An Introduction to Legalism

This is the third post in a series on Obedience.  In that introduction, I asserted that there are three broad categories of responses to Christ’s commands: antinomianism (or “Cheap Grace,” the topic of my last post), legalism, or obedience.

While the heresy of cheap grace asserts that the law is made irrelevant by grace, legalism attempts to do the opposite: to make grace irrelevant through adherence to law.  In its most basic form, legalism is conforming to laws, whether of God or of man, to earn favor or even to earn our salvation.

As with antinomianism, I want to be perfectly clear that I believe such legalistic teachings are heretical.  Even if it were possible (and it is not) to vault the vast chasm we created through our sin between us in our unholiness and our Creator in his eternal righteousness, no act we could perform and no temptation from which we could abstain could repair that broken relationship, bind that wound, and save us from the well-earned wages of our sins.  We would still stand in judgement.

Yet, even those of us who understand and accept this argument often fall into legalism’s trap.  We do so most commonly in four ways: brinksmanship, works-based salvation, hopelessness, and hypocrisy.

I will address each of these traps over following days, and I invite you to respond!


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