Legalism is a term believers use to describe a doctrinal stand focusing on rules as a means to salvation. It is a position opposed to grace. And those that obey the law without dependence on God’s grace are accused of legalism.
God’s Law and Grace
To avoid the trap of legalism, we need to understand the relationship between the law and Grace. For salvation, God intended that the law and grace work in perfect harmony. The law points out sin, and grace saves from sin. No one can obey in his own power, but through the grace of Christ a believer can. Christians do not obey the law in order to be saved but because they are saved. Therefore, obedience through God’s grace is not legalism because true freedom comes only from obedience. It means freedom “from sin” (Romans 6:18).
John describes the unity between the law and grace, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The saints are identified in the Bible as having two characteristics: (1) obedience to the commandments, (2) trusting the blood of the Lamb to save and change them.
Love = Obedience
Words and profession of faith are not enough. The true evidence of love is obedience. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
John the beloved defined love this way, “And this is love that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it“ (1 John 5:6). And he added, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (1 John 5:2).
Jesus tied obedience to the law with a love relationship with Him “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Born-again Christians find obedience to the Ten Commandments a joy “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). Daily they search the Bible for indications of His will, trying to express their love to Him. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love“ (John 15:10).
Blessed are the obedient
The Lord promised the obedient great blessings “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). As you can see the Bible teaches that obedience to the law that is moved by love is not legalism but it is the work of God in the heart of man.
In His service,