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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


Legalism is the upholding of a non-Biblical tradition. Notice the only ones that Jesus really blasted in the Scriptures were the legalizers. If He handled them that way, isn't it obvious how we should handle the concept of legalism?

I don't think it is. I think Legalism is trying to acquire favour/approval/progress by 'doing things'. In fact the most 'biblical' form of 'legalism' is an upholdin of 'biblical traditions' with the wrong motivation. Do we do things in order to acquire favour etc, or is it because we have received 'favour' that we 'do things'? Do we do things to acquire 'grace' or do we do things because we have received 'grace'; that is the real issue.

Ron Bailey

 2005/8/19 7:29Profile

 Re: Legalism

I'm struggling with this a bit; I recognise I am justified by faith, so are my efforts to remain obediant Legalistic? Temptation is inevitable, so
I ask
Are we holding hands with Satan when we are being Legalistic?, or are we just walking with extra caution?

Two verses which help me keep a perspective on the risk of failure to 'be perfect' in my own strength are these.

The first ties in directly with the Galatian church's temptation to return to law-keeping, to complete their salvation. It picks up on your statement 'justified by faith' with one further important word which is implicit in 'being' justified by faith. This is Romans 1:17. (Verse 16 gives context. It also ties in with philologos's exposition of 'by grace, through faith'.)

Romans 1
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who [u]believes[/u], for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall [u]live[/u] by faith."

The second verse I offer deals with our failures at keeping the law of Christ. To combat condemnation from our failures, this should become a [i][b]believer's[/b] modus operandus[/i]. (Please correct my attempt at Latin if it's wrong. Just trying to communicate an idea.)

1 John 1:7
But [b]if[/b] we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and [u]the blood of Jesus Christ His Son[/u] [u]cleans[b]es[/b] us from all sin[/u].

 2005/8/19 7:42

Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4803


Sister GrannieAnnie wrote:

When "flesh" is mentioned so many times in the N.T., it is not always talking only about blatant 'sin', but 'any' deed that did not originate from the Holy Spirit and carried out IN Him. Flesh is just "us".

I know that you hear His voice. Many do not understand that the absence of His voice leaves us with no hope of pleasing Him. Many will twist precepts like faith and grace in a way that sounds right but in reality there is no understanding. Many mistake His mercy for grace. Many mistake the reason for grace. Grace from God gives us understanding. Understanding brings us to faith. Hearing His promises and then experiencing His faithfulness creates trusting children. Faith comes only by hearing the word of God. The source of faith is rooted in His voice.

In Christ

Jeff Marshalek

 2005/8/19 14:54Profile

Joined: 2004/10/13
Posts: 2132

 Re: Question

I know that grace is free. By grace I understand it to be the power of God given freely to do His Wll or His Word. However it seems as though at certain times it almost takes a legalistic approach in our daily life discipline to break though to grace. Does that make sense? Say like fastings, it seems that fasting with prayer has extra special effects in our lives, almost as if God favors you more during these intense times of consecration. So how do I balance this whole issue in my literal walk ?


 2005/8/19 17:39Profile

Joined: 2005/7/20
Posts: 671
Los Angeles, California



I totally understand where you are coming from. As, a stated in my earlier post I think it is an issue of motive. If your motive is from an undying, all consuming and overwhelming love for the lover and Savior of your soul Jesus Christ - it is obedience. If you are trying to get heaven or trying to please out of some humanistic, legalistic, fleshy desire to be or look like "a good christian" - it is legalism. This the way I see it. Remember Saul of Tarsus was meticulously legalistic, but the Apostle Paul was lovingly obedient. I hope this makes sense. Let me know if otherwise.

Patrick Ersig

 2005/8/19 21:40Profile

 Re: legalism question

To brother dohzman,

The Lord has put these few things on my heart to share. I'm not going to try to put them together in an explanatory way, as I believe the Holy Spirit will do a better job without my help.


John 1 (Young)
14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, [u]full[/u] of grace and truth.
15 John doth testify concerning him, and hath cried, saying, `This was he of whom I said, He who after me is coming, hath come before me, for he was before me;'
16 and out of his fulness did we all receive, and grace over-against grace;
17 for [b]the law[/b] through Moses was given, [b]the grace[/b] and [b]the truth[/b] through Jesus Christ did come;

Deuteronomy 33 (KJV)
27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath [i]are[/i] the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy.

Isaiah 49:16
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

[b]The Mount of Transfiguration, the valley afterwards[/b].

