10 Signs Your Church is Legalistic

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

If you don't already know, legalism is bad. Christ was clear. The law has been fulfilled, and He finished it on the cross. (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14)

We have a new covenant with God given to us through Jesus Christ. It is a gift of grace through faith, not works. Legalism is the old, inferior way. Grace is the new, better way. (Romans 3:21-31)

And just in case some of you still believe there is anything you can do to make your position with God any better than it is with Christ alone, here are some passages for you to mull over.

Ephesians 2:8-9 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

John 6:28-29 - “Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.””

Galatians 2:18-21 - “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Romans 3:28 - “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't do good works. Of course we do. One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that we do them individually, in faith, led by the Spirit. It's between us and God. Not pressured by the church, not dictated by the church, and not dictated by other Christians or Small Group leaders either. (Philippians 2:12-13; Heb. 8:10-12)

The law is now written on our hearts and on our minds. We no longer need an outside force telling us what is right by God. We have God within us, guiding us and transforming us by the renewing of our mind. If we have sinned in our hearts, the Holy Spirit will convict us. If we don't have the Holy Spirit, we will continue to live in the flesh, and no amount of legalism will make us right. It's our job to work out our own salvation. It's not the church's job to work it out for us, or other Christians to condemn us.

The only job we have now as Christians, as the Church, and as pastors and teachers, is to love God, love each other, and encourage each other in our walk with God. To encourage one another in our relationship with Christ. (Luke 10:25-27; Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; John 13:31-35)

Condemning each other for sins, and pointing the finger of sin at anyone who we find to be disobeying our version of what the Bible says, is not the way of grace, truth, and love. It is not the way of faith in Christ. They are works and legalism and law. Those days are done.

So, we probably shouldn't be trying to bring the law back, don’t ya think? Personally, I think Christ would be scolding us like foolish children if He were here, watching Bible study groups condemn people for their sin, or making membership rules and laws to abide by. It's a disgrace, an insult to Christ’s work on the cross, to God, and it least of all it is a burden to the Church. (Matthew 11:28-30)

That's why I'm making a list of ten signs for people to look out for in their own church. If your church shows any of these signs, you may be in a legalistic church. If you are, you should leave and find a more gracious, Christ-centered church where the Gospel and the Word are actually taught, and practiced.

But enough rambling. To the list!

10 Signs You're In a Legalistic Church