Bible and Theology
Overcoming Legalism
Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
Aug 26, 2022
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Jesus told many stories and parables about God's nature to drive home a point to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They had become more concerned with their traditions and man-made rules than with the Word of God. They had also become so focused on legalism that they had lost their love for their brothers and sisters, strangers and neighbors. They were even critical of sinless Jesus as they muttered behind His back, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them'" (Luke 15:2).

Legalism is the elevation of man-made tradition to be equal to the commands of God. It is the belief that keeping these traditions will earn you favor with God. Legalism is a religious spirit that leads people to believe that not worshiping a certain way or following a particular liturgy or performing precise rituals means you are not a good Christian.

Grace, on the other hand, provides the inner desire and the power to obey God.


Naturally, you want to follow the Word of God, and you don't want to be undisciplined so that you cross over into carnality. Christians should refrain from sin and observe the law; however, some Christians become so focused on the law they forget the overarching role of grace and love.

Legalism imposes an outward code. It can never change our hearts and inner desires. Grace, on the other hand, provides the inner desire and the power to obey God. Jesus paid the ultimate price, dying on a cross so He could free us from the law through His mercy and grace. If you want to live in victory and in power, receive the overwhelming grace and love of God today.

Prayer: Lord, I know that there are times when I focus on the law instead of Your grace, mercy, and love. Forgive me and help me to be on guard against legalism in my life and to show others the love and grace that You show me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:21).

Learn more in Dr. Michael Youssef's sermon series The God Who Pursues Us: LISTEN NOW