Postmodernists and progressives have for some time now worked hard at redefining legalism. They quickly label anything they don't want or don't like as legalism. Out of one of their mouths they talk obedience as necessary to salvation; but out of the other side of their mouths they depict anyone who would actually require obedience as a fanatic Pharisee.
A Pharisee legalist is not a person who obeys the laws of Jesus but a person who tries to enforce man-made laws. He is the one who develops his own standard and requires everyone else to live up to it. Do not confuse obedience with legalism.
Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for keeping the Law scrupulously. He condemned them for binding their oral traditions on others (Matt. 15:1-14; Mark 7:1-23). For instance, the progressive calls one who correctly restricts the meaning of baptism to immersion a legalist and Pharisee for expecting people to do what the word means. It does not occur to them they ought to hear and obey what the Lord teaches (the word baptism, after all, refers to immersion and is a burial), they can only call names at the person who will not give in to their side-stepping the truth by adding the human practice of sprinkling. It is easier to try to make the obedient into the bad guy than it is to admit their self-made religion.
So when you can't win the debate on the issue, make the argument ad hominem, argue against the man. Label him as unkind and ignorant of the grace of Christ. (Such arguments stain whether they are true or not--the main thing is to make the obedient look bad.)
The fact is, obedient people value the grace of Christ. They love God enough to simply do what He says to do. They realize hearing and obeying the commandments is how we love God (John 14:15). They have learned righteousness and godliness from grace (Titus 2:11-14). They do not presume upon the grace of Christ by inventing their own doctrines and practices. They do not make laws but simply obey the laws God has given. They believe in loving lawfulness. Love for God is shown listening to God, not presuming one can do what one pleases and relying on the grace of God will bail him out.
The progressive by his very nature is wanting to move beyond obedience into the realm of popular religion, so that he doesn't have to face censure from those who do not practice the truth. He has to find a way to embrace those in error, so he does it by slapping the person who values obedience. He thinks he has a better handle on grace than anyone. His grace is not a valued gift but his presumed excuse for license. Anyone who objects to the progressive agenda just doesn't understand grace, so they say. What nonsense!
Faithful Christians obey the Lord from the heart; they do so genuinely and are not dominated in their thinking with how they appear to their religious neighbors. They don't have to blow the trumpet when they do something religious. They don't have to please the mainline denominational community; they are more interested in pleasing God.
Faithful Christians love sinners and work hard to lead them to love the Lord. They follow the Great Commission by teaching them to "observe all things" the Lord commands. They work so hard because they understand and value the grace of Christ.
for the Truth of the matter,