On more than one occasion I have been accused of legalism. Not because it was true but because the person was evading the truth. It’s a ploy many people use because it helps them avoid confronting their sin. If you share with them that what they are doing is sinful, they instantly rebut by accusing you of legalism. But, is it truly Legalism or Sound Doctrine? In the next few words, I’ll explain my position on this matter.
Legalism or Sound Doctrine – What is Legalism
Legalism involves conceptualizing the law of God out of its original context. For the Pharisees, the Law became their god. If you live by the Law strictly because it’s the Law and for no other reason, you are practicing legalism. Hence, Legalism expresses obedience to the moral Law of God without a specific cause. That cause should be love. You should love the Lord so much that you attempt to obey his moral Law to the best of your ability. In legalism, the rules themselves supersede the written word of God. So, in legalism, the intent of the Law is lost to blind obedience and unrelenting pride.
The passage from Luke below expresses this as Jesus sits down to a meal and a guest Pharisee. The Pharisee is appalled that Jesus is eating without washing his hands first. This passage is part of Jesus’ reprimand of the Pharisee. Not because he hates him but because he is instructing him out of love and caring.
“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”
Legalism or Sound Doctrine – What is Sound Doctrine
Biblical Doctrine is the doctrines of the gospel, as well as the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. So, sound doctrine is information and principles based on a specific message. In our case, the principles and commandments of the Bible. According to Paul, doctrine is among the things that matter most for the well-being of the Christian and the church. Sound, or “healthy,” doctrine provides a pattern that, when followed, promotes healthy faith and love. Sound doctrine is the application of scripture out of love for God and people, expressed with as little arrogance and pride as humanly possible.
If you share what you have learned from the Bible with others in love, because you see them breaking commandments – that’s sound doctrine. It is not legalism. You are not the judge, God is, but out of love, you have the responsibility to remind the person that they are sinning. If you don’t remind them, you never loved or cared for them in the first place. The scriptures were created by God and written down to keep us safe, healthy, and within the will of God. So, if you ignore the sins of others, you are actually showing utter contempt for them. You don’t care if God chastises them and also you don’t care if they burn eternally in the Lake of Fire. Care enough to share your faith and sound doctrine with your friends and family. Because it is the purest form of love.
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
Sound Doctrine and the Gospel
Share Sound Doctrine to edify and demonstrate your love for God and your neighbors. This is love, not legalism. They need to know so share your faith and the doctrines of Biblical scripture freely. You may just save someone from an eternity separated from God and also an eternity in the burning Lake of Fire. The difference between Legalism or Sound Doctrine is love.