is defined as "the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws." Jesus accused the Pharisees of legalism. They were known for misconstruing the law for their own purposes. They were also extremely judgmental of those who did not hold to the same convictions. Furthermore, they were known for taking God's word out of context. Even though we have been redeemed from the law, legalism is still alive today.
|Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees, by Gustave Dore|
Another form of legalism is when we make our personal opinions and convictions law by placing them on the same level as divine revelation. It is honorable to have convictions and beliefs. But when those beliefs are not found in the Bible, we must never pass them off as part of God's law. Furthermore, we should never judge those who go against our convictions when they are not necessarily condemned by God. We should not impose our unfounded and self-proclaimed beliefs on others when they are not backed biblically.
A third form of legalism includes adding rules to the Bible. The pharisees were guilty of this, and the Lord called them out on it (Mark 7:1-13). Legalists today say that partaking of certain pleasures are in themselves sinful. For example, modern legalists are more likely to add rules to the Bible that includes, but not limited to, the prohibition of dancing and movie theater attendance; music preference; and Bible preference. These pleasures are not in and of themselves sinful. God has created everything for man's enjoyment. However, these things become sinful when man uses them to disobey God's specific commands.