Is Legalism the Real Problem?

Daily I read posts from grace teachers and preachers attacking the Law and legalism.  I understand the enthusiasm to explore our relationship with God apart from law keeping, but is legalism really our problem?

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.”  (James 1:14-15)

Lust is the problem.  Lust exists in all men whether they are under the Law or have never heard of the Law.  The Mosaic law doesn’t bring forth sin.  Lust brings forth sin.  The Law only served to strengthen and reveal sin.  It did not create it.

When Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses and took its penalty on Himself, the capacity to sin was not eliminated.  Sin continues in the human race as we all know.  Our own lusts are evidence that being free from the condemnation of the Law hasn’t freed us from the capacity to sin.  As Jesus said, the spirit (of man) is willing but the flesh is weak!

As born again Christians we are not only free from the Law of Moses (as a means of righteousness) we are free from the law of sin and death!

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  (Rom. 8:2)

While we spend so much time focusing on ‘legalism’ as our enemy, it is really only the symptom of the real problem.  The real problem isn’t legalism.  The real problem is the flesh.  Being distracted by legalism and attacking legalism isn’t the answer.  The answer is to mortify the deeds of the body by the Spirit!

“For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.”  (Ro 8:13)

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.” (Gal. 5:17)

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  (Gal. 5:24)

Rather than focus on the Law as our enemy (a subtle distraction), it is time to live by the Spirit and live above the lusts of the flesh.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  (Rom. 8:1)

Barry Bennett