What is legalism?
Legalism is what you become when you try to achieve righteousness with Yehovah through obedience to human-made rules and human-made doctrines.
Grace is what you enter into when you achieve righteousness with Yehovah His way, by obeying His law, the written law of Moses (the Torah).
We have always thought of the Pharisees as being legalistic, and we have always heard this was the reason for Jesus rebuking them.
If we look at the words, Yeshua (Jesus/Yehoshua) uses in Matt 23:2; we see He is not rebuking them for teaching the law of Moses. He is encouraging His disciples to listen to and obey them when they teach Moses. He rebukes them for making human-made rules, and human-made doctrines more important than Moses. He was scolding them for being legalistic by trying to achieve righteousness with Yehovah through obedience to human-made laws and human-made doctrines.
What happens when we try to achieve righteousness with Yehovah by obeying human-made laws and doctrines? When we obey someone, we give them power over us. So when we obey a pastor/a denomination, we provide them with power over us. The Bible says no humans are to Lord over us; only Yehovah has the legal authority to be our Lord. If we listen to human’s interpretation of the Bible and obey it, instead of reading the Bible for ourselves and following only the Bible, we give them the power to control us a power only Yehovah should have over our lives. When this happens, we are legalistic.
The Bible says if we are legalistic, we have fallen from grace. If we have fallen from grace, we can still repent and come back if we want to.
We see the same thing in the letter to the Galatians. The Galatians had accepted the cross; they were saved and had started to live out their salvation in obedience to Moses. But then Pauls’s opponents had crept in and filled their heads with human-made doctrines and human-made laws, telling them to focus on obeying them instead of Moses. They were telling the Galatian’s righteousness could not be achieved God’s way; righteousness could only be achieved their way.
It is a sad fact that 95% of Christians today have chosen legalism over grace. They would rather obey their pastors/denominations interpretation of the Bible, then the Bible itself.
When confronted with this truth, and the fact that 99% of the rest of the Bible contradicts their favorite pet doctrine, (such as eternal security or Moses law does not apply to us) they love to pretend the rest of the Bible does not exist.
We can’t ignore 99% of God’s word and pretend it does not exist. If 99% of the Bible contradicts our doctrine, something is wrong somewhere, and it is not the Bible.
Why would anyone, who has access to a Bible, believe the law of Moses does not apply to us or eternal security? It is right there in the Bible for all to see, but sadly, most Christians dont want to be under the authority of the Bible. They want to be under the influence of their pastor or denomination. So even though the Bible says the law of Moses still applies to us, and there is no such thing as eternal security, most Christians reject this if their pastor or denomination disagrees.
Why would any Christian want to be under the influence of their pastor or denomination, instead of the Bible?
Because of fear and peer pressure.
Acceptance of church doctrine and denominational traditions instead of the Bible guarantees you will be accepted into the community of your church. Rejection of church doctrine and denominational traditions in favor of the Bible ensures you will lose friends, and your fellowship but gain an everlasting relationship with Yehovah. Acceptance of pastoral authority instead of the Bible guarantees peace with the leadership in your church, even if you know deep down inside that what they preach can not be supported by the Bible. Rejection of pastoral authority in favor of the Bible ensures you will lose friends, fellowship but gain an everlasting relationship with Yehovah.
When we reject Moses’s authority in our lives, in favor of our favorite pastors/denominational doctrines, we give the authority over to a pastor/denomination instead. When we give them the power to interpret the Bible for us, and we never question what they say, we open ourselves up to spiritual abuse, legalism, but we also become guilty of idol worship.
We become guilty of idol worship because we have made our pastor/denomination into an idol when we choose their interpretation of the Bible over the Bible itself.
Why would anyone want to be legalistic and reject the Bible in favor of church doctrines, denominational traditions, and pastoral authority? Because of fear and peer pressure. The Bible says we are not to fear men; we are to fear Yehovah. So if we make decisions out of fear of man, man has become our god instead of Yehovah.
The Bible says, in Matt 7:21-23 and 1.Cor 1:17, legalism and idol worship will cause you to lose your salvation. You might retain your friends, your family, your fellowship, but you will never see heaven when you die. Repent from being legalistic while it is still time and come back to the Bible even if it means having to lose friends, family, and fellowship.
If you are a pastor or a denominational leader, you are responsible for making sure the people you are in charge of obey the Bible and not you or your denomination. You are responsible for making sure the people you lead are taught everything in the Bible, not just the doctrines approved by your denomination.
If you fail at this responsibility, you are responsible for all those who you have led astray.
Do not lose your salvation; choose to repent from being legalistic today by showing your love for Yehovah in obedience to Moses. (John 14). Choose grace over legalism by obeying the law of Moses AND believing Yeshua died for your sins. (Rev 12, 14, John 3, 1.John 2:6, 3, 5, James 2:10-26)