Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't be light on legalism

First, Miller decided to wage a war between those who think Miller Lite "tastes great" and those who think it's "less filling." Now it's a matter of making sure you're drinking "Lite" and not "Light." That naughty "i-g-h"!

Ok, so all that has nothing to do with what I'm saying here, except to say that when it comes to grace vs. legalism, there's no "light" version. There's no "diet" version of life in Christ. :) You're either in Him or you aren't. You're either under the law or you aren't. It's either His life that perfects you or it's not.

Paul did not take legalism lightly. What did he say of his own legalism? He certainly had a lot to "brag" about in regards to his righteousness according to the law. He didn't hold back in describing the stellar life he'd lived as a Pharisee (see Philippians 3:3-6). However, right after that he said, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ (verse 7). The thing he thought God was proud of - his own righteousness - he counted as loss so that he could be in Christ, "not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith..."

Notice what he didn't say. "You know, I've done some pretty good things and in addition to all those things, I've found righteousness in Christ." He also didn't say, "Wow, not only have I lived a great life as a Pharisee, but I can add all of that to my account in addition to what I've found in Christ."

He wasn't light about it at all. He said, "I count all things loss" so that I may have Christ. He wasn't bringing an ounce of his own goodness into this life in Christ. He counted it all as dung and threw it away in the garbage, so that he could have a completely different righteousness - a righteousness that had nothing to do with his own works, but was given to him as a gift through faith in Christ.

He had great reason, as well, to be hard (not light) on the legalism of others. When he wrote to the saints at Galatia, he used some pretty heavy words on them to describe the legalism they'd fallen into after having received life in Christ by faith.

He reminds them of his own former conduct in Judaism. He says, "I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation..." After telling of his early years as a Christian, he mentioned on particular encounter he had with Peter. Peter had been a hypocrite. (Oh, how we love to pick on Peter, but who of us can say we've not been in his shoes in one way or another). Peter had feared the legalists. See, he would have great fellowship with Gentiles, but when the legalists came around, he would withdraw from the Gentiles in fear. Had Jesus taught you nothing, Peter! Ok, ok, again, I know I can't point fingers.

The point here is... Paul was certainly not "light" with Peter. He says, "I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed," and he called him on his legalist hypocrisy.

But it doesn't end there. In chapter three the opposition to legalism gets pretty intense. "O foolish Galatians!" (Tell me if you would take that lightly!). "Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth...?" He reminds them that they began this life in Christ "in the Spirit," and he asks them rhetorically, "are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" And he goes on to ask, "He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith..."?

Paul isn't easy on them for a moment!

He doesn't say, "well, you're learning, so I'll give you a break. If you feel the need to mix a little law in with the Spirit, that's ok." He flat out rejected his own legalism and he rebukes others who are walking in it!

In Galatians 5, he goes so far as to flat out tell them they've "fallen from grace." He says, "You ran well... who hindered you from obeying the truth?" Their "running" wasn't a matter of doing a bunch of fleshly works to please God. Their "obeying the truth" wasn't a matter of obeying commands. Rather, they had fallen from grace and were no longer running well and they were no longer obeying the truth, because they had gone back to trusting in their own flesh.

There's so much more that he says. I'll sum it up in this: Reject, chuck aside, throw away, get rid of, all legalism. First, your own. Then, as you establish and build relationships with others, help them to do the same. Don't be light on legalism!


  1. I like your thoughts. You are right on. Keep it up. Trading links might help both our ministries on this "blogosphere." I a pastor in Missouri, and do a devotional blog called "Just A Thot" at Check it out. Leave me a comment about trading links and we'll do it.

  2. Hi Joel--

    I couldn't agree more.

    As you're aware, a very dear friend of mine is facing the end of her life. She doesn't need any leagalism now. She needs to be reminded that it's all grace--- and always has been. But what I'm even more aware of now, is that it isn't just those close to death who need to be immersed in the message of grace, without a hint of legalism or self-focus. It's ALL of us, every child of God, who must put their trust fully in the work of Christ as their sole basis for acceptance by God. Even a hint of legalism brings a measure of fear. It's no way to face death, but it's no way to live either.

    Thanks for this post.

    Kathy J