Abhorrent is a strong word, I chose it deliberately – because legalism stinks, it is the currency of satan.
It’s not like me to come out firing from the hip, but I am not alone in this view, in fact I’m in the best of company – Jesus felt the same way. Jesus rarely gave anyone a tongue lashing, but the pharisees (the legalists of the day) copped more than the occasional invective spray from him.
This is what Jesus had to say in Matt. 22:13 “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to… You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are”. Can you visualize the pharisees stuttering; but..but..it’s in the book, we didn’t make the rules !!!
What exactly were the pharisees doing that caused such a reaction in Jesus? see v5, “they tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders”… loads like laws, rules, do it my way, always one more obligation to satisfy – so God will be pleased with you – it’s a campaign of fear.
Legalism is that which adds any work of man to the work that Jesus completed on the cross. It is prescriptive, controlling and ungracious. It says we are saved by grace…but!! There is no but. We are saved and kept by the magnificent shedding of Christ’s blood alone.
Paul said in Rom. 14:17 “the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. Have you ever noticed that legalists hose down your joy – they are the eternal parade rainers.
Know what the word ‘woe’ means?… Deep distress or misery; wretchedness; misfortune; calamity. This is what our gentle Jesus was pronouncing on the legalists. Why did Jesus rise up with such a strong reaction? – because His entire mission was about setting mankind free from the grip of the kingdom of darkness, and legalists were making men into sons of hell.
Legalists don’t get it – they think the gospel is all about dotting your spiritual i’s and crossing your spiritual t’s. It’s not!! It’s about the stunning work that Jesus did on our behalf and how His magnificent grace makes us His own.
So if your under the control of a legalist, if your being threatened with fear, accusations, manipulation, theological broadsides & the big one – ‘you’ll go to hell if you don’t obey me’, (if you’re in that environment you will know what I’m talking about)… then get out of there, run for your life and find someone who preaches the gospel aright.
Sorry about the rant folks, I got all stirred up.