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randal
Mar 19th 2008, 01:22 PM
I'm doing some study on the topic of legalism. I'm interested in any definitions you might have found out there, or your own description of what legalism is.

I don't have any axe to grind here -- I'm beginning my study of the topic, and am genuinely interested. So I'm not looking for a tussle.

Tabernacle
Mar 19th 2008, 01:53 PM
I heard a humorous definition in which sadly I think there's a great deal of truth.

"A legalist is anyone who hasn't compromised as much as I have" lol
"A heretic is anyone who doesn't believe what I believe"
"The sin unto death is - ticking me off"

I personally consider a legalist to be one who believes [for whatever misguided reassons] that compliance with the law (Statutes & Ordinances given from God) is the way to salvation.

The Messianic Jews, the SDA etc..... living under the law in the hopes that by so doing they find grace. Even some present day Christians would be legalists to slight degree by thinking that keeping the law they can bypass the blood of the lamb.

randal
Mar 19th 2008, 02:02 PM
Thanks, Tab, I noticed after I posted my question that there are several threads on the subject, one pretty much right down the line of my question. But there may be some who weren't around for the other threads.

Let me ask a question for clarification: in your description of legalism, what law do you refer to? Law of Moses or any law at all, even in the NT, given from God?

Also, I was curious about your description of some as being legalists "to [a] slight degree." I'll have to mull that one over. I was thinking in either/or categories; either you're a legalist or you're not.

diffangle
Mar 19th 2008, 02:10 PM
Imo, legalism is obeying man's traditions/laws.

Mat 15:1 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=1&version=kjv#1)¶Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,

Mat 15:2 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=2&version=kjv#2)Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

Mat 15:3 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=3&version=kjv#3)But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

Mat 15:9 (http://cf.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Mat&c=15&v=9&t=KJV#9)But in vain they do worship Me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.

Tabernacle
Mar 19th 2008, 02:12 PM
Hi and good morning,

By legalist unto salvation I am referring to the tendancy that the Jews and even Peter at first demonstrated concerning the thinking that by keeping the o.t. law one could achieve salvation by his compliance in works and deeds of the law.....thereby negating [at least in his mind] the necessity of the blood of the lamb. This of course Paul addressed heavily in Romans and Galatians.

That wasn't to sound like I think you can whip out the grace card and sin like a maniac in the N.T. ( I don't believe a saved person who is a new creature in Christ will want to do so ). I do of course believe the Bible, which means I believe you'll want to live in Gal 2:20 and consider yourself crucified with Christ....the world crucified to you and you to it.

Lastly, by slightly a legalist, I mean there are of course varying degrees of legalist.... I don't think for example that Peter (even though he was struggling with the doctrinal transition from O.T. to N.T.) was a complete legalists....he knew better. However he was demonstrating the same legalistic tenants as were many of the Jews who opposed the teaching of salvation by Grace through Faith in the blood of Christ as was Paul.....

Make sense? I know for example some messianic Jews who think compliance with the O.T. Moral laws and even some of the dietary laws are necessary WITH the blood of Christ for redemption..... they're not completely relying on the law for salvation....as such I wouldn't call them absolute legalist....but partial for sure.....

RobbieP
Mar 19th 2008, 02:38 PM
I kind of agree with Tabernacle but have a slightly different slant.

I think Legalism is where folks start to put their own guidelines in place that may be in the Laws but in some cases they are made up totally by the group or person themselves based on some misguided self perceived sin.

Like eating meat on Fridays...that was not in the old or new testament....all the guidelines about food...never said anything about Friday...

Drinking coffee or anthing with caffeine is another example of things that evolved that were not in old or new testament..

My heart's Desire
Mar 19th 2008, 05:16 PM
Legalism - My version - Adding any other requirement to belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for Salvation.
Anything legal is usually something one is required to do, correct?
Jesus said the work of God is to believe in the One He has sent. Jesus Christ. Belief is hope. Hebrews 11:1
Behavior or work is something other than belief and yet belief will sometimes dictate how you will behave.

Tanya~
Mar 19th 2008, 05:34 PM
Biblically, the legalism that would keep one from salvation is seeking justification before God through keeping the works of the law rather than by faith in Christ.

Gal 5:4
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
NKJV


Obeying God's commands and seeking to do His will is not legalism. Christians are called to obey God. It is not at all displeasing to God when we seek to obey Him.

