Monday, May 28, 2018

The Danger of Antinomianism

I set before you in my previous post some characters from the book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity. Derek Thomas describes this book as "one of the most important theological texts of all time." The book, first printed in 1645, contains a dialogue between fictional characters discussing matters of eternal importance; matters that deal with a man’s eternal soul and his hopes of eternal life. Evangelista is the Gospel minister carefully applying Gospel truths to a legalist by the name of Nomista and an antinomian by the name of Antinomista. Previously, we looked at Nomista and the dangers and subtleties of legalism. We are always in danger of fixing our hope upon our own actions rather than upon Christ alone.
Equally insidious, however, is the one who vainly believes he has eternal life, while insisting he is exempt from the Law of God. He shouts loudly, “We are not under the Law but under grace!” Evangelista addresses Antinomista: “If either you, or any man else, shall under a pretense of being in Christ, exempt yourselves from being under the law of the ten commands, as they are the law of Christ, I tell you truly, it is a shrewd sign you are not yet in Christ; for if you were, then Christ were in you; and if Christ were in you, then would he govern you, and you would be subject to him.”  
As with legalism, antinomianism can be subtle. Satan has many tricks and tools to lead a man to perdition. A man can believe in justification by faith alone and yet deny the Christ upon whom we must believe. Antinomista argues, “Me thinks, when a man is perfectly justified by faith, it is a very needless thing for him to endeavor to keep the law, and do good works.” At this a fourth character speaks. It is Neophytus, a yet unconverted but sincere seeker of Christ. “I do much marvel that this my friend Antinomista should be so confident of his faith in Christ, and yet so little regard holiness of life, and keeping of Christ’s commandments, as it seems he does.” 
To this Evangelista replies: “If our friend Antinomista do content himself with a mere gospel knowledge, and yet is not fetched in by the power of Christ, let us pity him, and pray for him.” 
And so, we have the Law/Gospel balance. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. But as Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Salvation is wrought through the work of Christ apart from the works of the Law. At the same time, with saving faith comes deliverance from the power of sin. The Christian loves the Law of God as His standard of righteousness. He obeys, not as a means of gaining any form of merit from Christ, but because Christ has so captivated his heart that he delights in reflecting the beauty of holiness. His grief over sin is not because he fears the consequence of sin but because he has dishonored the One he loves.