Legalism (or being legalistic) is a term used to describe (in Christian circles) the number of (and/or method of how) hoops are jumped through to keep one’s salvation. For example, when one is saved, they are eventually (usually pretty quickly) given the list of things they are no longer allowed to do: no smoking, no drinking, no cussing, no drugs, no porn, no rock music, no rap, no sex, no nothing! (Though gossiping, judging, and overeating rarely make the list.)
Pump the brakes! Don’t put words in my mouth; I’m not advocating any of those activities.
I’m not for having any sort of checklist that defines anyone’s salvation – especially for acquiring said salvation. I’ve actually been trolled at Walmart by someone trying to get me to go to her church so that I could get saved. She gave me a list of things that I had to believe or have done to really be saved (since I wasn’t a part of her denomination). She was literally trying to discount my salvation experience and get me doubting my relationship with Jesus… All to get me to go to her church and get credit for me being there (she seriously had a piece of paper with her name on it that I was to bring with me if I went to her church).
- Did you pray this prayer?
- Did you confess that sin?
- Were you baptized?
- Were you baptized in Jesus’ name?
- Did you receive the Holy Spirit?
- Did you speak in tongues?
- Are you confirmed?
- Did you partake of Holy Communion?
The list doesn’t end for some denominations. The sick part of this is that some would consider this (even in anti-legalism churches) good legalism. “We can’t be too sure God loves us and doesn’t want us to burn in hell forever.” Good legalism is a direct contrast to (what has become known as) universalism – the belief that all are saved because of the finished work of Jesus. Me beliefs lie in between (but closer to the latter).
I’ve started to head down a trail that will require another post… Needless to say that every Christian has an opinion of where/when/how their salvation occurred. The Bible contains (seemingly) conflicting statements about it, but volumes have been written on it – from every angle imaginable – so I’m not about to try to explain away anyone’s personal (or professional) beliefs on the topic, just hoping to point out some irony.
Everyone’s relationship with Jesus is supposed to be a personal relationship. The experiences with Jesus are also meant to be personal. I believe Holy Spirit lives in us all and will guide us on the journey we take with Him. My faith is not only in Jesus, but Jesus’ faith in me and His faithfulness to me – regardless of who I am, what I say, or what I do.