GCV Blog

On Legalism, Part 2

On Legalism, Part 2
by Pastor David

Legalism--there’s at least a little bit in all of us, and it’s bad for us. For a previous pastoral word we looked at Erik Raymond’s article on legalism that pointed out that legalism promotes unbiblical standards (self-authority) and performance (self-righteousness.) In the second part, Erik focuses on the divisive nature of legalism.
3. Legalism Promotes Division
We have been studying Galatians in our evening Care Groups. One of the more helpfully illuminating moments for me in this study was the connection between legalism and strife. Or, to put it another way, with the absence of the gospel you have the presence of strife.
In Galatians chapter 4 (vv. 9-20), you see Paul agonizing about the way in which the Galatians have changed in terms of their reception of him and his message.
What has changed for the Galatians since Paul came and preached the gospel to them? It is their view of the gospel. Now they hate Paul and chapter 5:13 says, they are ‘biting and devouring one another.’ Why is this? It is because legalism is a system that thrives on personal performance, personal supremacy, and sadly, the trampling of others. It relentlessly squashes grace, mercy and humility.
Legalism believes the prize is won through personal exertion and sees any who be in the way of the prize not as people to be served but obstacles to be removed.
You may recall that awhile back, on the Nation’s biggest shopping day that there was tragic occurrence at a Wal-Mart in Long Island, NY. Shortly before the doors opened shoppers pushed through the door and trampled the workers in their way. One Wal-Mart employee was crushed in the selfish stampede.
This is the way legalism functions. It is an environment of competition. The Wal-Mart stampede occurred because there were a limited number of Blue Ray’s. We act like there is only a limited number of spots available for us, and so we have cut others down, biting and devouring one another, in pursuit of our prize. We falsely think that the competition is between us and other people, so we set up rules and tear down others; judging and defrauding one another.
In this we fail to see that the issue is not between us and others but us and God. And no amount of physical or physical exertion on our part can bring us to the coveted place of divine favor. For here it is through Christ and Christ alone.”


Text: Acts 4:32-5:11
Topic:  Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit

  • Describe how the early church lived.
    • They were unified and shared everything they needed to live. People with money gave it to their needy fellow Christians.
  • Explain Ananias’ lie.
    • He deliberately kept part of the money but apparently acted like he gave it all.
  • State what happened to both Ananias and Sapphira.
    • God killed both of them instantly.
  • Explain why this sin was so serious.
    • Ananias and Sapphira were actually lying to the Holy Spirit, so again He put His power and holiness on display for the early church.



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