you, but insist on certain conditions before including you among the accepted, approved elite of God’s favored few.”

Conform and be controlled. “I’m not talking about people who insist that you obey certain laws or moral rules in order to be saved. Such people aren’t legalists. They are lost! They are easily identified and rebuffed. I’m talking about Christian legalists whose goal is to enforce conformity among other Christians in accordance with their personal preferences. They are lifestyle legalists. They heap condemnation and contempt of your head so that your life is controlled and energized by fear rather than freedom and joy and delight in God.”

Legalists NEVER think they are legalists. “Rarely would these folk ever admit to any of this. They don’t perceive or portray themselves as legalists. If they are reading this, they are convinced I’m talking about someone else. They’d never introduce themselves: ‘Hi, My name is Abraham (or Isaac or Jacob, etc). I’m a legalist and my goal is to steal your joy and keep you in bondage to my religious prejudices. Can I tell you all the things you’re doing wrong?’”

Please live in fear. “Some of you are either legalists or more likely victims of legalism. You live in fear of doing something that another Christian considers unholy, even though the Bible is silent on the subject. You are terrified of incurring others’ disapproval, disdain, and ultimate rejection. Worse still, you fear God’s rejection for violating religious traditions or cultural norms that have no basis in Scripture but are prized by legalists. You have been duped into believing that the slightest misstep or mistake will bring down God’s disapproval and disgust.”

Do you feel light or heavy? “When you are around other Christians, whether in church or before your leader(s):

  • Do you feel free?
  • Does your spirit feel relaxed or oppressed?
  • Do you sense their acceptance or condemnation?
  • Do you feel judged, inadequate, inferior, guilty, immature, all because of your perceived failure to conform to what someone else regards as ‘holy’?

Jesus wants to set you free from such bondage! As Paul said, ‘you were called to freedom!’”

Are you free in Christ, or are you living in fear as a victim of legalism?

2 comments

  1. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    1 Cor 7:23

  2. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Tough topics and tough answers. For one, the writing seems to be directed at individuals, calling to “You” and “I.” That’s fine. But as mentioned above, such people may not realize that they are legalists or are victims of legalism. Tackling these tough topics would be better exercised as a group, asking, “Are ‘we’ doing such and such?” for example.

    Since both sides may not be easily perceived or acknowledged, then it will be tough to get honest answers. Take rule #1 on how to become a legalist. The legalist may use scripture to make their rules and believe that they are 100% inside the Bible, although their rules are being made outside of the Bible. Then people may not understand their feelings and thoughts honestly.