My son is going to daycare this week for the first time in his life. He absolutely loves it. In fact, he’s been telling me about the rules he has learned (no hitting, screaming, yelling, etc).

Most of the rules at daycare are similar to our family rules. But a few are different. For instance (since my son is an only child) walking in a single file line and raising your hand to speak are not a part of our family rules.

But can you imagine if one of Bryce’s teachers knocked on our door this evening, barged in, and announced that we had to obey all of the daycare’s rules -even at our house? That would be nonsense.

If the teacher was insistent upon our adding to and obeying the daycare’s rules within the confines of our own house, it would imply:

1) The teacher does not believe I am not competent to parent my own household.

2) My parenting skills are not sufficient.

3) The daycare knows more about parenting than I do.

Ultimately, to walk into my house and enforce the daycare’s rules upon my family would be pure arrogance.

That is exactly what legalism is like. Legalism adds man’s rules to God’s Word and treats them equally.

  • Legalism implies that God needs help in shepherd His people.
  • Legalism suggests that God’s Word alone is not sufficient to transform lives.
  • Legalism projects the idea that man has something God needs.

Legalism is the ultimate form of spiritual arrogance -and it happens more often than you might think.

Legalism is a battle we all must fight. Its not just a temptation to the Pharisees of Scripture or the Bible-thumping fundamentalists of our day.

Legalism usually involves treating good ideas & traditions (our rules) as necessary demands (God’s Word). For instance:

1) It is a good idea to pray before a meal, but it is not a Scriptural command.

2) Wearing a hat in a corporate worship service may be culturally taboo, but it is not (in an of itself) a sin.

3) We should be careful not to dishonor Christ with our speech, but a list of “banned” words does not exist in Scripture.

Do you see how easy it can be to impose our rules on God’s Word? You might be asking, “what’s the problem with taking God’s Word a little further?”

First of all, we are warned not to add to God’s Word (Revelation 22:18). Acting as if Scripture needs help implies that we don’t believe it is sufficiently “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Next, treating your own rules, traditions, and preferences with the same weight as Scripture is often a way of masking sin. For instance, if you spend all your energy emphasizing prayer before meals but fail to evangelize, you are letting your own rules hide your neglect of God’s Word and, at the same time, give you a sense of false-spirituality. Its a form of self-deceit.

But more importantly, adding to God’s Word is anti-gospel. God’s Word was made flesh and dwelt among us as the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14) -Jesus. If we believe that God’s Word is insufficient and needs additional help, then it follows that we believe Jesus is insufficient and needs additional help to provide salvation. That’s why legalism always leads to a works-based salvation.

The apex of spiritual arrogance is to believe that God needs our help. It is an offense to God and a stumbling block to men.

So, its fine to have traditions, rules, and preferences. Just keep your rules where they belong -and don’t barge in on God’s Word.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.