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Could you please explain what Antinomianism is? (Part 1)

It is an unusual word in that it is not in common usage in everyday life.   However, the understanding of its meaning is vital to the true Christian.   It is pronounced as “an-tin-o-mi-an-ism”.

Wikipedia observes as follows:

“Antinomianism (Ancient Greek: ἀντί, ‘against’ and νόμος, ‘law’) is any view which rejects laws or legalism, and argues against moral, religious or social norms (Latin: mores), or is at least considered to do so. The term has both religious and secular meanings.

“In some Christian belief systems, an antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow the moral law contained in The Commandments.

“The distinction between antinomian and other Christian views on moral law is that antinomians believe that obedience to the law is motivated by an internal principle flowing from belief rather than from any external compulsion.”

In short, it is a doctrine by which Christians are freed by grace and need not obey the law.

In our booklet Biblical Prophecy—From Now Until Forever,” we read the following on pages 3-4 where Jesus was talking about religious deception as described in Matthew 24:

“Christ responded in verses 4 and 5 by warning them against religious deception, stating that many would come in His name, proclaiming that He was the Christ, yet their messages would be deceiving. This deception actually began shortly after Christ’s resurrection and the birth of the New Testament Church. The apostle Paul would later say that there were many of his time who preached another gospel and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6)—one who had come to do away with the law of God. By the time of the destruction of the temple, much of the truth had been lost due to false teachings that had entered the Church. Subsequently, John was compelled to emphasize that anyone who would proclaim God but refuse to keep His law would be a liar, and no truth would be in him (1 John 2:4).

“The religious deception that Christ warned against would be ongoing. Even in the end time, just prior to and during the Great Tribulation…, religious deception would abound (verses 11, 24; compare Mark 13:22).”

In the introduction in our booklet, And Lawlessness Will Abound,” we state:

“Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, under the inspiration of God the Father, prophesied that the very last generation of mankind would be so evil and wicked that it would be willing to even destroy ‘all flesh’ in a worldwide war (Matthew 24:22). At that time of impending cosmocide ‘the love of many’—even in God’s Church—’will grow cold’ (Matthew 24:12). There is a reason for such indifference and God tells us in the same verse what the reason is, ‘…because lawlessness will abound.’

“At that very time it will be as if people were to say, ‘The law is no more!’ (Lamentations 2:9). Instead, they will have been misled by the ‘mystery of lawlessness’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7). This mysterious concept was already at work in the days of the apostle Paul but it grew worse and worse over the centuries. The overwhelming majority, not having ‘received the love of the truth,’ will accept, support and even worship that man, thinking that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

“How could this be, given the fact that most people, especially in the Western World, are professing Christians, and as such, supposedly embrace the teachings of the Bible? Don’t they agree with, and keep, the fundamental and, we might say, constitutional law of the Bible, the Ten Commandments as well as God’s statutes and judgments that further define and explain the Ten Commandments? How could professing Christians be referred to in the Bible as people who follow ‘lawlessness’?”

“Most professing Christians do not believe that the Ten Commandments are still in force and effect, so they don’t see a need to keep them—neither in the letter, nor in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).”

It is fundamental, as we will see, to understand that the keeping of the Law of God is not something that we can make up in our own minds or some twisting of Scriptures to prove a different version of the Law to suit our own leanings.   It can be seen on the internet that a number of sources state that an antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by faith and divine grace to the point of asserting that the saved are not bound to follow the “moral law” contained in the Ten Commandments and they condemn this approach. In passing, the Bible nowhere speaks of the “moral law,” but it says that the Law is “spiritual” (Romans 7:14). They then contradict themselves by accepting their own form of understanding rather than taking the Ten Commandments at face value as the rule of law that we must keep.   Some even infer that those who keep the Ten Commandments are legalists!

On the website Christianity.com, we read their answer to the question: “What Is Legalism?  Definition and Examples”:

“Legalism exists when people attempt to secure righteousness in God’s sight by good works. Legalists believe that they can earn or merit God’s approval by performing the requirements of the law,” Thomas R. Schreiner said a legalist believes that their good works and obedience to God affects their salvation. Legalism focuses on God’s laws more than relationship with God. It keeps external laws without a truly submitted heart. And legalism adds human rules to divine laws and treats them as divine.”

The problem arises in mainstream Christianity that anyone who asserts that the Law of God has to be kept, can immediately be defined as a legalist and, quite probably they will belong to a cult.   This is often used just to try and further their antagonism to those who are, in actual fact, obedient to the Word of God.

To bring a practical everyday example of (often deliberate) misrepresentation is the word “homophobe”.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines this word as: “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or gay people.”   Others may use slightly different or varied definitions, but the above definition is commonplace today and anyone opposing homosexuality, and quoting the Bible which describes this behaviour as perversion, is almost always vilified.   In other words, man’s definition is better and more acceptable today than the definition of the great Creator God!   What most people do today is misrepresent, on purpose, or through ignorance, what is a wrong interpretation.  A true Christian will not hate homosexuals, but disagree with their behaviour because God states that it is a perverse and wrong behaviour.  However, that usually doesn’t fit in with those who want to vilify anyone who does not approve of this wrong behaviour!

A typical, clever, response can be found on many websites that opine as follows:

“The moral law God expects us to obey is the law of Christ—’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 22:37-40). If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we will do nothing to displease Him. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will do nothing to harm them.”

In essence, they quote nine of the Ten Commandments but don’t agree with the 4th Commandment which is to keep the Sabbath day holy.   Those keeping the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, which are also called Sabbaths, are seen as legalists whereas God describes these days as His days as we read in Leviticus 23:1-2: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.  Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”’”

We are the New Testament Israel today—“spiritual Israel”—and this still applies to the people of God in 2022.   If there is anyone reading this Q&A who is not familiar with our teachings on keeping God’s weekly and annual Holy Days, please see the many Q&A’s on the same subject, and also see the following free booklets:

  • How to Keep the Sabbath
  • Is That in the Bible? Man’s Holidays or God’s Holy Days
  • The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days
  • The Meaning of God’s Fall Holy Days
  • The Ten Commandments

Another “clever” answer by an internet blogger is: “So now we live, not by being forgiven our constant shortcomings, but by being out of the law’s bailiwick altogether; not by imitating Christ, the archetypal practitioner of holy obedience to God’s law, but by burrowing ever deeper into the joy of our free justification, and of our knowledge that Christ himself actually does in us all that his and our Father wants us to do.”

Let us allow Scripture to answer some of the above.

In the model prayer, Jesus says that: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

Also, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ,” said the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1.

In the past, there have been members of the Church of God who have known the Truth but have succumbed to false teaching and the ways of this world which is a very dangerous spiritual state to be in.   It is described this way in 2 Peter 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”

We know that those who interpret the plain Truth of Scripture in a different way to the Church of God will unlikely be persuaded to the Truth; but, it is our desire to strengthen Church members in the right knowledge of God as well as those who are genuinely seeking the Truth.

(To be continued)

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)