Discerning the Antinomian from the Sovereign Grace Preacher
It is reasonable to imagine Christian cult and heretical preachers outnumbering true Gospel preachers. The common denominator with false teaching is man-centered theology. False teachers place some onus of responsibility upon spiritually dead sinners. In other words, they insist you and I must do something to make salvation a reality.
The sovereign grace preacher is biblical. He heralds the sovereignty of God in salvation. Stated another way, God does everything is saving His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). This includes choosing them for salvation (2 Thess 2:13); redeeming them through blood sacrifice (Rom 5:8; 1 Pet 1:19); and regenerating them to new life (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3). Man is the object of God’s salvation, not the subject.
The Gospel of grace declares that true believers are not ashamed of the Father, the Son, nor the Holy Spirit. We ascribe honor and glory to our God, who has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. A true believer will never take credit for doing anything to facilitate his being saved.
The conflict between God-centered and man-centered theology typically pertains to one’s approach to God (“What must I do to be saved?”). There is another conflict that resides in the doctrine of sanctification, which pertains to the continuation of life in union with Christ (Christian life). After the elect is redeemed and regenerated, he must be sanctified (1 Thess 4:3).
Sanctification is entirely a work of God (1 Cor 1:30). It is the work of the Holy Spirit, who employs the Word of truth to set God’s people apart from the world and unto God (1 Thess 5:23; 1 Pet 1:2).
The Word of truth is the Word of God, the Bible (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17). The 66 books of the Bible are inspired by God to give us the knowledge of God in the manner of His choosing (2 Tim 3:16). God spoke and His Word is recorded as Holy Scripture (2 Pet 1:20–21). Scripture is preached by men of God, filled with the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Pet 1:12).
There is a preacher we must consider. He is most averse to the Law of God, as a means of salvation. We agree that the Law is no help in one’s need for justification (see Galatians). However, the Antinomian preacher finds no use for the Law of God at all. This is our concern in differentiating the sovereign grace preacher from the Antinomian preacher.
The sovereign grace preacher loves the Law of God rather than disparaging it, as the Antinomian does. For this reason, the Antinomian scorns the sovereign grace preacher because he misunderstands how the sovereign grace preacher employs the Law, in his ministry of the Gospel of free grace.
The preacher of the Gospel of God is preaching the Law to explain the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. Never does it cross the mind of the sovereign grace preacher to preach the Law as a means of salvation. In fact, the difficulty of compliance is so high that the sinner should be convicted of his inability to perfectly comply with the requirements of the Law (Rom 8:7).
The Law exposes sin. The sinner’s need for a Savior is evident because of the Law. Righteousness (right standing before the judgment throne of God) has never been attained by efforts to keep the Law. Jesus, the Son of God, perfectly complied with the Law of God because He is God (Jn 1:1; 10:30; Tit 2:13). No one before or after Him came close to compliance.
When the Law is denounced or neglected, people dilute their sin problem. This is true for unbelievers and believers. Without a proper view to the Law, the correct view to Christ also becomes distorted.
When the Law becomes irrelevant, sin becomes acceptable (ie. lying, adultery, godless education, fornication, unethical taxation, homosexuality, murdering babies, gluttony, etc.). The Christ who is preached by the Antinomian invariably reverts to Universalism. Salvation by grace is cheapened because sin no longer has any consequences. Soft on sin means soft on salvation. Suddenly, God loves everyone just as they are…anything goes…I’m ok, you’re ok.
Believers and unbelievers both need to hear the Law read and preached, regularly. Believers and unbelievers both need to know the seriousness of sin. Believers and unbelievers both need to be warned of God’s just judgment and wrath against sinners. Believers and unbelievers are then primed to hear the Gospel of salvation, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of sinners (Mt 1:21; Jn 14:6; Tit 2:13).
Without this sequence of Law exposing sin, resulting in just wrath, requiring a deliverer…there is no true Gospel. All people need the truth about the Law, sin, judgment, eternal punishment and Christ Jesus, our God and Savior. Without the bad news, the Good News is of no effect.
The Jesus Christ of the Antinomian is foolish to the unbeliever, who asks, “What do I need Jesus to save me from?” The Antinomian Jesus is licentious to the believer, who asks, “Why do I even need to consult the Law, considering I am already forgiven of my sins?” Both the Antinomian and his Jesus must be rejected for these reasons. Sin has consequences for both the unbeliever and the believer, despite there being no condemnation for the believer in Jesus (Rom 8:1).
Man’s fall into sin and the consequences are explained best by the Law. Lawbreakers need the Law to inform them of their sins. Unbelievers simply press on in sin, even with the warnings of death, judgment, and eternal punishment (Mt 25:36; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).
Believers delight in the truth of the Law (Ps 119:142; Rom 2:20), even though they are exposed as guilty sinners, too. The difference is that the believer trusts in the sovereign grace of God, as the remedy to what the Law of God exposes. Because the believer loves God (1 Jn 4:19), he desires to be an obedient son. He has the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who brought forth the Law and causes God’s people to walk in it (Ezek 36:27).
In conclusion, Christians must be warned against those who denigrate or dismiss the Law of God and its purposeful use toward unbelievers and believers in Jesus. The Law cannot save sinners, but through the conviction of sin, by the Holy Spirit, man’s problem is clearly established. This opens the door of understanding to the only solution…Jesus Christ. Having received Him, the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, employing the Word (including the Law), to mature the saint into conformity to God’s perfectly obedient Son.
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 29, 2021