Before I begin my concluding comments, let me reiterate my stand which I have established in earlier posts. Firstly, I am a Christ-centered antinomian as defined by J.I Packer in his book, Concise Theology i.e. I am united with Christ, I am in Christ and God sees no sin in me as He sees me through Christ. Secondly, the other five categories of antinomians as defined by J.I Packer are not true Christians. Therefore, my following comments are made from the view-point of Christ-centered antinomianism.
After reviewing the whole article, I think the writer is trying to make the following points:
- A Christian is justified by grace through faith alone but he needs the moral law of God as a guide to holy conduct.
- A Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who enables him to obey the moral law of God.
- Keeping the law is the sure evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone.
- Antinomianism is a doctrine that preaches lawlessness and that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content which therefore encourages a Christian to sin.
I think the writer is sadly mistaken and I'm afraid many others too fall into the same trap because of the following the reasons:
I. The Writer Esteems The Law Lightly
What? How can one who believes that Christians need the law as a guide for holy conduct be considered as esteeming the law lightly? This is precisely why I say he is esteeming the law lightly; he has reduced the law to a mere code of conduct.
The writer does not understand that the law is a covenant between God and man (Exodus 19:5). It is a covenant that promises great blessings if you keep it and severe punishment if you violate it. God himself esteems this covenant greatly - God's heart wants to bless but He is bound by the covenant to curse if the law is violated - and knowing that man definitely cannot keep the covenant i.e. obey the law, He incorporated blood sacrifices to cover all the trespasses of the law.
The law is a single intergrated system, a single covenant which God has cut with man. The law cannot be broken down to various components such as "moral law" and "ceremonial law", etc and viewed independently.
The writer, as do many others as well, reasons that Jesus' sacrifice has replaced the blood sacrifices i.e. "ceremonial law" and therefore we can now try to keep the "moral law" because we no longer need to fear punishment in case of failure since Jesus has taken care of that.
This line of reasoning is flawed. Firstly, the very nature of law is that for a law to have an effect (i.e. people will obey the law), it has to come attached with punishment as a consequence of failure to obey.
Let's say the Singapore government announces that all fines imposed for exceeding the speed limit on the first day of Chinese New Year will be waived, then effectively the government is saying that the law governing speed limits has been suspended for that day. Similarly, if you say Jesus has taken care of the punishment for violating the law, then effectively there is no more law to keep.
Take a look at Romans 5:13 (HSCB) - In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to one's account when there is no law.
The verse says that when there is no law, sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin since you are not breaking any law. However, from another angle you can also say that when sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin, there is in reality no law at all.
Secondly, Jesus' once for all time sacrifice on the cross replaces the whole covenant, not just "ceremonial law" as the writer believes. I have said before that the law is a single covenant and hence cannot be divided up into individual components which can be replaced individually. Jesus' sacrifice cancels the old covenant of the law and establishes a new covenant of grace.
Hebrews 10 : 8-10 (NLT)
8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
This leads me to my second point:
II. The Writer Esteems Jesus Lightly
I say the writer esteems Jesus lightly because he puts Jesus on the same level of bulls and goats. While Hebrews 10:9 says that Jesus' sacrifice has abolished the law and thereby put into effect a new covenant, one founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6), the writer sees Jesus' sacrifice as merely taking the place of bulls and goats.
Hebrews 10:12-14 (NLT)
12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
God fully esteems Jesus and his finished work on the cross, and seats Jesus in the place of honour at His right hand. Jesus' one offering FOREVER MADE PERFECT us who are BEING made holy. We are forever made perfect in God's eyes, which is why I can boldly say, "Yes, I can sin all I want and yet go to heaven!"
Before you start pointing an accusing finger at me, please take note that I did NOT say,"I want to sin all I can". I said,"I can sin all I want". Can you see the difference?
Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! God's grace teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Romans 6:15, Titus 2:12)
Although I do sin now and then, I do not want to sin - in fact, I want to do good but because of the flesh, I do not do what I want and end up doing what I hate. Sounds familiar? Paul says the same thing in Romans 7:15 - I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
This struggle to holy conduct is an ongoing process as it says in Hebrews 10:14 - we are "being made holy." We are already made perfect through Jesus but we are constantly being made holy. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us do that.
This leads me to the third point:
III. The Writer Esteems The Holy Spirit Lightly
The writer says that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit to obey the law. I say the life-giving Holy Spirit does not enable us to obey the law for the just requirement of the law has been fully satisifed for us through Christ. The Holy Spirit frees us from the power of sin!
Romans 8:1-4 (NLT)
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
God says He will put His laws in our hearts, and will write them on our minds (Hebrews 10:16). What exactly are the laws that He put in our hearts? Romans 5:5 says "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit". Therefore, the Holy Spirit helps us to love with God's love and teaches us how to do it (John 14:26).
The law says thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not lie, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt murder but Jesus simply says, "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you." (Matthew 7:12) Love does no wrong to others so love fulfills the requirements of the law (Romans 13:10). The Holy Spirit teaches us how to love.
IV. The Writer Does Not See What God Sees
Reading the article, I keep seeing the same refrain in various guises:
"You lose nothing while you are on your way to heaven. You can be lawless and go to heaven."
"So the believer is therefore able to violate God's law. lt makes no difference to God. But that is all pure nonsense, isn't it?"
"The moral law of God is not our guide to holy conduct. In fact, we probably must demonstrate that we are orthodox, that we believe in salvation by grace through faith, by violating God's law."
"They taught this "salvation made easy" idea, that you can go to heaven while sinning to your heart's content as you live in this world!"
"The preachers are telling them, "You can be a Christian and sin." Everybody likes that, because there is pleasure in sin. Everyone is interested in it."
"These teachers were teaching that it was okay to sin to your heart's content. You were still saved."
The writer, by all the above statements, is doing what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:16 as evaluating others from a human point of view. He does not see what God sees.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says that "anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" God sees us as a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The writer still sees us (including himself?) as our old selves, ready to dive into sin at every opportunity. He does not see that we no longer live according to the sinful nature but walk according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4). He does not see that we have died to sin and therefore no longer live in it (Romans 6:2).
The writer does not see that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4)
In conclusion, let me say that keeping the law is NOT the sure evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone. LOVE is the evidence of a Christian who is justified by grace through faith alone. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recorded what Jesus said in John 13:35 - "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Finally, let me leave a word of caution for all those who insist that they want to observe the law:
Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. (Deut 9:6)
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51)
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. (Deut 10:16)