What Is (And Isn't) "Legalism"?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Gregory Perry Sr., Oct 28, 2012.

  1. Gregory Perry Sr.

    Gregory Perry Sr.
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    Brothers and Sisters...I am hoping that this will result in a good, edifying, and instructive discussion that will help us all and NOT de-volve into a bunch of mud-slinging.:praying:
    My main idea is this...over the years I have seen many things discussed here on the BB and whenever someone suggested that there be any kind of "standard" (particularly if there was an IFB background involved) or that so and so should OR shouldn't DO such and such someone would usually scream "LEGALISM" and accuse anyone who adhered to any kind of (biblical) standard as being a legalist.
    So....the question is....What IS and what ISN'T legalism in the STRICTLY Biblical sense? I know this weighs into the matter of liberty in the Christian life but where do you "draw the line" and determine what we can and can't do (or should and shouldn't) and be PLEASING TO GOD and of use for HIS GLORY to those around us?
    I do have my own personal ideas which I will contribute as things progress but what are your ideas?....and what SCRIPTURE do you have to back them up (that is MOST important):thumbs:

    Bro.Greg:type:
     
  2. SolaSaint

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    I think Legalism is hard to claim on those we see doing things in the name of Christ for we really don't know their hearts, if they are doing it for God or to be seen. I do think it is different when we encounter those who chastize others for not doing as they do. It is a very difficult thing. If we would all just worry about our own relationship with God and with humility be a good example. Jesus didn't approve of the Scribes who pretended to be superior in Mark 12.
     
  3. 12strings

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    Well, I have a few starting thoughts.


    1. The word legalism does not occur in scripture.

    2. There are generally 2 different instances in which the word is brough up:
    a. When one takes a true command in scripture (do not lie) and applies it to salvation (if you lie, you are not saved)...
    b. When one is not speaking of salvation, but simply says Christians are sinning if they do a certain thing that is not forbidden in scripture. (It is a sin to use playing cards.) I think this is the more common type.

    3. If someone accuses someone of Legalism for simply, as you say "adhered to any kind of (biblical) standard". Then they don't know what they are talking about. A Person, for example, who believe that Christians should not steal, is not a legalist.

    4. One scriptural passage the is helpful for principles is...

    1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit expressly says that yin later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

    From these verses, I think we could say a few things:
    -It is a deceptive technique of demons to forbid things that God allows.
    -I think the Catholic requirement of celibate priests would fall under this.
    -I also think that those who say we are still under OT food laws would fall under this, which is probably what Paul had in mind.
    -Now I PERSONALLY believe that those who CONDEMN all use of drum sets, electric guitars, or pants on women, or ALL moderate use of alcohol, specific actions on Sundays...are also going beyond scripture, requiring what God does not require. I think it is a sufficiency of scripture issue to call something a sin that cannot be clearly shown to be a sin from scripture.
    -I do not think those, like you who are against Rock music are demonic, but that EVERY Christian has some legalistic tendencies in different ways that we must be on guard against. I am probably blind to my own. We want to do the right thing, but sometimes go beyond scripture...("you must spend 30 minutes a day in prayer, 1st thing in the morning, or you are sinning"...that sort of thing.)
    -Every Christian must have their own convictions, based on scripture, but must not condemn other Christians as sinning unless Scripture demands it.
     
  4. 12strings

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    2 examples from my own experience:

    1. I do not drink alcohol. I can't think of any good reason to in which drinking alcohol would please God more than not drinking it. ("we make it our aim...to please him.") BUT I think it might possibly happen in the future...in some situation...I might just be the case...AND...I cannot form a scriptural case against it such that I can say definitively if you drink a glass of wine once a week at dinner, you are sinning.

    2. I had a former Pastor who I believe was very Legalistic, who believed God did not want him to preach in anything other than a suit,tie, and a WHITE shirt. (no blue shirt, brown shirt, yellow shirt, grey shirt). Now, even if he conceded that another person was not sinning by preaching in a blue shirt...I would say he was still in the grip of legalism for being convinced of a requirement that God had not given him. I don't really know how that fits with pauls "meat sacrificed to idols" scenario except that Paul obviously believed they were mistaken in their idea, but that they should do what they beleived was obedient to God until they were convinced otherwise...but NOT to say that those who did eat the meat were sinning.
     
  5. Scarlett O.

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    I can only do this with specific examples. I'll give one.

    Wearing dresses-only whether to church or all the time.

    This can or cannot be legalism depending on the intent of the heart. There are some women (or else their husbands) who see a garment with one hole (dress) as more "spiritual" as a garment with two holes (pants). Or else, they view the one-holed garment as their best and the two-holed garment as second best.

    If this is the preference or the spiritual inclination of these women (or their husbands), then they should practice their preference and do it joyfully unto the LORD. And everyone else should get off their case about it.

    And ... as long as they are not associating the wearing of the dresses as contributing to their justification or their sanctification and as long as they are not harboring a heart of disdain for others who do not possess the same preference then this is not legalism.

