The term “legalism” generally refers to the concern for form at the expense of substance. Although it is now used metaphorically in all areas of human life, it seems to have had a theological origin in the seventeenth century, when Edward Fisher used it to “designate someone who brings the law in the case of justification” (The Marrow of Modern Divinity, 1645). In biblical languages, there was no corresponding term. However, the idea can be found in both wills. What I see as the most tragic consequence of legalism is that churches and individuals do not fulfill God`s purpose. There is an external expression, but no inner change. Our hearts are not turned to God and His will for our lives. Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, says, “Legalism says that God will love us if we change. The gospel says that God will change us because He loves us. God will change our hearts and those of others. We cannot impose our rules and expect the heart to turn to God.
Well, this leads us to a meaning derived, I think, from legalism, which is perhaps even more common: it is the mind and life that flow from a failure to be humiliated, broken, amazed, and satisfied by God`s grace in Christ. There are all kinds of attitudes, right-wing – pride, demand, lack of mercy, lack of compassion, wickedness, impatience – and these have their roots, right, in a heart that is not stunned by grace, not broken and humiliated by grace, not joyfully filled with grace? This creates a legal spirit. Others say that legalism is when we set man-made rules. But there are many areas that are not specifically addressed in the Bible where we need certain rules to function as a family or a church. Parents are not legalistic when they set a curfew for their children. Churches are not legalistic if they follow certain procedures or practices. Question: Would the Pharisees be guilty of both the legalism of rules (explicitly shown in the Gospels) and the legalism of redemption (perhaps more implicit in the Gospels among the Pharisees, but more explicitly among the Galatian believers)? Second Temple Judaism was somewhat diverse, not monolithic. But would it be correct to say that all the different perspectives within Judaism had virtually the same definition of grace (that is, the gift of grace is given only to those who deserve it)? And that the Pharisees, although they believed in God`s grace, defined it quite differently from what a Christian would have (cf. Rom 4:4,5)? There is no such thing as “good legalism”. Good works spring from a heart that is redeemed by Christ. The works in which we walk are an act of the Holy Spirit in us (Ephesians 2:10). Faith without works is dead, but everything that is done without faith is also a sin.
Faith is a gift from God and true faith will produce good works. Denying our own efforts and turning to Christ for His righteousness is the only way. This second type of legalism can be exemplified by the Pharisees who confronted Jesus on the Sabbath for healing (Matthew 12:9-14). They were only concerned with the letter of the law and the avoidance of anything that might seem like work to them. These teachers missed the spirit of the law, which was directed against ordinary work, which is not necessary to sustain life, and not against efforts to heal the sick. Why would a person do that? Why are people so sensitive to the legalism of rules? Because it gives us the opportunity to feel better. Notice that whenever we add a rule to the Christian faith, it turns out that it is the rule we prefer and the rule we follow. And it allows us to be part of the “In” group and consider others as part of the “Out” group. So if you ask, “How can I make God be for me and not against me?” the legalistic answer is, “Observe the law. Apply the law. Well, that`s wrong, and the reason we call it legalism is because it`s abandoned. It is denounced in the New Testament. Romans 3:20: “For by the works of the law no man shall be justified in his eyes, for by the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:28: “For we maintain that one is justified by faith, outside the works of the law.” Galatians 2:16: “We know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
To better understand this issue, which we call legalism, we need to examine what legalism is and identify the three types of legalism that prevail today. Next, we need to look at what God`s Word says about this issue and how we can combat the effects of legalism in our churches and lives. Your description of “healthy legalism” reminds me of a comment by Sinclair Ferguson in his lectures (40 years ago?) on the Marrow controversy: “It is possible to have a gospel head, but a legal heart.” In short, legalism is a multidimensional phenomenon. And understanding the nuances of the term can help us have theological conversations and discussions. The next time a person says, “This is legalism,” you can start by asking them what definition they use. Basically, legalism consists in abstracting God`s law from its original context. Some people seem to be concerned about following the rules and regulations in the Christian life, and they understand Christianity as a set of do`s and don`ts, cold and deadly moral principles. It is a form of legalism that deals only with the maintenance of God`s law as an end in itself. If you study the life of Christ, it is remarkable how He intentionally did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people on any other day of the week, but he often did so on the Sabbath.
He could have more discreetly violated the rules of the Pharisees, but he did so openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, he could have followed their elaborate habit of washing his hands, but he deliberately ignored it. When they asked Him about it, He could have been more polite, but He accused them of their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out to them that Jesus had insulted them too, he didn`t say, “I`m sorry! I didn`t want to offend you, my dear people. He said, “Woe to you too, lawyers! Jesus faced legalism as a sin. Doctrinally, “legalism” refers to anything that requires human achievements, personal effort, or religious acts to be at peace with God for salvation or relationship with God. It is the opposite of grace. The opposite of faith. The opposite of the truth. Think of what happened when the apostle Paul went to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, when some of the Christians there demanded that Titus be circumcised.
Legalism is the belief that keeping the law now, after the Fall, is the reason for our dealing with God. I repeat: legalism is the belief that the observance of the law is the reason for our acceptance by God, the reason why God is for us and not against us. Author of Gotquestions.org defines legalism as “a term that Christians use to describe a doctrinal position that emphasizes a system of rules and governs the realization of salvation and spiritual growth.” Christians who adopt this way of thinking demand strict adherence to rules and regulations. It is a literal obedience to the law that Jesus fulfilled. Mark Ballenger writes, “The way to avoid legalism in Christianity is to have good deeds with good motivations, to obey God`s law out of relational love for Him.” To change the way we think, we need to ask ourselves the tough questions. What are our motivations? What does God say about this? Is this in accordance with God`s law? If we examine our hearts, we will all discover that legalism is our concern. No one is immune. Every day will be an opportunity to repent and turn away from our evil ways and thus shape our personal path of faith.
Legalism is a sensitive issue. As human beings, we don`t want to hear that we could be wrong. We don`t want others to question our motivations or beliefs. The truth is that legalism is part of our sinful nature. It is our minds that take responsibility if our hearts are to guide us with Christ. Chery, Fritz. Biblical reasons. N.A.
biblereasons.com/legalism/. This makes things a little trickier. If the Bible uses a word as love, you can go to a particular text and say, “What does love mean there?” But the Bible has no word for legalism, so we can`t go to a certain place and say, “There, it`s right there.” Many of us have encountered this kind of stubborn Christianity. If not, we have probably met someone who has experienced legalism or practices legalism in their own practices. Even Jesus met people who practiced this in His day, known as the Pharisees. In this article, we will examine the definition of legalism, examples in the Bible, and what this dangerous way of thinking looks like in a modern context. In Christianity, the term “legalism” refers to (1) the need for works for salvation, which is the opposite of sola fide – faith alone. (2) Emphasize a system of rules and regulations to achieve spiritual growth. This is derived from the legal system of commandments, ordinances, and regulations contained in the Mosaic Law. Then Jesus condemns the Pharisees for loving the front seats in synagogues and respectful greetings in markets.