You see, for those of us raised in Christian homes, it is all too tempting to add to the message of the gospel, to embrace that, yes, salvation is by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but....look at all the things I'm doing for Him now. You know? And why isn't everyone else serving the Lord the way I am? etc....the sinfulness of my heart is so obvious when I start thinking that way. That's why I appreciated Todd's message so much.
Todd defined legalism as "in some way trying to earn favor or merit with God by keeping the law, characterized by spiritual pride." Whereas, faith is "simply trusting God to fulfill His promise."
Genesis 3 records God's first promise to send the Seed, and it was always His intent to save us through faith in this promise. Even when He gave us the law, it didn't replace the promise.
"What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made...therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." Galatians 3:19, 24, 25
We were never meant to keep the law, before Christ came or even now, after we've been saved through faith. It was just a tool to show us our deep need for a Savior.
What are the red flags of legalism?
- Comparison of yourself to others
- Making biblical mandates where there are none
- Spiritual pride
Differences in what the law and faith produce
- Salvation - only obtained by faith
"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ..." Galatians 2:16 and "For by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9
- Sanctification - when someone gets saved, God starts working to change them into the image of His Son
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 and ""O foolish Galatians!...This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Galatians 3:1-3
- The law brings a curse; faith brings a blessing.
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us...that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:13,14
- The law brings bondage or slavery; faith brings freedom. Under the law, we are required to continue obeying it, although it doesn't give us the power to do so!
"But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." Galatians 4:8-11
- The law boasts in the flesh; faith boasts in the cross.
"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14
- Fear of man (see chapter 2 - this happened to Peter!)
- Fear the Lord, not man. Know Him and study Him, and in doing so, obtain the right perspective of who we are.
- Choose to live by faith.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1
- Have the mind of Christ through studying the Scriptures. Romans 12:2
- Walk in the Spirit, in submission to the Word of God.
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
Thankfully we have God's Word to remind us to live by faith, to allow God to do His work in us!