Monday, September 12, 2005

Legalism, Sin and Godliness

Further to a previous post on Socials, Structures and Loving Others, someone alerted me to a post at Matthias Media CHN on legalism. I reproduce it here because there isn't an archive available on site:
Are you a legalist?
8 September 2005 AD

Legalism is a terrible aberration of true Christianity. It leads more to religiosity than a relationship with the true and living God. I was heavily influenced by legalistic teachings while at college. As a result, I constantly doubted my salvation. By the grace of God, however, I have since been brought under faithful Biblical teaching and have been reformed by God's Word.

However, one of the hangovers from my legalistic past has been my response to sin. I was always taught that sin is best dealt with by setting up guidelines, rules and structures in order to purge sin from one's life. One of the most popular examples of this is to seek out an accountability partner. I often wondered, though, if this was really adding another dose of legalism into my life. Surely, if God's law can't bring about the obedience of faith (2 Corinthians 3), how could Bill, John or Ted?

Though I would absolutely reject that I am legalist, I was greatly convicted by Dominic Smart's little article on the matter ("Legalism and its Antidotes" at In it, he discusses how legalism still rears its head even in those of us who are thoroughly evangelical. He discusses how our normal responses to sin may actually be a cover-up for the real issue—our passionate love for Christ.

Of course, I am not suggesting that accountability partners should be abandoned. If they are structured correctly and given proper attention, they foster wonderful partnerships in living out the Christian life and are the furthest things from legalism (as Smart implies). But where is it that we put our hope, trust and confidence when it comes to our battle with sin? Human structures are never the final answer. Practical answers are good, but too often they keep us rather than God as the focus.

The real answer seems clichéd but, nonetheless, true. Waging war on sin comes from being truly ensconced in living for the glory of God. There can be no false-piety in that lifestyle. Further, no one can motivate you quite like your loving Lord and Savior.

Smart concludes,"There is nothing like the upwardly-mobile life (a life moving heavenward) to make the legalism of church life clearly apparent and transparently false. It's not real holiness; it never produces the largeness of heart that Christ produces; it has no glory; it gives no delight to the soul; it is so obviously not what you were made for; no-one would have died to save you into that. Live for the glory of God. Therein lies your point and purpose in life; therein lies your true freedom; and therein lies your own true glory."
Noticed by Marty at 12:59 PM


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