Thursday, February 04, 2010

Free From the Law Oh Happy Condition! The Reason You Should Welcome the Charge of Antinomianism

There is a tendency among some brothers in the Southern Baptist Convention to call "antinomian" (i.e. "against the law") those Christians who don't hold to certain hard and fast "rules" or "laws" those brothers wish to impose on everyone. For example, in a recent discussion over "tithing," one pastor called "antinomian" those Christians who disagreed with his belief that God's "law" demands every believer give 10% of gross income to the local church. This Southern Baptist pastor then writes, "Antinomianism has raised a huge red flag to me and many other pastors. We will ... sound the alarm which will reverberate throughout the SBC to face this issue head on."

Red flags? Alarm? The charge of antinomianism sounds like something we should avoid as Christians, right? Well, not so fast. Those of us who have confidence and trust in Christ's Person and work should welcome the charge of antinomianism. Why? (1). Because when that charge is floated against us it means the gospel is actually being preached by us. Ironically, if you have never been accused of being an antinomian, it is possible you have never actually taught anyone what is so truly good about faith in Jesus Christ. And, (2). If you are accused of being an antinomian you are in some really good company.

The Apostle Paul taught the good news of Jesus Christ very clearly. He was often accused of being antinomian. Some in Rome called him this. Paul responded to their accusations in Romans 6. A few people in Galatia accused him of antinomianism. Paul responded to their charges in Galatians 3. In Acts 21:21 James tells Paul that the religious authorities "have been told that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake the law of Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe other laws. Finally, some leaders in Corinth were alarmed by Paul's teaching that led people away from observing biblical rituals (feasts, new moon celebrations, Sabbath observance, etc...) and other biblical laws. In response to their charge of antinomianism, Paul writes writes, "To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law" (I Corinthians 9:21). The expression translated "I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law" is a peculiar phrase in the original Greek and can be literally rendered, "I am not lawless toward God, but I am inlawed to Christ."

"Inlawed to Christ." Wow. That is a powerful phrase. It means that you are wed to Christ and all the benefits and protection of perfect obedience and righteousness is yours because of CHRIST'S obedience. You reap what you have not sown; you reap what HE has sown. You are a co-heir with Christ, a child of God, and forever blessed because you are "inlawed to Christ." Those who wish to put you under their laws try to convince you that God's favor and blessing on your life comes from YOUR OWN OBEDIENCE to their laws. They will press on you laws from the Old Covenant, or a modern religious laws, or a church laws, or the preachers' laws, or any other number of laws--and try to tell you they are all "biblical." But the key is their insistence that God's favor will only come to you when you "obey" those laws--and if you don't, then you will bring a curse upon your life. This, friends, is totally contrary to the gospel. ALL THE FAVOR AND BLESSING OF GOD IS GUARANTEED YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE INLAWED TO CHRIST.

What then shall we say? How shall we then live? What "laws" shall serve as our boundaries in life? Paul serves we have been called to "liberty" or "freedom" (Galatians 5:13). Yet he says, "use this freedom to serve on another in love." This, in essence, is your law. James calls it "The Royal Law of Love" (James 2:8). It is the commandment Jesus gave His disciples, the one that Jeremiah the prophet promised would be written in our hearts, and to which we are bound--"we love one another as Christ has loved us" (John 13:34). Jesus says that this agape love that will serve as our trademark of genuineness. People know that we are "inlawed" to Christ because they see our love for others. Place your confidence in Christ, follow your heart as you love and serve those people God has placed in your life, and enjoy your liberty. And watch the Spirit of God powerfully use you to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. Wear the charge of antinomianism as a badge of honor.

From this short look at antinomianism, five things should be very clear us Southern Baptists:

(1). Only those who clearly and plainly preach the good news of faith in Jesus Christ are accused of antinomianism. Nobody who preaches the law is accused of antinomianism.
(2). Never shy away from the charge of antinomianism. Jesus was accused of it, the Apostle Paul was accused of it, and the early church was accused of it. You will be in good company.
(3). We who cast our full confidence in Jesus Christ are not without law, for we are "inlawed to Christ." All the benefits and protection of full and complete righteousness comes through Him. We reap what we have not sown. We reap what He has sown for us.
(4). Those who accuse other Christians of antinomianism are usually wanting to control others by limiting their freedom. Rather than encouraging Christians to follow the leadership of the Spirit, these leaders who are alarmed about antinomianism are wanting something they feel they cannot obtain without imosing "laws" to get it. If Christian leadership ever began to live by the Spirit, depending upon the Spirit for all things, and loving and serving people God has placed in our lives, we would turn the world on its ear.
(5). We should never forget to love those brothers in Christ who accuse us of antinomianism, but we should be also be clear in our articulation of why their accusations are so off base. We should never be ashamed of our complete and utter confidence in God's full blessing for us because of the obedeience of Christ. as clear as Paul was to the Corinthians.

I love the following song, written by Philip Paul Bliss in the mid-1800's:

"Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all." (P. Bliss)

Our brothers who don't understand our freedom might sing the following:
"Bound to the law-oh, everyone listen!
Jesus did die, but we're on a mission;
Live by the law and try not to fall,
cause Christ did nothin for us at all." (S. Baptist)

Smiling and Free,

Wade Burleson

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