Posts Tagged ‘Legalism’

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.


What was that false gospel that was being preached in Galatia? Legalism… Christ+Works=Salvation.

From the very beginning of the Christian church, legalism has been one of the biggest enemies of the gospel of grace. Throughout Paul’s epistles to the churches he constantly attacks and warns against this heresy that says you must keep the law to be able to save your soul. Unfortunately, even today legalism creeps in the church in various forms. Often we don’t even realize it until our heart have become swollen with pride.

C. J. Mahaney says in his book Living the Cross Centered Life, “Legalism isn’t just a matter of someone who has higher standards or more rules than you have. A lot of us wrongly sterotype a legalistic person as someone who never goes to movies or who thinks any music with a beat is evil. Legalism is much more subtle and serious than that- and far more pervasive than most of us realize… Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and justification before God through obedience to God.” That will never work. Legalism pushes Jesus off center stage and says what He did wasn’t enough. It says, I must complete what is lacking in His sacrifice. Mahaney continues, “A legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s forgiveness [or approval] through personal performance.” And thus the legalist makes Christ death in vain. Paul seeing this in the Galatian church said to them, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” -Galatians 2:21

Legalism perverts the gospel. It promotes pride and self-righteousness. We must realize each and every one of us for ourselves, that we are the chief of sinners. No matter how hard we try to wash our sins away, or how strict we hold to certain laws, ideas, and traditions, our “righteousness” is as a filthy rag. And so we must do and say as Paul did; “But what things were gain to me (speaking of his religious accomplishments), these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” – Philippians 3:7-9

Christ is our all in all. He is our boast. By grace we are saved, by grace we are sanctified, and by grace we will be glorified. Let us rejoice, for Christ has cleansed us by His work, and may we continue on worshiping and adoring Him.

J. C. Hahne


“We have a constant tendency to stop remembering the cross, and to start depending on legalism and self-effort.” – C. J. Mahaney

(Living the Cross Centered Life, pg. 107)

Oh how easy it is to base our joy on our own efforts… Up and down we go depending on how good we are… We must cling to the cross, to the gospel… Only then will our joy be full.

J. C. MaHahne 😉