Antinomianism-- The Popular Heresy
by Tom Stewart
June 20, 1999
Jesus promised that He would avenge speedily anyone who would truly
pray and not faint; but, the real issue is whether or not He would find a people
in which dwells True Faith, when He returns. "When
the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the Earth?"
(Luke 18:8). Surely, the LORD was not referring to Professing Evangelical Christianity
when He made this statement-- or, was He? "7 And shall not God
avenge His Own Elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long
with them? 8
I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh,
shall He find faith on the Earth?" (18:7-8).
The solution to Christ's question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the Earth?", is antinomianism. But, you ask, "What is antinomianism?" It is the heresy without a face, presently infecting the vitals of Professing Evangelical Christianity. "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). Antinomianism comes from the Greek words "anti" against, and "nomos" law-- "against law". It was considered a heretical doctrine by the Early Church of the 2nd Century, being championed by the Gnostics, i.e., who believed matter to be evil, the spirit good, and salvation to come by secret knowledge (gnosis) granted to initiates. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22).
Antinomians believe in freedom from the obligation to obey the Moral Law to be saved. "Do we then make void the Law through Faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law" (Romans 3:31). The heresy of antinomianism springs from unrightly "dividing the Word of Truth" (2Timothy 2:15). And, what Scripture do antinomians mishandle? "Ye are not under the Law, but under Grace" (Romans 6:14) has been the "stone of stumbling" and "rock of offence" to antinomians, who "stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed" (1Peter 2:8). Jude warned against antinomianism, even in the 1st Century. "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [unbridled lust], and denying the only LORD God, and our LORD Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
What does it mean, "Ye are not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14)? This verse simply means that men are not justified and saved by their own works-- which are the "deeds of the Law"-- but by God's grace. "Therefore by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). The guilty-but-now-penitent sinner cannot be accepted and treated as if he were just, i.e., justified, without the merciful pardon of God. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). And, if God had not voluntarily, freely, and graciously conceived and promoted this program of pardon and redemption, no man would ever be saved. "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).
Licentiousness is the lack of moral restraint that accompanies antinomianism. "1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). Because the antinomian perverts the grace of God, Jude warned of "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" (Jude 4), where lasciviousness is unbridled lust or licentiousness. "12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof... 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:12,14). In fact, the Apostle Paul pronounced damnation upon those who used faith in God and the grace of God as an excuse for their sin. "And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just" (3:8).
Gospel Salvation is not freedom from the Moral Law, but freedom to obey the Moral Law. "For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). The Moral Law is not the Civil Law of Old Testament Israel, nor is it the Ceremonial Law of worship for the ancient Jew, but it is the unchanging requirement of supreme love for God, and an equal love for our neighbor as ourself. "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37,39). Where there is not this Condition of Justification fulfilled of complete and entire obedience to the Moral Law, there cannot be Gospel Salvation. "8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love... 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1John 4:8,20). But, the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29) is given to the Saints to gain that obedience to the Moral Law. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
Antinomianism today, takes advantage of the ignorance of Professing Christianity concerning the true nature of our Justification by Faith, stressing grace and faith apart from obedience to the Moral Law. "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the Law: for I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7). And, when the Ten Commandments, which expresses the substance of the Moral Law, become the symbol of a vilified, legalistic salvation, then antinomianism has succeeded in convincing Professing Evangelical Christianity to depart from the "faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 3).
May God grant you the wisdom to avoid the "profane and vain babblings" (1Timothy 6:20) of modern antinomianism, and make you "wise unto salvation" (2Timothy 3:15).
[Please read our article, "Is Faith the Only Condition for Eternal Salvation? Or, The Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith", for a more developed discussion of this theme.]
"Beware of Antinomianism; 'making void the law,' or any part of it, 'through faith.' Enthusiasm naturally leads to this; indeed they can scarce be separated. This may steal upon you in a thousand forms, so that you cannot be too watchful against it. Take heed of everything, whether in principle or practice, which has any tendency thereto. Even that great truth, that 'Christ is the end of the law,' may betray us into it, if we do not consider that he has adopted every point of the moral law, and grafted it into the law of love. Beware of thinking, 'Because I am filled with love, I need not have so much holiness. Because I pray always, therefore I need no set time for private prayer. Because I watch always, therefore I need no particular self- examination.' Let us 'magnify the law,' the whole written word, 'and make it honourable.' Let this be our voice: 'I prize thy commandments above gold or precious stones. O what love have I unto thy law! all the day long is my study in it.'"
-excerpt from "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection" ---New Window by John Wesley
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