Legalism…it is a frequently used label in some circles. Unfortunately I often find that it is tossed around today without an appreciation for its real meaning. For instance sometimes it is associated with those who seriously want to follow God and try to be careful to walk in obedience to Scripture. But this does not necessarily involve legalism. In fact, it is rightly associated with Christian living and maturity.
Scripture itself says “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
So what is legalism? Legalism is actually when we make God’s commandments burdensome by thinking that by keeping them we are made right in God’s sight. Ultimately, our obediance to God could never gain us a right standing before God. That is why Christ had to die on a cross to save sinners like you and me!