Could you please explain what Antinomianism is? (Part 2)
In the first part of this series, we discussed that 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. As mentioned, the Bible refers to the Ten Commandments as the “spiritual law,” not the “moral law.” In this second part of this series, we will look at additional arguments put forward by those who fall into this category.
From the “Banner of Truth” website, the author gives further information about others who have their own say, in their own way. He states: “In order to have as clear a view as we can of the present confusion, it is important to let some of the leading contributors to it be ‘heard’ in their own words.” Below are these together with our observations.
Statements of some of the leading contributors:
“John Reisinger… is one of the major exponents of New Covenant Theology. One of the chapter headings in his book Tablets of Stone is this: ‘The Tablets of Stone, or Ten Commandments, as a Covenant Document, Had a Historical Beginning and a Historical End’. He writes: ‘The Bible always considers the Tablets of Stone [i.e., ten commandments] as the specific covenant document that established the nation of Israel as a body politic at Mount Sinai’. ‘The Scripture nowhere states or infers that we are to think of the Tablets of Stone as “God’s eternal unchanging moral law”. We are always to think “Old Covenant.”’”
The author confuses the “tablets of stone” with the “old covenant.” As we explain in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” and in our recent 7-part series of Q&As on the topic of covenants, the Law of the Ten Commandments and the “old covenant” (whatever covenant is described or identified as the “old covenant”) are by no means identical. We also explain in our booklet:
“… a covenant is something altogether different from the law. A covenant is based on law–it does not bring law into existence. And when a covenant ceases to be in force, that has absolutely no influence on the validity or invalidity of the law, on which the covenant was based. A covenant is simply an agreement, and the parties can decide that the agreement is no longer valid. Unless the lawgiver revokes the law on which the covenant is based, the law continues to be in effect.”
Let us briefly review our Q&A entitled “Would you please explain the two covenants, as mentioned in Galatians 4:21-31? Doesn’t this passage teach that the Old Covenant with all of its Old Testament laws was abolished and is no longer in force and effect?”:
“In order to fully comprehend what Paul is referring to with his symbolism or allegory (compare Galatians 4:24), we must carefully review the context. We should note, first of all, to whom Paul is writing. The letter is addressed to ‘the Galatians’ — non-Jewish peoples who had come to the faith. These peoples never were part of the Old Testament relationship between God and the ancient nation of Israel. They were never part of the Old Covenant. IF Paul had in mind to address the so-called ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Covenants in Galatians 4, then his concluding statement in Galatians 5:1 would make little sense. There, he says: ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled AGAIN with a yoke of bondage.’
“Most commentaries say that Paul used his allegory to show that the Old Testament laws were abolished. They reason that Christ came to set us free from the ‘bondage’ of the Old Testament law. However, as we prove in our booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” Christ did not do anything of the kind. He did NOT come to do away with the Ten Commandments, and the statutes and judgments which define the Ten Commandments even further. Paul taught the Gentiles to keep the Sabbath. He taught them to follow him, as he followed Christ, and Paul kept the Sabbath, as did Christ. Paul taught the Gentiles on the Sabbath. Paul could not possibly have told the Galatians that they were no longer under the ‘bondage’ of the Old Testament law, when he told them not to be entangled AGAIN with a yoke of bondage. Whatever that yoke of bondage is, it is something the Galatians were entangled with before— and they were never ‘entangled’ with the Old Testament laws and covenants.
“Even IF Paul had in mind the abolition of the Old Covenant, that still would not mean that he was also stating that God’s law was no longer in force.”
In Jeremiah 31:31-34, we read: “Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Richard C. Barcellos (“In Defense of the Decalogue”) explains this Scripture in this way: “The law under the new covenant is God’s law… This promised blessing of the new covenant of the law written on the heart is to be enjoyed by the whole new covenant community… God is both the author of the law itself and the one who writes it on the heart.” He concludes: “The text of Jeremiah clearly assumes that the law of God under the new covenant is referring to a law that was already written at the time of writing of Jeremiah… Jeremiah clearly teaches that the law of God under the new covenant is a law that was written on stone by God and that will be written on hearts by God’. In other words: identical law. The law was first written upon tables of stone, whereas the great work of the Holy Spirit is to write it upon the table of the heart.”
Another writer trying to dismiss and reject God’s Law is Michael Eaton. He states:
“Christians are in no way under this tyrannical figure, the law” (Westminster Record). “If you walk in the Spirit deliberately you will fulfil the Mosaic law accidentally” (How to Live a Godly Life).
OUR RESPONSE – This is such a ridiculous assertion that the law is a tyrannical figure. Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of tyrannical is: “…being or characteristic of a tyrant or tyranny: DESPOTIC” How can the Law of God fit into such a description? Romans 7:12 gives the opposite description: “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
Continuing with another proponent of antinomianism is R T Kendall who wrote: “The moral law is not the Christian’s code of conduct, for true godliness is never to be achieved by being under the moral law. It will make you a legalist – long-faced, grouchy, without joy or peace” (sermon preached at Westminster Chapel). He claims that the Law of Christ is “a much higher law than the moral law, far more demanding. It presents a far greater challenge than the moral law, which is really the easy way out. It’s just so easy to keep the moral law and hate the Law of Christ” (Westminster Record).
