The ususal definition of a legalist is one who is trying to work his way to heaven by keeping the law.
A legalist is one who depends on his good works to earn his salvation.
A legalist is one who thinks that being good is what makes a person a Christian.
And if there is anything that the Apostle Paul is against in his writings, it’s the idea that the law can ever be used as a method for salvation.
However, I would like to go a step further and give an addtional definition of a leaglist.
A legalist is anyone who hopes for salvation, but who is living at a distance from the Lord Jesus Christ, has no other choice…he’s depending on his own works to get him to heaven. That’s the only other option.
So,if the surveys are correct, and if 3/4 of the members of the Christian world, have no time for individual Bible study, or time in the morning for prayer, or visit the sick in hospitals, or nursing homes….then 3/4 of the Christian world are legalists.
You and I are born legalists. Everyone in this world has suffered from the disease of legalism to one degree or another. Every day we experience it, and even if we though we might have a theory of faith alone in Jesus Christ, it’s only the daily acceptance of the grace of God, that can in practice, keep us above the life of a legalist.
This can be a little tricky, because there are 2 different kinds of legalist !
There is the black legalist and the scarlet legalist.
We might call them rigid legalists and the liberal legalists.
By the black legalist, I mean the one who has the black suit, black tie, black shoes, black socks, and a long face.
He finds his security in the standards of the church that he upholds, and he judges everyone else who falls short of his achievements.
He’s the pharisee, and his outward performance is well controlled.
The scarlet legalist is described in Revelation…the woman who is clothed in scarlet and adorned in jewels, ect.
This type of legalist is reacting against…the old guard form of legalism. These people wear jewelry and make up, go to movies, eat whatever they please, ignore the 4 commandment, don’t bother themselves with Bible studies, and take real pride in the fact that they are no longer legalistic.
But, both of these kinds of legalists are deceived. They are legalistic as ever, but just afflicted with different forms of the same disease.
The liberal legalist is as much a legalist as the rigid one, because they both know nothing of a personal relationship with Jesus.
Both are trusting to their own ways instead of trusting in Christ, who alone has the power to give salvation.
Having said all that…How does this Bible verse, mean: Phillipians 2:12 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, [work out your own salvation] with fear and trembling”.
(Remember….the Apostle Paul wrote this )