You might be a legalist if you add your rules above God’s as absolute authority.
Note: This post is part of a series.
Some must feel that God’s words are not clearly sufficient or explained well enough because they feel the need to “define them more clearly.” Doing this is dangerous, however, because it puts one in danger of adding to God’s words (Rev. 22:18-19).
We see it in John 7:21-23. Jesus referred to healing people on the Sabbath, of which he is condemned by the Pharisees. The gospels contain six records of Jesus healing on the sabbath, all which were contested by the Jewish leaders. Even though the leaders were upset with Jesus’ actions, everything he did on the Sabbath was only unlawful according to the Mishnah, not the actual Law of God. The Mishnah was a “series of interpretations of the meaning of the law” that were eventually compiled around AD 200.1 It existed in Jesus’ time and basically defined God’s Law more clearly.
It’s ironic really. Sinful people are judging a sinless God by their finite definition of God’s perfect law.
It is easy to put your rules or interpretations of God’s Law above what He actually said.
- Denominations might do this by creating policies and rules that further define the Scriptures;
- Churches might create bylaws that go beyond the intended meaning of Scripture;
- People might trust the words of a Christian author more than the words of God;
An easy way to test your heart for legalism is to beware of this attitude: If it’s right for me, it must be right for you. You can fill in the blank with examples. Those examples might be accompanied by good intentions, but enforcing them is putting man’s word above God’s Word.
We must study Scripture faithfully and be brave enough to live by what we learn.
1Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 903.