What does "legalism" mean to you?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Spinach, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. Spinach

    Spinach
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    To me, legalism is when the works of the flesh are paraded and applauded above the grace of God.

    For example:

    A Pastor once called up my Pastor and asked if he wanted to come and take his church. He said that he had the church all whipped into shape. He said that all the men had proper haircuts and wore only white collared shirts, all the women in subjection and all wearing proper dresses, and no one had a tv. He was quite proud of that. There was not one word about the church's spiritual condition.

    Another example:

    A woman walked into a particular Baptist church and said she was seeking a church. Unfortunately, they said, she had on a pair of slacks and could not enter the sanctuary. She was given a paper skirt from the closet and asked to wear it over her pants if she wanted to worship there.

    Here is Wikipedia's definition......http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalism_(theology)

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. Pastor_Bob

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    I disagree with this definition. Legalism is attaching works to salvation. In the examples above, if the pastor would have said, "To be saved, you must get rid of your TV" or "You can only be saved if you wear only dresses." The early Jews were guilty of legalism when they tried to make the Gentile Christians adhere to the covenant of circumcision. No deeds of the law can justify us in the sight of God. To demand any deed as a requirement for salvation is legalism.
     
  3. Steven2006

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    I like this definition:


    Legalism in Christian living may appear in two different forms, though often legalistic Christians practice both forms together.

    In the first form of legalism Christians pursue sanctification by trying to keep the Law through self-effort. This legalistic approach to sanctification opposes the principle of grace, neglects the power of the Spirit, and leads to spiritual frustration and failure in attempting to conquer the sinful flash.

    Christians experience freedom from bondage to legalism and victory over sin when they live by grace, rely on the Spirit, and obey Scripture through the power Spirit-produced love.

    A second form of legalism imposes on Christians a code of conduct of human regulations about external observances and deeds. This form of legalism requires outward conformity to certain human regulations as a measure of religious achievement; does not properly consider one's inner character, motivation, power, and goals as essential factors in biblical spirituality; and appeals to fleshy performance and human pride. Paul evidently had this form of legalism in mind when he referred to Christians who submit to regulations "in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men" (Col. 2:22). Paul warned the Colossian Christians that their legalistic regulations were contrary to their identity with Christ. "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourselves to decrees, such as, "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (2:20-21). Submission to these ascetic prohibitions is supposed to produce spiritual victory over the flesh. Instead, legalistic asceticism has two serious problems: It is the practice of "self-made religion" (2:23), and it does not sanctify (2:16-23), for it is of "no value against fleshy indulgence" (2:23)

    Both forms of legalism involve a fleshy self-effort to conform to an outward code instead of an inward willingness to obey God from a Spirit-filled heart.
    - From 'Understanding Christian Theology"
     
  4. Pastor_Bob

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    Then, legalism simply becomes a question of semantics. You could attach whatever definition you want to it. Legalism, in the strictest sense, has nothing to do with standards or conduct. Standards are not a legal issue, they are a love issue.
     
  5. trustitl

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    Well said.
     
  6. Spinach

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    There is a Sunday School teacher that I know, who told the children in his class that Jesus loves more the little boys and girls who dress in suits and dresses for church. I have a problem with that.

    I also have a problem with attaching any "Jesus loves you more if you....[insert flesh glorifying act here]"
     
  7. Palatka51

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    Amen! :thumbs:
     
  8. Ed Edwards

    Ed Edwards
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  9. RevGKG

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    These definitions hit the matter square on the head.
     
  10. Gerhard Ebersoehn

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    To me - I don't say you must think as I do, because that too, is legalism - but to me, 'legalism' is to think we can improve on God's Word. In the first place.
    Next, to me, 'legalism' it to insist on law for law. Where is this commanded? Where or how is that commanded? Where is it written? I am not a legalist because I don't see in the NT that I must ....

    Third, to me, legalism is pride, better and holier than you, knowing better than you, being wiser and more clever than you.

    Legalism gives me the creeps. How to discover it within one's own heart, there is how to deal with legalism the way a Christian should.

    Legalism - whatever I may think it is - is not God's Law; that's all I know.
     
  11. FriendofSpurgeon

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    To me, legalism is the opposite of grace.
     
  12. billwald

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    >The early Jews were guilty of legalism when they tried to make the Gentile Christians adhere to the covenant of circumcision.

    Early Christian Jews? Their error was bad theology. The Mosaic Covenant never did apply to gentiles outside of Israel.
     
  13. trustitl

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    Exactly. We are saved by grace through faith, and the just shall live by faith (not merely have life). Legalism is not just a matter of getting saved, it is a matter of being saved.
     
  14. Tom Butler

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    In my own frame of reference, we defined legalism as something by which the depth of one's spirituality (or possibly salvation) was measured.

    Our church went through a fundamentalist phase back in the 1970s.

    Spiritual=short hair
    Unspiritual=long hair (below the collar)

    Dress or skirt at the kneecap or above=unspiritual
    Below=spiritual

    Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night attendance=spiritual
    Sunday morning only=spiritual but less so.
    Add soul-winning visitation on Thursday night--super-spiritual.


    Dispensationalism=spiritual in this way: Dispies rely on a literal interpretation of the Bible, and are generally inerrantists. Non-dispies may not hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, thus may not be inerrantists, thus are liberals, and not spiritual, and possibly not saved.

    We didn't call it being legalist. We called it being spiritual.
     
  15. Spinach

    Spinach
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    I hear ya!
     
  16. Gerhard Ebersoehn

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    Just about every of the above descriptions of what legalism is, is true and good. The only bad one that caught my eye is this one, (no matter who uttered it), "The Mosaic Covenant never did apply to gentiles outside of Israel."
    Whatever 'the Mosaic Covenant' is, what has it got to do with 'legalism'?
     
  17. Spinach

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    I would assume that the Mosaic Covenant would be the law, as given to Moses. When it is mingled with salvation, that is legalism.
     
  18. Gerhard Ebersoehn

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    GE:
    How does one 'mingle' the 'Mosaic Law' 'with salvation', but does not profit by it greatly? Right through the NT every writer of and player in it - including Jesus Christ - used that 'method' to good and godly effect.

    No; the true 'motive behind' your making this statement simply is, that 'the Mosaic Law' per se, is legalism and bondage; and 'legalism' is contra-grace and anti-Christ and salvation. Which of course, is the course of the lie from the truth through the half-truth to the whole and full lie.
     
  19. Gerhard Ebersoehn

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    "the Mosaic Covenant would be the law, as given to Moses" - never mind who said it, is a nonsensical non-concept. Not one idea in this clause is factual, or true.
    I don't read of a 'covenant', Moses closed;
    I don't read of 'the law, as given to Moses'
     
  20. Gerhard Ebersoehn

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    On the contrary, I read,
    "A Promise being left us of entering into His Rest (which is Jesus Christ) --- let us fear lest any of you (that is, us) seem to come short of it (this Promise which was of Christ). Because unto us was the Gospel preached as well as (the Gospel was preached) unto them : but the Word (of Jesus Christ) preached (unto them as well as unto us) did not profit them (while it profitted us?) not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
    In a word, because they of old --- the Word not being mixed with faith in them, were legalists! Now there is the definition for us, New Testament believers, of what 'legalism' is: The Word of the Gospel as in the Old Testament as in the New Testament preached and heard but not being mixed with faith.

    Blame Moses for it; then you're rid of your own legalism.
     

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