    It's only those women (or husbands) or denominations who put the mark holiness/righteousness in the dress and the mark of sinfulness/unrighteousness in the pants that constitutes legalism.

    And for women like myself who don't understand the difference in a one-holed or two-holed garment as far as their connection with "best clothes" or spiritual clothes, then it's my liberty in Christ that allows me to wear either garment - and my heart and actions to display my righteousness/justification.
     
  6. Yeshua1

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    Would say 2 kinds of legalism in the church!

    one states that unless we do this thing we are not really christian, so would be those saying that we MUST keep all things in order to get saved...

    others would have their own personal convictions/preferences be THE normn for all other believers to adhere to as a sign of true Christianity!
     
  7. Arbo

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    When two people can't agree about convictions, traditions, preferences, etc.; often legalism ends up being what the other guy's engaged in.
     
  8. mont974x4

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    Legalism, as I understand it, is drawing a line where God Himself does not draw one. These are areas of freedom that each person must prayerfully search the Word and be convinced by the Spirit. These personal lines of conviction on these areas of freedom are not legalism. They become legalism when we demand the same act of conscience for others.

    My brothers and sisters have offered some great examples.
    alcohol
    dress code
    diet
    entertainment choices
    KJO-ism
     
  9. Oldtimer

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    Early this morning, I read the following e-book.

    Keys to Fruitful Church Membership
    This book can help any church member be more "content" and fruitful in his relationship to a New Testament church. It is not an exhortation to ignore sin and error in churches, but it is a challenge to learn how to weigh issues in spiritual wisdom. The chapters include the following: The Importance of the Church, No Perfect Church, Keen Spiritual (more...)
    http://www.wayoflife.org/free_ebooks/index_b.html

    From the section on Conviction vs. Preference -

    It is helpful to read to get the full context of both this section and how this relates to the rest of the book.
     
  10. Revmitchell

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    Legalism is what ever is against my pet issue. It is purely subjective and never a reliable claim.
     
  11. timf

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    We have the Pharisees as an example of "requirements" used for self-righteousness.

    We have the Galatians as examples of additional requirements that elevate the flesh over the Spirit.

    There is a type of judgment we are called to;

    1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

    However, there is also room for diversity;

    Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

    The problem with requirements and standards is that they tend to substitute for maturity and provide a comfortable place to park ourselves. Standards are often presented on the basis of helping us mature, but all too often they are a hindrance, diversion, or substitute for maturity.

    We should be growing into the full image of Christ. If we grow in Christ, we grow in selflessness. If we grow in selflessness, we grow in love. If we grow in love, we fulfill the law.

    If we shoot first for rule keeping, we strive in the flesh, quench the Spirit, and miss the boat when it comes to maturity. Jesus warned about the "leaven" of the Pharisees. If we focus on what we do, we lose sight of what God can do in us.

    If we a growing in Christ-likeness, we do not need standards. If we are not growing in Christ-likeness, standards will not help.
     
  12. 12strings

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    If you are speaking strictly of extra-biblical standards, then I would probably agree...however would not the following be true?

    1. Part of growing in Christ-likeness is knowing and obeying God's word?

    2. A BIBLICAL standard, such as always speaking the truth, can help in our growth in Christ-likeness, as we, with the holy Spirit & based on the finished work of Christ, continually turn from the temptation to speak falsehoods?
     
  13. Alive in Christ

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    Well, I see that several people are "waxing elequent" on this subject, and that is perfecly fine and good.

    He is my condensed version...

    If you believe/teach people this...


    You are a legalist
     
    #13 Alive in Christ, Oct 29, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2012
  14. Tom Butler

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    I'd define legalism as measuring one's spirituality by outward means, determined by me, of course.

    For instance:
    Mini-skirts: unspiritual
    Floor-length dresses--spiritual
    Shorts--unspiritual if worn to church.

    Men's hair below the collar--unspiritual

    Attend Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday--superspiritual
    Attend Sunday morning and evening--pretty spiritual
    Attend Sunday morning only-- probably unspiritual.

    Tithers--spiritual
    Systematic givers, but not always tithers--spiritual, but needs improvement.

    Wine drinkers--unspiritual
    Beer drinkers--really unspiritual
    Whiskey drinkers--super unspiritual
    Nyquil drinkers--not a problem--like wine for nedicinal purposes.

    See how easy it is to come up with legalistic stuff.

    A former pastor said, "if you let me define sin, i can live above it."
     
  15. Gregory Perry Sr.

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    But Tom.....!

    Bro.Tom....surely you jest:smilewinkgrin:...you just succeeded in shooting down the entire basis for "spirituality" in 1000's of churches of all types. Surely you can't be serious :laugh:....CAN YOU??? Besides...you completely lacked the old traditional SBC standby....tobacco use! Chew,dip,or smoke?

