Summary: Legalism has and is harming our churches. How do we avoid it in our church?

Beware of the Legalist

Colossians 2:11-23

As we continue our Sunday morning tour of the book of Colossians we have to remember where we are and what the theme is. Last week we learned that philosophy or better said knowledge apart from Christ is empty. Andy teaching that takes away or adds to the teaching of Jesus cheats mankind because the them of the book is Jesus must be #1.

We also learned last week that chapter 2 begins the 3 boulders that will shipwreck a person’s faith. Last week Philosophy, this week Legalism and next week Lord willing Worldliness.

We should probably call these enemies of grace weeds because of legalism. Nothing can choke the heart and soul out of walking with God like legalism. Consider the story of Hans the tailor. Because of his reputation, an influential entrepreneur visiting the city ordered a tailor-made suit. But when he came to pick up his suit, the customer found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other this way; one shoulder bulged out and the other caved in. He pulled and struggled and finally, wrenched and contorted, he managed to make his body fit. As he returned home on the bus, another passenger noticed his odd appearance and asked if Hans the tailor had made the suit. Receiving an affirmative reply, the man remarked, "Amazing! I knew that Hans was a good tailor, but I had no idea he could make a suit fit so perfectly someone as deformed as you." Often that is just what some do in churches. They get some idea of what the Christian faith should look like: then they push and shove people into conforming until they fit into the mold of the legalist!!

This is spiritual death. Legalism is always divisive. It is false humility v.18 and 23 and puffs up or makes one arrogant v.18.

There must be a balance between truth and love in order to live free in the grace Jesus has provided. Look at this on the screen...


In the church today there are both types of thinking. Without a balance of truth and love Grace is abused (liberalism) or excused (legalism).

Our Scripture text reinforces the truth that apart from Jesus’ death on the Cross mankind is spiritually dead v.11-13 and mankind must place their faith their trust in Christ.

Both a liberal and a legalist Christian would agree with that. But if you and I are to live free, walk in grace we must Beware of the trap of legalism. How do we do that? Notice two truths:

I. Stand Free in Christ (v.11-15)

This church was dealing with Oriental mysticism, astrology, the belief in many gods, philosophy and Judaism—the religion of the Jews. Paul deals with this concept of Judaism legalism with the topic of the day, circumcision. We all know what that is and to us it sounds a little silly but to be a Jewish convert they tried to mix Jewish law with Christianity. Legalism said that following Jewish law would help the Christian be more spiritual.

If I stood up today and said in order to be a true Christian thou must be circumcised—you would laugh at me. However, if I stood up today and said if you are really a Christian then you wouldn’t watch a particular TV show or you would come to church on Sunday night, some people would agree with me.

Legalism is always divisive and Jesus died to set us free.

If you have put your faith in Christ Jesus you have had a spiritual circumcision—our sins have been crucified by His flesh—His death on the Cross.

Notice what we are because of this.

A. We’re Alive (v.11-14)

A person without Jesus is dead in their sins. They have no power over sin and they are dead to the things of God.

You’ll notice the word raised in v.12 means to raise from the dead and to wake up. The word alive means to make alive together with Him. The only reason a Christian can be different from the world is Jesus living in us.

But notice further why we’re alive and Free! **v.13b-14**

How many sins Christian have been forgiven? ALL…

See a legalist doesn’t want a person to know that they are totally forgiven. If someone sins after they are a Christian depending on the severity of the sin according to a legalist they would say well they must not have been truly saved.

Notice v.14—Jesus took sin out of the way but we can still choose to sin. Jesus took the law out of the way but we can still be unloving and fail to give grace to another.

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