10 Sure-Fire Ways You Can Spot A Legalist


Legalists are tricky creatures. They slither in the side doors of churches, sign up to lead Bible studies and fill the minds of once joyous believers with rules and requirements of what it “really means” to become a Christian. Ask them how a person is saved and they’ll say, “By grace of course” and then they’ll roll out a scroll across the floor full of checklists to prove your salvation and prerequisites you must abide by in order to receive this “free gift” of grace.

With this in mind here are 10 ways to spot a legalist in your church:

  1. They cheapen grace by focusing on what we must do rather than on what Christ has done.

  2. They’ll say nonsensical things like, “Salvation is free but it will cost you everything you have.”

  3. They are “fruit inspectors” and hypothesize how much spiritual fruit a person must produce in order to truly be saved.

  4. They focus on things like turning, trying and crying instead of faith alone in Christ alone for salvation.

  5. Their “gospel” could never be falsely accused of being a license to sin (like Paul’s was in Romans 3:8!)

  6. They scare others with assertions that, if you preach too much grace, people will run amok.

  7. They conveniently avoid or mis-exegete large portions of gospel-centric New Testament books like Galatians, Romans, and John.

  8. They blend justification passages with sanctification passages and then try to get us to drink a heresy smoothie.

  9. They bake the same works-based righteousness cake that Mormons and Muslims do but cover it with evangelical frosting.

  10. They use the phrase, “You mean to tell me…” a lot. Then they create worst case salvation scenarios of those who claim to be Christians but abuse the grace of God. “You mean to tell me that someone can be saved and still….?”

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash