Legalism is the product of when one practices their religious faith out of their flesh, or their own strength, which is void of the Spirit of God. Legalism says ‘thou shalt not….’, and is quick to look upon another in their sin to speak out on it, and does not see the very same sin in them. Matt 7:3-5
When anyone would speak about sin and the importance to not practice in it -there is risk of being accused of being a legalist. I think that this word is too easily used based on misunderstanding of what it truly means.
When we walk in the Spirit, having the Spirit in us, we contain the Word of God and the law is written upon our (new) hearts Ezekiel 11:19-20. This means that we will walk – in the commandments which is the will of God. We can only do this by the power of the Spirit. When we walk according to and subject to – the Spirit, we fulfill the law of God, in Christ. The Spirit will draw us into all truth, what is right and will give us conviction as to what is not pleasing to God John 16:13-14. When anyone operates in their own flesh, their own strength and carnal mind – they are not pleasing to God, and are under the law Romans 8:6-8. The fruit of how one conducts their lives will be evident. Those who are under the Spirit’s conviction will desire to walk away from worldly lusts, from sin or the appearance of sin – and not want any part of it – as this is the fruit of the Spirit’s presence in our lives 1 John 2:15-17. Those who are under the law of their own flesh, they will argue with anyone who tells them that such and such is a sin, or that way of living is not pleasing to God and there most often is an offense taken.
Legalism is practiced always by those who do not have the Spirit in them, or those who choose not to walk and obey in the Spirit. To be about questioning if this is a sin, or if that is a sin is a good indicator that one is not operating in the Spirit, but in the letter of the law. For when one is awakened in the Spirit in their lives, they are God-Conscience in Christ, and out of this they become sin aware (not obsessed), that is to say they do not walk in fear of committing sin, but in faith and obedience to what the Holy Spirit teaches.
Grace is granted to ALL who walk in the light as He is in the light – and are forsaking darkness. Sin is darkness. We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus as we do. We don’t go around looking at this sin or that sin, but instead are taught and led by the Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to forsake certain things in our lives that are not pleasing to God 1 John 1:5-10.
The life of a blood bought saint is not about sin hunting or pointing our finger at sin in others in the context Jesus spoke about in Matt 7:3-5. It is more about seeking the heart of God in all that we do Matt 6:33, Matt 22:37 and do as His Word instructs us -and in this He reveals to us the truth that sets us free John 8: 31-32. He shows us the sin that we are perhaps not seeing as sin. He reveals to us idols we perhaps don’t know they are idols. And when He does, we let them go like fire in our hands – and continue to walk in the light with Him, confessing our sin so we may receive His cleansing. This is our life as we walk it out, a continual process of walking out and away from the world and sin, forsaking them – and this is not legalistic, it is called sanctification 1 Thess 4:2-4. We are called to be holy, as God is Holy 1 Pet 1:15, and this means we are to be diligent against sin in our lives, not as part of a to do list but rather the maintaining of our vessels, which are for honor as we are the temple for the Holy Spirit of God to dwell 1 Cor 6:19-20– which is our reasonable service to Him Romans 12:1-2.