Posted On: September 18, 2014 • Author: Pastor David Bousquet • Category: Articles
Recently I had a discussion with a man who was expressing his concern for those who are becoming involved in various forms of legalism. In order to address this one must first develop a proper understanding of legalism. Legalism is not the same as having standards or “rules” that govern the manner of one’s life. Those standards, convictions, and rules are more properly defined as personal expressions of holiness. Notice they are personal, they are not corporate. That is not to say that convictions and standards are not shared corporately, but that they are determined by the individual. Legalism, however, is an attempt to merit favor with God through obedience to rules and laws, as a way to Him. In addition, legalism is judging the maturity of another by one’s own standards or convictions. Now some convictions should be shared, but how some express those convictions (standards) is personal. This is what is meant by Paul’s numerous teachings about having liberty, but not using our liberty to cause another to stumble.
Legalism negates the need for grace, while trapping the individual in a system of self righteousness which will only add to the distance between the individual and God. Legalism emphasizes how I can be good enough, while ignoring that I can never be good enough. It emphasizes outward appearance of holiness without revealing the inward need for God’s holiness. It says “Don’t lie!”, but ignores that without the Holy Spirit one can not know the truth. Legalism forces the individual to focus on his worth instead of his worthlessness. Legalism is a man made religion which enslaves, Christianity is a God made religion which frees. Grace is the answer.
Grace begins with the premise that the individual can not achieve the holiness of God apart from God’s direct intervention. Thus, legalism and Grace are at odds with each other. Grace declares that God’s mercy functions with God’s holiness enabling Him to be gracious and forgive. Thus Grace, through Christ’s sacrifice, breaks the work of self righteousness and opens the door of the heart to the life giving righteousness of Christ. Romans 8:3 reveals that the substance of Grace is found in the victory of Christ over sin throughout His earthly life. Christ subjected Himself to continual temptation on earth, so that He could victoriously obey the Law and thus provide grace to all who would submit to Him. The simple truth is we can never be good enough, Christ was victorious, and now our need for Grace is fulfilled in Him.