Legalism or grace?

We’re saved by grace. It’s the very core of our Christian faith. But too often do we push aside grace in favour of  legalism – a checklist attitude where things need to be done just right?




I think it’s human nature to lean towards legalism. We want something we can control, something that lets us know if we’re good enough – or if someone else is good enough. No tradition or school of thought is immune to this. Legalism in the Christian church shows itself in many different ways:


  • attending church every week
  • reading from the right prayer book
  • keeping up with a daily quiet time
  • giving ten percent of your earnings to the church
  • believing the right thing about a non-essential doctrine 

None of these things are bad in themselves. In fact, in their right place, they can actually help us in our Christian growth. The problem is, sometimes we take these things and make them the defining quality of a saved Christian. If I’m a proper Christian, I’ll follow this tradition. I’ll believe this doctrine. I’ll do things the right way.


Tradition isn’t the enemy here, though. The enemies here are pride and insecurity They’re actually the flip-sides of the same problem – when being a good Christian is all up to us. We feel pride in ourselves when we’re doing everything on the checklist, or we feel insecure and unsure whether we’re doing enough. Neither of these ways are the Biblical approach. The Bible says something completely different.


It’s not up to us. It’s up to God.


Maybe you know in your head that our salvation is by grace, that God forgives our sins despite anything that we could do. But it’s easy to forget sometimes and our minds shift back to legalism. “If I do this or do that I’ll be more accepted by God, more loved, more saved”. The reality is, though, that our salvation from beginning to end is from God. Nothing we do could make him love us more. Nothing could make him love us less. There are things – like Bible reading and church – that will help us to grow as Christians. But these things flow out from the grace God has shown us, in a place of thanksgiving and assurance.


How do we choose grace over legalism? One great way to start is by remembering what the Bible says – we are saved by grace and we still live by grace


He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. Romans 8:32


He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6


My quiet times are very important to me, at a set time and in a set way each day. But I’ve got to be so careful it doesn’t turn into legalism. I need to remind myself of the truth of grace again and again. What about you? Is there a point where you lean towards legalism, where you feel pride in checking off the boxes or insecurity about not being good enough. The message of grace is always waiting for you to come back, ready to restore and renew time and time again.







2 thoughts on “Legalism or grace?

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