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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Am I a Legalist if I Only Want It Defined Properly?

Legalism is batted around in many circles today. As our society struggles with how to define truth, evangelicals struggle with how to define truth. The term is used so much, that I've actually had students ask me if they were legalists before. Typically, if you think you might be a legalist, you probably aren't.

If you believe that lying, stealing or adultery is wrong, you are not a legalist. That's called being a biblicist. (Exodus 20)

If you have convictions about "grey areas" and live according to those convictions, you are not a legalist. You're simply consistent with your personal morals. (I Corinthians 8)

If you impose your personal convictions on someone else, you are not a legalist. You may not understand Scripture completely, but if you're humble and teachable, you're certainly not a legalist. (Acts 11).

Check out the Bakers Evangelical Dictionary for the definition of legalism. In it's original usage, a legalist depended on the law for his justification. A person believes their adherence to the law earns them favor before God, not grace.

1 Comments:

  • At 9:29 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Unfortunately, it is often the "working definition" that matters even more than the dictionary definition. Just observing reality - people use words based on what they think they mean.

    And the "working" or common definition of "legalism" is what it is.

    Meanwhile, it might be comic irony for us to get legalistic about how we define the word "legalism."

     

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