What is legalism?

by Matt Slick

legalismIn Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc).  This legalism can take different forms.  The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation.  The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.  The third is when a Christian judges other Christians for not keeping certain codes of conduct that he thinks need to be observed.  Let’s examine each one more closely.

The first kind of legalism is where the law of God is kept in order to attain salvation.  This is a heresy, a completely false doctrine.  We are not able to attain salvation by our keeping the law.  Rom. 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”  Gal. 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”  It is simply not possible to keep the Law enough to be saved.  Therefore, to try and gain salvation through one’s efforts is a false teaching.  It is so bad that those who hold to it cannot be Christians since it would deny salvation by grace through faith.

The second kind of legalism is where a person tries to keep or maintain his salvation by keeping the law…


What is legalism? | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

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