Antinomian is a sermon teaching us that we should follow God’s moral law but it does not save us or make us perfect. Jesus came to fulfill the law and it is only through God’s grace through faith that we are saved.
The word “antinomian” originated with Christian theology and came into use during the time of the apostles. It concerned a controversy on the doctrine of salvation — how a person can be saved and what must the person do to be saved. It was a division between those who believed that salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, came completely through the grace of God and the faith of the believer, while those who believed that the law given by God through Moses had to be kept in order for a soul to be saved. The controversy remains to this day and people still debate about that.
The term “antinomian” literally means against the law or without the law. The original use of “antinomian” referred to believing in salvation by grace through faith alone. By grace alone, through faith alone that God alone might receive the glory. Those who held keeping the law as part of salvation coined that term to say that belief in salvation by grace was against the law, or lawless.
Antinomianism in New Testament Times
The apostle James writes in I Timothy that the debate is whether you do the works or deeds of the law, keeping the law, or is it by faith? James says show me your faith without works and I’ll show you my faith by my works. He tries to keep and understand the moral law of God and doesn’t do it in order to be saved. He does it because he is saved. In John 14, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He didn’t say, “keep my commandments in order to love me.” meaning the reason we love Christ is to keep His commandments. So the Christian person who has been forgiven by faith and the grace of God is not that person keeping the law for their salvation. Their teaching in the New Testament makes it clear that the law of God was not given as part of salvation. The law cannot save the soul and is not the purpose of why God gave the law.
Paul wrote in Romans that the purpose of the law is not to save us but to show us the difference between right and wrong. He was so strict as a Pharisee in keeping the law that he actually kept the traditions of men above the Word of God and the intent of it all. He said if you can be saved by doing good and keeping the commandments of God, then there is no reason for Jesus to have gone to the cross. Jesus is the payment for our sins and the sins of the whole world. The law does not make anyone perfect, but there is a better hope. Jesus paid it all. He paid for the sins of the world. There is no way we can do enough righteousness nor can we keep the law to be saved.
Do we just discard the law of God? The point of it is to show us what’s right and wrong and what’s good and bad. So we see that the law cannot save us and Jesus paid for our inability to keep the law, that is, for our sins upon the cross. Jesus only asks that we believe in Him and put our faith in Him.
In the 1980s another version of antinomianism became popular in America. The proponent of antinomianism was clearly held by grace through faith but it was taken to another level, one that God never intended it be taken to. Another factor was added to the premise. Because we were saved by grace, we could then live any way we pleased. No one had any right to tell you what was right and what was wrong. The bible states that if we see a brother or sister in trouble we should help them. But this new teaching tells us to keep our mouth shut and not do anything. It was a perversion of the beautiful doctrine of grace.
Paul writes in Romans that no matter how much sin we are guilty of, God’s grace covers it. There is no sin you can do that cannot be forgiven. The law not only shows what’s right and wrong, but it also convicts us when we have done wrong. When we come to know how many of God’s laws we have broken, we realize how great God’s grace really is, that God can forgive us. Paul asks if we should sin more to receive more grace from God and if we are a poor testimony for Christ. If what you do turns people away from Christ, don’t let anyone say you’re wrong. God forbid! This is again a perversion of the beautiful doctrine of grace. We ought to live in a way that is pleasing to God and as a testimony to God. We should live in a way that exemplifies Christ to others. Do not violate the grace of God. We should not sin to show the sufficiency of God’s grace, instead refrain from sin. We should be dead to sin because we were saved by grace and should live as one who is born again to live a different life.
When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled all the requirements of the law for us. We do not have to keep the law but must be careful to not disregard the law. We do not keep the ceremonial law as believers, such as animal sacrifices and ritual cleansing. There are good practices and principles in the dietary and cleansing laws that we can keep. But there is the moral law as in the ten commandments, that we should keep in order to live godly in Christ Jesus. Jesus said that if we loved Him, keep His commandments. We should keep the moral law of God not in order to be saved but because we have been saved and are the children of God.
Today, there is yet another form of antinomianism. It is different than the previous versions. Not only can we disregard the law of God but we should and can disregard the laws of man as well. Another name for this is anarchy which basically means no one will tell you what you should do. You are totally autonomous, self-governing. Being autonomous is good but there comes a point where we have to surrender to authority, like God’s authority for example.
