Summary: Are you a legalist, or are you an illegalist? In other words, do you follow the law of God, or do you disobey the law of God? It is not a bad thing to be labeled a legalist. Satan has used this creative title to try to deceive many people to disobey God.
Who in this room would consider themselves a legalist? This is the topic that I would like to briefly talk to you about tonight: Legalism, or “The Lie of Legalism.” Since the beginning of the Lord’s church, the devil has held nothing back; He has created so many schemes to try to ensnare God’s people. One of his most successful, especially in recent times has been the so-called sin of legalism.
I think that it’s pretty obvious if you have not heard the term “legalism” or “legalist” before, you probably have not spoken to many people about the authority of the Lord and the scriptures. You probably have not been as diligent as you have needed to be in teaching the requirements of the gospel; such as repentance, being holy as God is holy, or any kind of strict obedience to the scriptures. If you have taught these things in the past at any time like you should, I’m sure someone has said to you, “Oh, you’re a legalist,’ or “You’re just like one of those Pharisees that Jesus condemned in the scriptures!”
You may have been asked, “So that’s the only way you can do this, this is the only way to heaven, this is the only way that God desires to be worshipped? You’re a legalist.”
It seems to me as I have listened to most religious broadcasting that it is believed that legalism is a sin just as much as the sky is blue. Most people think that if someone is a legalist, that they are by default going to be a people that are going to be condemned by the Lord because of their desire to be strict commandment keepers trying to earn their way to heaven. That’s how I would say most of us are erroneously viewed.
It seems like those that who have labeled me as a legalist, some that I have cared deeply about, when you hear what they believe about what it means to be a legalist, or what it means to love the Lord, it seems like their final conclusion is; if I may put it in my own words, “it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you love the Lord.” This is simply not the perspective that the Lord teaches.
But, let’s define what it means to be a legalist. According to Webster’s dictionary, Legalism is defined as “a strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code… that restricts free choice.” Dictionary.com adds that legalism is also “the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works,” which is hopefully not what any of us believe, because it can’t happen.
But to just put the first definition into my own words, “A legalist is one who follows the rules.”
It is just so amazing to me that Satan has gotten people to believe that obeying the laws of God is sinful. Just think about that for a moment. Obeying God’s word is sinful! I think it’s true to say that for Satan this was a brilliant idea, but for God’s people, a disastrous scheme. I just can hardly believe that Satan has led even those who are in the church to believe that being diligent in your life to not sin against the Lord is sinful.
Satan must have noticed that the disciples were commanded to go out into all the world to make disciples of all nations by baptizing, and by teaching them to do ALL THINGS THAT ARE COMMANDED by the Lord to do. He was there when Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that only those who do the will of the Father shall enter the kingdom of heaven, or in 7:24 where the Lord says that those who obey His words are likened to a house that is built upon a rock. Satan was there, seeing the early church in acts 2 continuing steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, being earnest towards God’s word that was being spoken by the Apostles. They were focused on God’s word and followed it, bearing fruit in service to the Lord.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that Satan would create such a scheme as the “Lie of Legalism.” He saw very well what kind of results there was when the truth was being followed. So why wouldn’t he try to create some kind of scheme to try to get the Lord’s people to neglect commands given by the Lord?
There are probably hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, that believe that the strict keeping of the commands of Christ is the sin of legalism. We will be denounced if we claim that one must adhere to the commands of Christ and not go beyond the commands of Christ.
Many will use a text in 2 Corinthians 3 to say that any form of commandment is sinful, and a hindrance to being a faithful Christian.