After posting the vocabulary word yesterday morning, I received the weekly Plain Truth email; lo and behold, what do they talk about? Antinomianism, that’s what! Very weird. Maybe not so weird considering they are constantly fighting the good fight against legalism and that is what I’ve been focusing on as of late. But, strange nonetheless. If you haven’t clicked over there and signed up for the free bi-monthly hard copy magazine subscription, you should. Very interesting reading. The weekly emails are sometimes good as well. I’m going to post the Q & A here just for grins. Note that it is copyrighted by PTM and I’m doing this only for educational purposes!
The law — who needs it?
First of all, I would like to thank you guys for this great site and radio-program, and for the sound teachings which firmly stand on Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace. I’ve spent many hours listening and reading your material, and I haven’t bumped into anything (at least yet) that I really would disagree about. My church is Evangelical Lutheran.
You seem to emphasize legalism — and how people believe they must please God in order to be accepted. But what are your views on antinomianism? I believe that antinomianism is very dangerous, because the law has an important function for Christians. Without the law, there is no need for Jesus Christ. Law shows us that we are, in our fallen nature, doomed. Romans 3:19 -24 tells us: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
So, I believe there can be no salvation without the law. How can anyone understand their need of forgiveness, if they don’t understand their sinful nature?. Of course, following the law doesn’t save us, because it is impossible for a person to follow the law, ie. be sinless. Jesus fulfilled the law by living a sinless life as one of us. — Finland
Great to talk to someone from Finland! We are delighted that you find our ministry helpful to you. Yes, of course there is a balance between grace and law. The term antinomian simply means “against law.” Are Christians against law? Yes, and no. It depends on what law we have in mind. Before we go on, we need to define our terms. Christianity springs out of Jewish roots — the culture Christianity has embraced and promoted is often referred to by secular, non-Christian sources as Judeo-Christian. So when we use the term law, what law are we talking about? Given your comments, it would seem that you and I agree, but believe me, many do not. When many who regard themselves as Christians use the word “law,” they have in mind some kind of modified version of the old covenant, the Ten Commandments, and/or the law of Moses. This they see as necessary to “balance” grace. They see some portions of the old covenant as “required” for Christians.
The Cross of Christ says otherwise. Nothing in the Old Testament is required of Christians. Nothing. It is true that the “moral law” taught by Jesus and his apostles in the new covenant bases some of its principles on modified versions of the ten commandments — but in every case when Christians speak of law it must be understood and stipulated that we are speaking of the new covenant law alone. Going on, is there a “balance” between the law and grace — or as Lutherans (I was baptized a Lutheran as an infant) speak of it, as law and gospel? No, I don’t believe there is any balance. Grace always predominates, it always prevails. When grace prevails, when Jesus indwells our lives, then the commandments of Jesus will be produced in the life of a Christian. When the product, or what passes for the product of grace comes first, grace may or may not result.
For example — an atheist or a Moslem may be kind, gentle, peace-loving and considerate. For that matter someone who thinks they are a Christian, attends church regularly, does all of the right things, etc. can be a nice/”good” person. But that “fruit” is not the same fruit produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). It may not be easy to discern the difference, but there is a difference. Human beings cannot produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just like “only God can make a tree” so too can God alone produce in us the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
It’s really a question of who gets the credit — or, put another way, is the cart pulling the horse, or is the horse pulling the cart? In authentic Christianity, God alone gets the glory for what we produce and accomplish. Jesus Christ pulls us, we are on the cart, he gets us where we need to go. We don’t have to be on the cart of course — we can refuse to allow him to pull us, we can jump off — so there is something we need to “do.” We must surrender to Jesus. We must repent of any idea that we are good enough, powerful enough, to do what needs to be done for our salvation, of and by ourselves, of and by our own steam. As the old hymn proclaims, “To God Goes the Glory.”
Now, I’m no scholar and don’t pretend to be. But something about this and the Ragamuffin Gospel resonates with me. Late.