Are you a legalist? Do you follow the letter of the law? Do you split hairs to nth degree? Or do you attempt to understand the spirit of the law? Are you a person who applies principles to your life rather than hard and fast rules?
A legalist doesn’t always follow the law. Yet, they are unwilling to bend from the letter of the law. They will expect everyone to follow the law, but only as they interpret it. If someone doesn’t follow the legalist’s interpretation, they are wrong.
The legalist not only has this approach to law but also their entire outlook on life. It is applied to their way of doing things. Once they learn how to perform a task, their way is the only way. They are very hard to please and rarely are satisfied.
On the other hand, a person who follows principles sees possibilities other than their own. They apply guidelines but allow room for different approaches and means of accomplishing the same task. Don’t misunderstand, they won’t compromise their principles nor quality. However, they don’t abide by the “my way or the highway” motto.
What does this have to do with our Christian walk? We may see some who are legalists in our churches. Unfortunately, legalists are doomed to fail. There is no one who can follow God’s law perfectly. Jesus is the only who has or ever will. Perhaps that is why Jesus only gave a handful of commands while He walked this earth. He wrapped up all the law and the prophets in two commands—love God and love your neighbor. These are principles. When they are used to filter every action, every spoken word, every behavior, we are following Jesus’ direction.
Notice today’s passage. Righteousness cannot be obtained through the law for the reasons stated above. It is through our faith that we obtain righteousness. Our faith in Jesus, His perfection, His love for us, His sacrifice on our behalf is how we become righteous. It is not our doing that brings it about, but what Christ has done for us and our faith in Him. As we accept His gift, we become righteous because He covers us in His righteousness.
We could sum up Paul’s message to the Romans in three simple words—faith trumps law. Our faith in Him entices us to follow His example, to pursue being more like Him. Faith accommodates other viewpoints without sacrificing principles.
I pray we all accept the gift of righteousness Jesus provides. I pray we put our trust in God. I pray each one of us follows Jesus in faith. Be like Jesus. Follow His example. Adhere to Jesus’ principles. Stop splitting hairs of the law. Accept other viewpoints. Be righteous through faith.
Romans 9:30-32 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.