A little while back, I said:
Legalism is when you try to earn righteousness before God by your works
Recently I found an additional definition:
Definition #2: Legalism is when you accept for yourself or teach others that God requires moral requirements he has not said he requires.
So before allowing ourselves to be bound by a teaching for conscience’s sake, we should make sure God has really spoken it (if not, I think it would be a matter of Christian liberty — we’d still want to apply wisdom to the decisionmaking process, but it would not be a matter of sin).
What about when God has spoken about it, though? Perhaps there is a third definition of legalism:
Definition #3: Legalism is when you accept for yourself or teach others that God requires moral requirements he has said he requires.
No, definition #3 is not legalism. Accepting for yourself or teaching others that God requires moral requirements he has said he requires — another way of saying that is obeying God’s commands and proclaiming his truth ! And surely that’s what motivates our hearts and minds, isn’t it? — we whose Shepherd-King has raised to new life and showered his kindnesses upon us from our youth, sparing no cost to make us holy and beautiful in his sight.
Let us then learn to faithfully reject the burdensome baggage of additional moral commands imposed by men, even as we seek to faithfully obey and proclaim God’s commands to ourselves and everyone around us. His ways are good and right. Joy is there, and peace — and freedom from fear — and quiet trust — and strength for battle — and sure victory over the foe.
Oh brothers and sisters, that we might repent and believe!