Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's Wrong With Legalism?

July 14, 2010

The problem in "legalism" is not that laws are being kept from the wrong motivation. Every legalist & legalistic system says you're supposed to keep the laws "from the heart" or "out of love". The problem in legalism is that it says we cannot be accepted by God or even make Him happy unless we keep certain laws.

The only antidote is God's grace. Until we can see that our acceptance with God and pleasingness to Him is not based on any kind of law-keeping, we won't be free from legalism, nor will we have rest for our souls. Trying to obey laws "from the heart" or "out of love" is simply trying to make yourself a new heart (the new heart is God's job, not ours).


The deep truth underneath it all is that we're afraid of what will happen if we don't obey those laws. Someone says "God's grace" instead of laws, and we know we need to agree with that, so we quickly say, "Yeah, yeah", but we also decide that whatever "grace" means, the end result of it is that we're going to keep those laws (that grace will help us do it, etc.). The final point is still "the law", because of the terrible fear of what happens if you don't keep it.

This misses grace almost entirely, and above all it misses rest for your soul. It uses grace as a means to keeping laws, in contrast to what the Bible said: the law was meant to lead us to faith (in God's grace), and after faith has come we are no longer under the law. We're still afraid of punishment because we looked at perfect love as a means rather than as an ends. As a result the perfect love of God's grace could only do so much in us; it couldn't cast out all our fears and give us rest.

God gave us perfect love by sending His Son to die for our sins and free us from both the law and the fear of punishment. Jesus died for us long before any of us ever sinned or kept a law, long before any of us were even born. No matter whether you end up believing in Him and being saved or not, God thought you were worth the price of His Son's blood. In other words, completely apart from the law, in His Son's death God has loved you, accepted you, and wanted you.

Yes, He's going to clean you up and make you a better person. But that's not why He loved you, and that's not why He wants to be with you forever (think about it: He's already surrounded by sinless angels). He doesn't accept you because of the new heart He gives you. Instead He gives you a new heart because He has already accepted and loved you. You make Him happy not because of what you do but because of who you are. Not only does He love you, but He even likes you so much that He wants to spend eternity with you!

Gently Broken

"Legalism" is not just "emphasizing the law too much". Legalism is emphasizing the law period, in any degree! Legalism is thinking (erroneously) that your status before God is based on your commandment-keeping. Legalism is trying to make Him happy by keeping a commandment. Legalism is simply not knowing how enraptured and head-over-heels in love God is with you. Legalism is not knowing that He accepts you because of who you are instead of what you do.


  • At July 25, 2010 12:44 PM, Anonymous Darrell Baudoin said…

    Am I a legalist if I choose to obey the moral law because of the love I have for God?

    “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37

    The Commandments are not only to be kept, but to be exceeded. Only through Christ and what He did for us at the cross can this be accomplished.

    Is His grace a license to sin? Whoever has a problem with God’s commandments should remember this:

    The law is not for the righteous but for the unrighteous! If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, this is not even an issue.

    I'm telling you this because I love my neighbor as myself: Matthew 22:39 says, - A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

    For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Romans 2:13

    What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Romans 6:15

    All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3 The finger of Our Savior burned those letters into stone.

    He says, "I'm the Lord, I change not.

    And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Luke 16:17

    My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Psalm 89:34

    On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:22-23

    This comment is not meant to anger but to enrich.

    With the love of Christ,

    Darrell Baudoin

  • At July 25, 2010 12:58 PM, Anonymous Ramone said…

    Hi Darrell,

    I hope you don't mind me moving your comment here. Prologned debate isn't what the original post was for, and this area fits better, I think.

    Anyhow, you said: "Am I a legalist if I choose to obey the moral law because of the love I have for God?"

    And then you went on to share a bunch of prooftexts to back up having to keep "the law" (which at the bottom line really means "the Sabbath", doesn't it?).

    Friend, well, you're making a good case for being a legalist! If love can't simply be love, and you need to back it up with a lot of prooftexts, and then you go saying that a shadow of Christ (the Sabbath) is part of "the moral law", etc., well, you're demonstrating what I wrote above really well.

    Now think about it: The Muslim, the Jew, the Jehovah's Witness, the Mormon and the most Pharasaical of modern-day Pharisees will all say that they keep all the commmands that they do "because of the love I have for God."

    What is different in what you say from what they say? Please think about that for yourself.

    Everyone knows they should say "I do it because of 'love'" and if confronted, everyone will say the same thing. The bottom line is that everyone is simply afraid of what will happen if they don't keep ______ commandment. They don't know Father God. The basis of their acceptance or rejection with Him, they believe, is those commandments. They've tried to mask that underlying fear to others and to themselves with the word "love". I.e., they've tried to change their motivation from fear to love. But it still shows through.

    For myself, I'm resting in Christ. You can continue evangelizing Adventism and trying to convert Christians to the Sabbath (in the name of "the law"). But for people who have actually met Christ and been drenched in His Spirit, held in the arms of Daddy, Abba Father, you're simply not going to convert us back to the ministry of death engraved on tablets of stones. We've been brought from death to life, and the grave just doesn't look inviting anymore.

    Bless you in Jesus,


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