Rom 13:8-10
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
NKJV

doppelganger
Mar 19th 2008, 05:35 PM
I would define legalism as "seeking to obtain God's favor by behaving a certain way."

This takes different forms. Some seek salvation by following the law. This is the strictest form of legalism. Some people trust entirely in Jesus for their salvation, but still think they need to do certain things to please God.

We should do certain things, and it does please God when we do them, but His favor is unmerited, not a result of following certain rules.

Two people can behave in exactly the same way, and one might be legalistic and the other not. The defining point of legalism is not the behavior, but the reason for the behavior.

My heart's Desire
Mar 19th 2008, 05:56 PM
The defining point of legalism is not the behavior, but the reason for the behavior.Yes, as in hoping and trying to gain God's favor for something He has already freely given. Not to say it was free to God of course, but it is free to us who believe.

My heart's Desire
Mar 19th 2008, 06:10 PM
Although I've read the OT several times, I can't remember exactly what God promised if they kept the Laws and/or what the Israelites believed the reward for keeping the Law would be. I mean, did the Israelites believe in Life after death? Did they believe that keeping God's Law would give them eternal life or was it the promises for this life only...ie obtaining, living on the Land, prosperity, good health, all that God promises for obeying Him through His Laws etc. We know the Sacrifice system covered the sins temporiarily.
You know what I mean? I think knowing the reason for the Law would help define the legalism. Legalism came from the Law, Freedom came through Jesus Christ, right? God wants it to be a matter of the heart, not of duty.

My heart's Desire
Mar 19th 2008, 06:24 PM
Biblically, the legalism that would keep one from salvation is seeking justification before God through keeping the works of the law rather than by faith in C


Obeying God's commands and seeking to do His will is not legalism. Christians are called to obey God. It is not at all displeasing to God when we seek to obey Him
Although even that could be if one is doing it to earn anything related to salvation.
If one is doing it because they love God for what He has done and that is all, that would be different.
Another tangent though is that even Paul (looking for a good word for it) strived, looked forward to reward. We know that there will be rewards for Christians, but still related to our faith in Christ.

(I'm certainly agreeing with your post)

My heart's Desire
Mar 19th 2008, 06:42 PM
I just wonder. When did "Legalism" become the issue? Before Christ was born, the Jewish people were I assume living a way of life that God gave through the Law. They were trying to obey the Law. right? Whom did they consider as being a "Legalist"?
So what did legalism mean before Christ came? Did Legalism come about only after Christ was born?

randal
Mar 19th 2008, 06:48 PM
Friends, I'm following the discussion, though tied up at the moment.

Desire, your when question is interesting, for sure.

Also, the obedience issue is something that certainly needs to be taken into account when speaking of legalism, considering passages like John 12:50 and Hebrews 5:9.

Tabernacle
Mar 19th 2008, 09:10 PM
One thought I see often is that of perspective as it relates to legalism.

For example lets say "Frank" is married, but committing adultery with another woman whom he's convinced himself he loves. Bob, has a smoking and drinking addiction and refuses to quit. Lisa has a gossip addiction she isn't about to give up and lastly Lindsey has a modesty problem, she likes to dress sexy and likes the attention she gets from it. Each has convinced themself that they have freedom in grace and that Christ understands how hard it is, "I mean hey.....look at Paul" they reason.

Frank, Bob, Lisa and Lindsey all go to the same church where their pastor preaches hard against all those things......he's straight, uncompromising and names those things as sin and preaches hard against those acts.

Consequently all four of them call him a hate mongering judgmental legalist. They tell others in the church in "prayer request conversations' (you know those eh?) that the pastor doesn't show enough compassion and love. They say to all who'll listen....ahh he's just another legalists...... etc etc bla bla bla.....

I know that isn't the only perspective, so don't crucify me here yet, I'm just saying - sometimes the problem isn't the person being named the legalist - its the person doing the calling. On the other hand, I have met some legalist who were truly legalist.....trying to live by the law and completely oblivious to the grace Christ gave.

randal
Mar 19th 2008, 09:16 PM
So, Tab, the word legalist is often a label used by the sinful to get themselves off the hook?

IPet2_9
Mar 19th 2008, 09:18 PM
Legalism is when your god becomes the laws, and not the Author of them.

Jubal
Mar 19th 2008, 10:06 PM
Might this be warning against legalism?

