Is ‘Legalism’ a Bad Word?

Too many people today, even Christians, feel like the days of grace and spiritual liberty should erase the law of God.  If any minister or church preaches or teaches the laws of God as good, they are labeled as old-fashioned, cult-like, or legalistic.  Since when did ‘legalism’ (the idea of abiding by laws and living by governing principles – as opposed to relativism / anarchy) become a negative adjective?  Below is a clipping from a recent media outlet (Washington UPI) —about how things can get turned around…

More and more, law enforcement officials are coming around to the conclusion that the only way to reduce the crime rate in America is to make everything legal.  Moves in various parts of the country to decriminalize marijuana are illustrative of this approach. If adopted nationwide, proponents claim, decriminalization would produce a dramatic decline in the number of arrests for illegal pot possession.

There is also talk of employing the legalization technique to stamp out violations of laws against pornography, prostitution, gambling and assorted other vices. One of the leading advocates of decriminalization is an organization called Less Lawlessness Through Less Law (LLLL).

“Hiring more policemen, imposing curfews, building new prisons, enlarging the judiciary—these measures only treat the symptoms of the crime wave,” Bargood Fie, a LLLL spokesman, told me.  “If we’re ever going to have a genuine improvement in the situation we’ve got to attack the root cause of crime—the laws.”

This article deals with the fact that God’s law (from Moses to Christ) is good and that its continued presence in church and culture is right, not wrong.  The simple truth is that far too many Americans desire a life without any laws or rules at all – and this has bled over into the church! Laws are not evil.  Rules aren’t sinful or morally wrong, so why the revolution in the church away from anything that has the resemblance of ‘legalism’?

Romans 7 deals exclusively with the believer’s relationship with God’s law.  In order to get the full message of this passage, you must also see the context of chapters 6 (victory) & 8 (blessings).

1. The Law & the Loopholes    (1-6)
– Paul uses the illustration of marriage to convey our relationship to the law (the death of the spouse releases from the binding of marriage vows; even so the death of Christ releases believers from the bondage of sin)
A. Law has dominion over those under it, to those who submit themselves to it (1)
B. God hates divorce, adultery, etc – physically & spiritually (2-3)
C. God offers a marriage with us (new covenant) because of Christ’s resurrection (4)
D. God delivers from sin’s condemnation and the law’s penalties — to the end of free-will service (5-6)

2. The Law is GOOD  (7-14)
A. The Law is good; it brings spiritual awareness, the knowledge of good/evil (7)
B. The Law is good; it brings sin to life (8)
C. If sin is alive, then we are dead (9)
D. It’s the  Letter of the Law that killeth – that is why the Pharisees missed the Messiah (10-11)
E. The Law is good; it is holy [100% pure]; see Psalm 19:7-9 (12)
F. The Law is good; it reveals sin’s ugly side (13)
G. The Two Discoveries: (14)
** The Law is Spiritual (from the heavens, divine) & Men are Carnal (from the dirt, earthy)

3. The Struggle between the Two Laws (15-25)
–  The First: The Law of Sin & Death – inward appetites which bend toward outward temptations (15-21)
– The Second: The Law of the Spirit of life – a new nature which wars against fleshly desires (22-25)

Helpful Definitions:

in the flesh – “to be in the flesh is to be under the flesh; and to be under it is to be controlled by its propensities, evil inclinations, and desires”

law of sin in my  members —”The law which I see “in my members” is the constant tendency which I notice in them to sin, whenever exited by sinful objects.”

Points to Ponder:

** What happens when laws conflict???

** What does Paul mean in Romans 8:2???

** Which mind are you?  (acc. to Romans 8:5-6)

PS – I don’t think rules are the problem, nor do I believe them to be the answer.  Politically, I am neither anarchist (no government) nor ultra-democrat (big brother).  Spiritually, I am neither legalistic (in the sense of believing adherence to regulations can gain ground with God), nor am I liberal (believing that whatever goes with God).

God doesn’t free us from sin so we can live like we want, He frees us to live as we ought!  The best form of government is self-government.  If each of us would see the law of God written in our hearts,  we wouldn’t need the external laws of government or the Bible.  Even if that doesn’t happen during this age, we have hope and a promise of that happening in the next: Ezekiel 36:22-28.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Is ‘Legalism’ a Bad Word?”

  1. God doesn’t free us from sin so we can live like we want, He frees us to live as we ought!

    When we are born again our desires change and what we want changes too!

    Here’s my take on the subject…

    http://altonwoods.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/free/

    Remain Blessed! Jeff

    • Well said, Jeff (I certainly agree). The problem with blogs is that it’s tough to be thorough with issues so deep as grace and spiritual liberty, etc. It took Paul and Peter pages and pages of very condensed, Holy Ghost inspired writing to start the discourse… I read a couple of your articles – very good. Hope I didn’t sound like a condescending authority; actually I’m more of a student in progress (I hope!). Thanks for following!

  2. I think that’s the point, that we make progress,that we learn!

    Like you, I’m just a man who is equally as tired of the legalism the permeates the church as I am the abuse of His precious grace.It’s a balancing act, or as they say, a game that can never be won…only played!

    Thanks for reading!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Baptist Dysfunction #2 « P4G - 04/28/2014

    […] we could go to a conference (IFB) and not to hear messages entrenched in legalistic manipulation. (Is Legalism a Bad Word?)  We’ve used some Biblical words to justify our shallow preaching when — according to […]

  2. Baptist Dysfunction #2 | PatchNix - 07/07/2014

    […] we could go to a conference (IFB) and not to hear messages entrenched in legalistic manipulation. (Is Legalism a Bad Word?)  We’ve used some Biblical words to justify our shallow preaching when — according to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s