“Legalism-emphasizing a system of rules and regulations to achieve salvation and spiritual growth.

“Legalism” which is joyless, loveless, peace-less, graceless, because it is Christ-less! It substitutes love with lists, to try to appeal to GOD with self works and worth as the Pharisee who went to pray and told God how good he was and went through a list of his works to merit God’s approval of him, in Comparison to the other man the sinner, whom he saw himself as superior of and deserving of God’s approval based solely on what he did and did not do in comparison to the sinner he saw himself as superior and well deserving of God’s praise and acceptance! “Self works,” rather than the work of Christ alone and His gift of grace to save and sustain and produce spiritual growth,- {Eph 2:8-9; 2 Cor 12:8-9; 2 Cor 3;18; Phil 2:13 NLT.}

“Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).”{gotquestions.com}

RC Sproul speaks of THREE Types of Legalism.  The heading before each of the three points are my own summation}  He writes and gives some insight into these aspects…

  1. LAW KEEPING AS AN END IN ITSELF; “Some people seem to be preoccupied in the Christian life with obeying rules and regulations, and they conceive of Christianity as being a series of do’s and don’ts, cold and deadly set of moral principles. That’s one form of legalism, where one is concerned merely with the keeping of God’s law as an end in itself. “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” The legalist isolates the law from the God who gave the law. He is not so much seeking to obey God or honor Christ as he is to obey rules that are devoid of any personal relationship.”
  2. EXTERNAL LAW KEEPING THAT DOESN’T COME FROM THE HEART; “How does one keep the letter of the law but violate its spirit? Suppose a man likes to drive his car at the minimum required speed irrespective of the conditions under which he is driving. If he is on an interstate and the minimum posted speed is forty miles per hour, he drives forty miles per hour and no less. He does this even during torrential downpours, when driving at this minimum required speed actually puts other people in danger because they have had the good sense to slow down and drive twenty miles an hour so as not to skid off the road or hydroplane. The man who insists on a speed of forty miles per hour even under these conditions is driving his car to please himself alone. Although he appears to the external observer as one who is scrupulous in his civic obedience, his obedience is only external, and he doesn’t care at all about what the law is actually all about. This second kind of legalism obeys the externals while the heart is far removed from any desire to honor God, the intent of His law, or His Christ.This second type of legalism can be illustrated by the Pharisees who confronted Jesus over healing on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:9–14). They were concerned only with the letter of the law and avoiding anything that might look like work to them. These teachers missed the spirit of the law, which was directed against ordinary labor that is not required to maintain life and not against efforts to heal the sick.”
  3.  EXTRA BIBLICAL -ADDING OUR OWN RULES; “The third type of legalism adds our own rules to God’s law and treats them as divine. It is the most common and deadly form of legalism. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees at this very point, saying, “You teach human traditions as if they were the word of God.” We have no right to heap up restrictions on people where He has no stated restriction.Each church has a right to set its own policies in certain areas. For example, the Bible says nothing about soft drinks in the church’s fellowship hall, but a church has every right to regulate such things. But when we use these human policies to bind the conscience in an ultimate way and make such policies determinative of one’s salvation, we venture dangerously into territory that is God’s alone.Many people think that the essence of Christianity is following the right rules, even rules that are extrabiblical. For example, the Bible doesn’t say that we can’t play cards or have a glass of wine with dinner. We can’t make these matters the external test of authentic Christianity. That would be a deadly violation of the gospel because it would substitute human tradition for the real fruits of the Spirit. We come perilously close to blasphemy by misrepresenting Christ in this way. Where God has given liberty, we should never enslave people with man-made rules. We must be careful to fight this form of legalism.The gospel calls men to repentance, holiness, and godliness. Because of this, the world finds the gospel offensive. But woe to us if we add unnecessarily to that offense by distorting the true nature of Christianity by combining it with legalism. Because Christianity is concerned with morality, righteousness, and ethics, we can easily make that subtle move from a passionate concern for godly morality into legalism if we are not careful. “

There’s no love, joy, life, or passion. It’s a rote, mechanical form of law-keeping that we call externalism. The legalist focuses only on obeying bare rules, destroying the broader context of God’s love and redemption in which He gave His law in the first place. “- {This excerpt is taken from How Can I Develop a Christian Conscience? by R.C. Sproul.}

Legalism is taken up with externals, rules, regulation, as a means to salvation, spiritual growth, acceptance with God!

