The Law is Your Friend in Christ: A Warning to Flee from Antinomianism

In my previous post, I stated that there are two major heresies in the church: antinomianism and legalism. In this post, I will focus on how antinomianism affects various relationships within the church and why we must repent faithfully from all traces of antinomianism for the sake of Christ. Antinomianism is generally defined as being against God’s law, but this definition only describes the symptom of an even greater error. When believers set their hearts against keeping God’s law, they are failing to see the goodness of God in giving His commandments. Therefore, the heart of antinomianism is a failure to see that God is good and that everything He gives to His children is good.

Antinomianism manifests itself in two main ways within the church. First, it manifests itself in theological antinomianism, which in many cases denies the use of God’s moral law in the life of the Christian. The second manifestation is practical antinomianism. This is when professing believers dangerously live a “loose” Christian life by either circumventing their need to keep God’s commandments or flat out ignoring the importance of keeping the commandments of God. Antinomianism can be very difficult to see because much of it is a result of sins of omission, but we must seek to find all traces of antinomian tendencies within ourselves, as well as in those whom we consider near to our hearts.

1. Flee Antinomian Marriage. There is no closer bond on earth than that of a man and woman in marriage. A marriage that is lived for the glory of God is one of the best experiences a believer can enjoy. One of the most Christ-like things a spouse can do for the other is to love their soul by lovingly encouraging their obedience to Christ’s good commandments. This is because the end goal of a marriage is to reflect Christ and the Church (Eph 5:25-33). Therefore, our marriages are ultimately not about us. This, coupled with the goal of each individual Christian to be like Jesus (Rom 8:29), means that we must labor for the glory of God to faithfully give instruction to a spouse who fails to keep God’s commandments. This is never to be done in a “holier than thou” manner, for anything that we can point to as good in us comes from God. We must also remember that a spouse faithfully keeps God’s commandments when he or she understands the goodness of God. Therefore, husbands and wives should hold out God’s good character and grace before one another in love.

For instance, if a husband is not consistent in disciplining his children according to the Scriptures, he’s failing to see the goodness of God, that God disciplines those He loves, never harshly or out of anger, but always out of compassion for His children. His wife should encourage him and set Christ’s grace and love before him with a reminder that his Father in heaven disciplines him in love. Spouses must practice faithful obedience to God, under grace, and subsequently encourage it in one another. Sanctification is a result of God’s Spirit working with God’s law in the believer enabling faithful and true Christian obedience.

2. Flee Antinomian Parenting. All Christian parents are charged by God to disciple their own children (Eph 6:1-3). Moralism is a legalistic means of parenting, but on the other side of the spectrum, some parents completely ignore God’s law in parenting. Our heavenly Father never excuses sin. He is patient and longsuffering, but He is never derelict in His Fatherly duties. God disciplines all of His children from a heart of love because He cares for our souls. He gives us commandments because He knows that it is better to keep His rules than to follow the world (Heb 12:7). The remedy for the antinomian is the same for the legalist: the grace of God. Paul tells us in Titus 2:11 that “grace instructs,” meaning that its God’s grace that teaches us to obey His good law.

God the Father is never harsh or sinfully controlling of His children. He is gracious in His actions towards us in constantly extending mercy for shortcomings that cause us to trust Him and His words to us. His good character compels true loving and joyful obedience to His commandments. Christian parents are to follow the pattern of their heavenly Father.

3. Flee Antinomian Church Life. Like legalism, antinomianism threatens the life and health of any local church. Paul condemns public gross sin at Corinth and implores that all unrepentant sin be addressed by the church and disciplined (1 Cor 5:13). Antinomianism is best addressed in the context of true Christian fellowship. In corporate fellowship, the elements of worship are means of grace that nurtures and strengthens our faith in Jesus.

A right preaching of the law and gospel every Lord’s day informs the mind and encourages the heart to live balanced Christian lives that seek to obey God’s law, understanding that Jesus has kept the law perfectly and that the source of life is found in Him alone.

Singing with the saints in corporate worship is a foreshadowing of the heavenly songs that we will offer to our God in glory, encouraging us to press on in obeying God and not growing weary in doing good.

The Lord’s supper is,” as Michael Horton said, “a means of grace for the weak, not a reward for the strong,” [1] and when received by faith, we are strengthened in our faith to obey God’s law.

Also, when we regularly fellowship with one another in each other’s homes, we can create a trust and openness with one another that makes confessing our sins, for the sake of accountability and encouragement, more comfortable. Practical antinomianism thrives on secrecy and a lack of accountability. Most importantly we must fellowship regularly with the Triune God in the Word and prayer, seeking to see our own sins of omission leading to antinomian practices. May we trust in God always.

4. Flee Antinomian Friendship. When antinomianism thrives within the context of Christian friendship, it may be a result of a failure to communicate the roles that two or more friends have with one another. Some have church friendships where personal sin is almost never discussed. But I am speaking here of Christian friendships where you have agreed to encourage one another in the grace of Christ and to keep one another accountable in the Lord. When keeping a Christian friend accountable, it must be communicated what that means and agreed upon by both parties.

The Ten Commandments are the standard by which Christians should keep one another accountable, not personal preferences or private convictions. Richard Barcellos says, “the law is the standard for proper conduct as defined by God for all mankind, Christian or non-Christian.” [2] We should strive to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to keep ourselves and our friends from sin. Jesus is the best example of a friend. He encouraged His friends (Matt 16:17-19); He rebuked His friends graciously (Matt 16:23); He never lied to them (1 Pet 2:22); and He gave them what they needed for their eternal good (Heb 10:14) and temporal good (John 21:5-6). Jesus was no antinomian, He loved His friends according to grace while calling them to be holy. May we follow His example.

Final Thoughts

Let me state clearly that a failure to go to the Lord Jesus Christ and to repent quickly and faithfully affects Christian assurance of faith. For if we go on unrepentantly in our sin, what assurances do we have that we are in Christ?  Jesus is indeed the grounds for our justification, but He gives us the graces of good works as a sweet reminder that He has redeemed us from both guilt (external condemnation) and pollution (internal corruption) on our path to glory. Most importantly, we must always remember that when we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, who propitiates for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Gran Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2011, pp. 819.

[2] Barcellos, Richard C. In Defense of the Decalogue: A Critique of New Covenant Theology. Enumclaw, WA: Winepress Pub., 2001, pp. 44.

Brandon is a student a Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary and is a member at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He has been married to his lovely wife, Abby, since 2014.
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