What is ... legalism

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Copper, May 23, 2005.

  1. Copper

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    "Legalism" appears to be the new buzzword these days. If someone adheres to anything in the Bible that someone else doesn't approve of, they are scolded as being legalistic.

    But, precisely what IS legalism?

    It was my understanding that the true definition of the word was when someone added something to the act of salvation, i.e., a work of some sort. Lighting a candle, baptism, speaking in tongues, etc. However, that definition has been stretched to include all sorts of things.

    So, in YOUR opinion - what is legalism?
     
  2. Craigbythesea

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    Legalism is incorporating in the Christian faith the Mosaic Law. The most common example is teaching that the Ten Commandments apply to Christians today. Another common example is the teaching that the Mosaic Law is composed of two parts—the part that all Christians must obey and the other part that these legalists refer to as the ceremonial laws.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. wtrsju

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    le·gal·ism ( P ) Pronunciation Key (lg-lzm)
    n.
    Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality

    (source - dictionary.com)
     
  4. Rhetorician

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    Copper,

    In a broader sense, it is a legal code of some sort that "I" endeavor to keep (whether I do or not). Then, "I" make this the standard for "you" then go on to judge your level of "christianity" by how well "you" keep "My" code. Generally the ones who make the code are only concerned with the externals of religion.

    Tis is oversimplified but you get the idea. An example might be Paul and Peter in Galatians.

    sdg!

    rd
     
  5. exscentric

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    Biblically, go to Galatians and read for yourself. Basically it is adding the law or parts thereof as part of achieving salvation. The legalists were adding to the simple Gospel.

    The buzzword definition has been around for years and the definition hasn't changed much. If you follow a do's and dont's list then you are a legalist. I always finish a study of a book of the Bible with a long list of do's and dont's from the book and remind those that feel that we shouldn't have do's and dont's, that God seems to be a legalist :)

    Do's and dont's to gain salvation is wrong, but do's and dont's are part of life and the Word.
     
  6. Copper

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    You know, I REALLY like the way you put this. Especially the part about God being a legalist. [​IMG]

    Blessings,
    Copper
     
  7. Pipedude

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    Legalism has no scriptural definition. On the street, it means "somebody thinking that something I do is wrong." Compare it to worldliness, which means "somebody doing something I wouldn't do."

    The speaker is always the standard by which the terms are defined.

    (In actual theology, of course, definitions are agreed upon so that discussion can proceed. But when the speaker is not being held to high standards of terminological exactitude, the street definitions surface every time.)
     
  8. Victory in Jesus

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    I can't help but think that the reason some people seem to be legalistic is because it is difficult to keep all the dos that we set up to obey.

    A good example is the 24-7 dress rule that implies a good Christian lady will not wear pants. I recall wearing dresses in the cold wintery days as a teenager. I'm not sure if it was because I resented those Christians who didn't wear dresses because they looked so much warmer, or because I would have had to face the fact that possibly I was freezing my legs off for no reason other than to impress my own pastor (or rather would be totally embarrassed if I was caught wearing pants).

    Whatever the reason, I had it set in my head that any woman who wore pants was hell-bound. In my opinion (and sadly, that's what it was), June Cleaver and Ethel Mertz were the only ones beside myself who were going to heaven.

    I had strict consequences that I believed would happen if ladies wore pants. I've changed a LOT since I was a teen...suddenly I'm not as smart as I thought I was back then. [​IMG]

    Consider the lady who was about to be stoned. The things she did would have many of us today thinking she deserved what was coming to her. But the Lord saw the lady for who she was, not for what she was making herself to look like. Jesus saw the soul. Funny thing about the entire incident is that Jesus was the only one-the One Who was without sin-who was entitled to throw the stone but He didn't. We always wonder what He wrote in the dirt...I believe it was the ten commandments. (I could be wrong, and I accept that). But, we have all broken the commandments and each sin is as bad as the other in God's eyes. We are all worthy of being stoned. But, Jesus didn't come to Earth to stone us...He came to deliver us from our sins just as he did with the lady.
     
  9. superdave

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    There is a fine line between following the Word, separating from those who don't and legalism.

    Like the Judaizers who wanted the gentile believers to not only accept Christ, but to follow the Law as proof that they trusted, or as some kind of confirmation of their faith, we have ministries and people today who do the same thing with their own brand of spirituality. They don't actually say that specific behaviors are required for salvation, but they say if you were a true believer you would be behaving like they do.

    Man sees the outside, God sees the heart. Visible fruit is something that ought to be present, but following strict adherance to a specific set of rules and regulations that cannot be supported by a proper view of the doctrines of the NT church cannot be added with the label of "If you really are saved you will do (fill in the blank)" without appropriately recieving the tag of legalism.
     
  10. exscentric

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    "I can't help but think that the reason some people seem to be legalistic is because it is difficult to keep all the dos that we set up to obey."

    The setting of do's should be done by God, not us :) that way we know we can keep them all.
     
  11. Artimaeus

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    I had always thought of legalism as adding things to what the Bible says. Such as, taking 1 Cor 11:14 "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" and then adding to it the idea that it must be 1/2" above the eyebrow, tapered in the back, and off the ears. I learned on this board about the legalism of adding things to the process of getting saved. So when I say I am a non-legalist I am referring to postsalvation requirements that are treated like "fruit" to judge a person's maturity.
    (I think I even confused myself) [​IMG]
     

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