Freedom From Legalism

Ajay Chakravarthy

…we have been released from the law…so that we serve in the newness of Spirit…

—Romans 7:6

There are two are two cliffs on either side of path to life one lawlessness and the other legalism (Rom. 2:12). The danger of legalism is that unlike lawlessness there is an outward appearance of righteousness which makes us unaware that we need to repent (Matt. 21:31).

What is at the root of legalism?

  • The desire for the honor from men. We have concern more for the opinion of men than of the Lord. We desire to have an outward appearance of righteousness, perhaps a knowledge of the scriptures rather than knowing the Lord Himself (John 5:39, 40) and bearing fruit out of our knowledge of Him. (Rom. 7:4). When desire to please the Lord, there will be a cross that we need to bear to the honor of men and this world (Gal 6:14).
  • Serving the Lord out of an obligation and for reward. As slave serves a master rather than as a son serves his father. We see this contrast highlighted in the story of the prodigal son where when he had returned had understood the value of being a son in his father house was. The older son did good things but they were out of obligation and with a desire for reward.

What are the signs of legalism in my life?

  • I transgress the commandments of God for the sake of my own tradition or personal convictions (Matt. 15:3). I’ll keep strict to my convictions perhaps in the regular study of God’s word but not walk in love towards my brother as the Lord has commanded
  • I regard with contempt or judge another regarding some conviction (Rom. 14:3, 10).
  • I’m not sensitive to a weak brother/sister and become a stumbling block to them (I Cor. 8:9)
  • I tie up heavy burdens on others and don’t lift a finger to help (Matt. 23:4)
  • I’m very strict and oversensitive in the smallest of convictions but completely insensitive to the more important of God’s commands. (Matt. 23:23, 24). When I see strictness to certain small convictions, I see I need to be careful if that is a covering for a more serious sin in my life.
  • I’ve seen when I’ve given into legalism, I’ll be only able to get along with those in that small group who believes in the same manner as I do. I’ll be judgmental of everyone else outside of that small group. And there is no righteousness, joy or peace in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17)

Why has God released me from the law?

God has released me from the law not to become lawless but rather than the law may be fulfilled in me as I walk in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4) like Jesus (Matt. 5:17). Since the Lord has freed me from the law let me seek to behold Him and know Him and be changed to into that same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

May the Lord preserve us from legalism which has destroyed so many lives and torn many churches, but rather to know Him and walk on the path of life.

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