Legalism Man’s Default Position

Today I want to briefly extrapolate from Genesis 3:6–7 what I believe to be the cause of so much confusion in the Christian church today. Namely that our fallen natures default position is one of legalism. Where you find legalism you will find every kind of work of the flesh and namely the worst kind of worldliness “the pride of life”.

Legalism in the classic theological sense is man’s attempt to appease God’s wrath through his own righteousness. There is a general sense that God is always angry in some circles of Christianity and I personally wouldn’t want to live in the house with a father that seems to impossible to please. God is made to look like an old angry man in heaven and pastors often take this same persona.  There is no winsomeness, and little kindness found in this type of oppression or religion.

ball and chain closedLegalism in Christianity today is found in extra-Biblical (which is really unbiblical) standards enforced by the pastor or church to control or conform the membership to that particular sects view of what a Christian should look like. In most cases, I believe that there are actually good motives for such behavior. One problem with such standards is that they are changing every so often as the world around us changes, because they are not really rooted in the Word but in the world and so there is an uncertainty in the lives of those under such charge. Another problem with such standards is that they are powerless to change the heart. The letter of the Law kills but the Spirit gives life!

Now why have I said that legalism is the default position of the fallen flesh?  Look again at Adam and Eve. They fell and immediately went about trying to fix themselves, they sought to clothe themselves in their own righteousness. They had lost the righteousness of God and their spirits died. Instead of seeking the Father, the sought to fix themselves.  What was God’s reaction to their attempt? He removed their clothes and slew animals shedding their blood and in an act that pointed to the coming Savior, clothed them Himself. Follow the line of the fallen human race and you will find a continual attempt to appease God, or the god or our own choosing. Study the religions of the world and you will find that they all feed the beast of pride.  The sad, sad, fact is that while many Christian churches have and preach salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone and would die on that hill, (and should) will often move from that position to one of a fear mongering and threatening and guilt-tripping the children of God into a conformity to their self-constructed version of Christianity, a version of Christianity that exalts preference over Scripture.

Where Scripture speaks we should speak.  Where God is silent, we are silent. We never make little of sin, but we must make much of grace and its place in freeing a person from sin. Legalism is nothing more than a work of the flesh. It is following the rules instead of the ruler. We have a new Lord and master and who our master is will determine who we are. As we understand who and what we are we begin to look and act like it.