What is legalism? The charge of legalism is so carelessly flung around today that people have no idea what the term means. It’s become a catch phrase to write off any teaching of God’s moral law.
There are three ways this term is being misapplied and abused to attack churches that have remained confessionally Protestant.
First, churches that are serious today are characterized as legalistic. In fact, any church that is serious or formal anymore will “stand out like an organ stop” (quoting David Wells) and be labeled as those who are joyless and legalistic. People are equating legalism with formality, as if freedom means casualness before God. I’m reminded of the Lord’s complaint against Israel,
For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.” (Jer 4:22)