Legalism is a very dangerous concept and if you do not realize that only your faith in Christ Jesus is what starts the process that makes you acceptable before God.
Once we have put our faith in Jesus His blood washes us clean of sin and we are commanded to turn our backs on that sin and repent so the time of refreshing can begin.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Now legalism refers to the time in the Old Testament after the fall of Adam that God gave man the chance to redeem themselves and for this God gave them His commandments that they had to keep. In the case when they sinned, transgressed God commandments they had the high priest, the temple and then 613 laws that needed to be adhered to for living correctly and getting into heaven. Today Jesus is the High Priest and Jesus is the Way and the only way to God.
Next we look at a breakdown of the different laws and how many of them existed. 613 laws were given by Moses and they were wide ranging in nature and the punishment for transgressing some of them was severe and fatal to say the least. Today many try to keep these to please God but only faith in His son can please God and keeping the law is futile and dangerous. This is the one side of the double edged sword. The danger here is to misunderstand the Ten Commandments of God and the 613 laws that Moses gave to Israel, in this 613 laws there are laws of atonement, atonement of what?
Well, these laws of atonement were for atonement of sin and the Ten Commandments were the guide to what sin is and what Gods will is. Now many a believer when you tell them about this distinction they start to kick and scream and even froth at the mouth while quoting verses condemning the law and yes they are right but the law they refer to is the legalistic law of Moses and the Pharisees. They even allude to the fact that Jesus came to fulfill the law and yes He did as he never transgressed any law and was perfect and therefore can wash us clean with His blood for atonement of our sin.
Now it is easy to talk but where is the proof, we should always give the proof in God’s word and here we go;
Matt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Matt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Matt 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matt 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
This is loud and clear that should you break one commandment or teach men to do it, this is the warning from Jesus Himself. If you say you have faith in Jesus and you love Him and wish to follow Him where are your ears, or have you turned from God?
So this is the other side of the two edged sword and this leads to misunderstanding and that in itself leads to preaching another Gospel. Next we look at Romans to see more evidence from the word of God that there is a clear distinction between the laws of Moses and the Commandments of God;
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
So let’s sum this up there is nothing you can do to get to heaven other that turning to Jesus and placing your faith in Him and as it says in Acts 3:19 we must repent and turn away from our sin and turn to God. But we know sin as we see in the verse above Romans 7:7 and this brings us to a conclusion and that is that you cannot do anything to get into heaven, nothing but be sure that once you have been saved there is a lot you cannot do and will not do if you wish to please the Lord your God.
Legalism is very dangerous as it leads to death when you try to work your way to heaven but it is even more dangerous if you let legalism drive you to preach a gospel contrary to the Gospel of Christ Jesus!
I now add a few more verses that will make it clear that the law that drove legalism was the Law of Moses and not the Commandments of God, and those who say Jesus gave new commandments I will add a verse that shows otherwise and please remember that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.
Matt 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Matt 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Matt 19:18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Matt 19:19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
1John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Rom 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
1Cor 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
So do we need more verses to see the difference between Gods’s Commandments and the Law of Moses, in Romans 7:22 we see that delight is taken in the Law of God, in 1 Corinthians 7:19 we see a reference to the Law of Moses in circumcision and un-circumcision and we are told that it is nothing, this surely means it has been replaced by the blood of Jesus as an atonement of sin. Then we have the order to keep the Commandments of God, loud and clear. We see the same distinction between the Law of Moses and the Commandments of God in Mark 7:6-9 and are warned once again.
The Law of Moses included laws for atonement of sin and this has been fulfilled by Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, but not only that the rest of Moses ‘Laws was abolished as well and Jesus even became the Lord of the Sabbath, the Sabbath you could keep as an atonement of Sin in the Law of Moses. God wanted to make sure you understand that He is in control and that while you follow Christ Jesus on your way to the Father in heaven you will not disobey Him but you will obey and therefore you will keep His Commandments and teach them to men for if you do not do this you have no place in heaven.
Jas 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
Jas 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Jas 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Jas 2:11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Jas 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
Jas 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Jas 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
Jas 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Jas 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Jas 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Jas 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And lastly I just wish to remind one and all that when you follow Jesus it will be hard, no easy road has been paved for you and the one that says once you are saved there is no work involved should think again as serving God is not easy and the road is long!
Matt 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Rom 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
Rom 5:4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
Rom 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
The walk is not easy but we have the full protection of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus!