Yes, another bulletin on the meaning of ‘LEGALISM’ because it’s the standard argument used by those who refuse to repent.
The discussion goes like this;
- Believer: Jesus commands us to keep His commandments [Luke 6:46; Mat 7:21-29].
- Non-Believer: Yeah, but I’m not LEGALISTIC about it.
End of discussion.
To understand their argument as to why they believe that God is giving them license to sin (if not fully, at least partially) let’s look at how the reasoning goes.
THE RATIONALE GOES LIKE THIS:
- Since nobody’s perfect [1John 1:10],
- And since God is full of grace & mercy [Heb 4:16],
- Then God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, So, we don’t have to try. “I’m not going to be LEGALISTIC about it.”
That’s not very good bible study. Paul addressed a similar question in his time. In Romans 6:1 he answers a rhetorical question, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer, “certainly not!” This may be why we have thousands of denominations with a nearly equal number of doctrines about how to live. It’s like they’re saying that since there’s a little room to sin regarding salvation, then we can intentionally be mediocre. That’s fine for unimportant things like dieting or quilting, but not a very good way to handle salvation.
Is GRACE & MERCY license to sin willfully? That’s just another way of saying “I’m not legalistic about it.” God is full of GRACE & He is MERCIFUL, but that’s no license to sin. The accurate way to look at it is that He has provided GRACE & MERCY to an imperfect people. This is the right way to understand Ephesians 2:8-9 and 1John 1:7-10. God sent His Son as a sacrifice for a sinful people that didn’t deserve it [Rom 5:8-10]. We obey the Gospel upon recognition of our need for the atoning blood of Jesus [2Thess 1:8-9; Acts 2:38; Heb 5:9]. Obeying the gospel & keeping His commandments [Mat 28:18-20] is not being legalistic, it’s being faithful.
WHEN NOT TO BE LEGALISTIC
There are 2 chapters in the New Testament that are telling folks not to be legalistic. They are, Romans 14 & 1Cor 8. These are dealing with issues that are NOT MATTERS OF DOCTRINE but matters of OPINION. If that’s what you mean by ‘I’m not going to be legalistic about it’ then we both agree with God and His word. If, however, you aren’t going to be legalistic with the doctrine of Christ, then you’re going to find yourself fighting against God.
“But I’m Not Legalistic About it”
People who say they’re not legalistic about the doctrine of Christ would never say the same thing in other areas of their lives. Below are just a few examples of how ridiculous this sounds.
- I’m a VEGAN, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I love my wife, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I always do my job at work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I want a great brain surgeon, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I take insulin to keep from dying, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I stop at red lights, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I watch over my kids when they swim, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I’m a bank teller, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I’m a judge, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I practice food safety at the restaurant I work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
- I work with the nuclear warheads at Pantex, but I’m not legalistic about it.
So you see, we all can understand that in matters of importance we must stand firm. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” [1Cor 16:13] Regarding the matters of style or opinion, don’t be legalistic about it, but with matters of the doctrine of Christ, be LEGALISTIC.