Matthew 17 (Young)
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, and James, and John his brother, and doth bring them up to a high mount by themselves,
2 and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his garments did become white as the light,
3 and lo, appear to them did Moses and Elijah, talking together with him.
4 And Peter answering said to Jesus, `Sir, it is good to us to be here; if thou wilt, we may make here three booths --for thee one, and for Moses one, and one for Elijah.' [KJV booths = tabernacles]
5 While he is yet speaking, lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying, `This is My Son, --the Beloved, in whom I did delight; hear him.'
6 And the disciples having heard, did fall upon their face, and were exceedingly afraid,
7 and Jesus having come near, touched them, and said, `Rise, be not afraid,'
8 and having lifted up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus only.
9 And as they are coming down from the mount, Jesus charged them, saying, `Say to no one the vision, till the Son of Man out of the dead may rise.'
10 And his disciples questioned him, saying, `Why then do the scribes say that Elijah it behoveth to come first?'
11 And Jesus answering said to them, `Elijah doth indeed come first, and shall restore all things,
12 and I say to you--Elijah did already come, and they did not know him, but did with him whatever they would, so also the Son of Man is about to suffer by them.'
13 Then understood the disciples that concerning John the Baptist he spake to them.
14 And when they came unto the multitude, there came to him a man, kneeling down to him,
15 and saying, `Sir, deal kindly with my son, for he is lunatic, and doth suffer miserably, for often he doth fall into the fire, and often into the water,
16 and I brought him near to thy disciples, and they were not able to heal him.'
17 And Jesus answering said, `O generation, unstedfast and perverse, till when shall I be with you? till when shall I bear you? bring him to me hither;'
18 and Jesus rebuked him, and the demon went out of him, and the lad was healed from that hour.
19 Then the disciples having come to Jesus by himself, said, `Wherefore were we not able to cast him out?'
20 And Jesus said to them, `Through your want of faith; for verily I say to you, if ye may have faith as a grain of mustard, ye shall say to this mount, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you,
21 and this kind doth not go forth except in prayer and fasting.'

Ephesians 6
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

 2005/8/19 22:28

Joined: 2005/2/3
Posts: 56
Dallas, Texas


Legalism is what I do when I get up off my knees before God and start questioning His word. It seems like when I get up off my knees before God I get restless and then out of boredom the world appeals to me but I know it shouldn't. Out of what could only be me trying to justify my current state I then decide to start questioning whether He was in my good deeds to begin with or if it was just me doing it. Then I start doing legalistic things in the flesh until I'm back again on my face before God. It's self-righteous behavior due to lack of faith and prayer to God. If I'm not having a relationship with God then I'm going to be self-righteous by default and tossed about like a wave in the ocean, double minded, legalistic etc...

 2005/8/19 23:47Profile

Joined: 2005/8/9
Posts: 61

 Re: Legalism

Hi Everyone,

I’m new here and this is only my second post (my first being on the Intro. thread), but I’d like to weigh in on the issue of legalism, if I may. By the way, I’ve been totally blessed by a lot of the stuff that I’ve read on this forum. There truly is much wisdom coming forth here.

I believe that most of the modern church has no idea what legalism truly is. I have been in churches where any effort to live and preach repentance and obedience was construed to be legalism. However, probably, the most common idea of legalism is that it is an effort to earn one’s salvation by works, instead of by merely believing in the finished work of Christ. While this does portray an aspect of legalism, it does not get to the real heart of the matter. For true legalism goes much deeper than this, and it is a far more common defect within our modern, western brand of Christianity than I think most realize. Please allow me to explain.

You see, God has two ways by which He governs His moral creatures such as man, one is called legal and the other is called gospel. Now legal is the method that God must use to govern those who choose to be self-centered (selfish). This is the rule of law. This type of government is based on the enforcement of two principles: 1) Reward – if you obey. And, 2) Punishment - if you disobey. This is the only way to control selfish people outside of using physical force: you must appeal to their selfishness. Legal control appeals to selfish wills by means of the use of hope and fear or what we could call threats and bribes.

This was the way of the Old Testament. It operated by the external moral force of rewards and punishments—you will be blessed if you obey and cursed if you don’t (Deut. 11:26-28). This is also the way that human governments operate; they have a system of reward and punishment as their basis of control, with some governments emphasizing the reward aspect (if you obey you will have prosperity and a good life - bribe) and others the punishment (if you don’t obey we will make your life miserable - threat). And of course, some use both. Now this legal type of government is not wrong in itself; it is merely the necessary means of ruling selfish people. God gave Israel good laws that if obeyed would result in a just society, but because they were a selfish people, He had to give them a legal form of government (and religion).

However, today our problem is that much of what is presented as gospel is in reality nothing more than legal religion. It’s what Winkie Pratney calls, “Santa Claus and Frankenstein evangelism.” Santa Claus evangelism presents the reward side of Christianity: “How many of you want happiness, peace, and joy in your life? Who wants to go to heaven? Who wants to prosper and be blessed? Then come to Jesus!” While Frankenstein evangelism presents the punishment side: “Some of you are going to die, I knew a man who didn’t tithe and the roof fell on him. If he would have tithed, perhaps we could have bought a pole to hold up the roof and he would still be alive. Awful things happen to those who don’t tithe. We will now take up the collection.”

Now some evangelists use both methods in an effort to threaten and bribe people into the Kingdom, but the result is one and the same: an appeal to selfish human nature to use God as the means of attaining one’s own happiness. For the root of legalism is nothing less than this: an attempt to serve God from a motivation of fear of punishment and/or hope of reward. And I’m afraid that this is what motivates a great chunk of those who claim to be Christians today, at least in America. Turn on the television or radio and this is all you hear preached!