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. - 2 Corinthians 3:6


Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. - Colossians 2:16

So I think legalism may be when people are too strict in their interpretation and they forget about love.

valleybldr
Mar 19th 2008, 10:35 PM
Legalism is when someone relies on the "letter of the law" without understanding or abiding by the underlying spiritual principles. todd

Brother Mark
Mar 19th 2008, 10:43 PM
Legalism is when someone relies on the "letter of the law" without understanding or abiding by the underlying spiritual principles. todd

Well said! Bravo!

Brother Mark
Mar 19th 2008, 10:44 PM
I think that Eve gives us a good example of the legalist. She misquoted God in two ways. 1) she left off the word "freely" when describing how she and Adam could eat of the other trees. Often legalist don't mention how much freedom we have in the Lord or in this world. 2) She thought it wiser not to even touch the fruit than just to not eat it. The legalist often tries to go further than God's word as an example of safety or holiness or whatever. But it has little influence or power over the flesh.

Adam and Eve could have played football with the fruit. They just should not have eaten it.

diffangle
Mar 19th 2008, 11:01 PM
Imo, legalism is obeying man's traditions/laws.

Mat 15:1 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=1&version=kjv#1)¶Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,

Mat 15:2 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=2&version=kjv#2)Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

Mat 15:3 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/popup.pl?book=Mat&chapter=15&verse=3&version=kjv#3)But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

Mat 15:9 (http://cf.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Mat&c=15&v=9&t=KJV#9)But in vain they do worship Me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.


I just wonder. When did "Legalism" become the issue? Before Christ was born, the Jewish people were I assume living a way of life that God gave through the Law. They were trying to obey the Law. right? Whom did they consider as being a "Legalist"?
So what did legalism mean before Christ came? Did Legalism come about only after Christ was born?
Like the passage from my previous post shows... legalism existed before Yahushua came. Washing hands before eating is not a law the YHWH gave in the OT, it's a man-made law that the religious leaders were trying to pass off as YHWH's law. The religious leaders did and have added many rules and regulations(the Talmud) to the simple Word of YHWH, they have tied a heavy yoke around the people's neck, one thing Yahushua did was to free them from the misunderstanding on what was YHWH's Commandments verses the commandments of men.

Brother Mark
Mar 19th 2008, 11:48 PM
Like the passage from my previous post shows... legalism existed before Yahushua came. Washing hands before eating is not a law the YHWH gave in the OT, it's a man-made law that the religious leaders were trying to pass off as YHWH's law. The religious leaders did and have added many rules and regulations(the Talmud) to the simple Word of YHWH, they have tied a heavy yoke around the people's neck, one thing Yahushua did was to free them from the misunderstanding on what was YHWH's Commandments verses the commandments of men.

You can go back to the garden of Eden and find legalism. I like your definition. But I would also add Galatians to the mix... obeying God's commands with human might and thinking that will make one righteous.

valleybldr
Mar 20th 2008, 10:04 AM
I personally consider a legalist to be one who believes [for whatever misguided reassons] that compliance with the law (Statutes & Ordinances given from God) is the way to salvation.

The Messianic Jews, the SDA etc..... living under the law in the hopes that by so doing they find grace. You are going to find the word "legalism" thrown around any time someone obeys something in Scripture where another finds no need. I don't, however, think you are going to find any SDA's or Messianics who propose that they can walk perfectly before God thus demanding their own salvation. Walking in God's ways improves ones understanding and quality of life but hardly gives one a "trump card" to use on Judgment Day. todd

Tabernacle
Mar 20th 2008, 02:09 PM
So, Tab, the word legalist is often a label used by the sinful to get themselves off the hook?

I don't think that can be said of all those who run around with a pack of legalist stickers in their pocket.....but for sure, as a preacher / pastor, its been my experience that very often, legalism is a defensive term.

I'm a heavy drinker lets say. I memorize a few choice scriptures that I can twist into supporting my boozing and then if someone questions me, I'll whip out a legalist sticker and slap it on their forehead and tell them they just don't know the Bible.

Of course, on the other hand - there certainly are some who, as someone previously pointed out, get so hung up in the letter of the "law" they miss the spirit.

I'd offer that Jesus said - We're to keep both the spirit AND the letter. Matt 23:23 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. In simple terms, the Pharisees were complying with the law....in part, but they'd missed the big picture, mercy, faith, judgment (yea everyone hates that judgment thing). Jesus says.....don't miss the big picture...., BUT once you have that, don't think that dismisses obedience to the Bible either.....

