Dangers of Legalism
by Don Fortner
Every few days I receive letters and tracts from men trying to persuade me that, though we are free in Christ, we are yet under the bondage of the law. Some of these are good men, men who believe and preach the gospel of God's free grace in Christ. But their error in this point is most serious and grievous.
l. If you seek to be justified by the law, you will surely perish. It is written: 'By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.'
2. If you seek sanctification or seek to become more holy by obedience to the law, you will become self-righteous. Self-righteousness is neither more nor less than your own righteousness. It is a supposed righteousness performed by you. It is that proud foolishness of heart which supposes that you are more holy than others.
3. If you make the law your rule of life, you will lose the joy of serving Christ. The joy of Christian service is the fact that it is free, unconstrained and spontaneous. It is motivated by love. But when you make the law of God a rule of life the motive becomes fear or desire for reward and all joy is destroyed.
4. If you seek assurance by obeying the law, you will become despondent and fearful. The old Puritans, sound as they were in many points, could never gain any comforting assurance and their congregations were never allowed to enjoy any because they sought it on a legal basis. Some were driven to such despondency by legal fear that they had to be locked away in asylums to keep them from committing suicide. The law breeds fear. You cannot obey it. It can never comfort anyone except a proud, self-righteous man who does not understand it.
5. If you seek acceptance before God in any measure whatsoever upon the basis of the law, you will never be accepted at all. Christ alone is our acceptance before God. He is all our righteousness, all our sanctification, all our holiness, all our redemption and all our peace. To add anything to his finished work is to make his work vain and useless. Christ will be all, or he will be nothing.