While wearing the chains of legalism is difficult, it’s easy for us to continue to put them on. After all, it’s what’s most comfortable and with what we are most familiar. God, however, doesn’t want us to wear those chains. Instead, God wants us to depend on Him, to study His Word, to seek Him in prayer. In short, He wants us to rely on Christ and not our own work. So instead of running back to legalism, we need to continue to run to Christ, remembering our distinguishing mark — that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone.
In order to motivate you to continue to run to Christ, let’s look at what those who practice legalism fail to recognize.
What do those who practice legalism fail to recognize?
(1) Those who practice legalism fail to recognize that God’s creation is good and something to be enjoyed.
This is what Paul tells us starting in verse 4 when he says,
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Ti 4:4–5)
While this is Paul’s view, those He was speaking against primarily saw the world as bad and something to be rejected, which is what led them to their teaching on marriage, sex, and food.
The world, however, is not all bad. In Genesis 1, after God created all things, we are told that:
“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Ge 1:31)
Along with telling us that creation is good, God also instituted marriage. Within in the union of marriage, God gave Adam and Eve sex not just for procreation but as a gift to be enjoyed.
Furthermore, Jesus, through His death on the cross, fulfilled the Law, making food that was once unclean clean. So to say that we have to abstain from marriage, sex, and food in order to be Christian is unbiblical. It goes against God’s proclamation that creation is good. As well as it misses the fact that God has given us good gifts for our enjoyment.
This, then, tells us that we don’t have to reject everything this world has to offer. We can enjoy a good meal, a nice home, movies, music, and technology. We can take vacations, read good books, and enjoy our culture. Certainly, we need to do these things in a balanced way, taking into account a biblical worldview. But we don’t have to outright reject all these things as bad. God has given them for our enjoyment because He loves us, so we should enjoy them.
(2) Those who practice legalism fail to recognize that we are supposed to praise God for what He has given us.
This is what Paul is getting at in the second half of verse 4 when he says,
“and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4b)
We are to see the good things we have not as hindrances to salvation or growth in Christ but as gifts God has given us. For those gifts, we are to praise God. But when we think that all creation is bad and is to be rejected, we are not going to give God the thanks He deserves. Which means we aren’t worshipping God in a way He has designed for us to worship Him. And that’s a problem.
As you can see, then, Legalism and Christianity are like oil and water, they don’t mix. Which means that we shouldn’t try to earn or keep our relationship with God through our own works. Instead, we should turn and run to Jesus. He is One who both saves and sanctifies. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the One who provides us with a relationship with God, and both allows us to enjoy and praise God for His good creation.
So let’s not get taken by bad theology, which is the product of demons and insincere liars. Instead, let’s believe and practice the truth so that we can protect both ourselves and others from those seeking to deceive.
Legalism is a joyless, worship killing, bad Theology we should avoid at all costs.
Question for Reflection
- What else do those who practice legalism fail to recognize?
Post adapted from my sermon: Legalism — A Joyless, Worship Killing, Bad Theology We Should Avoid At All Costs