Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Does Antinomianism Characterize My Church's Doctrines?

Because this year marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we reviewed the “Five Solas” that are sometimes called the Doctrines of Grace.  After discussing Sola Gratia (salvation by grace alone), someone asked me, “Is ours an antinomian church?”   Here is my answer:

I hope not but it seems to be evident in the minds of a lot of church attendees, these days, who want to make excuses for all kinds of sin.

I try to avoid using secular dictionaries to define spiritual or biblical terms, mainly because our language is constantly changing according to contemporary usage and not according to what words actually meant when they were first used.

The simple contemporary dictionary definition for antinomianism is the belief that, under the gospel dispensation of grace, the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.

So, let me reemphasize—Our salvation is by GRACE ALONE.  That simply means that it is an action that results from God’s goodness and cannot be earned or deserved by any attempts on our part, to be good or do good.  God saves unworthy sinners.  Keeping the law perfectly is impossible so if any part of our salvation were based on our works, we would all fail, and all fall short of His glory, and all be condemned to eternal judgment.
The dictionary definition is fairly accurate, but it only mentions the moral law which is still in effect on Christians today.   I think the definition needs some clarification.
The problem (or confusion) arises in the heresy that twists the definition by implying that, because we live in a dispensation or “age of grace,” we are no longer bound to any of God’s laws including His moral laws; we’re saved by grace and therefore we are eternally secure.  We don’t even need to try because God will simply overlook all our sins.

Antinomianism is contrary to everything the Bible teaches.  God expects us to live a life of morality, integrity, and love.  Jesus Christ freed us from the burdensome commands of the Old Testament Law, but that is not a license to sin; but rather a covenant of grace.

There are nominal Christian sects that teach that.  But that is not what you hear preached in our pulpit as has been evidenced in our pastor’s recent sermons on the Ten Commandments. 

And that is the whole point of the epistle from James.  Obedience and good works are the evidences of salvation and without the evidence, there is good reason to doubt an actual conversion.  When God saves us, He begins the process of cleaning us up and making us fit to live forever in His presence.

The ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sin and bring us to repentance and obedience.  To ignore Him, and His laws, is tantamount to blasphemy and violations of the First, Second, and Third Commandments, and God will not tolerate it nor will He accept our worship.
There are many, many people today, who are resting in a false assurance that, because they responded to a preacher’s altar call, walked an aisle, and repeated a prayer, they are saved, but the real evidence of a new birth is an obedient life.

I hope this helps and I trust you are convinced that we are not identified as a church that teaches or practices antinomianism.

***Believe It Or Not, Everyone Has A Personal Relationship With God!

The God of creation; the God of the Bible, is your God whether you want Him or Not.

Does everyone have a personal relationship with God?  I would say, “Yes” but not in the way most Christian use that phrase today. In fact, I would have to say that no one has that kind of personal relationship with Jesus.

It is true that authentic, born-again Christians have a unique and intimate relationship with God; we are the elect of God, we have been redeemed, and our sins have been atoned.  The Spirit of God indwells us.

But the concept of a “personal” relationship with Jesus is not found in Scripture.  The idea of having “My own personal Jesus” is a relatively new invention of the pragmatic approach to modern evangelism.

Here is the biblical picture of our relationship; “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-2

The Church is described as the Bride of Christ.  So, a Christian’s life with Christ is not isolated or private.  When the Scriptures speak of believers, they are always part of a community or a fellowship of other believers.  Christianity is about the Bride’s relationship with Jesus.
Christianity is not a solo act.  It is not a private relationship between Jesus and me.  Jesus doesn’t have any secret concubines.   In the Old Testament economy, God formed Israel as His chosen people together in one body by His covenant.  And that is the way our relationship is with Jesus.  We (the Church) are His Bride.  When a sinner is saved, he is added “to the Church” by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

And that is why active Church membership is important.  It is within that body that we worship together and commune together in remembrance of His death and resurrection.

We sing together, pray together, confess and hold each other accountable together, rejoice together, and grieve together.

God gives each of His members gifts, not for our personal fulfillment, but for service within the body.  He knits us all together as members in the faith.  And He gives His church pastors to feed us, care for us, protect us, and guide us.
Having said all that, why would I suggest that everyone (both the saved and the lost) has a personal relationship with God?

God is a personal being and He created every one of us; both the saved and the lost “in His image” and it was a special unique creation. No one is hidden from Him or can escape Him. In fact, no one can live without Him.
He is omnipresent (present everywhere) always. And He is Sovereign (personally in control) over all things including the affairs of all men.

So, what about the final destiny of the lost? We have been taught that Heaven is where God is, and hell is where Satan is. We have been conditioned to believe that when a sinner dies and goes to hell, he will suffer forever, absent from God and under the punishment of Satan.

But that idea is not Scriptural either. In fact, it diminishes the Glory of God. We understand that God created everything for His purpose and it wasn’t because He was lonely or that He needed someone to love. He is neither diminished nor fulfilled by His creation. Before anything was created; He was complete in His triune being and lacked nothing. His work of creation was His pleasure and for His manifest glory.

And He is glorified in His work of salvation. We, whom He has saved, will enjoy Him forever knowing that our sins have been blotted out.

But God will also be glorified in His righteous judgments and He will not share that glory with anyone else; He will NOT delegate the execution of His righteous justice to a fallen creature (Satan). Satan will come under God’s good and final judgment as will all the lost when they are tormented in darkness and silence forever, as the results of their sins. And God will be there with His face, figuratively, turned away from them.   

“Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   (Philippians 2:9-11)

In the end, every created being will know that God is, and all creation will show forth His Glory forever.

Ralph M. Petersen