27 Dec


  • 1. Liberalism and legalism are in one way opposites, yet they share certain things in common.
  • 2. They are opposites in that liberalism looses what God has bound, while legalism binds what God has loosed.
  • 3. They do, however, share a common arrogance, selfishness, and pride.
  • 4. Both will defend human innovation over the truth of the Bible.
  • 5. This evening we center our attention on legalism.

I. Trying To Help God—When He Doesn’t Need The Help.

  • A. Legalism thinks that more rules are needed.
    • 1. Not happy with the restrictions that are given by God, legalists feel compelled to come up with new ones.
    • 2. It is, therefore, a primarily negative approach to religion.
    • 3. “Don’t do it,” is the legalist’s loudest call (Col. 2:20-23).
  • B. The Jews excelled in legalism (Mat. 23:1-33).
    • 1. During the Inter-testament Period, the Jews devised the idea of “hedges around the Torah.”
    • 2. They reasoned that Moses had surely spoken many things he did not record.
    • 3. These rules just happened to be the very ones they devised to help God with His job.
    • 4. They were called the “Oral Torah.”
    • 5. In practice, they were laws invented by men to keep people a step, or two, or three away from breaking a law of God.
    • 6. These laws were the very things that Jesus condemned with great passion (Mk. 7:1-13).
    • 7. By His rejecting the “hedges,” the religious establishment had built, they concluded that Jesus was a blasphemer (Jn. 5:8-16; 9:13-16).
    • 8. Legalism saw the holiest man that ever lived as being unholy (Matt. 12:23-24).
  • C. Consider a few of the more contemporary hedges that some have tried to impose on others.
    • 1. Since many movies are not good, don’t see any movies.
    • 2. Since you can gamble with playing cards, don’t use cards.
    • 3. Since T. V. has violence and distorted sexuality in many programs, don’t watch T. V.
    • 4. Since a certain amount of modern music promotes nonchristian agendas, don’t listen to contemporary music.
    • 5. If a modern Bible translation has some error, do not refer to anything good in it.
    • 6. God originally didn’t allow meat to be eaten, so we should be vegetarians.
    • 7. Since we don’t know what might happen if people were to meet in private homes for Bible studies, studies must be in the church building.
    • 8. Since drama is not an acceptable substitute for worship, there can be no drama in any setting at anytime.
    • 9. Because some people want to change the biblical nature of the Lord’s Day assembly, even after we have properly engaged in the commanded service, there can still be no other type of assembly on the Lord’s Day than a “church” service.
    • 10. Since irreverence is a problem in religion, “thee” and “thou” must be used in prayer.

II. The Heart Of Legalism (Matt. 23:12).

  • A. Legalism is particularly dangerous because it uses the Bible in a certain amount of what it does (vv. 1-3a).
  • B. But, legalists say and do not do (v. 3b).
  • C. Legalism makes religion a burden rather than a joy (v. 4; 11:28-30).
  • D. Their purpose is to be seen of men (vv. 5-12; 6:1-18).

III. The Practice Of Legalism (Matt. 23:13-33).

  • A. Legalism shuts off the kingdom and makes disciples that are worse off than they were before their conversion (vv. 13, 15).
    • 1. Manmade religion cannot get people to heaven (Matt. 15:6-9).
    • 2. When people are deceived into thinking legalism is correct, they are much less apt to become Christians than before they were deceived.
  • B. Legalism takes advantage of people’s fears and insecurities to manipulate them into supporting the traditions of men (v. 14).
    • 1. Guilt is the chief tactic of legalism.
    • 2. Those with tender hearts are most easily exploited.
  • C. Legalism plays games with the truth (vv. 16-22).
    • 1. Its “yes” and its “no” mean nothing (Matt. 5:37).
    • 2. The rules do not apply to legalists, they are serving God as His special servants (Lk. 18:9-14).
  • D. Legalism has a distorted sense of significance (vv. 23-24).
    • 1. Since legalists are often hypocrites, they do not have the great principles of true religion enthroned in their hearts.
    • 2. Hence, they elevate all they have, a mere outward show.
  • E. Legalism is a religion of mere outward show (vv. 25-28).
    • 1. The Lord give this one a double-dose.
    • 2. This is the defining fault of legalism.
  • F. Legalism cannot see itself as it really is (vv. 29-33).
    • 1. It is deceived into thinking that it is not like others guilty of the same sins.
    • 2. They are blind in the worst way of all (Jn. 9:39-41).


  • 1. At the heart of legalism is the use deception and hypocrisy to gain the attention of men.
  • 2. The practice of legalism relies on form over substance, and the form is not even right.
  • 3. The practice of legalism deceives and manipulates its way into peoples hearts and then destroys them.
  • 4. As vigorously as we must oppose liberalism, so we must oppose legalism.
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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