Grapes on the Vine, God's Abundant Provision for His People

A daily devotion for February 17th

Legalism: The Wrong Standard

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

Romans 14:1-3

One form of legalism is to have the wrong standard. Legalism then becomes making unwarranted or unnecessary demands on yourself or on someone else, especially in areas which are not prohibited in the Scriptures. There is a standard which is prescribed; the Law of God never changes and it is always right, always applicable and relevant to a Christian. For instance, it is always wrong to murder, or to lie, or to steal, or to commit adultery, or to covet your neighbor's things. These are always wrong, they are never right, and there is no way ever of justifying them.

But there are other areas in which we are given a great deal of personal liberty, and it is legalism to make standards (particularly for someone else) in these areas. Here we must be careful, because, for ourselves, it is proper to set standards or rules which apply to us. When we have difficulty with some situation, or we discover a weakness within ourselves, it is wise to make a rule for our own protection.

But legalism comes in when a group of Christians makes rules for each other. When the early Christians wrote to Paul, they asked, What about these Christians who are eating meat offered to idols? A group of them were upset about this and they wrote to the apostle, saying, We don't think that is right. But Paul wrote back and said in effect, Here is an area where each man must be fully persuaded in his own mind. You can't make rules for each other, and you have to honor a weaker brother's conscience. If he is troubled by a certain action, then don't flaunt your liberty in his presence, but be careful to love each other.

So it becomes legalism for Christians to levy standards of achievement or behavior or spirituality upon others. Today this involves how we dress, how we observe the Sabbath, the kinds of entertainment we enjoy, and what we chose to eat and drink — all these things become legality when they are legislated upon somebody else. These are areas in which we are left free to be guided by our conscience, instructed by the Word of God in general principles. We are free to counsel one another and help one another, but not to legislate. It is wrong, absolutely wrong, to do so. It becomes legalism when we make unwarranted demands upon others in an area not prohibited by Scripture.

Forgive me, Lord, for those times I have judged others by standards not in your Word. Remind me not to judge those whom you have accepted.

Life Application

Will you ask God to give you awareness of any legalistic standards you are imposing on others, and ask for freedom from judgmentalism?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages


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