The Trap of Legalism: Romans 10:5
“For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. Romans‬ ‭10:5‬
We are going to take a very small bite this morning and discus one concept. Paul was again comparing justification by the works of the Law to faith in Jesus Christ as a basis of salvation. In the process he introduces a concept missed by many.
When it comes to the Law, you cannot pick and choose which part you will keep and which part you will discard. That’s what he quoted Moses as saying in the above verse. The Law is an everything or nothing proposition.
He was even more blunt on this subject in Galatians 3:10-14. Let me quote: “10) For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11) Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12) However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14) in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
It seems that many in Paul’s day were seeking to blend the Law and grace and come up with a hybrid religion. They ended up with Grace strangled by legalism. There was no joy, assurance or freedom. They were constantly trying to gain God’s approval and falling short. And just when they thought they arrived, someone else would come along with another list.
This is essentially what Paul was saying in Romans 10:2-4. They had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. They were constantly adding conditions to the gospel.
I went down that road early in my Christian life. I was becoming very legalistic and a spiritual grump to be around. My change took place when I memorized the book of Galatians. The Spirit of God used the Word of God to turn a light on in my soul. It was a battle, but I came out the other side a free man in Jesus Christ with a fresh understanding of what it meant to live by faith and walk in the Spirit. Every Christian needs to camp out in the book of Galatians for an extended period of time.
It seems that Satan tries to embroil every believer in this confusion. If he cannot prevent someone from becoming a Christian, he will entangle and overwhelm them in religious confusion and legalism.
The solution seems to be an unbiased and persistent study of Scripture. Jesus promised in John 8:31-32 that abiding in His Word would bring truth and freedom. Listen to what others are saying, but do your own Word time while seeking the Holy Spirit to guide you.
One aspect of freedom in my life means I am no longer carrying other people’s spiritual junk and dysfunction. I am free to love, worship, walk in the Spirit and commune with Jesus Christ with a clear conscience and joy unspeakable.
I pay attention to the Word, but I have a big dumpster for the dysfunctional opinions of others. I work at not letting others spray cold water on the fire in my spirit. There are hundreds of spiritual fire hydrants out there and many people eager dump their cold water spiritual junk on you.
But our calling is to please and glorify Jesus Christ and not other people. Constantly monitor if you are moving toward freedom or bondage. Is your intimacy with Jesus Christ being deepened or dampened? Is your walk in the Spirit getting hotter or colder? Are you doing it God’s way, your own way, or someone else’s way?
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global