The idea of ignoring, abolishing, or any attempting to do away with all law leads very quickly to anarchy where every man does what’s right in his own eyes. There is a major problem with that. If everyone can do what they feel like doing, it must be right. Don’t let anybody impose any authority over you, then you can do what you please. This is absurd and ridiculous, but you have to take thoughts and philosophies to their logical end. There have to be standards of right and wrong. Law and society cannot work with lawlessness. We have to have law.
Paul Addresses Antimonianism
In I Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy that God is our Savior in Jesus Christ and He is coming. Timothy is Paul’s protege, his disciple to serve the Lord Jesus. Paul tells Timothy to preach the correct doctrine to the people at Ephesus. They needed it because some had gotten off track doctrinally. Paul says don’t give heed to fables. They were prevalent even during New Testament times, such as Gnosticism, and he said don’t give heed to endless genealogies. These don’t edify and only cause doubts and questions.
The law of God is supposed to teach us to live like we want other people to be treated. Turn away from empty talk that has no basis and no truth. People do these things desiring to be teachers of the law and influencers, but neither do they know of what they speak or of what they affirm. The law is good if we use it lawfully, using it as a standard of what’s right and what’s wrong. Jesus came to not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.
The law is not made for the righteous but for the lawless, those who disobey God. Without any law is true antinomianism. When we become antinomian, we become lawless without any law, therefore we have no standard for right and wrong. The law was made for the ungodly, for those who are against everything that is sacred. There are certain things we ought not to violate such as God’s name which is sacred and God’s Word which is sacred. But there are other things in life set forth as sacred. The ungodly man rejects anything that is sacred. The law is for sinners, anyone who violates the law of God. The law is for the unholy, those who are against everything that would be holy. The law is for the profane, those who are vulgar in speech and actions. God tells us not to profane those things that are holy. Today, there are those among us who claim to be Christians but who take the profane and what’s holy and treat them equally. There is an issue with that and a definite violation of the moral law of God. You cannot keep the moral law of God and be saved. But you can keep the moral law in order to live right to please and honor God.
We can descend into lawlessness as to murder our own parents when we disobey the law of God. In the bible, it says we are to do no murder. But it makes a provision in the law of Moses for manslaughter, killing someone unintentionally. According to that killed person’s family, they had a right to take the life of the killer, avenging the blood of the killed, he was called the avenger of blood. But God provided six cities of refuge in Israel. The killer could go into one of these six cities and the avenger of blood could not touch him. The killer would stay in the city until the death of the then-current high priest and then can go on with his life. The killer paid the penalty for taking a life but there is also an opportunity for refuge and restoration. Outright murder carried with it the death penalty. Today’s laws hold manslaughter as less of a crime than murder and that is biblical in origin. Many of the laws in this country are biblically based.
Paul also warns about whoremongers who are slave traders. We hear of human trafficking in the news today, which is actually slavery. It is listed as one of the sins of mankind. Also listed are those who defile themselves by putting their own fleshly desires ahead of God. Kidnappers, liars, and perjured persons are also listed as sins of mankind, including any other thing contrary to sound doctrine.
Love Your Neighbor
We need God’s law to influence man’s law. Keeping and obeying the law cannot save us. The law itself cannot save us. But we should know the law of God so that we can know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. In the bible, God tells us “thou shalt not” and “thou shalt” as his commandments for us to follow. One such commandment is for us not to follow a mob to do evil. We should keep the moral law of God by loving God and loving our neighbor. If you love God and love your neighbor, you’re going to have very little problems with other people. The problem today is we love God, ourselves, and the neighbor somewhere down the line. But that’s not what God said to do. He said to love your neighbor as yourself.
When we don’t keep the law of man, it is a crime. But when we don’t keep the law of God, it is a sin against God Himself. The good news is that Jesus came to save us from the penalty of the law because the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He came to save us and has saved many and will save the rest of us too if we let Him and if we believe in Him because our sins were paid for at the cross. We are to live to honor God and His Word.
Antinomian sermon starts with verses from I Timothy 1:1-10:
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
I Corinthians 15:3:
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
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