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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”—Galatians 3:2 (NKJV)
How would you answer the following question: “What’s the number one threat to the Christian faith?” Even now, your mind is probably percolating with a lot of images taken from today’s headlines.
Yet there’s an enemy that has effectively blocked the flow of the gospel for centuries that you probably haven’t thought of. It’s an enemy that threatened to tear the Church apart in its infancy, and its identity will probably surprise you. That enemy is legalism.
Legalism is the belief that obedience to a particular code of conduct is the means by which we’re made right with God. In other words, it’s the mindset of, “Do good so God will bless you.”
In biblical times, legalism was primarily expressed through the Law of Moses, which was so foundational to Judaism. Followers of Judaism assumed that obedience to the Mosaic Law and righteousness with God went hand in hand. The influence of this attitude is seen throughout Christ’s earthly ministry. The leaders of Judaism in that day even went so far as to assert that people were accursed if they weren’t properly schooled in their law (John 7:49)!
Legalism continued to plague the early Church as many were drawn to Christianity out of Judaism. The result was a perversion of Christianity where the gospel was being mingled with the law. This became such a widespread issue that Paul called it out in his letter to the churches of Galatia as he strenuously called them away from the law and back to faith in Christ.
But legalism wasn’t just a problem back then. It’s still a formidable foe today because a voice occasionally whispers to us from our sinful nature, “Do good so God will bless you.” We’ve all heard that voice one time or another. But isn’t this really a form of manipulating and controlling God? Doesn’t the gospel declare the exact opposite? Doesn’t it tell us that, “God has blessed you, so go do good”? What could be more damaging than something directly opposite of the gospel?
The greatest threat to our faith is the legalist within that wants to control the conditions of our relationship with God . . . to earn His love and blessing. If we give in to it, we run contrary to the gospel that says we’re right with God through faith in Christ alone. Be vigilant and on guard against this formidable foe by being embedded in the truth of the gospel!
DIG: What is the greatest foe to Christianity?
DISCOVER: How does this foe surface in your life?
DISPLAY: What are some safeguards you can employ against it? Make a list of the boundaries you can set for yourself and pray over it, that the Spirit would weed out the legalism that creeps into your heart.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.