Juan, asked me in email an excellent question, “
Do Christians depend upon Specified Works?”
The good news everyone needs to understand is God’s great love for you provided to us Christ Jesus who did all that is needed for you and me to be with Him forever in Heaven. There is nothing at all you and I can do on our own to work our way into Heaven or to keep our salvation; Christ Jesus did it all for everyone. Glory to our Great Lord and wonderful Savior Christ Jesus, for His death and resurrection from the dead thus paying the debt you and I owe God! Through Christ Jesus’ completed work, there isn’t any specified works that you and I must do and depend upon!
It is important to clearly understand that Christ Jesus is the truth and life and that no one gets to the Father but through Him (John 14:6) because the temptation is to fall into a system of human works; i.e., us doing something to earn our way into Heaven and to keep us in Heaven. You and I have to be very aware that across major cults, world religions, and even some Christian groups and people lies the grip of legalism. Legalism is the dependence on human works, which erects a barrier to God’s grace. Ultimately, every religion or philosophy ‘except’ biblical Christianity is legalistic in some sense, since they all depend on human effort for salvation, replacing Christ’s complete work with some kind of system and teaching that needs unequivocally followed.
Most atheists grew up in legalism and thus became atheists. These atheists didn’t grow up actually knowing God and God’s grace and love for them; they grew up believing that God is a tyrant wanting them to strictly follow a set of rules and regulations and thus never had a personal relationship with God as God wants for each of us to have with Him.
Legalism is the natural religion of fallen humankind. Christians can easily slip back into legalism if we do not stay on guard and humble ourselves in that Christ Jesus did it all and He did it all for us (Gal 3:1-3).
Legalistic Christians depend on specified works (often extra-biblical, or an ultra-literal interpretation of Scripture, or specific procedures/teachings needed followed or combination part or all) as evidence of salvation, replacing much of the Holy Spirit’s work with a system or rules needed strictly followed. Some may consciously or unconsciously depend on works to keep their salvation. Many of these legalistic people consciously or unconsciously work legalistic ways into their teaching of others about how to help people with faith in Christ Jesus.
Once fallen into, the unique snare of legalism is difficult to break away from, because the legalistic person feels that he or she is displeasing to God if they do not continually and strictly follow their works-based salvation and teachings. Their conscience protests what it should not protest. Thus witnessing to a legalist requires a distinct sensitivity. Romans 14
Witnessing to a legalist takes careful education, such as exposure to various acceptable interpretations on peripheral issues. The New International Version (NIV) calls them “disputable matters” in Romans 14:1 while they are “opinions” in the New American Standard Bible (NAS) and called in the King James (KJV) “doubtful disputations.” The legalist needs to see that a difference exists between what is relative and somewhat defined by culture, such as expressions of modesty, and what is absolute and should be interpreted the same in any culture, such as the Ten Commandments. The legalist needs to also see that their works-based salvation and teachings cause a stumbling block or pitfall to people barring them from getting closer to Christ Jesus. The legalist needs to understand that their works’ based salvation and teachings cause many people to turn away from Christ Jesus and never know Him.
To legalists, God is difficult to reach unless specific rules, teachings, and systems are followed to the letter. The holy God translates for legalists into a distant God. Yet, you and I know that the Scriptures describe God as both holy (separate, pure) and intimate. God is not merely hard to please, but impossible to please outside of Christ. In Christ, however, there is complete acceptance for the believer on the basis of Christ’s completed works, and Christ as our Advocate and High Priest provides immediate access to the presence of the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Christians must remember that when we are witnessing to a legalist, we are not comparing religious teachings and systems. This is because true Christianity (being disciples “students/followers” of Christ Jesus) doesn’t offer a system, but a Person; Christ Jesus who has completed absolutely everything everyone needs completed for salvation freely given to everybody who accepts Him as their Savior and Lord.