“He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” -{Mark 7:9}

Believers are not averse to falling back into these old ways as is seen in the Book Of Galatians where Paul confronts the believers who have embraced a false gospel! A “gospel” of self works as sufficient, grounded in pride, rather than the Gracious work of Jesus Christ!  It is opposed to the Grace of God, by presenting self works as sufficient and Christ’s sacrifice as deficient, in need of “help.” In Jesus day in John 10 they were those whom He calls, “thieves, robbers”-“SCAM ARTISTS- seeking to scam people for their own good and making them twice sons of Hell. And those in Galatians  leading God’s people astray were deceived and deceitful, caring nothing for the people only theri own selfish gain.

Paul warned against LEGALISM in Colossians 2:20-23; “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,  “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the [c]appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. “

Legalist’s appear outwardly moral, and want to be known,elevated, esteemed and praised as such. They love to be thought of as ” righteous and spiritual,” but they cannot be because their’s is an outward performance instead of an inward change. “…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. “-{2 Tim 3:5}.

Believers can also fall into the sin of legalism;

How can we Guard ourselves against Legalism?

Consider ;


“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. “-{John 1:17}


Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.  “-{Romans 14:1-3}.


“…Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”-{Rom 14:4}


“…But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. “-{Rom 14:10}


“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery…”-{Gal 5:1}


” For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. “-{Gal 5;13-16}

So in things that are “preferences,” and not sinful, Remember to be kind to other believers, for God accepts them, you do likewise, God will make them stand, we all give an account to God! Remember love is to be primary. Though we can allow differences, but they must not divide us, non essentials, tolerant, lovingly so. But when it comes to The Truth, the Word of God, we cannot compromise false teaching, heresy as that is an attack on the character of God, misrepresents Him and can lead people astray, deeper into bondage away from liberty.

” … Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about {our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints, {holy ones}.”-{Jude 3}



I once read that the most used verse by non Christians and “Christians” was ” Do Not Judge,” and the verse in Matthew 7:1 and is usually the verse that is held up as ” The Bible says so.” It does, but the way some use it is though it means ,there is never a reason to “judge,” them in light of right from wrong, Godly versus Ungodly. The miss-use of the verse  is used as a shield to keep from accountability for their sin. The Pharisees were quick to judge others sin but not hold themselves accountable for their own sin! They were not imposing on themselves what they were imposing on others! Judging others with a critical self-righteous spirit is what is at stake. They “magnified” the sin of others whom they judged while minimizing their own sin! “… Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”-{Matt 7:1-5}

The verse is speaking of judging condescendingly, critically, harshly, self-righteously, James 4:11-12 says, “DO NOT SPEAK AGAINST…”speaking in a slanderous way, lacking in mercy and love. Yet in Matthew 7 Jesus shows that He is not saying, “‘do not judge,” discern, for He goes on to speak of making right judgment calls, discernment in regards right and wrong behavior, He is not teaching do not judge right from wrong, but do not judge harshly, mercilessly, lovelessly, as the passage teaches do not Judge HYPOCRITICALLY! Hyper-critcial a fault finder. Lacking love, mercy. Holding others to a standard that you do not hold yourself to, and condemning them!

There are those “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”

Do not sit in judgement of another’s motives when you or I  do not know the thoughts, motives of another.

“DO NOT JUDGE…” -{Rom 14:4,10}. Paul says in regards “preferences,” non essentials, by looking down on someone, and he speaks of those who are weak in the faith.   



A. – Jesus says we are to Judge righteously in John 7:24 -“Do not judge according to appearance, but BUT JUDGE WITH RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT.” -{John 7:24}

B. – Jesus tells us we are to judge by “fruit.”“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they ”  Matt 7:15-16,

C. – Believers must Judge {distinguish} between true and false doctrine.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”- (1John 4:1)

“Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining (a word used in Greek to describe the questioning of someone in order to pass a judicial sentence!) the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.{Acts 17:11}

” but test{examine, prove} everything; hold fast what is good.”- 1 Thess 5:21

D. -We are told to JUDGE OURSELVES, -“…now if we JUDGE OURSELVES RIGHTLY, we would not be judged”- {1 Cor 11:31}


Legalism is the enemy of Jesus Christ as it attacks Him and His Work as Insufficient!


SALVATION IS A – Gift of God Through His Graciousness;

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-{Eph 2:8-9}


“Therefore, having been justified by faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God”-{Rom 5;1-2}

We now STAND IN GRACE- fully Accepted by God as do ALL His children- Remember That!