The Baggage Of Legalism

The Baggage Of Legalism

If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
–Galatians 1:8

I love the story Chuck Swindoll tells about the guy at the airport who stopped a stranger to ask the time. The stranger set down the two large suitcases he was carrying and looked at his watch. He said, “It is 5:09 p.m. and 73 degrees. In London, the forecast is clear all week, and the barometer is 29.14 and falling. It is raining in Singapore. . . .”

The man interrupted, “Your watch tells you all that? Where did you get it?”

“I actually made it. I am kind of an inventor.”

Impressed, the man said, “I will give you two thousand dollars for that watch.” But the stranger shook his head. They haggled back and forth, and finally the man said, “I will give you ten thousand dollars.”

“Sold.” The stranger gave his watch to the man, and the man paid him and began to walk away. “Wait!” the stranger said, handing him the two heavy suitcases. “Don’t forget the batteries!”

There are a lot of people who want to add extra baggage to God’s gift of grace. That is what a legalist does. He says, “In order to be saved, you need to trust in Jesus Christ, but you also need to get baptized, join the church, keep the Ten Commandments, tithe, and so on.”

The same thing was going on in the church at Galatia. There were false teachers in the church called Judaizers who were saying, “You want to come to faith in Christ? Wonderful. You also need to keep all the laws of the Jewish people in order to be truly saved.” In Galatians 1:8, Paul responded, “If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” It is a serious thing to add to what God says you must do to be saved. The Bible says we are saved through faith in Christ, by God’s grace alone.

But the legalist does not stop with the non-Christian; he wants to hand those heavy suitcases to Christians as well. The legalist will say, “The Bible is a wonderful guide on how to live, but I have my own list of things you need to do in order to earn God’s blessing in your life.” That is absolute legalism. It kills the concept of grace.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Grace Escape” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Watch Story adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “Simple Faith: Discovering What Really Matters” (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2003), xviii-xix.

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.