One of the main reasons for legalism is to prevent compromise from penetrating your walk with God. Legalism is supposed to act as a deterrent thus keeping people from Sin. It is based on the belief that it’s better to not enter temptation or sin. This is why mainstream denominations and cults alike practices legalism.
Some make the mistake of believing that legalism will generate holiness and this is a grave error. This type of holiness is nothing more than self-righteousness and there is only one that is Holy. Holiness does not come from legal laws and it is actually a totally separate thing from legalism. People tend to think that the two are grouped together and that is what leads to error.
Many of the Christian organizations that practice legalism may not be fully aware of the pitfalls and bondage associated with legalism. I shared my personal story about this bondage in the page above this one called ‘The Bondage of Legalism.”
Legalism brings a sense of condemnation and robs a person of self-worth. Condemnation is different from conviction. Think of condemnation the same way you would if a building was condemned. When a building is condemned the city is saying that this building is not worth preserving. It would be cheaper and better to tear this building down and replace it rather than waste resources on trying to restore the old building.
Conviction always comes by way of the Holy Spirit and it always leads to restoration. The purpose of conviction is to make needed changes in your walk with God. Take a new course if one is required. Change takes place in the heart then it works its way to the outside where people can see it.
Condemnation says there is no hope for you and even if you make the required changes it will never be enough. You will always have issues. You will always have problems and you have no self-worth. Condemnation is always judgmental and it works no real change on the inside. Satan seeks to Condemn for he accuses the brethren. The Holy Spirit seeks to convict and restore your walk with God should there be an event of a compromise.
The people who practice legalism are ready to prosecute those who do not keep all the rules that are intended to protect them. People think that if they need to keep these rules than other people must keep them too. They become judge, jury, and executioner whenever they see any violation of the rules. They are oblivious to the bondage that reigns over them.
The Holy Spirit needs some time to convict his children of their sins. If new Christians are subjected to rules that prevent conviction from working then there is no real heart change. Heart change equals life change. If people are condemned for a rule that has nothing to do with sin then there is no real heart change and no fruit is produced.
Some people say that this is not important but this is one of the main reasons the Jews missed the Messiah. They were so caught up in their Oral Law and the teaching of their traditions that they totally missed who Jesus was. They were so caught up with their own self-righteousness that they did not see their need for a savior from their sin.
There are many people today who totally miss Christ for the same reason. They don’t recognize their need for salvation simply based on the fact that they view themselves as a good person and they have a moral ethics code which is nothing more than a set of inward laws that they keep! No one is righteous before God!
“Romans 3:9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10As it is written:’
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17and the way of peace they do not know.”
18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” –NIV
What is the real reason for the law?
“Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” –NIV
So the purpose of the law was to make all men guilty so that every mouth is stopped! The purpose was not to say here are the rules and all you need to do is follow the rules and everything will be alright! The law was introduced to increase the trespasses against God not diminish them. Once we realize the purpose of the law we can then understand why we don’t need to make any more laws!
God’s design was to send one man who would keep the law and through His obedience, He would take the penalty of the law on Himself. He did not come to destroy the law. He came to fulfill the law. The Law says that the soul that sins will surely die. He fulfilled the requirements for sin at Calvary once and for all!
So as sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man the deliverance from sin would happen through the obedience of one man. We can no longer trust in our own actions to obtain righteousness. We must trust only on the price Jesus paid at Calvary. When we are adopted into the family of God we share in his righteousness.
You are as righteous as Jesus. You are as righteous as Paul. This is because we don’t come before God based on our own righteousness. This also explains the reason why it is impossible to get to God without going through Jesus! The bible declares that you will not be successful. There is no other person who is righteous enough to come to your defense! There is no other way to get to the father but through his Son Jesus Christ! This is what makes the true gospel of Jesus so important!
“Romans 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” –NIV
Congress passes law after law and in some cases, this is an attempt to legislate morality and ethics. Every American violates the thousands of laws congress has passed in one way or another. At times Christians attempt to do the same thing. They try to legislate morality. They try to legislate an ethics code.
Whatever feeble attempts are made by Christians in an attempt to legislate holiness one thing remains clear. In the end, you cannot be a policeman on behalf of the Holy Spirit and Christians need to get out of the way.
The Jewish Oral Law
The Oral Law is a group of Jewish traditions that were upheld by the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Many of these traditions were opposed to by the Sadducees. They based their interpretations on their own traditions emphasizing a more literal understanding of the scriptures. This led to a more severe observance of traditions and rituals than that of the Pharisees. This is especially true when regarding purity laws and temple practices.
Whenever Jesus was accused of breaking the law of Moses it was always in regard to these oral traditions that were established. Jesus never actually broke the law of Moses! He challenges their traditions on many occasions. When he healed people on the sabbath he did not violate the Torah, (law of Moses) but he did violate guidelines that were set in place to keep people from violating the law of Moses.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees both thought that salvation could be attained by not only keeping the law of Moses but also by keeping their traditions. They mistakenly thought that it was those traditions that allowed them to keep the law.
There was also a political power structure that played out as a result of the temple. They forced their traditions on the people of that era. This is why Jesus entered into conflict with these groups.
This is why Jesus said,
“Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”