Monday, May 9, 2011

The Antinomian Herald to the Great Apostasy

Today I want to talk about the heresy of Antinomianism.  It is a teaching gaining more and more popularity and is taught by some very big name pastors with some very large churches.  It is popular because it is a very feel-good teaching.  It is basically the teaching that you can have your salvation and your sin.  Who would not want that?   But I am getting ahead of myself.  I should begin with what Antinomianism is.  Antinomianism is basically the belief that repentance is not necessary.  It is the belief that not only is the law not necessary for salvation (which is correct), but it is completely irrelevant to the life of a Christian.  It is the denial of any consequence of sin in the life of a Christian. I think for one who subscribes to such theology should begin with this verse. 
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Romans 6:1-2 NKJV
And herein lies the great paradox of Antinomianism.  If the law is no longer relevant to the life of a Christian, then there can be no more sin.  In other words, if there is no law, there can be no such thing as sin.  I am sure that even an antinomianist would say that adultery is wrong, but I challenge them to explain why.  If the law is no longer relevant, then even adultery becomes permissible.  In fact, everything becomes permissible.  There can be no teaching against adultery, divorce, beating your children, beating your wife, murder, getting drunk, rape, fornication, or anything else for that matter.  All of those are part of the law and, per their teaching, the law is no longer applicable.  If the instructions for righteous living are not relevant to our lives, then why does the Bible say this:
All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
Why would Paul tell Timothy (A Christian telling another Christian and teaching on how to teach other Christians) that one of the purposes for Scripture is for "instruction in righteousness"?  Not only that, but then why would the Bible spend so much time (even in the New Testament epistles to other Christians on how to live as a Christian) spend so much time teaching it?  Why would Jesus have given the Sermon on the Mount as instruction for righteous living?  If fleeing from fornication just dead law that we are not to follow as a believer?  What about lying?  Should the whole idea of honesty just be considered Old Testament law that I need not follow?  Should I be able to get drunk while serving as an elder in a church because those Scriptural qualifications for being an elder should just be ignored as dead law?  I suppose I should also be just fine with using foul language or course jesting because Paul was just being legalistic in his epistles?  I could go on, but I hope you get the point that to consider the moral teachings in the Bible as just old irrelevant law is to deny just a very large portion of even the New Testament. 

I have heard if taught that following a command in the Bible that you do not want to follow is legalism.  That is a real twist on what legalism actually means.  Legalism is adding to Scripture, it is not following Scripture.  In fact, if legalism is merely following a command (even if you do not want to), the Jesus was a legalist when He said:
If you love Me, keep My commandments.  John 14:15 NKJV
Please note that Jesus did not say "If you feel like it, keep my commandments."  Also note that he did not say "If you love me, keep those commandments you feel like keeping."  The fact is that if we love Jesus, we need to show Him by following His commandments.  In fact, if we love Jesus, we should want to follow His commandments.  Teaching us to only follow commands when you feel like it, it to teach us to give into temptation.  Let's face it, we all deal with temptation.  We all deal with those times where we do not want to follow God's commands.  Those are times of temptation.  According to the teaching I referenced, to fight back the temptation and choose to follow God's commands is being legalistic. I mean, if I am unhappy in marriage and I do not "feel" like staying married, is it being legalistic to be obedient to God and not file for a divorce?  If a beautiful woman offers a lurid affair and I am really attracted to her, is it being legalistic to remain faithful to my wife?  If I get angry at someone, is it being legalistic to fight back the urge to strike that person?  The very premise of only being obedient when we feel like it is lunacy.

Another thing I heard taught recently is that we are not to stress ourselves in following the examples set forth for us in the Bible.  For example, the example of the virtuous woman as told in Proverbs is "law" and so if women are not measuring up to that woman, then they should just not worry about it.  Again, Scripture tells us differently.
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,  all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for [their bodies] were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  1 Corinthians 10:1-6 NKJV
More than that Scripture, I can also refer you all to Hebrews 11 for what is known as the "Hall of Faith."  Those people we read about in the Old Testament are examples for us for right and for wrong.  We learn from their lives what things please God and what things do not please God.  If women are not to follow the positive example of the Virtuous Woman, then what is the point of God even teaching us what a virtuous woman is?  I am not saying that women should walk around with a check list each and every day to make sure they live up to some standard, but women should have that desire to be like the virtuous woman.  To ensure all of you I am not just picking on women, the same argument can be used for men.  Should I not strive to love my wife as Christ loved the church?  Should I just consider that to be "law" and if I am loving my wife selfishly just say so-be-it?  Should any of us then not care about following in the example of Jesus just because we do not measure up?  Should we ignore the great examples of faith in the Bible as stories no longer relevant to our lives?  Why study the Bible at all then?:  What about the many parables of Jesus where a contrast is given between someone doing things the right way and the wrong way?  If we find ourselves doing things the wrong way, should we just be fine with it? For example, if our prayers are more like the Pharisee and not like the Tax Collector, should we just accept that as part of who we are and not ask God to help us truly learn to pray humbly?  The fact is that these examples are given to us as models of the right and the wrong way to live.  To flippantly reject an example just because we do not measure up is to reject God's wisdom.  More than that, it is elevating our own wisdom and our own selves over God.

And that brings me to my final point.  The whole idea of Antinomianism is a celebration of self.  In fact, it is utterly selfish Christianity.  It is the teaching that you can have your salvation and your sin.  It is the teaching that you can go to Heaven while living in the world.  It is the teaching that Jesus will conform Himself to you rather than conforming yourself to Christ.  Even worse, it teaches that you should not even care.  It teaches that any attempt at righteous living is legalism and steeped in a law that is no longer relevant to your life.  It essentially teaches that there is no longer any such thing as sin in the life of a Christian.   At best, it raises up a useless church with no evangelistic effect because there is no change in anyone's lives.  Not only that, but even things like sharing the Gospel with others become "law" that we need not care about or follow.  At worst, it convinces some that they are saved when in fact they are not.  It is a heresy that if left unchecked can lead the church headlong into the Great Apostasy if we are not there already.

And now let me close with some truth.  Legalism is teaching that works are required for salvation or to maintain salvation, truth teaches that as a result of our salvation there will be that desire for righteous living.  Legalism teaches that you must follow God's law in order to love Christ.  Truth teaches that if you love Christ, you will want to follow His commands.  Antinomianism teaches that we are to just basically be ourselves and not worry about the sin in our lives.  Truth teaches us to deny ourselves, giving up those sinful desires.  Antinomianism teaches us that all those commands in the Bible are part of the law and no longer relevant to our lives.  Truth teaches that we are to take up our crosses, that is we are to submit ourselves unto God.  Antinomianism teaches that we are to ignore what example we do not feel like living up to in the Bible and celebrate who we are because all those examples are just part of the law.  Jesus tell us "Follow me." Jesus tells us to conform ourselves to Him and to follow Him as our example. 

Some will argue incessantly that what I teach is legalism.  It is not.  Some will say that what I teach is discouraging.  It is not, except for those who have not denied themselves and still have that desire to live for their own satisfaction.  Some will say that what I teach will never bring someone to joy in the Lord.  I say that it is the only way to joy in the Lord because that joy we seek will never be found by following our own desires.  The trick to the joy of the Lord is that it is found in the Lord.  If you want that joy in the Lord, you must seek after and follow the One who holds it. 
Blessed [is] the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.  Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV

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