What is antinomianism? Anti is the Greek prefix that means “against,” and nomian comes from the Greek word nomos, which means “law;” thus, antinomianism means “anti-lawism.” As we considered the problem of legalism, you will recall that it was important to understand that there are several varieties of legalism. It’s not good enough to simply have a blanket understanding of legalism. We need to be precise in our thinking and see the differences as they manifest themselves. The same is true of antinomianism. There are different kinds of antinomianism, and each has its own subtle variations and attractive dimensions.
The first type of antinomianism is called libertinism. Since our justification is by faith alone and not by the works of the law, a libertine Christian might think he is under grace and totally free from having to obey God’s commandments. Libertinism becomes a license to sin, so it is really liberty gone astray. The libertine may be tempted to think that his love of sin and God’s eagerness to forgive is a great combination. God gets to do what He loves and the sinner gets to do what he loves. A person of this inclination fails to remember what Paul wrote in the book of Romans: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6: 1). Paul answers that rhetorical question by saying, “God forbid that we should ever arrive at a conclusion like that.”
Unfortunately, this is the philosophy of the libertine. He sees his redemption from the curse of the law as a license to sin.
Consider also what Peter said, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God”( 1 Peter 2: 15– 16). It sounds almost contradictory when Peter describes us as free and servants of God at the same time. But it is only when we are in bondage to Christ that we understand true liberty. Peter warns against those who use their freedom as a license for wrongdoing.
A second type of antinomianism is what I call gnostic spiritualism. During the first and second centuries, one of the most dangerous rivals to the Christian faith was Gnosticism. The Gnostics took their name from the Greek word for knowledge— gnosis. They believed that they had access to special forms of knowledge that others did not have. They thought they had authority to recommend certain forms of non-Christian behavior because they presumed to possess higher knowledge that was secretive and esoteric.
We don’t have card-carrying Gnostics in the twenty-first century in the same form they were found millennia ago, but the Gnostic heresy is still alive and well. In fact, the Gnostic spirit of ethics is epidemic in Evangelical Christianity. But where do we see evidence of this Gnostic spirit?
Just consider how often you have heard people say, “The Spirit led me to do this or to do that.” We have to be very cautious here. God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. Sadly, many Christians put a cloak of spirituality around their ethical decisions so as to effectively stop voices of criticism before they’re even heard.
Certainly, the Spirit lead us to certain specific life choices such as a spouse, a new job, or a new place to live. But it’s all too easy to remove yourself from any discussion about the choices that you make by simply saying, “God is calling me to do . . .” Who wants to argue with God’s call? This can easily become a sinful evasion of responsibility where we use spiritual language to remove ourselves from accountability in the Christian community. There are times when we should be required to give thoughtful reasons as to why we want to do whatever it is we want to do.
Importantly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not in itself antinomianism. It’s not anti-law to be led by the Spirit of God; we’re supposed to follow the leading of the Spirit of God. What becomes devastating is doing things that are clearly violating the revealed principles and precepts of the Word of God and then having the audacity to defend our actions by saying the Holy Spirit led us into it. I know one Christian man who became involved in a moral problem that was a direct violation of the law of God. He knew that was the case, but he was so caught up in it that his defense was that he had prayed about it and God had granted him an exception. That man was fooling himself and, at the same time, doing violence to the Holy Spirit.
God the Holy Spirit does not lead us to break His law. We are called to test the spirits. A spirit who is from God agrees with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who has given us the Scriptures. We must be careful of this kind of spiritualism that confuses our desires with the leading of the Lord. It’s a veiled form of antinomianism.
I call the third type of antinomianism situationalism. Maybe you’ve heard the familiar phrase situational ethics. This philosophy was developed by Joseph Fletcher. He sought to make love the highest norm above all others. He was searching for a middle road between the two dangers of legalism and antinomianism, and he declared that the only absolute was the absolute law to love. All other laws, he declared, are subject to the law of love and should be broken if a better and more loving course of action can be found. Fletcher wanted to find the best outcome of a given situation by holding up the law of love. This may sound well and good, but this view has problems. We must never say that Scripture’s other laws are negotiable or reducible to one ill-designed view of love. Fletcher said that we are supposed to do what seems right in a given situation. We are to do what love would demand that we do. But the Bible doesn’t say what love seems to be; rather, it defines what love is.~R.C. Sproul
John 14:15….15“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
I Corinthians 13:1-13…1If I speak in the tonguesa of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,b but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
John 14:23-24…23Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
I John 2:3-5…3By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:…
1 John 2:9…Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.
I John 3:6… No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
I John 3:9-10…9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
John 9:41…41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
James 4:17…If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
I John 1:6-8…6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.…
Do you pass or fail according to GOD? There is where the truth of your salvation is….