Could you please explain what Antinomianism is? (Part 3)
Following on from the previous two instalments of this series, we continue to review and respond to the antinomianism arguments set forth by the adherents of this belief system, claiming that the law is dead; look at where some who don’t espouse this “understanding” can go wrong; and come to the biblical conclusion on the matter.
Edgar Andrews is another supporter of antinomianism. He wrote: “As regards sanctification, the law can be accorded no special place today in the life of the believer, that is, no place over and above [his emphasis] the rest of Scripture. To suggest that the ten commandments are in some special way the Christian’s rule of life does an injustice to the whole body of New Testament teaching on Christian conduct.” Commenting on Galatians 5:18, he writes: “Had Paul intended to teach that the law, or any part of it, should be the Christian’s rule of life, here was his opportunity to do so. What does he say? He tells us that those led by the Spirit are not beholden to the law with respect to righteous living. Indeed, he seems to go further; being led by the Spirit and being ruled by the law are mutually exclusive in the area of Christian conduct” (compare Welwyn Commentary on Galatians).
In our booklet, “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians – How to Understand It!”, we quote Galatians 5:15-18 and explain this passage on pages 58-59:
“‘(Verse 15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Verse 16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Verse 17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Verse 18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.’
“Paul describes again (especially in verse 17) two ways of life, as he had done earlier in his allegory of the two covenants. We can choose to walk in the Spirit (verse 16), which will motivate and empower us to KEEP the law of love, and when we do, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh which will induce us to sin and to break the law (compare 1 John 3:4: “Sin is the transgression of the law.”)’
“But if we chose, instead, to walk in the flesh, we don’t show love, but selfishness, and we will engage in biting and devouring one another (verse 15). Vincent’s Word Studies adds: “Partisan strife will be fatal to the Christian community as a whole. The organic life of the body will be destroyed by its own members.’
“And Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says: ‘… in their contentions they would destroy the spirituality and happiness of each other; their characters would be ruined; and the church be overthrown. The readiest way to destroy the spirituality of a church, and to annihilate the influence of religion, is to excite a spirit of contention.’
“To walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh is a constant struggle, as Paul explains in verse 17. There is a battle going on in our minds between God’s Spirit and our fleshly desires. And as Abraham had to cast out the bondwoman, so we have to cast out those fleshly desires. When we are led by God’s Spirit and do the things which are pleasing in God’s sight, we are no longer “under the law” (verse 18). When we walk after the Spirit and are led by it, we will keep the law. And since and as long as we don’t break it, we are not under the penalty of the law.”
Rather than being silent on the law or doing away with it, Paul makes it very clear that we must keep it if we want to walk in the Spirit.
Another supporter of antinomianism is Christopher Bennett. He wrote: “The Mosaic law was an expression of God’s holiness in terms of Israel, one nation long ago, and in terms of the people of God in their immature state before Christ came. It is fulfilled by Jesus, both in his life and death, and in his teaching and that of the apostles… The law of Moses, including the ten commandments, is not the direct set of regulations for the Christian – we are not under it any more. Instead we are obliged to obey Jesus’ commands, the ‘law of Christ’(Article in Foundations: Not under law, but not without God’s law).
“Not under law, but not without God’s law,” says this writer. If by this he means that we are not under the penalty of the law but have God’s spiritual law which we must follow, then that “puzzling” phrase can be understood; otherwise he makes very little sense.
Jesus said to that He had not come to do away with the law (see Matthew 5:17-20) and he also counselled the rich young ruler to “keep the commandments” where he quoted a number of them (see Matthew 19:16-19). As was pointed out in Dave Harris’ recent Editorial, “Loved and Kept,” “The Worldwide English (New Testament) presents Matthew 5:17 this way: ‘Do not think that I have come to take away the law and the writings of the prophets. No, I have not come to take them away. But I have come to do what they say must be done.’”
Further, when answering a question from the religious elite at that time, we read the following exchange when a lawyer asked Him: “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:36-40).
