So we looked at religion in our previous article and how religious institutions and organisations have been able to gain control over Gods people by establishing systems and practices as a way for them to have a relationship with God. Well legalism is about the adherence to such practices and recognising whether you are stuck in it is key. Across the world today legalistic messages are being preached saying that rules, regulations and other actions of holiness are necessary for God to love and accept us. It is not the true Gospel if it is being taught that God is angry with us if we fail to do these things.
Lets look at Ephesians 2: 8-9
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
This is a profound statement about the gift of God that He has given to humanity. We are saved by God's grace (undeserved favor), there is nothing you can do to earn it, except by the faith he gives you to believe and receive it. This is made clear in Romans 4:1-5 that Abraham was declared righteous through his faith in what God said and not his works.
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,”
As Christians we are no longer under the old covenant, but under a new covenant. The purpose of the Law in the Old Testament was to highlight our sin,
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” Romans 7:7
It wasn't to help us now live a holier life. Many Christians today have missed this fact and embrace the law as something positive.
Paul tells us that whoever puts their trust in the law must keep every word perfectly or they will be cursed.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Galatians 3:10
Faith is what gives us spiritual life, not works of the law,
“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:11
And the only way for us to be redeemed from the curse is through faith in Jesus Christ,
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” Galatians 3:13
Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
The ‘yoke of bondage’ here is the Law and Paul is saying not to go back to adhering to rules and regulations.
Faith in God is all that pleases Him,
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
God loves us the same even if we do sin and Paul tells us that holy living is still the correct way to live
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
However, all this Grace doesn’t mean that we can just continue to sin.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Romans 6:15
We can still battle with our flesh which is why we need to walk in the spirit and renew our minds on a daily basis. We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we have been bought with a great price - the blood of God (Acts 20:28) and we should act in a manner consistent with our redemption.
One of the first steps of becoming free from legalism is knowing whether you are stuck in it. Are you basing your righteousness on your performance? Are you condemning yourself for your mistakes? Do you place a higher value on church customs than on Bible principles? Are you comparing yourself to others?
If the answer is yes then you need to change your way of thinking. Romans 12:2 tells us;
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And Galatians 5:16 tells us to walk in the spirit,
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
The fruits of the Spirit will be evident in your life,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
We are to stay rooted in the truth of the gospel of Christ, knowing we have been made complete in Him. Not by the law, not by vain philosophies but by Jesus Christ alone, who is the head of all principality and power.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:6-10
What we have spoken about here may not apply to everyone but for those that it does we believe that this is an important issue to address and one which if overcome has the potential to revolutionise your relationship with Christ. Brothers and sisters we have been set free by our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Religion says DO, Christianity says DONE. Religion and legalism survives in many churches and religious organisations because it is like a big ship powered by fear. Not only is it keeping many in bondage due to a lack of knowledge but many are empowering these places financially by means of tithing which we will look at in our article the tithe.
Church Rethink Series
Part one: Churchianity
Part two: 44,800 Christian denominations
Part three: Religion
Part four: Legalism
Part five: The Tithe
Part six: The Early Church
Part seven: The Future Church