What are the two main ideas of legalism?

Updated: 8/19/2023
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9y ago

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In respect to Christianity, yet generally true in many other religious and moral (among other) contexts, 'legalism' may be defined as the belief that goodness or righteousness is to be achieved through careful adherence to well-defined moral precepts. The term is appropriately coined, as those who advocate a 'legalistic' view are law-minded, intent on proper observance of often-complicated sets of rules and guidelines.

Another View:

The dictionary defines 'legalism' as a 'strict or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.' This is what 1st Century Israel was burdened with by the Pharisees with their excessive 'letter of the law' ideas which Jesus spoke out against.

What is becoming more and more popular is the meaning attached to legalism today - that any form of biblical law keeping is legalism and therefore tagged as what should be avoided - original Sabbath keeping, O.T. dietary laws, etals.

This, however, is totally incorrect. It is not legalistic to obey God's laws as He gave them to us to follow/live by. But it is, however, quite legalistic to misuse the Laws of God in ways they were not intended to be used.

Last point, the 'great' debate on works and salvation: we are all justified by God's Grace through the redemption that came via Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:24 etals). However, once we repent and are 'begotten' of the Father to receive His Holy Spirit to follow in the ways of Jesus, we are expected to do His good works laid out before the world was formed (just like the Father and Son are doing now for us). Paul makes this quite clear in his writings:

Ephesians 2:10 New International Version (NIV)

10 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Romans 3:28-31 New International Version (NIV)

28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

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9y ago
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12y ago

Their main belief was that all people were cruel and that they needed to give harsh punishments to make them behave. They believed everyone was cruel except for them.

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9y ago

The main idea of legalism was the belief that people were bad by nature and needed to be controlled, contrasted with both Confucianism and Daoism.

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Q: What are the two main ideas of legalism?
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