Legalism: a Smokescreen


(The following is from a booklet written by DR. MIKE ALLISON)

Is the term
"LEGALISM" used as an excuse to circumvent the Bible doctrines of separation?

Is the term
"LEGALISM" used to intimidate those who preach and practice a valid scriptural principle?
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Many sincere Christians feel the matter of holy living is strictly between the individual believer and God, and no one should set standards of dress and conduct.

Other equally sincere Christians believe it is right and necessary to maintain definite standards.

One group calls the other "compromising", while the other group answers with the tag of "legalist".

In this booklet, Dr. Mike Allison discusses the problems. He clarifies the issue of Biblical definitions and gives guidelines for proper Christian attitudes.

Legalism: a Smokescreen
We have an interesting but sad thing that has happened among evangelical churches these days. An exodus from standards for living has taken place. Preachers now preach that standards are a matter of "personal conviction." "If you think something is wrong for you, it is wrong. If you think it is all right, then it is all right."

It has become a common occurrence to hear preachers denounce those who preach standards by calling them 'legalists." A preacher from California recently cried out, while preaching on Galatians 5:1-5; "I hate legalism" (referring to those who preach about standards for living). Another chided preachers for making such a big deal over "regional convictions."

If I am against something they are not against, I am branded a legalist. If I am against something they are also against, we are "separatists."

Legalism has become the compromiser's excuse to circumvent the Word of God. This is a phrase often used by those who think right and wrong is simply a matter of personal choice. "I'm not convicted about it yet." Statements like this sound spiritual; they please the ears of those who have been wanting to indulge in things Christians have stood against for years, but demonstrate a lack of Bible knowledge concerning the law and its importance to the child of God.

Webster's New World Dictionary defines legalism as a "strict adherence to the law." However, theological legalism would have a different definition. Theological legalism is a strict adherence to the law as a means to be saved or keep salvation. Simply, any addition of works by man to the finished work of Christ to bring or keep salvation is legalism.

I. THE PROBLEM WITH THE LAW

The book of Galatians was written to combat theological legalism. Following Paul from place to place were groups of men who taught that simple faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ was not enough to be saved. They taught that circumcision and strict adherence to the law were essential to salvation. Many in the Galatian churches had…

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