How can the Law of Christ be more demanding than The Ten Commandments? Such theologians do not understand that the God of the Old Testament was the Logos who became Jesus Christ. It was He who gave the Ten Commandments and He mentioned them as the commandments to be kept when He answered questions when He was here on earth – please review Matthew 19:16-19; 22:37-40; Mark 10:17-19; Luke 18:18-20.
It is significant that those who hate the Law of God try to undermine those who do love God’s Law and keep it as King David did: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). Such people are derided and can be called long-faced, grouchy, without joy or peace. It is a way of undermining the Truth and those who adhere to God’s clear instructions.
Another writer who rejects God’s Law is Gerald Coates, who wrote: “When the believer properly fulfils the royal law of love for God and neighbour, he renders the law obsolete” (What on Earth is this Kingdom).
This is such a ridiculous and at the same incongruent and contradictory argument. The law is not obsolete (see Mathew 5:17-19). Verse 18 of this passage is particularly significant: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
Mr Coates, like so many, talks in riddles. As we have said, love for God and love for fellow man is enshrined in the Ten Commandments. They are one and the same but some refuse to acknowledge this.
Peter Meney is the editor of New Focus. He strenuously refutes any accusation of antinomianism, in the light of some editions of the magazine having “questioned the emphasis in some quarters on the ten commandments and their role in the life of a believer”. He writes: “… despite rumours to the contrary we regard the law of God to be holy, just and good.” He urges “that Christians are not duty bound to the ten commandments” but that “it does not follow that there are no objective laws, or rules for Christian living. There are. For these we enlist all of Scripture as our final authority and inerrant guide, interpreted and displayed in the life and teaching of our precious Lord Jesus and his apostles… We believe in the unconditional acceptance of a sinner with God on the sole basis of Jesus Christ’s blood and righteousness without reference to works and acts of obedience on the part of the believer. We believe that this assurance, personally received, is the only effective motive for holy living.”
Even though Peter Meney refutes the “accusation” that he is a proponent of antinomianism, his statements quoted above prove that he is. These are duplicitous and contradictory remarks. He refutes any accusation of antinomianism but says that Christians are not duty bound to the Ten Commandments. He follows this up by saying, “it does not follow that there are no objective laws, or rules for Christian living.” This is ridiculous. He further asserts: “We believe in the unconditional acceptance of a sinner with God on the sole basis of Jesus Christ’s blood and righteousness without reference to works and acts of obedience on the part of the believer.” Perhaps he ought to look at Acts 2:38 which reads: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Repentance is required, and that is an act of obedience in itself. We then have to live a life of keeping the Commandments, as Jesus, Himself, taught.
Don Fortner is the last example in this instalment of a person who is antagonistic to the Law of God and a proponent of antinomianism and the “New Covenant Theology.” He argues as follows:
“Those who tell us that believers are under the law as a rule of life have a hard time proving their position from the New Testament. This is because every statement about the believer and the law in the entire New Testament asserts exactly what Paul says in Romans 6:14 – ‘ye are not under the law’!…
“If you are a believer, if you trust Christ, you are not under the law for justification, for sanctification, for holiness, or for any other reason. This is the teaching of the New Testament. It is simply wrong for Christian ministers and teachers to bind believers to the law as a rule of life and conduct….
“The believer’s rule of life is not one section of Scripture but the whole revealed will of God in holy Scripture” (the New Focus website).
“The law of God is holy and just and good. But it becomes a very great evil when it is perverted and used for something other than its divine purpose… The law of God has but one singular purpose. It exposes man’s guilt before God, shutting him up to faith in Christ alone for salvation… To use the law for any other purpose is to pervert and abuse the law… When true love reigns in the heart there is no need for law.
“Not only is it unwise, it is a sinful practice, contrary to the faith of the gospel, for a believer to make the law a basis for his life before God” (Grace for Today).
The remarks by Don Fortner show a terrible ignorance and misunderstanding of the biblical teaching as to what it means that we are no longer “under the law.” We have this to say in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” on page 18:
“… Others quote Romans 6:14, stating that we are no longer ‘under law but under grace,’ saying this means we don’t have to obey the law anymore. However, the correct meaning of this passage is that when we violate the law, we are no longer under the curse of the law—the death penalty—as the blood of Christ, given to us by grace, has covered and forgiven our sins—has paid the death penalty that we earned. Paul explains in the very next verse (verse 15), that this does not mean that we can now continue to sin—that is, to break God’s law. Rather, we are now to be ‘slaves of righteousness’ (verse 18), in keeping God’s law.”
Mr Fortner comes to an unbelievable conclusion when he writes: “Not only is it unwise, it is a sinful practice, contrary to the faith of the gospel, for a believer to make the law a basis for his life before God.” He ignores, either on purpose or because he simply doesn’t understand the many Scriptures that show that a believer has to keep the Law and that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, preached this obedience message too. For an in-depth discussion of this vital and salvational question, please read our free booklet, “God’s Law… or God’s Grace?”
Christ will reject those at His return who claim that they practiced “Christianity,” but instead practiced “lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). The Amplified Bible writes: “.. depart from Me, you who act wickedly—disregarding My commands.” The revidierte Lutherbibel 2017 says: “… depart from Me who transgress the law.” And John adds in 1 John 2:4: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
(To be continued)
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)