Part Two: Antinomianism
While there is no new heresy under the sun, the heresy of antinomianism had its biggest hay day in rather recent history, namely right after the Reformation. It has always had its adherents, perhaps not calling it by name, and it continues explicitly or implicitly in the minds of many Christians today. But the Reformers had the biggest battle with persons trying to pervert their message so as to have their cake and eat it too.
Antinomianism was an over reaction to the fresh and revitalizing cries of the Reformation: Namely, “Sola gratia!” The Reformers reminded the church that it is by grace alone that we are saved. However, some came to equate the justifying power of salvific grace with the sort of grace that permeates the Christian life. A grace that does not simply say, “The sins you have committed no longer matter,” but a perverse grace that says, “Go and sin some more. It does not matter how you live in the future. Grace has got your back.”
I dare not deny that Christians can sin, and that when we do, Christ is our advocate, but this is not to be the life we are set out to live. After the Reformation, Christians began to assume that nothing they do in this life mattered. They had forgotten the power of sanctifying grace, the power by which we are in the process of being made holy right here and now for the sake of the dying world. The Reformers forgot, as Dr. Tim Tennent once pointed out to a group of us in chapel, the all too important cry, “Sola Spiritus!” by the Spirit alone are we sanctified.
It is by justifying, free grace that we are saved. The same grace affects us somewhat differently after we become Christians. We are called now to really make a difference. “Be ye Holy!” is a command to represent God. This theme of being called to a higher standard so that we might bless the world through our example runs throughout the Bible. It is our very calling. (see Ezek 36; Matt 5:16)
We are called to excellence, not because we must earn our salvation, but so that we might be a testimony. Discipline and holiness are not options; they are musts for the Christian life. We need to be becoming more and more perfect in all that we do each day, by His grace alone, so that the lost and dying world can see hope. If we live like we are in a dog eat dog world, we fight for a scrap, and we do not show a more excellent way, a life of quiet discipline, we fall short of our call.
Next post we will see how many have now brought a sort of blend between Gnosticism and Antinomianism to perpetuate an unhealthy lifestyle within the church.