Legalism in the Church Today

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people.

–Matthew 23:13

You might find this hard to believe, but I meet people in the city of Dallas who say, “Pastor, we could never be part of your church because we dance, and we know Baptists don’t dance.”

I say to them, “Yes, Baptists do dance–not very well, but we do dance.”

That’s one example of legalism in the church today. There’s nothing in the Bible that says believers shouldn’t dance, but some Christians have made that a standard–not just for themselves but for everybody else. As one writer put it, legalism “turns my opinion into your obligation.”

The same thing happens with alcohol, entertainment, and clothing. For example, there’s no verse in the Bible that says you’re never to allow an alcoholic beverage to pass between your lips. And Jesus said in Mark 7 that there is no food or drink that is unholy. As I mentioned yesterday, there are some very good reasons you may choose not to drink alcohol–but that’s a personal conviction, not a biblical standard. It’s legalism to make other Christians live under your personal convictions.

I’ve encountered legalism in several other areas in the church today. When it comes to worship music, some Christians turn a matter of taste into a spiritual issue. When it comes to the Sabbath, some Christians try to put others under Old Testament restrictions that no longer apply to us. When it comes to divorce and remarriage, some Christians hold everyone to a stricter standard than God’s Word. That’s legalism.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus’s harshest words were not against adulterers, murderers, thieves, or drunkards; Jesus’s most scathing criticism was against the legalists in His day, who were called the Pharisees. Look at what He said about the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. . . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:4, 13).

Many people have been turned off by the church because of man-made regulations. They think, I could never live up to that, and they are shut out of the kingdom of God. That’s the danger of legalism.

***

Today’s devotion is adapted from “The Joy Killers” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.

Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 120.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

Share This:

Revealed with Christ in Glory

This week, we’re going to discover five principles that Abraham’s servant Eliezer exercised in finding the right mate for Abraham’s son Isaac. These principles can help you, your children, and your grandchildren not only to find a mate but also to know God’s will for any area of life.

Dead to Sin

This week, we’re going to discover five principles that Abraham’s servant Eliezer exercised in finding the right mate for Abraham’s son Isaac. These principles can help you, your children, and your grandchildren not only to find a mate but also to know God’s will for any area of life.
Search

Pathway To Victory
Po Box 223609
Dallas, TX 75222-3609