So what is legalism? The heart of legalism is an attitude of pride. The legalist is proud to adhere to certain norms and judges others who do not conform to these standards. The legalist thinks that he is made acceptable to God, either for salvation or for spirituality, by his agreement with certain rules he chooses and chooses. These rules, without exception, are not things like loving the Lord with all your heart or loving your neighbor as yourself. On the contrary, the legalist chooses rules that he can respect and neglects or conveniently ignores the things he cannot respect. The legalist often focuses on external conformity while neglecting the righteousness of heart that God requires (Matthew 23:23-28). Dr. Charles Ryrie (Balancing the Christian Life [Moody Press], S. 159) defines legalism as «a carnal attitude corresponding to a code for the purpose of self-glorification.» Many of us have encountered this kind of stubborn Christianity. If not, we have probably met someone who has experienced legalism or practices legalism in their own practices. Even Jesus met people who practiced this in His day, known as the Pharisees. In this article, we will examine the definition of legalism, examples in the Bible, and what this dangerous way of thinking looks like in a modern context. He continues, «Therefore, we must strive to live our lives according to these commandments.
Such behavior is not legalism. Legalism is a servile observation of the law in the belief that it gains merit. So, down with legalism, but down with Jesus Christ and his body, the church! If you feel that you are not growing as a Christian, you cannot reject legalism as a kind of Christian life, or you cannot cling to Christ as the head of his body, the Church. Two final motions: 32 In his introduction, Hübner points out how nineteenth-century scholars such as Ritschl and Sieffert noted the inconsistencies between Galatians and Romans, and he welcomes the work of J. Drane, who suggests similar lines of development in Paul`s thought (see J. Drane, Paul: libertine or legalist? A Study in the Theology of the Major Pauline Epistles [London: SPCK, 1975]). For a different perspective on the development of the Spirit of Paul in relation to the law, see U. Wilckens, `Zur Entwicklung des paulinischen Gesetzverständnis`, NTS 28(1982), pp. 154-190.
(There is an abridged english version of this article entitled «Statements about the Development of Paul`s View of the Law» in Paul and Paulinism. Festschrift für C. K. Barrett, Hrsg. M. D. Hooker und S. G. Wilson [London: SPCK, 1982] S. 17–26.) 47 Reference may be made here to Räisänen`s article «Legalism and redemption by law» in Die paulinische Literatur und Theologie, ed. S. Pedersen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1980), pp.
63-83; and Paul and the Law, pp. 177-191. See, for example, p. 188: «I cannot resist the strong impression that Paul is in fact giving his readers a distorted image of Judaism. He comes to distort Judaism by suggesting that salvation in it comes through works and that the Torah plays a role equivalent to that of Christ in Paulinism. Sanders argued his case on the character of Palestinian Jewry so effectively that it will be extremely difficult for anyone to restore the old consensus that Jesus and Paul`s contemporaries were meritorious legalists. I am also convinced by Sanders and Stendahl that the right context for understanding Paul`s arguments about works of law is not at the generalized level of work for one`s own salvation (as opposed to trust), but in the specific area of the necessary demands of Jews and Gentiles in Christ. In other words, Paul is less concerned with sixteenth-century theological issues (whether the individual is saved by faith alone or by the collaboration of faith and works) and more concerned with the theological struggles of the former (whether pagan believers in Christ must live like the Jews to do the works of the law). Against the «Judaizers» in Galatia and elsewhere, Paul insisted that this was not a necessary condition for Christian believers to become a Jewish proselyte and live as a Jew; and against the Jews in Rome and elsewhere, he argued that the mere fact of being a Torah-observing Jew was also not a sufficient condition for salvation. His arguments were less about legalism than about cultural (Jewish) imperialism. And this means that Paul`s doctrine of justification by faith has all sorts of important social implications for the Church today that have been little studied before.79 Shaping one`s life in a way that conforms to certain norms decided by the Spirit-led leaders of a local congregation of believers is not legalism. «Let ye abstain from the flesh offered to idols, and from blood, strangled and fornication; what you stay away, you will do well.
You deserve good» (Acts 15:29). 1 Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1984; It is an ET of Das Gesetz bei Paulus: Ein Beitrag zum Werden der paulinischen Theologie (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1978). When we talk about legalism, we must be careful to define our terms. Some believe that legalism means having rules or commandments. I have been accused of being legalistic because I preach that we must obey the commandments of Scripture. But the New Testament is full of rules and commandments. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15). Some would argue that it is man-made rules or commandments that constitute legalism.
However, a moment of reflection will show that this is insufficient, as there are many areas not explicitly mentioned in the Bible where we need some rules to function as a Christian family or church. The legalistic person was bewitched. This term means that evil is brought upon you by vain praise. Legalism appeals to a person`s greed for recognition and tries to lure him into legalism in order to satisfy him. Galatians 3:1-3 While other scholars such as W. D. Davies would ask us to proceed cautiously in this matter,7 there has been a long-established and almost universal consensus that the main purpose of Paul`s critique of the law is Jewish legalistic perversion, which treats the law as a means of accumulating good works and earning his salvation. Behind such an interpretation lie strong theological presuppositions, the most important of which is the radical distinction between «work» and «faith,» which Luther made a central theme of the Reformation.8 Since most of Paul`s influential interpreters during this century came from the German Lutheran tradition (e.g., Bultmann, Bornkamm, Kümmel, Käsemann, Stuhlmacher), it is not surprising that they describe Paul`s conflict with Judaism in these terms. To give just one example, Bultmann describes first-century Judaism as «inevitably conceived in legalistic terms,» giving good works, even works of exaggeration, an important place as the basis of merit;9 and the criticism of Judaism and Paul`s justification by works of the law show that «it is not evil works or transgressions of the law, which first make the Jews offensive against God; on the contrary, the intention to do him justice by fulfilling the law is their true sin.10 Considering that this was written in Germany in 1932, his potential anti-Semitism becomes frighteningly clear.
And it is not surprising that Jewish scholars such as C. G. Montefiore and H. J. Schoeps opposed Paul`s attack on Jewish legalism, which is directed at a degrading form of Judaism or presents it as a utter misunderstanding of the role of the law in Judaism`s covenant structure.11 Nevertheless, it has become common in the science of all faith circles to claim that Paul`s antithesis between justification by faith and justification by works of law denies the difference between Trust in God for his own salvation and merit is expressed. 12 In Colossians 2:16–23, Paul tells his readers that they must resolutely resist the legalistic approach of the wrong teachers.