7 Scriptures to look up before you shout “legalism”


There is a growing group of Christians today that want nothing to do with any kind of restriction from scripture or common sense Christian values in matters of faith and life. Any objection to the kind of movies they watch, the kind of music they listen to, the way they dress, the jokes they tell, getting wasted, the use of curse words or inappropriate language is usually seen as being “legalistic.”

The problem here is, I think, we want to be mere men, but we are not mere men. We want to be like everyone else, but we are not everyone else. We want to be normal, but we are not normal. We want to be ordinary, but we are not ordinary. God made us and called us to be extraordinary. And instead of letting scripture shape the way we live, we water it down a little for culture to have a little wiggle room around truth.

But it is important to understand that the things we watch and listen to have profound effects on us. Like my spiritual father used to say, “what goes in comes out.” Therefore, we must be determined to bring glory to God in every area of our lives, allowing scripture to be the determining factor in our daily choices. Because there are things we should not tolerate as Christians. So, before you tell that joke, before you watch that movie, or download that album, here are a few scriptures you might want to consider:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

  • Are my actions, words and deeds, tweets and Facebook posts glorifying to God? Do they bring honor to God? Do they lift others up and not bully them or make fun of them. Are the songs and movies and music videos I’m watching glorying to God?

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

  • the question is usually asked, did Jesus ever tell jokes? Of course he did, even though the scripture is silent, one can assume he did because he was fully human. What I cannot imagine though, is Jesus telling dirty jokes. His jokes must have lifted people, taught them some life lesson. It was corrective of bad behavior. It was soothing to the ear and never out of place.
  • The real question is, am I engaged in filthy gestures and behavior? Do I have any indecent habit and attire? Do I have a tendency to excite lust by using impure and obscene words? Do I enjoy foolish, idle, vain, corrupt, unsavory and light words? The last time I checked “Crude joking” and all the above were “out of place” for the believer.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23

  • Are there activities I am engaged in that I am not quite sure whether I should be engaging in?

All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful, but not all things build up, “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23

  • What profit or help am I getting from what I am watching, listening to, wearing or telling? What value am I adding to others?
  • Am I building myself spiritually by the activities I am engaging in? Are others encouraged, build up by the jokes I’m telling, the words I’m saying, the songs I’m singing, the conversation I’m having? What spiritual benefit is being imparted?
  • Am I putting myself under bondage? Am I forming habits that are spiritually crippling? Are some things becoming my master? Is there any kind of addictions forming?

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they are found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

  • Am I spending my money, time and energy wisely? Am I investing my time and money and energy wisely?

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 4:30

  • Are my actions offensive to the Holy Spirit’s presence? Do my actions drive away the Holy Spirit or do they draw Him near?

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 1 Corinthians 8:9, 11

  • Are my actions and activities causing others to stumble?

28 responses to “7 Scriptures to look up before you shout “legalism”

  1. Hi, brother. This was an excellent, balanced post. The comments are fantastic, too. Thank you for putting this out there for us to consider. The “legalism” thing can be a real mind twister, and should be thought through by every believer.

    Have a blessed day!
    \o/

  2. I feel some hesitancy here. You raise a valid point that there are those who want no restriction on what they say and do, and are very quick to shout legalism to justify any behavior they want. And the verses you pointed to are excellent for everyone to meditate on.
    On the other hand, I find myself one who frequently shouts “legalism” and I don’t want to be classified as licentious or trying to justify bad behavior. The boy who cried wolf proved to be a liar so that no one would listen to him and when the real wolf came it was able to devour. In the same way, Satan plants the licentious in the Church to cry “legalism” so that, if possible, Christians will no longer listen and the legalism will devour us, as I think it is doing. Paul said, “Apart from the law, sin is dead”. If we want to destroy sin, we must first destroy the Law. He also said, “for sin will have no dominion over you because you are not under Law but under grace.” The only way to escape the power of sin is to be fully under grace and entirely out from under Law. It is not that we emphasize grace without truth. Grace is the truth.
    Paul also said, “owe no one anything but to love one another” and “love is the fulfillment of the law.” By all means let’s dispense with all rules except for that one rule. And let’s dispense with trying to apply rules, however righteous and common sensical they may seem, to brothers or sisters. Our use of rules, the law, only serves to keep sin alive.
    I am sorry this is so long. And I hope it gives no offense. You have a great blog here and do many people good.

