Why are you such legalists?
What is a legalist? Since the term does not occur in the Bible, it should be defined rather than using it as a vague slur of some sort. In the proper sense, a legalist is someone who believes a man’s eternal life depends on keeping select commandments. Rather than believing salvation by grace, legalists add works for their salvation. Paul had to deal with legalists in the churches of Galatia, who taught that the Gentile converts had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Of course, we do not believe any such thing. In fact, we believe that eternal life is more by the grace of God than anyone you will ever encounter. See our salvation documents.
Is there another kind of legalist? Some people throw this cheap accusation against anyone who takes a strong stand on the commandments of God. For example, the Bible plainly declares that God rejects short hair on women and long hair on men (I Cor 11:14-16). Call us what you will; but God gave those standards; we did not. We simply try to live by them and teach them. If you don’t like this standard, you have a problem with God, not with us. But be assured of one thing, when the subject of hair comes up in any context, we will take our position squarely on God’s word. But that is not legalism; that is faithfulness to the Word of God.
Is there another kind of legalist? Other people throw this cheap term with a flexible definition around to slur those who believe there is only one way to worship God. By that definition, we are cheerfully legalists! We know that God accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. We know Jesus said that worship must be in spirit and truth to be acceptable (John 4:23-24). Since truth does not allow for a variety of ideas, Jesus taught there was only one way to worship God. And Paul must have been the greatest legalist of all time, for he cursed any angel or man who preached anything differently than he preached (Gal 1:6-9). Yes, we are legalists in this sense.
We do not believe a sincere heart covers for disobeying the word of God. David had a sincere heart moving the Ark of the Covenant, but God killed a man for it not being moved the right way. Moses had 40 years of faithful service as Israel’s leader, but God kept him from the land of Canaan for striking a rock for water instead of speaking to it. We see these examples in Scripture, and we choose to esteem every precept of God and hate every false way (Ps 119:128). Why not come be such legalists with us?