The Temptation to Antinomianism

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The Beginning of Faith

When I first became a Christian there was a fire lit in my soul. On Easter morning the church that I was attending had an invitation at the end to either give yourself to Christ for the first time or to rededicate yourself to the faith. Although I thought I was in the latter group at the time, looking back I now realize that I was never a Christian before that moment. From that day onward I was determined to live a holy life and to dedicate myself to the scriptures. I decided to pursue theological education. This led me to attend Bethany Global University, then transfer to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and move down to Iowa to help plant Redemption Hill Church in the Des Moines metro.

Learning the Grace of God

The Call to Holiness

Early on in my faith, I knew one thing that God has called all Christians to is to live holy lives. We are not to live like we once did, instead, we are to live to God’s standard. The apostle Peter says in his first letter,

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16

Peter not only gives us the command to be holy, but he also gives us the reason why. Christians are to be holy because God is holy. God has saved us from our sin and his coming wrath and has now called us to be like him.

Grace in the fight for Holiness

One thing I was quickly taught was the grace of God in the area of holiness. Christians though saved by grace still battle with sin. If the Christian heart is like a kingdom then Jesus Christ is the one who rules it. However, inside the kingdom, there are pockets of rebellion (sin) that Jesus is working to crush in the process of sanctification. For now, the sin is still there, but we will ultimately be made perfect.

Like many Christians, when I fail to live in holiness and I sin I can feel like I have failed God. I can feel like he is not only disappointed in my actions but hates me for them. I can feel like his grace is going to be withdrawn and I am going to be lost and forsaken. This is not only untrue but it is a common lie of the devil. It can be tempting to condemn ourselves, but Paul encourages us in his epistle to the Romans that,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2

He also tells us that,

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21

Not only is there no condemnation for the Christian, when we sin God is pleased to give us even more in the continual forgiveness of our sins. These truths should lift the great burden of perfectionism from the Christian heart. Though we may still sin in our fight for holiness God still loves his people. He still forgives them. He never forsakes the Christian.

Keep on Sinning?

Tempted to Abuse Grace

If the devil fails to tempt the Christian to self-condemnation and doubt, there is an equally sinister tactic that he can take, to tempt the Christian to abuse the grace of God. We know that we are not under condemnation because of the blood of Christ. Our sins are covered. Some say that since this is the case that Christian is able to sin freely. There is no need to live a holy life, all sins are covered anyways. This is the temptation of antinomianism.

When Christians fall into this temptation their hearts can grow cold to their own sin. Sin becomes a non-issue. Or, even worse sin becomes something that is enjoyable, and the antinomian takes for granted the grace of God. This attitude towards sin is not only contrary to 1 Peter 1:15-16 but may also serve as a red flag that one’s conversion was a false one.

By No Means!

The Bible is not silent on this issue. In fact, Paul after declaring that God’s grace is multiplied where sin is multiplied anticipates the appeal to antinomianism. He says,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2

Paul is clear that antinomianism is not an option for the Christian. A Christian’s nature has been transformed. Before our transformation, we had desires in our flesh to sin, but now we should have desires to please God. We should be a people who want to kill our sin rather than live in it. We must be resistant to the temptation to sin and take the grace of God for granted. As the Puritan theologian John Owen said, be killing sin or it will be killing you.

How to Fight the Temptation of Antinomianism

Remember How God Feels Towards Sin

God hates sin. Sin is not an insignificant matter. It is evil and wickedness. Sin is a trap that only leads to destruction. The Psalmist says of God,

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.

Psalm 5:5

God hates sin and those who are in unrepentant sin. If God hates sin, then we should hate sin. Proverbs tells us,

The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil

Proverbs 8:13

The Psalmist is also not silent on the issue when he writes,

O you who love the LORD, hate evil!

Psalm 97:10a

The first step to fight against the temptation of antinomianism is to hate sin and evil. Antinomianism says we have a license to sin because of the grace of God. If we hate sin as God hates sin, then this supposed license will not be an option for the Christan.

Desire to Bring Glory to God

Our ultimate motivation should be the glory of God. It is good to hate sin. It is good to seek holiness and righteousness. The reason these things are good is that they bring God glory. We have been saved by God because of His grace. There is nothing in us that made God save us. We were never good enough or smart enough to be saved. He simply saved us out of his own good pleasure. Our lives are no longer our own.

As our lives are no longer our own but are God’s, there is no other reason to live than for him. Paul’s charge to the Corinthian church is then the same charge to us. In it, we find our ultimate reason to fight against antinomianism.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31