It simply could not be clearer; the first four of the Ten Commandments show our love for God and the final six show our love for fellow man in spite of the current theological stance taken by many “learned” theologians who think otherwise. This has been the teaching of the Church of God throughout its existence.
Jesus, as the God of the Old Testament, gave the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and in Exodus 31:18 we read: “And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Also see Exodus 32:16). We read in Revelation 15:5: “After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” This testimony is mentioned in Exodus 25:21-22, and 40:20-21, which was placed inside the ark. The ark, in turn, was placed in the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple. If the 10 Commandments were no longer relevant, why would they be in heaven as referred to in Revelation 15:5? After all, the tabernacle and its contents under Moses were patterned after the heavenly tabernacle.
Richard Brooks, previously mentioned, states in his answers to “what is ‘antinomianism’?” that the word itself was first coined, he understood, by Luther. He goes on to say:
“A tendency of both antinomianism and New Covenant Theology is, quite arbitrarily, to remove the fourth commandment from its nine other companions and argue that it no longer applies. As a result, ‘Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Exodus 20:8) comes in for its own separate treatment.
“They urge that the Sabbath was an essentially Jewish institution, that in the New Testament the keeping of special days is looked upon negatively, and that the Lord’s Day is mentioned only once (Revelation 1:10—unconnected to the fourth commandment and without any specific directions as to how the day should be observed). It will be seen that they do not accept the principle of ‘the day changed but the Sabbath preserved’ and reject an Old Testament Sabbath/New Testament Lord’s Day tie-up.
“Once again, how do we respond? The Sabbath is a creation ordinance, predating the law given at Sinai, and so for all mankind at all times and what God sanctifies, it is our business to do all that we can to preserve the holiness of and not let it be profaned;
“So then: are the Ten Commandments for Christians today? Indeed they are. As Jonathan Bayes puts it: ‘They sum up the life of holiness to which we are called. They are the channel for the Spirit’s sanctifying power.’
“Let the Lord Jesus Christ himself have the last word. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).”
He goes on to say:
“While it is true that the New Testament indicates that Old Testament festal sabbaths were destined for oblivion as fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:16). This does not bear directly upon the fourth commandment itself, which stands tall above all those ceremonial occasions.”
He misunderstands and comes to a wrong conclusion when addressing Colossians 2:16, which we have written about many times – please see our Q&A titled “Would you please explain the meaning of Colossians 2:16-17?” for a full explanation. Below is just a part of what is written in this thorough exposition of the correct understanding of this passage of Scripture, which upholds and enjoins the keeping of the weekly and annual Sabbaths:
“Professor Troy Martin wrote an article entitled, ‘But Let Everyone Discern the Body of Christ (Col. 2:17),’ which was published in the Journal of Biblical Literature in the Summer of 1995. In that article, he confirms—based on the Greek structure of the sentence—that the second part of the statement in Colossians 2:16–17 explains who is doing the judging.
“He first points to a parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 10:24 that states: ‘Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well being.’ In order to understand this passage correctly, one has to repeat in the second phrase the opposite of the beginning of the first phrase. In other words, the clear and intended meaning of this passage is: ‘Let no one seek his own, but let each one seek the other’s well being.’
“This Scripture is grammatically structured in the same way as Colossians 2:16–17. Therefore, according to Professor Troy in regard to both 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Colossians 2:16–17, ‘The verb judge determines the action that is forbidden [by the first phrase = let no one judge you…] and then enjoined [or commanded, by the second phrase].’
“With this understanding, the sentence in Colossians 2:16–17 has to read this way: ‘So let no one judge you… regarding a festival or Sabbaths…, but let the body of Christ judge you.’”
Mr Brooks, having spent much time repudiating antinomianism, then falls into a common trap when he writes about the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, and, on the other hand, Sunday, which is NOT a holy day, but merely a workday, the first day of the week: “The principle of ‘the day changed but the Sabbath preserved’ very much applies, the practice being testified to as the New Testament period developed, and the first day of the week having particular (what we might call) ‘New Testament sabbath appropriateness’, following the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead upon that day.” We know that Jesus was not resurrected on the first day of the week but towards the end of the true Sabbath – Saturday sunset, and, again we have covered this many times. Please see our Q&A for a full exposition on the days Jesus was both crucified and resurrected.