So we see Jesus teaching our principal -- both the spirit of the Bible and the very words of the Bible BOTH are to be obeyed.

I think what we have a lot of the time are those who have grasped the big items - love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, hospitality.....and they stopped there and left the rest of the Bible on the coffee table. If you pick that Bible up and start pointing out the sin in their life, they'll declare you a legalist and say you should focus on love and mercy and never mind the rest of those 66 books God gave us filled with his expectations.

Unfortunately God didnt just give us principals of the spirit to live by - he gave us a Bible and said man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God......

Legalism for many I think is - never mind the rest of it, just love your neighbor. Their Bible could be printed on a fortune cookie slip..... Not everyone of course....but many.

Brother Mark
Mar 21st 2008, 01:17 AM
Paul said the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. We miss the point if our focus is on the letter. God didn't condemn David for eating the showbread even though it was against the letter of the law because he didn't break the spirit of the law.

SIG
Mar 21st 2008, 03:10 AM
2Ti 3:5 " . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."

I also see that legalism involves an outward display of righteousness, with inner righteousness absent.

Tabernacle
Mar 25th 2008, 09:20 PM
Good points and well said - all I am pointing out is that there are two distinct positions to consider "legalism" from.

Using the analogy - Lets say Bob for example is a sincere and devoted disciple - he loves the Lord and wants to serve him in truth and in spirit. He immediately carves out of his life any thing that is an offense to the Lord God.....music, clothes, friends, television shows promoting anything God opposes. He is in respect not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. He prays, reads his Bible, shares the gospel whenever he can and tries to live as a living sacrifice. To Bob, the definition of a legalist might be a person thinks obedience to the law saves. He invites Frank below to church and encourages him to try to do more than lip service.

Frank (whom we'll say is saved) seldom goes to church, never witnesses, dresses immoraly, drinks socially, curses, smokes and spends most Sundays fishing with his pals. Frank considers Bob a legalist. He says dumb ole Bob is not enjoying the "liberty in Christ". He calls Bob a Holier than thou for even suggesting that church attendance and clean living is important to God.

I do personally know a few SDA folks and several Messianic Jews....they're good people, honest and hard working....just misled. They pity me as a Sunday keeper condemned to hell. They both believe that keeping Sunday as the Lord's say rather than Sabbath keeping is acceptance of the mark of the beast. Humorously, they never witness or talk of the Bible.....all 5 admit they've never led a soul to Christ. But I keep working on them, praying for them and hoping.

I agree that the letter killeth - but I personally think what is meant by that remark is the letter of the LAW (not the content of the Bible). Certainly one can live in compliance with the law....and be quite lost. Judas did it perfectly for 3 yrs....

Yet, does that mean we may cast aside the letter upon our heartfelt belief that it's the spirit of it that matters?
Yes, we must see the spirit of what God is saying - Jesus' illustration of adultery being of the heart and not just of the flesh is a classic example - but Jesus didn't dismiss the word of God by way of illustration.

randal
Mar 25th 2008, 10:31 PM
Tab, thanks for the perspective. I like what you've said there. The New Testament never puts obedience as an option.

LookingUp
Mar 25th 2008, 11:38 PM
I'm doing some study on the topic of legalism. I'm interested in any definitions you might have found out there, or your own description of what legalism is.

I don't have any axe to grind here -- I'm beginning my study of the topic, and am genuinely interested. So I'm not looking for a tussle.I personally believe that one practices legalism any time they are trusting in anything other than the finished work of the cross for their salvation.

Tabernacle
Mar 25th 2008, 11:40 PM
Your welcome Sir - its a touchy issue and for some a sore spot. Not everyone who yells legalism is backslidden and looking for an easy out. Yet, not everyone the world would call a legalist - actually is one.

For me, I try (though I fail miserably) to live by every word, rightly dividing of course, through study and discernment of the Holy Ghost. Some would definately call me a legalist....... I figure God gave us that Bible for more than a coffee table book. Some would call me liberal.....I don't wear robes and sandals lol

I think the danger for all Christians is - the propensity to live in disobedience under the misinterpretation that we have liberty in Christ.

I like that old saying - God set me from sin, he did not set me free too sin.

nichollsvi
Mar 26th 2008, 02:58 AM
Ok, time to come out lurking mode.

