The Word 'antinomian' comes from the Greek words, 'anti' (against) and 'nomos'
(law), signifying opposition to the law. It refers to the doctrine that the
moral law is not binding upon Christians as a rule of life, and was first used
by Martin Luther (1483-1546) in refuting the belief of John Agricola
(1492-1566), who denied that the believer was in any way obliged to fulfill the
moral law. Agricola is alleged to have said that a man was saved by faith alone,
without regard to moral character. Luther denounced this view as a caricature of
the gospel, although Luther himself has been appealed to by antinomians in favor
of their view.
Great minds have long been involved in this theological controversy, and both
sides will always have their able exponents. Let us remember, however, that
Scripture gives us a strong warning: "But avoid foolish questions, and
genealogies, and contentions, and striving about the law; for they are
unprofitable and vain" (Titus 3:9).
While seeking to avoid "contentions" on the law, let us not avoid the plain
emphasis of the Word of God concerning personal holiness, practical godliness
and sanctified living unto Christ as Lord of our lives. These things are so
important! They are not side issues! They are not "unprofitable and vain".
Because some may pervert holy living by their self-righteousness (a
'holier-than-thou' attitude), this does not excuse anyone from obeying the
precepts of Scripture.
By personal holiness' we do not mean 'inherent righteousnesss' for the sinner by
nature has no righteousness to commend him to a thrice-holy God. "All our
righteousness are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). We are all unclean, defiled and
depraved in our natural condition. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is 'our
righteousnesss' before God, as far as merit is concerned: "The Lord our
Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6). This is to us the emphasis of the gospel of
grace. True righteousness is imputed to us by the grace of God and received by
Only Jehovah can "justify the ungodly" and impute righteousness to the
unbelieving sinner "without works" (Romans 4:4-6). This is a reality because the
Son of God had our sins imputed to Him, 'that we might be made the righteousness
of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a glorious exchange; Christ took our
sins, we received His righteousness!
What happens in those who believe in Christ? This is the crucial question. Can
the believer live as he pleases? Does the grace of God change our lifestyle? Is
there such tension between justification and sanctification that no one really
understands either? Let C.H. Spurgeon clarify the Biblical position:
"I trust that in my ministry I shall never keep back the doctrines of the grace
of God, but I am anxious at the same time with equal clearness to declare the
doctrine that good works are necessary evidences of grace. I am persuaded that
if self-righteousness be deadly, self-indulgence is ruinous. Rowland Hill said
he had spent a large part of his life in battling with the white devil of
Arminianism, but he would now fight the black devil of Antinomianism. I desire
to maintain always a balance in my ministry and while combating
self-righteousness to war perpetually with loose living.
Antinomianism is a black devil indeed, a devil whose smutty fingers have defiled
full man of the pure truths of our holy faith, and made even good men shy of
receiving them. We must remember that though we are saved by grace; yet grace
does not stupify us, but rather quicken us into action: and though salvation
depends upon the merits of Christ, yet those who receive with them a faith which
Scripture makes it clear that there is a difference between 'works' and 'good
works'. 'Works' are attributed to the natural fleshly man, the person outside of
Christ and unrenewed by the Holy Spirit. These are the works Paul has in mind
when he says; "Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9).
Salvation is by pure grace, and is not merited in any sense by the works of
sinners. Grace and works do not mix. But then Paul tells us what has happened t
the truly regenerate person: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in
them" (Ephesians 2:10).
So good works are wrought in us by the same God who has justified us (cf Isaiah
26:12). The works of our own hands are called "dead works" (Hebrews 9:14), but
these 'dead works' have been repented of, and the blood of Christ has "purged
us" from them "to serve the living God". The true Christian then naturally (or
supernaturally) produces 'good works' just as fruit trees produce fruit. Listen
to J.C. Philpot:
"Spiritual readers, judge for yourselves. Is fruit generally insisted upon as
the mark of union with Christ? Such fruits as self-denial, crucifixion of the
flesh with its affections and lusts; laboring to know and do the will of God;
repentance and godly sorrow for sin; mourning and signing over a backsliding
heart; a prayerful, meditative spirit and that sweet spirituality of mine which
is life and peace - are not these vital realities positively ignored, and not
even named, much less insisted upon?
It would almost seem, from the general neglect of enforcing upon believers
practical godliness, as if the elect might do anything they liked, and that we
are saved, not from sin, but in sin; delivered not from the curse of the law to
walk in obedience of the gospel, but almost to do any abomination in which the
carnal mind delights" (Jeremiah 7:10).
Antinomianism is simply resting upon mere doctrinal truth, resting upon a mere
knowledge of sin, without any vital experience of deliverance from sin in the
daily lie. We must not only be sound however, in the Lord in our hearts,
evidenced by a godly walk. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren and exhort
you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and
to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
Away with the modern idea of quietism and passivity (the teaching that all
initiatives on our part are the energy of the flesh). This passivity has led us
into lethargic inaction and spiritual laziness. The call of Scripture is to
activity and duty: "Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon
the earth" (Colossians 3:5). "Put off" and "put on" are Paul's admonitions to us
Written by: W.F. Bell
This article was taken from; "The Link" North North Road Chapel (Evangelical)
Bideford England...Oct - Dec 1994, edition.