    Bro.Greg
     
  16. ktn4eg

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    Here's one that I recall from about 25 yrs ago when I was serving as registrar of Clarksville Baptist College (Clarksville, TN---CBC disbanded about 15 yrs ago.):

    CBC had a couple students from Latin America that were here in the US on a student visa. As registrar of CBC, it was my responsibility to keep the INS people informed of the whereabouts of any/all non-US citizens who were studying at CBC solely on the basis of a student visa.

    There was one student whom the faculty and/or staff/administration of CBC had some questions about his "after-hours" work activities. (At that time [during the Reagan admin], foreign students here in the US on just a student visa basis were limited as the hrs and/or amt of money they could make here in the US.)

    Some of the many things I was responsible for reporting to the INS was that student's contact info (address, phone #'s, sponsor' info), etc.

    When I called this one particular student into my office to find out (& subsequently report to the INS) this info, he hemmed & hawed & tried to accuse me as trying to pry into his personal life.

    When I told him that all I was doing was to comply w/ INS rules/regs, his response was that I (personally) was simply being "LEGALISTIC"!!!!

    Although I (along w/ the rest of CBC's staff/admin) suspected that he was acting in violation of INS rules/regs, he tried his best to never leave a "paper trail" behind by always insisting that whoever hired him part-time to do whatever for them, that they always paid him in cash (rather than by check, MO, etc.).

    The problem that CBC could possibly face was that if we failed to report the info re: foreign students studying at CBC on only a student visa that the school itself could face fines & possibly the INS's permission to allow any/all foreign students to study at CBC on a student visa basis (including the ones CBC already had studying with it on that basis).

    Knowing that, I informed him that if he didn't supply me w/ what info I needed to in turn report that back to the INS, not only his status as a student at CBC could be in jeopardy, but also that of all the other CBC students in that same student visa status.

    That didn't seem to faze him, and then he proceeded to storm out of my office crying that, "You're ALL just a bunch of 'LEGALISTS'!!!!

    So, I guess that (at least according to him anyway), ANY ONE or ANY THING that tries to comply with ANY "LAW of the Land" is a legalist!!!

    I suppose that (using that student's logic) driving the speed limit, or stopping at a red light, or pulling off to the side of the street to let a fire truck/ambulance/rescue squad vehicle pass you automatically makes a person a "Legalist"!!

    How's that for a good example of eisegesis!! :thumbs:
     
  17. Yeshua1

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    I remember while in the AOG church, had a couple move up north to MI from the South...

    They were appalled that we allowed mix swimming for the teens, that we would allow girls/boys to swim together , yet they saw no problem with taking tobacco or a shot fro lunch!
     
  18. timf

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    Standards are often offered to us as a "help". However, when we examine how such standards can help, we see something darker. The Bible tells us not to bear false witness. While consistent with telling the truth, it is not the same as saying always tell the truth in every situation. God always tells the truth in every situation because it is impossible for Him to lie.

    We can begin to have the God like character of not lying in one of two ways. We can surrender ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in us to make us more like Christ or we can focus on ourselves and whip ourselves into better performance with the "help" of standards.

    The moment we attempt to manipulate effect, we become like the Pharisee rather than the tax collector. The temptation to "do right" is strong. It is better to do what is natural and in truth and humility bring it to the Lord when we fail, as we will.

    In a way this struggle within a Christian is like the struggle within a church. Churches focus on control to prevent error when the Bible urges us to correct error. When we try to prevent error, we use coercive force which is of the flesh.

    If we try to live the Christian life as error prevention, we experience the frustration of the flesh. If we live the Christian life as one of error correction, we find unlimited forgiveness from a loving Father when we come to Him in truth and humility.
     
  19. Tom Butler

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    I grew up in a Southern Baptist culture (long time ago) that we could characterize as "we don't smoke, drink or chew, or go with girls that do."

    When I was in college (in the late 1950s), the girls' phys-ed class put on a demonstration of "rhythmic exercises" one day. Looked like dancing to me. This was a Baptist school.

    BTW, that same school now has sanctioned dances. It's considered a conservative school.

    I think we'd all like to avoid being labeled legalists, but I do think we have to be careful that our liberty doesn't degenerate into license. The Bible is filled with a lot of "thou shalt nots" that we ignore at our peril, I think.
     
  20. awaken

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    Any rule or added doctrine that is not from the Bible that is legalism.

    Obeying and following the Holy Spirit guidiance in all things..that is not legalism.

    THe heart of legalism is that some want to add something to the simple gospelof Christ's death and resurrection and our own faith in that act. People want to add cultural norms to the practice of christian life that may not have biblical foundation.

    I do not think the world has rejected our message just the way it is presented. We will not reach the world if all we have to offer them is a long set of rules and guidelines to live by.

    Legalism also replaces a relationship with God. Legalism makes slaves out of people where Jesus came to set us free!

    Legalism is demonic deception..it disobeys the truth...dishonors the cross..disclaims the Spirit...also disregards the miraculous.
     

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