Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Error of Abusing God's Grace--Antinomianism by GuestWriter, Dale Foster

Last week we read that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not of works, unless any of us may boast.  Ultimately there are only two religions in the world, salvation by faith, or salvation by works.  One is true and leads to Heaven.  The other is false and shall lead its followers to damnation. There is error in counting on your good works to somehow bribe God.  On the contrary, His grace is “unmerited favor”, and is our only hope of salvation. 

There is also error of the other extreme.  The perilous philosophy of living in the temporary “pleasures” of sin and abusing the grace of God while claiming the name of Christ is known as antinomianism, which simply means ‘against or contrary to law’—lawlessness.  A destructive philosophy of both ancient and modern popularity is the idea that a “Christian” need not abandon a sinful lifestyle, but instead considers the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as his license to behave as a libertine.  While considering this, be mindful of what James wrote, “The demons believe, and tremble.”  Paul addresses this dangerous idea in 1 Corinthians 3, by which passage many have supposed a special class of Christian known as “carnal Christians.”  A “Law” and “Grace” paradigm suggests that the Old Testament believers, the Jews, were under the Law, but that the world at large, as the New Testament applies to Jew and Greek, lives under grace (and not law).  In one respect, this is true.  All of mankind exists by the common grace of God; they live, they breathe, they enjoy life, no matter their sorrows.  In this life, none of us receives what all of us deserve—the wrath of God in a place of eternal torment.  We live under God’s common grace.  But in another respect, this ought not to be confused with God’s special grace, the calling of those believers who, by His grace, are walking in authentic faith (which is a gift of God {Ephesians 2:8b}).

This idea of antinomianism supposes that by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, those who “believe” in him possess a license of freedom to act as they please (it may be instructive on your own to research the etymology of the English word “believe”).  I know this philosophy very well.  Before Christ graciously saved me, my rationalization to sin was, in essence, “this is why Christ died, to pay for this sin {for which I had planned, accommodated, and used to enjoy)”.  Today even as I write these words, I am nauseated by my own corrupted justification of my sin.  Now I see antinomianism for what it is—the false convert drinks in the pleasures of sin while bathing in the blood of Christ.  The imagery is graphic, but no less is needed to illustrate the reality in which the carnal “Christian” lives.  (Remember that it was to this same church, the Corinthians, that Paul later wrote “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves!” {2 Corinthians 13:5})

Is there such a thing as a false convert?  Jesus spoke of them often.  Many of His parables were warnings directed at those with a show of religion on the outside (whitewashed tombs), but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones.  Ten virgins, all similar in appearance, five prepared, five locked out.  One seed, four soils, same Gospel call.  One soil produced an amazingly robust-looking plant.  It sprung up tall, but the soil was weak, and it died out quickly.   And of course, who can ignore that ultimate pretender, Judas Iscariot.  Have you ever looked for him in the painting of The Last Supper?  He’s there.  He looks like all the others. 

Jesus called him a devil.  Judas was a false convert with a pretense of faith, but lived against the Law (he was stealing their money).

The Law of God serves many purposes.  Among other functions, it is meant to show the sinner he needs to be saved (Galatians 3:24, the law our tutor that brings us to Christ), to stop the sinner from self-justification (Romans 3:19-20), and to refresh the soul (Psalm 19).  Knowing its beautiful purposes, how could the true Christian who possesses authentic faith in Christ resist or despise the Law of God? 

Among numerous other passages, Paul gives us a glimpse of what our response to the idea of living against God’s Law ought to be in Romans 6:  “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!”  (vv 1-2).   In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul argues that meat sacrificed to idols is nothing, yet eating it may damage a weaker believer’s conscience.  In fact, God through Paul takes it a step further and states that by exercising the liberty of grace and wounding the conscience of a weak brother, “you sin against Christ”  (verse 12), even when that activity is not expressly forbidden by Scripture.. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul states “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  Old things like our desires, affections, worldview, paradigms, love of sin, and hatred of God’s Law.   Those things pass away.  The saint isn’t transformed to sinless perfection at justification, which he will not see until glorification.  No, the saint is not sinless, he just sins less.  His desire is for purity, holiness, and truth.  His desire is for the Law of God. 

The homework for this week is to read Psalm 119, and see how the author (who might have been King David, a man after God’s own heart) felt about God’s Law.  “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.  How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart.”

And remember gravely the warning of Jesus, as quoted in Matthew chapter 7, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”