There is no biblical evidence to suggest that we ought to keep Sunday holy, either in addition to or in place of the weekly Sabbath—the seventh day of the week. The common argument that we ought to do so because Christ was allegedly resurrected on Sunday fails in that He was resurrected at the end of the Sabbath, and NOT on Sunday. The “inbuilt” repudiation of the weekly and annual Sabbaths which is introduced later in Mr Brook’s whole repudiation of antinomianism is disappointing and shows how error can be slipped into what can be otherwise a very accurate understanding of the subject. And that is where many can be led astray…
Ken Raggio is very forthright in his condemnation of antinomianism and we quote, selectively (due to space constraints) from his blog as follows:
“Antinomianism would have you believe that the Holy Spirit magically puts both the law and perfect righteousness into your heart without your actually observing any laws or commandments of God, as written in His Holy Word; and that you will become righteous without actually being told what to do… Antinomianism therefore attempts to squash or silence all mention or teaching of the Laws of God, and urges ignorance and rejection of the law.
“The Antinomian preacher insists that God does not see your sins after you believe. He demands that your righteousness miraculously appears like Tinkerbell sprinkles magic dust. He insists that you should NOT concern yourself with knowing God’s laws, or in making ANY attempt to obey God’s laws. You will be made perfect by GRACE alone… Antinomianism is ANARCHY. It is LAWLESSNESS. And that is the Modus Operandi of Lucifer himself.”
Mr Raggio calls antinomianism “absolute hogwash” and mentions two high–profile names (which we omit), and an army of mega-wealthy TV preachers who have discovered that antinomianism sells hotter than iPads and iPhones. They have made hundreds of millions of dollars telling people that Christianity really has no rules. They live in palaces and jet-set all over the world, telling packed arenas full of people that Heaven waits for all those who do nothing more than love Jesus and ignore everything else in the Bible.
Christianity has spawned theologians who simply don’t love the Ten Commandments as God said they should. No amount of theological “legerdemain”; i.e., sleight of hand, deceitful cleverness or trickery can change the clear teaching of the entire Bible that we must keep the Commandments of God. The twisting of Scripture is a practice that is condemned by God (see 2 Peter 3:16-17; 1 John 2:26; 1 John 4:1; Galatians 1:6-9).
We have provided much material in our Q&A’s, booklets and sermons over the years showing that the people of God are to be commandment-keeping people, the views of dissenting theologians notwithstanding. These further three Q&A’s are reinforcing that understanding for the people of God and those others who may be coming into the knowledge of the Truth.
We have also printed a booklet entitled “God’s Law… or God’s Grace?” where we read on page 6: “The teaching of the Bible is consistent. In order to inherit eternal life, we must keep God’s law—the Ten Commandments—as well as the statutes and judgments that further define and explain the Ten Commandments. Christ did not come to ‘fulfill’ the law by doing away with it or by destroying it. Rather, Christ came to ‘fulfill’ the law by making it more honorable (Isaiah 42:21), by MAGNIFYING it, by showing us HOW to obey it both in the letter AND in the SPIRIT. This includes ALL of God’s commandments, including the Fourth Commandment, which enjoins us to keep God’s Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8).”
It is astonishing that a few of those who argue against antinomianism may themselves be guilty of the very thing they seem to be against, by seeming to substitute the 10 Commandments for some other vague law which usually finishes up as some sort of variation on the 10 Commandments themselves. In addition, the 4th Commandment is acknowledged by some but changed to become a “1st day of the week” Sabbath!
1 John 2:3-4 reads: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
1 John 3:4 reads: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (Authorized Version), and in the New King James Bible, it reads: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
And there we have it!
For much more information, please read our free booklet, “The Ten Commandments.”
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)