Having a strict outward conformity to moral and religious practices and an expectation that others have the same.
Pocket Dictionary of Ethics
legalism. The conception of *ethics that identifies *morality with the strict observance of *laws or that views adherence to moral codes as defining the boundaries of a *community. Religious legalism focuses on *obedience to laws or moral codes based on the assumption that such obedience is a means of
Dictionary of Theological Terms
LegalismA term used with various meanings.1. The dogma of salvation by works, the heresy* that man must earn a place in heaven by his personal righteousness.2. Neonomianism*—the theory that works of obedience are a constituent part of saving faith, rather than its natural fruit. In earlier times neonomianism
Key passages
Is 29:13–14

And the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with its mouth, and with its lips it honors me, and its heart is far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men that has been taught, therefore look, I am again doing something spectacular and a spectacle with this spectacular …

Ho 6:6

Because I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Mic 6:7–8

Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriads of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does Yahweh ask from you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and …

Mt 23:23

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees—hypocrites!—because you pay a tenth of mint and dill and cumin, and neglect the more important matters of the law—justice and mercy and faithfulness! It was necessary to do these things while not neglecting those.

Ac 15:10–11

So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way those also are.”

Ga 3:10–11

For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Now it is clear that no one is justified in the sight of God by the law, because “the one who is righteous …

See also
Topics & Themes