|Refers to the doctrine that it is not necessary for Christians to preach and/or obey the moral law of the OT.1 He goes on to say, "Some have taught that once persons are justified by faith in Christ, they no longer have any obligation toward the moral law because Jesus has freed them from it."2
Note his conclusion.
|Certainly most orthodox Christians today agree that the law served the twin purposes of establishing the fact of human sin and of providing moral guidelines for Christian living. Orthodoxy teaches that the moral principles of the law are still valid, not as objective strivings but as fruits of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the believer.3
Augustus Strong makes the following comment concerning antinomianism:
|[They] hold that since Christ's obedience and sufferings have satisfied the demands of the law, the believer is free from obligation to observe it.4
He sums up the doctrine of Christian freedom as opposed to antinomianism by noting:
|We may say that Christ does not free us from the law as a rule of life.5
Yet, such comments are directly opposed to what the Scripture teaches in the above sighted passages.
|What is antinomianism? It is the heresy without a face, presently infecting the vitals of Professing Evangelical Christianity. 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.
|Antinomians believe in freedom from the obligation to obey the Moral Law to be saved. Licentiousness is the lack of moral restraint that accompanies antinomianism. Gospel Salvation is not freedom from the Moral Law, but freedom to obey the Moral Law. 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 our self. Where there is not this Condition of Justification fulfilled of complete and entire obedience to the Moral Law, there cannot be Gospel Salvation. 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.6
The issue of moral purity in the context of antinomianism is invalid. The Law is not what keeps the believer moral. It is the grace of God that teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12). It is the Holy Spirit who is producing in and through His people, His holiness. Paul's argument in Colossians 2:20-23 says that laws/rules "are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." To argue that antinomianism is morally degenerating is unfounded.
Do we believe in the removal of the New Testament believer from the Old Testament Mosaic Law? Absolutely, but this does not mean we believe the Christian is without law. We do, however, believe our absolute obedience is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit's empowerment. In addition, even with His enablement, we stand daily in violation of it. We also believe Christ is keeping for us the "law" perfectly.
Before closing this study let us consider nine aspects of legalism as they exist within the Christian life. Throughout the New Testament there is a distinct dichotomy between grace and law. To be in and under grace is to be free in Christ. To be in and under law is to be in bondage and slavery. We have used the term legalist to describe those who are in and under law, yet what do we mean by "legalism?" Warren Wiersbe gives us this clear definition of legalism.
|We must keep in mind that legalism does not mean the setting of spiritual standards; it means worshiping these standards and thinking that we are spiritual because we obey them. It also means judging other believers based on these standards. The old nature loves legalism, because it gives the old nature a chance to 'look good.'7
LEGALISM IS NOT WHAT YOU DO; IT IS WHY YOU DO IT THAT MAKES YOU A LEGALIST
John Piper correctly notes that. . .
|Legalism is present whenever a person is trying to be ethical in his own strength.8
He equally argues that legalism is present whenever we try to make other people ethical through conformity to rules. In so doing, we are lacking confidence in the sovereign power of God to complete that which He alone began and He alone can finish.
By meditating on these things we can note nine observations concerning legalism.
Any act of obedience on our part is simply a consequence of the Holy Spirit bearing His fruit in us and through us to those around us.
What we could not merit by works we cannot maintain by works. The Christian life is from "grace to grace."
The legalist believes that God is obligated to "bless" us with "good things" because we have lived exemplary lives. When hardship comes, we are shocked because we have done our best to "do right."
The New Testament was not written to tell us how to live, but to show us what He is like. The imperative is the outworking of the Holy Spirit bearing His fruit through these "earthen vessels." To think the believer is now obligated to carry out the New Testament imperative is to place him under a burden he was never meant to bear.
The truth is found in John 15:5, "without Him we can do nothing." We are not co-laborers or sub-contractors with God, but tools and only tools.
The legalist lives in fear of "divine chastisement." Yet we are assured that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).
Legalists delight in putting people into prearranged categories. Judgment is immediate and swift. Everyone and everything is guilty until proven innocent.
The legalist must control through conformity or it will lose its grip. Diversity within unity is the great scourge to the legalist.
The legalist believes everyone must mimic them. Yet the infiniteness of God and the diversity of personalities in limitless cultures assure us that there is great multiplicity within the body of Christ.
There is no desire to stand in judgment of the assumed legalist. How tragic is would be for us to embrace grace and, in some twisted way, become legalistic toward those who differ from us.
Grace living is "riskier" because it means we must take our hands off people and place them into the hands of Almighty God. Yet is such a transfer "risky?" Hardly, we would rather have them live under the watch-care of omnipotence than under the bane-filled eye of impotent man.
1The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, R.D. Linder's article on "Antinomianism", 57
2The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, R.D. Linder's article on "Antinomianism", 58
3The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, R.D. Linder's article on "Antinomianism", 59
4Augustus Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology, c1908, 230.
5Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology, 230.
7Wiersbe, Galatians, 108-109.
8John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 153-155.
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