I find legalism to be subjective more than objective with many people. To my Pastor, he thinks I'm legalist (I'm sure he thought some sermon comments would pass right by me). Why? I did ask him where in the Bible was the basis for some of his sermon statements. I don't want to read commentary books, I want to read the Bible quotations first other than someone who takes Scripture and then uses it to support their theories.

I've found a lot of the definitions noted previously as true.

For me, legalism is simply someone who expects laws or rules or tradition to save them, other than the belief that thanks to Jesus' dying on the cross for us, we're saved. I guess you could include the Trinity, sort of "the basics", included with that, things that could be considered a law, but is more of a belief than law.

Victoria

valleybldr
Mar 26th 2008, 10:38 AM
Ok, time to come out lurking mode.

I find legalism to be subjective more than objective with many people.

Hi Victoria from Lurkersville, VA;),

Good point. Most all labels are thrown from a subjective point of view. It's not easy, but most times I think it best to write about concepts without labeling people.

todd

Tabernacle
Mar 26th 2008, 01:58 PM
I agree....very well said. Legalism , liberalism , they are subjective based on one's perspective.

I personally want my perspective to be Gal 2:20 -- I want to see it as God see's it. I want to remember that what I deem clean, may be wicked and ungodly in the sight of our Holy Lord God. I want to remember that those things I think are clean.....are filthy rags to Him.

I want my perspective to be dead and buried and I want Jesus' perspective instead.......I don't want to see sin as fuzzy and gray, but black and white cut and dry.....

I want to have the courage to face sin in my life head on....to see it as sin, name it as sin and by doing so, I think we better understand redemption.

nichollsvi
Mar 26th 2008, 11:54 PM
That was pretty good, Tabernacle. I could agree with that.

I have learned a lot about sin and other things. I have really gotten a life change. I don't get road rage or curse like I used to. I certainly have room to do it. I don't watch TV any more, except for occasional food network. The only thing I look for is getting a job.

Probably a new church. :)

Preferably a church who doesn't care what someone looks like or flips out that they bring their laptop to church. I have Bible software, and all those sermon notes and Bible study, they are supposed to do something for you. Oh well.

My heart's Desire
Mar 27th 2008, 04:23 PM
Modern day legalism must be this:
How to be a Christian:
You must go to Church every time the door is open,
You must not break one of the 10 commandments,
You must not sin, drink, smoke, cuss, hang out with the wrong crowd, etc.
You must wear the right clothes,
You must never be sad, angry and totally non-human (there's always a group for that).
Before anyone gets mad at me, I'm trying to make a point.
When the unsaved see a Christian or talks about being a Christian, I never hear them say, O! You're a Christian? So, Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
More than often you'll hear them say. You go there? But you're a Christian.
or I don't want to be one of those Christians. They are always in Church.
You got mad at me and you say you're a Christian. etc etc etc. They always see being a Christian as what you do or don't do,(actions) not who you are. (in Christ)
Makes me think that if all of the above is the only thing they can think about a Christian, what are we telling them? How to meet Christ?
Of course they don't understand, but do you think unbelievers would call us legalists?

Colin Day
Mar 27th 2008, 07:21 PM
I find that the legalism I catch within myself is often connected to the things that already come more or less naturally to me. I think this is also what the Pharisees were afflicted with. They all had their spice racks arranged properly (Luke 11:42), but their tithes of spice and herb didn't really seem to be challenging for them. Jesus said that the justice and love of God was so challenging to them that they just conveniently chose to focus more on other things that were easier for them.

Jesus would often bring up the broader issues and concepts found in the OT and point out that the legalists of his time were missing those points entirely. The worst part of the entire ordeal with legalists (including myself) is that we somehow believe that we're in a somewhat better position because of the things that are relatively easy for us to do. Like the Pharisees, we love to sit the best/most visible seat in the "synagogue".

Today, we have the opportunity to flaunt our elongated tassels (Matthew 23) on the internet. I'd say an even greater measure of legalism is possible now because we have the opportunity to proclaim what we do and what we know from a place of anonymity and thousands of people from all over the world can read our words and never have to judge them based on our lifestyle.

I see that scripture teaches each of us to have a humble obedience to God and all of the values that he communicates through the canon. If we increase in our obedient acts and we mortify more and more sin in our lives, thats not legalism. If we do those things to warrant something extra special from God we show that we are unsatisfied with the wealth of blessing he has already spoken over our lives. If we ever think we can add something....anything to the righteousness of Jesus and the example of his apostles, we are sorely mistaken.