    • my sincere apologies for the title of my post. I usually shout legalism too – when I hear people say things like – it’s wrong to go to the movies, or it is sinful to watch TV, the internet is of the devil, you got a Jezebel spirit if you wear makeup or jewelry. I think it is equally legalistic to think that if I do my best. (sometimes even Christians think this way), than God is going to like me or favor me.

      I guess the point I am making in my post is that we need to allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to guide us in every decision and every choice we make. Because so many times I see Christians claiming grace and freedom while indulging themselves in sinful acts. I think scripture is there to guide us.

      The following verses from Galatians 5 could probably explain my position better:
      “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

      Thanks for your comment, I always enjoy reading them. You are always welcome here whether you agree or not. By the way, I don’t have all the answers and I could be wrong or overlooking a key part of the subject or discussion. So listening to others is something I like to do. Stay blessed!
      walter

      • You are very gracious to allow me to comment and I appreciate it. And I totally agree that we need to let the Holy Spirit and the Word of God guide us in every decision we make. And the places you cry “legalism” are appropriate. But there is more that is needful. We must allow other Christians the freedom God has give to us. We must allow our brothers and sisters to be guided by the Spirit and the Word of God like we are; and that means not being heavy handed to guide them ourselves if we think they are listening correctly. It is not only the spiritual judges in the Church that are legalists, it is not only the spiritual lawyers in the Church that are legalists, it is also the spiritual cops in the Church that are legalists. Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, and one opportunity that the flesh loves is the opportunity to tell a brother or sister how they ought to be more faithful. “The faith you have, keep between yourself and God” works both ways.

  3. Those who cry legalism, frequently take advantage of grace and use it as an excuse to sin! I have seen it and it is sad. They do not understand that freedom in Christ means freedom from sin!

  4. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!! Excellent, Walter!
    My wife and I have had major “discussions” with other Christians over this issue. Many Christians, especially new and younger believers, don’t even know what legalism is. We’ve had Christian people tell us we’re legalistic because we agreed when we married (28 years ago) not to ever drink alcohol or watch R-rated movies. This is a personal code of conduct, not legalism. Legalism says if you do not do XY and Z, you will find favor with God. But the law of the Spirit says, I have found freedom in Christ and I want nothing to do with XY and Z!
    Before coming to Christ, I was basically an alcoholic and I couldn’t string a sentence together without including cuss words. Christ completely freed me from my foul mouth and my need of alcohol and so much else; why would I dabble in the things that once held me captive?
    What’s my motive in abstaining from such things? Only to demonstrate to others that when Christ sets you free, you are free indeed! It’s not legalism to want to be a good witness.

  5. What many Christians ignore is the NT teaching that when a person is saved, the Spirit writes the law of God in his or her heart. It becomes, not some external code, but an internal one. Not something we do to become “righteous”, but something we do because, by the grace of God, He is making us righteous.

  6. This is a message that should be shouted from the roof tops and break the mindset that we can be of both kingdoms: God’s and the world’s. I think it will bring much breakthrough for Christians now if we would consume the Word of God, obey ever word of it and see that we must draw the line in the sand! We must be set apart and pure ambassadors of Christ. The things that hurt us the most isn’t the world coming against us but us joining to it. I pray we would all see that we are to be set a -part, holy unto the Father. We are in this world but not of it, we should be showing the world how great our God is by how we live our life, how we love and by what comes out of our mouths. All I can say is Amen!

  7. Wonderful message Walter! Who are we as Christians if we blend in with the world and the twisting of God’s Word.

    “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

  8. My God! Walter this was timely; I received a call this morning that was a disguised attack related to my faith. The individual asked was I preaching on Sunday to increase my income and neglecting the Sabbath Day practices? I was offended, but the maturity Christ has developed within made me remember my responsibility of being an “Epistle” first rather than a denominational Christian. I am a man who loves The Savior, keeping His word is my first priority. I am thankful to you for these admonishments. I will keep these as a match is to a flint before my heart and eyes. These post are filled with timely food for thought. I struggle with the enemy on all these fronts.
    Thanks,
    Aaron

    • Aaron, you are more than a conqueror. No weapon fashioned or forged against you will prosper. May the Lord give you strength, wisdom and discernment to walk in truth and the fullness of His power. I am with you in prayer and stay blessed.

