“You’re a legalist.” I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard that accusation. People throw the term around in a hostile, insulting way. But it doesn’t bother me, because the word isn’t even in the Bible and its definition does not imply any form of sin, rather the opposite. So I’m not ashamed to confess guilty as charged.
Here’s the dictionary definition:
“Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.”
Call me a legalist, go right ahead. The apostate pseudo-church is responsible for slapping it like a blackening term on true Bible believers. I believe we should strictly, literally adhere to the law of God in matters of religion or morality. It might seem fanatical, and certainly isn’t the mainstream approach, but it’s what the Bible teaches if you take the time to study it out.
Take it to the Scriptures, is the challenge. Can you ultimately prove it is wrong – from the Bible, not your emotions – to do as the Word of God commands us? That would only be a dead-end road, and actually the opposite is true. You can pull a few verses out of context and try to wrest them to make them say grace means liberty to sin (transgress the law, 1 John 3:4) or the laws of God are obsolete, but any in-depth study of the matter will reveal the truth.
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungdly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4)
And denying doesn’t necessarily mean openly saying it verbally. Many times the opposite is true.
“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16)
And another telling verse:
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:3-5)
Now, there may be some who think legalist means someone who believes in salvation by works, apart from Christ. That’s not what it means. But if that were the actual meaning of the word I would wholeheartedly deny such an accusation of such legalism. Anyone who does think that isn’t saved and holds to that sort of legalism – if you could call it that – is in dire need of hearing the preaching of the gospel more than anything else. So many people assume if someone is trying to live in obedience to the Bible they are trying to earn their way to heaven on their own, often ironically the same crowd that goes by the “don’t judge me” philosophy.
On the contrary, many of these legalism labelers and law disregarders could be rightly dubbed “antinomians,” but “reprobate,” “rebel” or “prodigal” would be better, more biblical terms for those who don’t want to live in obedience to the Word of God.