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Bible verses about legalism

One of the worst things in Christianity is legalism. Usually cults require legalistic things for salvation. The reason it is so bad is that it stops people from seeing the gospel. It puts a chain on people.

Before unbelievers even stumble at the gospel they stumble at Christianity. They aren’t able to get into the doors because of the ridiculous non-important demands of many false teachers and fanatical Christians. Sometimes the legalist thinks he is pleasing God, but he doesn’t know that he is actually blocking people from Christ.


Examples of legalism

  • You must work inside the church and if not you are not saved.
  • You must go to church every week in order to keep your salvation.
  • You must listen to only this type of music.
  • If you don’t evangelize you are not saved.
  • You must look like this in order to be saved.
  • You must stop eating this.
  • You must follow this man-made tradition.



  • “Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from GOD and acceptance by GOD through my obedience to GOD.”
  • “There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man!” – C. S. Lewis 
  • “When there’s something in the Bible that churches don’t like, they call it legalism.” – Leonard Ravenhill


Bad news

One of the reasons that Christianity is going down and being infiltrated by false believers is because preachers stopped preaching against sin. Nobody wants to hear God’s Word anymore. Once you talk about obeying Scripture a false Christian screams, “legalism.” Remember the words of Jesus (sin no more). You are not saved by obeying the Bible. If you were saved by works there would be no need for Jesus to die for our sins. You can’t work your way into Heaven or work for God’s love.

The only way into Heaven is by faith in Jesus Christ alone and nothing else. True faith in Jesus Christ results in being a new creation. A new heart for Christ. You will grow in holiness and start wanting more of His Word. God is working in the lives of true believers. He will not let His children go astray. Sometimes you will go a few steps forward and sometimes a few steps back, but there will be growth. There will be a change in your life. Many false converts sit in churches all day and they don’t grow because they’re not truly saved. Most people who call themselves Christians today don’t truly know Christ.

They live in rebellion towards the Word of God. They love mocking God by their actions. They go out and deliberately live in sexual immorality, drug use, and other things that God hates. They say, “if Christ died for me I can sin all I want who cares.” They don’t have the power to overcome sin. They live a continuous lifestyle of sin never growing in God’s Word and God lets them remain rebellious without disciplining them because they’re not His children.

A Christian can start off carnal, but it is impossible that he remains carnal because God is working in the lives of His children. Most people who call themselves Christians today will one day be in front of God and say, “Lord Lord I did this and that”, but God will say, “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”

If someone teaches you that you need faith along with works like Catholicism does that is legalism. If someone says evidence of true faith is that you will be a new creation, you will grow in holiness, and grow in obedience to God’s Word that is not legalism that is Scripture. Jesus preached on sin, Paul did, Stephen did, etc. This generation is so wicked and rebellious that if you preach on sin or if you rebuke someone you are considered a legalist. We are in the end times and this is only going to get worse.


What does the Bible say?

1. Colossians 2:20-23 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

2. 2 Corinthians 3:17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

3. Romans 14:1-3 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.

4. Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.


How does Jesus feel? King Jesus hates legalism.

5. Luke 11:37-54 After Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee asked Jesus to eat with him. So Jesus went in and sat at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he saw that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal. The Lord said to him, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil. You foolish people! The same one who made what is outside also made what is inside. So give what is in your dishes to the poor, and then you will be fully clean. How terrible for you Pharisees! You give God one-tenth of even your mint, your rue, and every other plant in your garden. But you fail to be fair to others and to love God. These are the things you should do while continuing to do those other things. How terrible for you Pharisees, because you love to have the most important seats in the synagogues, and you love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. How terrible for you, because you are like hidden graves, which people walk on without knowing.” One of the experts on the law said to Jesus, “Teacher, when you say these things, you are insulting us, too.” Jesus answered, “How terrible for you, you experts on the law! You make strict rules that are very hard for people to obey, but you yourselves don’t even try to follow those rules. How terrible for you, because you build tombs for the prophets whom your ancestors killed! And now you show that you approve of what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you build tombs for them! This is why in his wisdom God said, ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them. They will kill some, and they will treat others cruelly.’ So you who live now will be punished for the deaths of all the prophets who were killed since the beginning of the world from the killing of Abel to the killing of Zechariah, who died between the altar and the Temple. Yes, I tell you that you who are alive now will be punished for them all. “How terrible for you, you experts on the law. You have taken away the key to learning about God. You yourselves would not learn, and you stopped others from learning, too.” When Jesus left, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees began to give him trouble, asking him questions about many things, trying to catch him saying something wrong.


We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. He lived the perfect life we couldn’t live. He bore our sins. He alone satisfied the wrath of God and on the cross He said, “it is finished.”

6. Galatians 2:20-21 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.

7. Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

8.  Romans 3:25-28 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.


New creation in Christ.

9. John 14:23-24 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them. A person who doesn’t love me doesn’t do what I say. I don’t make up what you hear me say. What I say comes from the Father who sent me.”

10. Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

11. 1 John 3:8-10 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

12.  2 John 1:9 Everyone who doesn’t continue to teach what Christ taught doesn’t have God. The person who continues to teach what Christ taught has both the Father and the Son.


For people who call obedience legalism you must know that most people who profess Jesus as Lord will not get into Heaven. Why is that? Let’s find out.

13. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

14.  Luke 13:23-27 Someone asked him, “Sir, are only a few people going to be saved?” He answered, “Try hard to enter through the narrow door. I can guarantee that many will try to enter, but they won’t succeed. After the homeowner gets up and closes the door, it’s too late. You can stand outside, knock at the door, and say, ‘Sir, open the door for us!’ But he will answer you, ‘I don’t know who you are.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will tell you, ‘I don’t know who you are. Get away from me, all you evil people.


Important reminders

15.  James 2:17-21 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

16. Romans 6:1-6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

17. Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

18. 1 John 5:3-5 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?


Can we correct others who are deliberately rebelling against God without being called a legalist?

19. Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

20. Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

21. James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

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