c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: The Spiritual Danger of Antinomianism

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Spiritual Danger of Antinomianism


The greatest hindrance to spirituality is lawlessness.  On the personal level that means carnality and the lack of discipline.  In a church environment that means believing, preaching, and teaching that law is contrary to grace.  That false doctrine is called antinomianism, trans-literally, against law.

Antinomianism is the Latinized word for what we find in the Greek New Testament: anomia, anomos and athesmos.  A word such these that begins with the prefix a- means the lack of something.  In this case it means the lack of law, one that lacks the rule of law in his or her behavior, and the lack of moral principles, respectively.  Just as a baby would starve for the lack of food or die of exposure for the lack of warmth, a child of God can suffer spiritual death for the lack of law and principles.

Since law is essential to faith development, that is, growing from spiritual infancy in the new birth to maturity in Christ, antinomianism is a form of religious abuse.  In cases of abuse the police do not need evidence of a physical assault in order to arrest a perpetrator.  Neglect is abuse.  Failing properly to feed and clothe a child, for instance, is considered a crime.  Likewise, failing to preach and teach that works are required for salvation is spiritual child abuse because whoever has not heard or been rightly taught that God requires lawful obedience has no chance of achieving spirituality.

“Not many of you should become teachers,” James wrote (3:1), “for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”   Whoever seeks true spirituality, therefore, ought to flee churches that do not tell the truth about salvation or growth in grace.  The doctrine of “faith alone,” for example, is especially heinous and condemns its adherents to a life of religious mediocrity.  James, again, wrote (2:24), “A man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  Yet, there are many clergy that will gladly take our money in exchange for the false hope of an easy gospel.  And what we see today is that lawlessness in our Western, Christianized society is a direct result of antinomianism in the churches.

From a historical point of view, societies that suffer a lack of morality become chaotic and fail.  In fact, the difference between civilized people and barbarians is that barbarians do not follow rational principles of law and order.  Barbarians indulge carnal desires, demand what they want, and then kill, steal, and destroy to have it, which is the opposite of law and true religion.  No society can survive the constant breaking of the law or withstand those that do so in great numbers.  Likewise, public officials that do not respect the rule of law are considered despots.  Mob rule, also, is a form of tyranny.

 Similarly, division, confusion, and heartache results when churches are taken over by those that “want what they want,” having no regard for Scripture, reason, sound doctrine, good behavior, theology, or established traditions.  A serene and harmonious sanctuary established by God is the best place for experiencing growth in grace.  If one is redeemed and seeks a higher plane of existence, where there is love, peace, and joy, then law provides the pathway from sinfulness to spirituality.  From that source of grace flows a benefit to society, as leaven makes bread to rise, in the words of Jesus.

 Because both the liberal-progressive Social Gospel and American pop-evangelicalism are antinomian it is necessary to review those passages of the New Testament that might cause alarm and turn us away from such bad doctrine.

 First, the greatest injustice in the history of the world resulted from lawlessness: 

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)

 Second, the following verses condemn anomia, which is translated lawlessness and law-breakers: 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV) 

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matthew 13:41-42 ESV) 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)

 Third, one sign of the end times is the increase of anomia, lawlessness.  Paul agrees with Jesus about overwhelming lawlessness and then adds the prediction of a lawless one that emerges, often called the Antichrist.  Also notice that lawlessness causes love to grow cold. 

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:9-14 ESV) 

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 ESV)

If the lack of law is evil and promotes evil then one might rightly ask what law applies.

 There are five laws in the Bible.  The first and most obvious one is the Law of Moses with its five books, the Pentateuch, centering upon the giving of the Ten Commandments and attendant legislation.  But the Law of Moses is passé and superseded by Christianity.  Its moral requirements make it over the wall into Christianity and its civil code has been the basis of Western jurisprudence since ancient times.  But the ritual law is obsolete and has passed away in deference to God’s revelation in Christ.

 The second law has been obscured by the heresy of antinomianism.  It is the Law of Christ (I Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2).  One can say that just as the Old Testament is about the Law of Moses and Judaism, the New Testament is about Jesus and his Law of Love.  But “love” that does not require behavioral standards is not love at all but permissiveness, a colossal lie of the devil that paves the way to personal destruction.  The New Testament is full of commandments and admonitions.  It is unreasonable to think that we can please God and be saved if we do not obey them.

 The third law is called the natural law and is found two places in Romans: 

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16 ESV) 

Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9 ESV)

 The fourth law is the law of the secular state in which one lives.  Peter and Paul speak to this law in I Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7, respectively.

 The fifth law is revealed also in Romans, a book that is widely misunderstood as giving credence to antinomianism.  In Romans we find the following, which is the true Roman Road of Salvation and depends on the law as a rational sense of morality (incorporating both natural and divine law).  But this law is fulfilled by following the Spirit.  It is called the Law of Faith (Romans 3:4) and the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).  It follows a simple formula:  righteousness is required but we are carnal; therefore God in Christ has provided a way for us to fulfill the law and thus be saved: 

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (2:6-8) 

But I am carnal, sold under sin I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will save me from this body of death? (7:14 and 23-24) 

God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit ...  If by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body we will live. (8:3-4 and 13)

The Law of the Spirit is the same as the Law of Faith because faith is required to do what the Holy Spirit leads us to do, that is, to follow Jesus in death and resurrection.  Jesus calls us to die to sin and self in his name and for his sake so that God can raise us up in him.  The essence of Christianity is to grow in grace by the transforming power of the cross, which purifies us.  Law provides the objective standard for determining our pilgrim’s progress and spiritual growth toward ultimate salvation.               

Being familiar with law in all its forms, therefore, John, the Beloved Disciple, provides a working definition of sin and contrasts it with the real righteousness that we find in Jesus: 

Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. (I John 3:4-7 RSV, emphasis mine) 

If the Son loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9), if it is lawlessness from which the Savior redeems us (Romans 4:7, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17) then how did antinomianism arise? 

It was a misunderstanding. 

Peter explains it in his second letter: 

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:15-18 ESV)

3 comments:

Michael Gentile said...

2Cor 7:10 For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death].

Kevin said...

showlogThank you for this post, Michael. Your work on a couple of FB groups is also much appreciated.

Michael DeShane Hinton, M.Div. said...

Thanks, Kevin. God bless you.