The Pitfall of Legalism

“If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.”

Samuel Ginder

On the surface, this idea of seeking God’s approval via the performance of “good works” sounds noble…aren’t believers supposed to be obedient, and thereby honor the laws of God? The problem, or pitfall (trap; snare) with this notion is that is rests on the person’s own fleshly ability to carry out perfect obedience. We will fail! Because we cannot obey every aspect of the law perfectly, we will stumble and be as guilty as if we had broken every legal requirement.

However, the good news—the Gospel—is that perfect law-keeping does not rest on our shoulders. While we desire to be obedient because we love the Lord and His ways, it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone, that we are saved and justified before God:

Grace: The limitless kindness and mercy of God that is freely given to undeserving human beings; catalyst for initiating salvation; divine enabling or gifting; divine favor.

If we attempt to earn favor, or add anything to salvation by our own efforts, we are going to find ourselves in a pitfall of endless failure and frustration. However, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection to life on our behalf, we are justified before the Lord; that is, we are declared innocent to sin and fully accepted by God. The burden of earning God’s approval has been lifted from our shoulders!

In the next post we will take a further look at the nature of legalism and how it might be expressed toward others.