Much is said in our day about legalism, but it is no less damning than the error of antinomianism. The word antinomian comes from the Greek words anti meaning "against" and nomos meaning "law." Martin Luther coined the term. The antinomian is against God's law. A. W. Tozer noted that, "Fundamental Christianity in our times is deeply influenced by that ancient enemy of righteousness, antinomianism." Tozer continued,
The creed of the antinomian is easily stated: We are saved by faith alone; works have no place in salvation; conduct is works and is therefore of no importance. What we do cannot matter as long as we believe rightly. The divorce between creed and conduct is absolute and final. The question of sin is settled by the Cross; conduct is outside of faith and cannot come between the believer and God. Such, in brief, is the teaching of the antinomian.
From the lying promise of Satan in Genesis 3 to the false prophets who declared "Peace, peace" to the unrepentant, from Paul's warning about using liberty as an "occasion to the flesh" to Jude's grace-changers, from James' "faith without works" to the condemned doctrines of the Baalamites and Jezebel in Revelation 2, the holy word incessantly warns of antinomian teaching. In this regard John Wesley wrote,
Beware of Antinomianism. This may steal upon you in a thousand forms, so that you cannot be too watchful against it. Take heed of everything, whether in principle or practice, which has any tendency thereto. Even that great truth, that "Christ is the end of the law," may betray us into it, if we do not consider that he has adopted every point of the moral law, and grafted it into the law of love.
The doctrine of salvation can be stretched until "saved by grace" comes to mean that obedience and holiness are an option. Tozer warned, "Antinomianism is the doctrine of grace carried by uncorrected logic to the point of absurdity. It takes the teaching of justification by faith and twists it into deformity." With one great stretch the antinomian theologian distorts the gospel theme of being "delivered from the law" (Rom 7:6) until gospel liberty means that Christians are no longer bound to obey God's moral law. Adam Clarke warned that teaching which turns grace into license perverts the gospel, "intimating that men might sin safely who believe the Gospel."
A balanced, scriptural view of the gospel must avoid both legalism and lawlessness. To lop off the lead of legalism but ignore that of antinomianism merely creates a one-headed monster! Many wrongly assume that God's moral law is also opposed to his grace. However, grace is not the antithesis or the direct opposite of law. The opposite of law is lawlessness or antinomianism.
While I have never heard an evangelical leader give the thumbs-up to sin, nonetheless many are antinomians. They tip their theological hats in the direction of God's law by encouraging Christians to be holy and not to commit adultery, lie, fornication or steal. But they oppose and betray these very precepts and even war against them by removing their penalties. Preachers may appear to stand up for righteousness, but if their view of salvation allows a professing Christian to continue in willful rebellion against God's moral law without fear of damnation, they destroy with one hand what they attempt to build with the other.
Contrary to popular opinion, saving faith isn't simply a one-time act of mental assent to a set of historic creeds or orthodox doctrines. John Fletcher wrote, "If my faith does not produce the proper fruits, it is no better than the devil's faith. We have no Scripture testimony of our being anything other than the devil's children, unless we evidence the truth of our faith by showing forth the genuine fruits and works of faith."
Many teachers quote Jesus in John 10:27-28 as if he had said, "They shall never perish whether they follow me or not!" The security enjoyed by those who follow the Lord should never be stretched to cover every hypocrite who may "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him" (Titus 1:16).EDITORIAL NOTE - this article is excerpted from Daniel LaLond's book, The Lying Promise (Fox Lake, IL: DTG Books, 2006), 392 pages. The Lying Promise is strong medicine, but the American evangelical church has been so deeply poisoned by false teaching that radical countermeasures are now necessary. May God visit us with a true "grace awakening," which will teach us to live holy (Titus 2:13) and will not excuse sin. To order please go to his web site Defending the Gospel.