      • I am forever thankful to God for you. I also thank you for being a fellow yoke man and bearing with me and countless others in our weakness and not casting condemnation. I will remember you also “Man of God” when I bend knee. Thanks for yielding yourself to The Holy Spirit.

  9. Walter,
    Yes. The issue you raise is legalism and you are right in what you are saying.
    Truth is what it is, and can’t be watered down or compromised without becoming falsehood.
    But truth without grace/love is detestable.
    “Speaking the truth in love.”
    The other side of truth is to focus only on grace without truth.
    That is called license.
    But the scripture says Christ is ,”full of grace and truth.”
    Legalism and license are said to be like the two robbers crucified on either side of Christ. They detract from the true Gospel of Christ, who is full of grace and truth.
    The contrast between those false gospels give us a clearer picture of the true Gospel.
    God bless.

    • Thank you for a very powerful comment.
      I do believe in grace… but grace, not as a license to sin
      I do believe in love… but love, not at the expense of obedience or truth
      I do believe in truth… but truth, not at the exclusion of the grace and love.

      Somebody said the other day,
      let’s get drunk on grace, two hundred-proof defiant grace…
      Another said said,
      let’s get fired up on love, seven times tested and refined love…
      I say,
      let’s get drunk on grace, love and truth… let’s get fired up on grace, love and truth.
      Grace is not a cover up, it is power to do the things God requires. Paul would say, “it is like the working of His mighty power in me.”
      Love is unconditional, it never ends, yet Jesus would say, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.”
      Truth is what sets us free. John wrote, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The truth here is not only the written word but also the living, risen word. Jesus is the manifestation or embodiment of truth. Truth is God’s grace and love in action.
      so I say yeah, it’s time to get drunk and fired up on grace, love and truth.

  10. Very well said brother. although we know that our works can never save us, they play a vital role in our possession of a proper testimony of Christ to the world.
    May we all be living, breathing, displays of of our gracious Lord through lives of holiness.

  11. Brother my spirit is leaping with praise as you have truly represented the truth of the gospel. I agree with you about the loose use of “legalism” to support the human nature’s propensity to rationalize and justify sin. The Word provides us with clear guidance for our spiritual walk today. It is a blessing to read your work. Keep on standing in His justifying grace and be swift to respond to every situation with the love of Christ.

    Stay in the race!
    Darrin
    P.S. Get in touch with me via email. I’d like to invite you to join in on ConquerorTalk. Hope to hear from you. :-)

  12. I agree that grace is not a license to be stupid. Here’s the thing: the more time we spend in the Presence of the Holy One, the more ridiculously unattractive those things become. Cutting out sinful practices alone leads only to frustration and increased dissatisfaction -and eventually cycles back to finding ungodly ways of comforting ourselves. That’s why we need to keep our eyes focused on the author and finisher of our faith, not on the sins that would pull us down. He is the one who pulls us out of the mud and we need to co-operate with him in setting aside the sins that so easily entangle us. imho

    • Thank you Charis for such a powerful comment. I think it is important that we learn how to discern right from wrong, good from evil and truth from error. Our world constantly bombards us with error and half truths. and the fact that we have to make decision and choices every day makes it even more important. One of the ways we do that is by allowing the “Word of Christ to dwell in us richly.” We are also to “put on the whole armor of God.” Unfortunately most of us want to wear the armor without the most important piece – the belt of truth. Truth guides us to the heart of the Father. Truth protects us from error. Truth brings wisdom in decision making. Truth sets us free. It is amazing what truth can do when we allow it to affect the choices we make.
      Stay blessed!

  13. Excellent Walter – too many are trying to be “free” in their own terms (and use “judge not, lest ye be judged” out of context.). Many want to just get by with “loving” Jesus – but He said, if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments.

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