It is very common in the lives of grace believers and teachers to experience the consistent resistance of grace by the religious legalists around them. These legalists are in the grace-believers' families, their churches, their places of employment, their neighborhoods, their schools, and the organizations to which they belong. These religious legalists are everywhere!
I am sure you have encountered them!
But what drives these religious legalists to be so resistant to grace and to reject those who believe and teach grace?
The religious legalists are driven in three specific ways to resist grace and to reject those who believe and teach grace. Before we list these three ways, let's first define what grace is and what a legalist is.
Driven by his love, mercy, compassion, and kindness to bring salvation to us, grace is everything God has done for us in Jesus to remove us from the wrath to come, reconcile us to himself in a love relationship by redeeming us from the law, fully forgiving us of all our sins, declaring us to be completely holy, blameless, righteous, accepted, and perfect in his sight, making us spiritually alive through the Spirit of Jesus in us, and seating us in Christ with himself in heavenly places. Therefore, leaving us nothing to do to achieve salvation, but only to receive by faith and to rest in what God has freely done for us in Jesus (Romans; Ephesians; Galatians; Hebrews).
A legalist is one who refuses to rest by faith and refuses to let others rest by faith in the grace God has freely given to us in Jesus. Rather than resting, the legalist controls others with fear and intimidation, compelling them to seek God's forgiveness and acceptance through religious activity and morality by refusing to tell them about grace, or watering down grace (all that God has done for us in Jesus) by mixing it with law (what we must do).
Now that we have defined what grace and a legalist are, let's take a look at the three ways religious legalists are driven.
Legalists Are Pridefully Driven: Legalists fail to see the depths of their own sins, yet are fully aware of the depths of other people's sins, resulting in being blind to their own need for grace. Because they are blind to their own need for grace, they can never understand the power of God's grace to change a person's life.
Legalists Are Fearfully Driven: Legalists fear those who hear about God's grace will use grace as a license to sin (of course the legalists believe they never would because they falsely believe they are so much more spiritual, religious, and moral than everyone else). This fear that others will use grace as a license to sin exposes the legalists' false belief that grace causes people to sin, rather than sets people free from sin. In doing this, legalists are in disagreement with God, calling God a liar because God says sin will no longer be your master because you are not under law but under grace. So, because of pride and fear, the legalists believe the very opposite of what the Bible says, even though they claim to believe every word of the Bible and take pride in their "Bible studies".
Legalists Are Emotionally Driven - The emotions of the legalists are always driven by pride and fear. Pride in that they falsely believe they do not have as much sin as others and therefore, would never use grace as a license to sin. Fear in that others, who are full of sins in the mind of the legalists, will use grace as a license to sin.
So we see that legalists are unable to have a biblical and intellectual conversation about grace, because their pride and fear drives them to emotionally resist grace and to reject believers and teachers of grace.
The resistance of legalists to grace is never scriptural, biblical, or intellectual. It can't be! This is because all of Scripture points to grace...God's overflowing grace to the sinful human race (Romans 5:12-21; Ephesians 1 and 2; Galatians; Hebrews). Their resistance can only be driven pridefully, fearfully, and emotionally, but never scriptually, biblically, or intellectually.
Notice the same three forces that drive legalists are the same ones that drive Satan. Satan, driven by pride, seeks to fearfully and emotionally convince people that God's love isn't unconditional, his kindness isn't unmerited, his blessings aren't unearned, and his forgiveness isn't unlimited. Satan seeks to convince people that receiving God's grace through faith in Jesus is not enough.
Today's legalists are yesterday's Pharisees who pridefully, fearfully, and emotionally, but never scripturally, biblically, or intellectually resisted the grace of God that flowed through Jesus to sinful humanity. In responding to the Pharisees' resistance to grace, Jesus said they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44), seeking to suppress grace just as Satan did.
Jesus told the Pharisees that even though they studied the Scriptures diligently, they missed the very point of the Scriptures...Jesus himself.
Today, the modern-day legalistc Pharisees do exactly what the Pharisees in Jesus' day did, they diligently study Scriptures, proud of their memorized verses, devotionals, and attendance at church services and revivals where "the Bible is taught". Yet, they miss the whole point of the Scriptures which is the unfolding of the grace of God given to us in Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:9), revealed to us in Jesus' in time (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:9), and that will be with us for all time (Ephesians 2:7).
Because these modern-day legalistic Pharisees miss the whole point of Scripture, the unfolding of God's grace to the human race, they pridefully, fearfully, and emotionally resist grace, reject those who believe in and teach grace, then passionately seek to suppress grace.
These modern-day legalistic Pharisees will continue to be everywhere, doing what they do, doing what their predecessors did in Jesus' time, consistently resisting the good news of God's grace freely given to us in Jesus and received simply by faith, and consistently rejecting those who believe in grace and those who teach grace.
So what do we do in response to this consistent resistance to grace and the rejection of those who believe in and teach grace? We do what Jesus did. We keep spreading God's grace by demonstrating grace and teaching grace to people, refusing to let the resistance and rejection of the legalists silence us. Like Jesus, we respond lovingly and gently, yet firmly, to the legalists, not allowing them to intimidate us, so that we can continually share the life changing truth of God's grace with others.