Legalism in any generation is a deadly, life and death error. You have legalism in play when anybody deviates from the core Gospel principle of salvation by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone, teaching that to faith we must add certain works in order to be saved (like the Judaizers did – Acts 15.1ff) Any time people anywhere ground our salvation in whole or in part on some kind of merit or human performance, that is legalism. That heresy the Apostle Paul himself anathematizes in his epistle to churches of Galatia. The form of legalism the apostle combats in this epistle was strictly Jewish in flavor. These Judaizers insisted that in order to be saved, one must be circumcised and observe the law of Moses. Therefore his rebuttal of it is naturally from that point of view. Still, when you peel away the strictly Jewish components, we have an argument in its timeless principles that exposes the folly and fatality of legalism in any form. It is one thing to say that in faith we obey the moral law of God because we have been saved; it is a whole different animal to say we must keep the law of God in order to be saved. Today there are many folk who will make up their own conditions for salvation other than by grace through faith. The same anathema still applies, let it be understood.
Introduction to Galatians
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