We can choose to define ourselves as Christians by what we’re doing or not doing to please or displease legalists.

Or we can choose to focus on our resources in Christ obtained only by grace.

Carrying around a to-do and a to-not-to-do list that self-proclaimed church hall monitors think you should maintain enough is exhausting.

Still, many of us seem afraid to launch out into what the legalists warn us is the wilderness of grace.

But, if we consult the New Testament we’ll see that there is a shocking contrast between grace and legalism.

It’s not that grace is a good idea for some crazies who want to have a little more freedom than their more sane and legalistic friends. It’s that legalism doesn’t work and grace is the only way.

The writers of the New Testament are clear: Believers should resist legalism, which opposes grace. Christ frees believers from the Old Covenant Law (Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; Galatians 3:13-14; 5:1; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13), and Paul warns us to maintain our freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1).

Still not convinced? Here’s a chart* I’ve shared with many sincere followers of Christ over the years:

Legalism Grace

Operates through the flesh

Romans 8:3

Operates through faith

Romans 4:16; Ephesians 2:8

Cannot save or sanctify

Romans 3:20; 7:14-25; 8:3; Galatians 2:16, 21; 3:1-5

Can save and sanctify

Romans 3:24-26, 6:14; Ephesians 2:8: Titus 2:11-12

Depends on human power

Romans 7:18-25; 8:8; Galatians 3:3

Depends on divine power

Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 2:8-9

Produces works of the Law by the flesh

Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:2, 5

Produces good works by faith

Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:8

Emphasizes flesh and prideful works of the flesh

Romans 7:18; 8:2-3; Galatians 5:19-21

Emphasizes the Spirit & glorifies God with His fruit

Romans 8:4, 13; Galatians 5:16-18, 22-23

No power against sin

Colossians 2:23;

Romans 7:18-19

Conquers sin

Romans 6:14; 8:13;

Galatians 5:16

Brings spiritual bondage and wretchedness

Romans 6:14; 7:1-6, 24; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:3, 9; 5:1

Brings spiritual freedom, life, and peace

John 8:31-32; Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; 8:6;

1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 3:24-25; 4:7, 21-31; 5:1, 18

Causes frustration

Romans 7:18-19

Promotes progress

Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Peter 3:18

FailsRomans 7:18-25


Romans 5:20; 6:14; 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 5:16

*This chart comes from The Forgotten Blessing by Henry Holloman (Word)

Question: If you’re still not convinced, what could I possibly do to move you from the prison of legalism to the joy of grace?