But the gospel is radically different from this. Within it, God provides a way of ruling man without the means of legal motives. This is because the gospel is conditioned upon a person giving up their selfishness. Under the gospel, the individual is no longer motivated by the selfish desire to promote its own happiness; instead, its motivation now is to live for the glory of God! The basis of the gospel is a complete surrender of one’s self to God because of a revelation of His awesome nature and character as revealed through His Son Jesus Christ.

Just as legal government is based upon the two motivations of reward and punishment, so the gospel is based upon two motivations--love and trust. It is to love and serve God for who He is, not for what He can do for you. It is to see God for who He is and to see ourselves for who we really are, and out of that, to turn ourselves over to Him to be ruled by Him because we love and trust Him. That’s the gospel!

Every person is either under a legal or a gospel form of government. Consider two children, one obeys because he loves his father and trust him. While the other only obeys because he is afraid of what will happen to him if he doesn’t. Both say and do the exact same things, but each from two totally different motives. One is from a gospel motivation, and the other is legal.

Much of the American church is legal, not gospel. Most “Christians” do not really love and trust God; they are merely “Christians” because they hope to make heaven and miss hell. I wonder how many would continue to “serve” God if they knew that hell was to be their lot regardless. Here’s a good test to see if you are serving God from a legal basis: What if God were to speak to you tonight and say something like this, “In my infinite wisdom, I have deemed it best that you go to hell.” Would you still love and serve Him? Would you trust Him enough to even go to hell for Him if He decided that would be how you could best bring Him glory? You see, we have not stepped over from legal unto gospel until the issue of our eternal destiny is not a factor in why we serve God. David prayed, “Do with me as seems good unto thee” (2 Sam 15:26). That’s the gospel: a total, unreserved surrender of all that we are to God, because we love and trust Him; regardless of what’s in it for us personally.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but I consider the subject of legalism to be one of the most important, yet least understood matters of our generation. Everything concerning our relationship with God hinges on this matter of our motivation for seeking and serving God—is it from a legal base of hope and fear, or is it from a gospel base of love and trust. May God raise up an army of “Paris Reidheads” who will proclaim the difference between the real gospel and merely serving God for “ten shekels and a shirt.”

Billy Evans

 2005/8/20 2:23Profile

Joined: 2005/7/20
Posts: 671
Los Angeles, California



You are right on my brother. You hit the nail on the head! This is exactly what I was trying to say but brother Billy7 put it way better than I did.

Thanks Billy7. If you want to know the difference between legalism and obedience - read the post by Billy7!

Patrick Ersig

 2005/8/20 2:51Profile

Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4803


Sister GrannieAnnie wrote:

When "flesh" is mentioned so many times in the N.T., it is not always talking only about blatant 'sin', but 'any' deed that did not originate from the Holy Spirit and carried out IN Him. Flesh is just "us".

In Chapter 7 of Romans Paul teaches about the flesh. He teaches about the inability of man to please God according to the nature of the flesh. Listen to what he identifies as the real nature of the problem.

Romans 7:

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

In this verse he first identifies that there is nothing good according to the flesh. We are all born under the same conditions are we not?

The next point that he makes is that; "for to will is present with me." Paul is stating that he desires to do good. His desire is to please God. Yet what is the nature of the problem that he identifies as the source of all his anguish?

In the last part of the verse he states,"but how to perform what is good I do not find." Here is the problem for all who seek to please God according to the ways of the flesh. The carnal mind cannot please God. The carnal mind does not know how to do the will of God. The man who relies on his own thoughts will always fall short of the will of God. Listen to the anguish that Paul has experienced in his life.

24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul has experienced what life is like when one seeks to obey the law which is spiritual, yet he has come to understand that without the Holy Spirit, he is wretched. He has become a spiritually led man. He once was carnal. Now he sees the futility of his efforts everytime he submits to his flesh and not the Spirit.

Anytime we like Paul submit to the ways of the flesh, it becomes the work of the flesh. We seek to establish our own righteousness just like the religious people of old.

Rom. 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

What is Paul's evaluation of those of his time? They seek to do the will of God with zeal. Yet they are "ignorant of God's righteousness." Here Paul teaches that they do not know the things of the Spirit. What does Paul say about those who work according to their flesh? They are, "seeking to establish their own righteousness." Yet Paul also states that they, "have not submitted to the righteousness of God."

This section of Scripture teaches the same thing that Romans chapter 7 teaches. The carnal mind is ignorant of God's righteousness. Yet, they were guilty of not submitting to God's righteousness. Now listen to Paul's solution to man's predicament.

Romans 8:

4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The only way we can please God is by listening to our Counselor. Only the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God. Only the Holy Spirit can cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Only the Holy Spirit can give you the "mind of Christ."

All those who submit to the ways of righteousness have "access into all grace through Christ" by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we do not wait for the Holy Spirit's leading and work according to what we imagine God wants us to do, we are like Abraham and Sarah working out the details of bring forth a son "Esau" according to the ways of the flesh.

Do you see that God has given us only one way that we can please Him? Do you hear what Scripture teaches?

In Christ

Jeff Marshalek

 2005/8/22 11:49Profile

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