The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is how Christians describe others of  a type of teaching which emphasizes a system of rules and regulations for achieving salvation and spiritual growth. It is a works mentality, the works of self as sufficient both to save and to bring about spiritual growth. Self effort as the means and end.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” -{Luke 18:9-14.}

” This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
 But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.“-{Mark 7:7}

The passage gives us some insight through the Pharisee

who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

Legalistic People– Trust in themselves as being sufficient in self righteousness.

Legalistic People –  View other people with “contempt.”

Legalistic People – Pray to themselves and compare themselves to others and always  see themselves in a superior light.

Legalistic People – Appeal to their “self works” to justify themselves as worthy. There is an absence of awareness of their own spiritual need.

Legalistic People – “Exalt themselves” and to do so they must look down on others and this they do!

Legalistic People– Love to be recognized as spiritual superior people . They love to have pre-eminence, the best seat in the house, to be regarded by others as “leaders.”

Legalistic People – Have pretense of  honoring God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him

Legalistic People – Displace God’s Word with their own self  promoted opinions, standards as the ultimate authority. Elevate their opinion, their ‘standards’ above the Word of God. Holding their preferences as though they are God given and it is their right, duty to promote and see they are maintained.

Legalistic People – Live in bondage under man made rules and regulations.

Legalistic People – Find their identity in man-made rules.

Legalistic People – Are “fault-finders.” They look at others with the intent to find faults, flaws and are Judgmental and they take it upon themselves to sit in the seat as Judge and Jury,

Legalistic People – tend to be taken up with outward conformity be it appearance, dress, music preferences.

Legalistic People –  Are Joyless and Loveless people.

Legalistic People – Are harsh at times bitter people.

Legalistic People – Lack compassion.

Legalistic People – need to humble themselves and repent of their heart and appeal to the LORD Jesus, His Righteousness as their only hope.

Can Christians fall into this type of thinking? Absolutely, it happened the believers in the Book of Galatians. They discarded  and displaced the work of Christ as sufficient for their own self righteousness. They turned to  a works mentality- self effort as sufficient! So we must be aware of anything or anyone who teaches Christ is not sufficient nor His Work alone.

Legalistic People – Are devoid of the Grace of God.  They are graceless, unkind, lack compassion, they are devoid of God’s grace, His unmerited, kindness, favor towards us, independent of us or anyone or anything else. His Sovereign, free Gift.

Legalistic People– Hold a Position that is Directly opposed to Grace. Perhaps not in word but in attitude and action as they hold firmly to outward conformity to rules and regulations that are their own standard and not those of God

Legalistic People – Hold to the Law but fail to see the purpose of it in the Old Testament is to be our “school master” “tutor,”  to lead us to Christ that we may be saved!- “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” -{Gal 3;24}

Legalistic people are  harsh but need Him. They need to be saved, delivered from the false teaching they hold and promote to Him.

And for believers who choose it, they need to be gently , lovingly kindly reminded of His Word, and the truth about the Grace of Almighty God and His unearned, Sovereign, free Grace towards us that we should be delivered from the power of sin, the penalty of sin, the control of satan and under the wrath of God captive to His Justice which He graciously suspended by not exacting His right to take our lives and cast us into a deserving Hell, because of our defiance, rebellious sin against Him.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” – (Romans 14:1)

Legalistic People- Believers can adopt this sinful attitude and oppose anyone who holds a different opinion to them not in the basic and essentials of the faith but often non essentials and preferences!

Paul warns us of legalism in Colossians 2:20-23: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

LEGALISTIC PEOPLE–  May look and sound “spiritual and righteous” but they fail miserably as they do not accomplish God’s goal as they live and promote and judge by OUTWARD PERFORMANCE rather than an inward change brought about by the Holy Spirit and living for the Glory of God.



“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” -{Romans 15:7} The word “accept” speaks of a warm open heart towards them, The context is strong and weak believers… and how to treat one another.


“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”-{John 1;17}


“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}


We must check out the teaching  like the Bereans who upon hearing Paul, examined the Scriptures as their ultimate reference, authority for life, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”-{Acts 14:11}.

“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.”-{1 John 4:1}.

We must lovingly accept others have preferences that are different than us and accept them but we must not accept false teaching that is opposed to the Truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ and His Sufficiency to save completely independent of all others.


” seeing that His divine power has grantedto us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises,…“-{2 Peter 1;3-4}

“God is the author of our salvation and the power source for a transformed life. True liberty from the shackles of legalism awaits those of us who find our Christian identity and value, not in what we do or don’t do, but in Whom we belong to. In other words, our position in Christ is a far more trustworthy gauge of our spiritual status than our behavior.”– {John Mac Arthur}.

Legalism is the enemy of the LORD Jesus Christ and the Grace of God.  Don’t be His enemy!