Sparked by “Interrogating the Legalist Within” by C.J. Mahaney at Resolved 2005
Legalism – Seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through your obedience to God
Justification – An instantaneous legal act of God in which (1) God thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness belonging to us and (2) God declares us to be righteous in His sight (taken from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology)
Did you catch the difference? Legalism is about YOU achieving forgiveness, justification, and acceptance by God by what YOU do. Sadly and rightly (and Biblically) you cannot because you are unable (Romans 3:9-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). Instead, God has to be the one to give you [by His grace and not your merit (Ephesians 2:4-10)], forgiveness , justification and acceptance which is achieved for you (not by you) through the one mediator between God and man Christ Jesus and His work on the cross (1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 5:6-11).