A Legalistic society in a Lost and Dying World


There is a term I hear occasionally from a few people that claim to be saved and others that say they are preacher’s of the Gospel. That term is legalism. It is often used to deride those that teach and preach the full counsel of God. May I be more specific at the risk of offending some that have sensitive feelings? (Even though these same people would not give a second thought to loudly and demonstratively make their declarations without any thought to the feelings of some one else.) May I inject an aside here – Is it not amazing that these people, with authority and finality, will make a statement that they have not researched and have absolutely no scripture to support what they say and then expect you accept that statement at face value then refuse to discuss it further? To be specific about this term legalism that is bandied about so loosely: There are those that object to the declaration that lifestyle defines us as Christians. They would also object to the statement that we wear our best to the house of the Lord on the Lord’s day to worship Him. These they would say are not Biblical and therefore not to be practiced. There are many more objections to various things preached and taught.

I have an answer for the specific claims made in the above paragraph. I do believe we can agree that it is natural for a sinner to sin. A lost person is a sinner and that is their lifestyle and they can do nothing except sin. It should also be natural that a person that has been born again and Jesus has come and made his abode with him and the Holy Spirit indwells and seals them to the day of redemption would desire to become more like the Savior.

Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Salvation is an inward change that expresses an outward manifestation. Paul expresses a dilemma over this very situation when he declares –

Rom 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

Paul uses the term – I do. This term refers to the physical part. He was very much aware that the inward change had already taken place and now he was to “work out his salvation in fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12. This is his expression of a lifestyle change so dramatic that others would notice. Why were they first call “Christians” at Antioch? Because the outward or physical, their practice in personal life and business was so different from the others it was noticed.

It is deceptive to take a term an change it’s meaning to suit what we want. Should I take the term of salvation and change the meaning to anything besides the New Birth, I would be confusing and deceptive. Matt. 19:16 records a ruler that came to Jesus and asked, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have everlasting life?” This is legalism. Legalism is trying to attain heaven by keeping the law, or performing a good work. It would be the same as saying you may be saved by being baptized or joining the church or being good and having your good works outweigh your bad works. You and I know that salvation is a gift of God and cannot be attained by good works. Legalism has everything to do about salvation.

Act 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

These men form Judea were teaching legalism. Salvation by the law is legalism.

So why would some misuse, redefine and abuse the meaning of the word? I can only surmise several reasons. One is, they are ignorant of the meaning of the word and have been taught that expecting a person that has been gloriously saved by the grace of God to change their life and be transformed in character and lifestyle and to conform to the image of Christ is not to be expected.

Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul wraps it up here. We are to be spiritual. (Oh yes, what about how we dress. Give of your best to the master. If you will be diligent and open hearted in your study of God’s Word, you will find we dress to please Him, not self.)

Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Here we have the desires of the flesh entering into our conversation. This another reason to change the meaning of legalism.

Preacher’s having a desire to grow their congregation want to loosen things up so that worldly people feel comfortable. The come as you are crowd, the no church discipline crowd do not want to offend any one and therefore they have to change the meaning.

One last note: why would anyone desire to pull down someone that is living a Christ honoring life? Could it be jealousy? Could it be that one that feels the tug of sanctification and being set apart and are trying to live that separated life through the” renewing of the mind” brings conviction to the wanton living saved person? Why destroy a righteous living child of God.

One last last note: There are those that want to spiritualize what a Christian is. To that intent, they say the Bible does not really say what it says. You cannot take the pronouncements of God literally. Welllllll – Moses did, Abraham did, Jacob did, Paul and Silas did, Peter did, therefore I will.

Nuf said.


Filed under Commentary

3 responses to “A Legalistic society in a Lost and Dying World

  1. Hope

    The Bible does not in obvious fashion speak of “all aspects” of life — but to know Jesus as your personal savior you will know how to act, how to answer, how to dress, how to live! Would you say that is a correct statement?


    • The Bible makes some very clear statements about life. There are principles that are enumerated and from these we know how to conduct our life. Take for instance – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Not very specific but it carries one to the proper actions based upon how you would feel if lied to, stolen from, or hit. What leads us astray is the desire of the flesh and wanting to be a part of a group where we don’t stand out and draw attention to ourselves. That then allows us to do several things that would normally not be christian actions. Now – did I talk all the way around your question and not answer it?


  2. Is it not amazing that these people, with authority and finality, will make a statement that they have not researched and have absolutely no scripture to support what they say and then expect you accept that statement at face value then refuse to discuss it further?

    I am glad that I am not the only one that can see this.

    The doctrine being preached ” the Lordship of Jesus” is legalism, and salvation by works.


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