Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

46. WHAT IS ANTINOMIANISM?

Antinomianism, which means against the law, is a doctrine or belief that the teaching of the Bible frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.  In this context, the word faith is not necessarily belief preceded by repentance and followed by obedience.  It could represent merely an academic exercise or an emotional experience.  The Moravians, Plymouth Brethren, Keswicks and followers of Charles Finney embraced antinomianism to varying degrees.  It is generally viewed as a misguided but well-meaning distortion of Christian Theology.

The penalty of sin cannot be transferred to a third party.  When we say that Christ died as our substitute, we do not imply that He was simply a third party who stepped in between God and man.  Christ was not a third party in the affair at Calvary.  He was God against whom every sin is committed.  When God the Son said, at Calvary: “Father forgive them” instead of saying “Angelic hosts, destroy them,” He, as the victim, bore the guilt, penalty and pain rightfully due every person who will ever live.  Jesus not only bore the guilt and penalty for your sins but he took a step further.  Since your guilt is canceled and your punishment remitted, He said that you can be accepted before God as righteous.  You can, therefore, stand before God as if you had never sinned; you are thereby justified.  However, it is important to remember that justification is a remission of sins, not an infusion of righteousness.  Justification is a change of relationship to God but not the work of God by which you are made actually righteous.  Justification removes condemnation but it does not change your nature or make you holy.  Justification is what God does for you through His Son. 

Conversely, sanctification is what God works in you by His Spirit.  Justification is a declarative act in the mind of God; sanctification is a moral change within the soul. Sanctification is a journey along the road to complete holiness.  The journey begins with regeneration or initial sanctification which is the change God works in the soul when He brings it to life, when He raises it from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.  The journey ends, for the vast majority of us, at death when we enter into the presence of God and our souls are, at long last, glorified; we are set free from the influence of sin and enveloped by the holiness of God.  But some may achieve, at least for a time, the earthly analog of glorification called entire sanctification.

The antinomian has a different view.  He believes that both justification and entire sanctification are what God does for you through His Son.  Justification removes condemnation and entire sanctification makes you holy.  You are no longer bound by Scriptural, civil or moral law.  You don’t need to seek a path of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.  You are a perfect Christian.  This theology appeals to many because there is no need for a change in lifestyle.  You are perfect just the way you are!

Antinomianism is not generally preached today; however, certain TV preachers have been known to come close!  Occasionally preachers will pontificate on certain aspects because they sound so spiritual.  If you hear any of the following statements (in italics) from the pulpit, a red flag should go up.

 

Christ has done all things necessary for the salvation of all mankind.  Notwithstanding all that Christ has done, any man who does not confess his sin nature and behavior, have remorse in his heart, repent, believe he can be saved by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ and seek to be obedient will not be saved.

We are to do nothing, as necessary to salvation, but simply believe in Him; there is but one duty now, but one command, namely to believe in Christ.  Almost every page of the New Testament proves the falsehood of this assertion.

Christ has taken away all other commands and duties having wholly ‘abolished the law’; a believer is therefore free from the law and is not obliged to do or omit anything.  Jesus said: ‘Think not that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets.  I come not to destroy but to fulfill.’

We are sanctified holy the moment we are justified and are neither more nor less holy to the day of our death; entire sanctification and entire justification being in one and the same instant.  Just the contrary appears from both the tenor of God’s Word and the experience of His children.

A believer has no holiness in himself; all his holiness is imputed, not inherent.  Scriptural holiness is the image of God: the love of God and man, lowliness, gentleness, temperance, patience, chastity, and many other things.  These things are not merely imputed to a believer.

If a man regards prayer or searching the Scriptures as duty, if he is troubled when he does not do these things then he is in bondage; he has no faith at all, but is seeking salvation by the works of the law.  Theological garbage!

In spite of its glaring theological problems, antinomianism has claimed a branch on the tree of Protestant Christianity.