What is Antinomianism and Why is it Dangerous?
The word antinomianism comes from two Greek words, anti, meaning “against”; and nomos, meaning “law.” Therefore combined, Antinomianism means “against the law.”
Theologically, Antinomianism is a distorted view about the grace of God which also challenges the relevance of God’s moral laws.
So the theological definition is that antinomianism is the belief that because the grace of God exists, then there are no moral laws that Christians are expected to obey.
Antinomians teach and believe that if a person professes belief in Jesus, then he/she has no obligation to repent, perform good works or obey the moral laws of God.
The antinomian logic is “If I am saved by grace and all my sins are forgiven then I can sin all I want”
However is antinomianism a false gospel and what are the errors of this teaching?
What does the Bible say about Antinomianism?
According to Paul, grace is not a license to sin. The grace of God does not give us permission to live immorally or disobediently.
The apostle Paul addressed the issue of antinomianism in Romans 6:1-2 NLT, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”
Another scripture which addresses antinomianism is Jude 4, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” [Emphasis Added]
Jude 4 NLT says: I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. [Emphasis Added]
Indeed we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our personal works and indeed salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).
However, from the moment we are genuinely saved we become a new creation in Christ. This means that our old nature is gone and our new nature will gradually begin to reflect in our life. The whole point of becoming a new creation in Christ is that you become a new person with new desires; a new mind; a new heart and a new life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So contrary to the false teachings of antinomianism: A genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ will lead to a changed life. A genuine born again conversion will lead to a new life in Christ. A genuine belief in Christ as Savior will lead to the desire to obey and please God more, rather than a desire to sin more.
Ephesians 4:22-24 says: We are “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
So the entire New Testament encourages Christians to obey God’s moral laws and to perform good works.
For example in the New Testament, Christians are told to stop sexual sins (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Christians are told to stop lying or deceiving (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). Christians are told to stop stealing (Ephesians 4:28).
These are just a few of the many moral laws written in the New Testament that God expects us to obey after we have professed our faith in Jesus Christ.
The Problem with Antinomianism
1. Antinomianism teaches lawlessness and disobedience
By definition this teaching does not promote obedience to God. Instead antinomianism is contrary to everything that God teaches in the Scriptures about moral living.
We might not be under the Old Testament law, but we are still obligated to obey God’s moral laws. The Bible also says that we are under the law of Christ and the law of Christ is the law of love.
In John 14:15 Jesus says “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
1 John 5:3 says “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”
Therefore if we claim to love God, then we will want to do all we can to please Him and obey Him instead of using grace as a license to sin.
2. Antinomianism is a false gospel which leads to false converts
The very thing that brought Jesus to the cross was our sin. It is because of sin that Christ was nailed to the cross. Yet ironically and contrary to Scripture, antinomianism minimizes the impact and consequence of sin. So rather than teaching the hatred of sin, antinomianism teaches people to embrace sin under the guise of being “under grace” and not under the law.
Therefore antinomians teach that you can become a “Christian” but choose to live a life without repentance or good works. They teach you can become a “Christian” but wilfully desire the pleasures of sin without any remorse or desire to obey God.
Antinomians don’t want to change but they want to remain living in their old sin nature but whilst professing to be “Christian”. They minimize the importance and necessity of repentance.
Such an unbiblical theology ultimately leads to false converts where people are deceived into thinking they are saved when in reality they are not.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we become converted after realizing that we are sinners who need to repent and receive the free gift of eternal life (John 16:8-9).
If we truly have been convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit then we would not willfully embrace God’s grace as a license to sin.
So when Jesus truly enters our life, then the process of sanctification will begin. Though we may still make errors and mistakes along the way, our journey of genuine transformation begins from the time of genuine salvation.
3. Antinomianism is resistant to the Lordship & authority of Jesus Christ in one’s personal life
Antinomians dislike Biblical teachings & terms such as “good works”, “obedience”, “repentance” and “sin”. They resist the idea that Christ must take personal control because in their heart they know that they would have to give up their “license to sin”. They resist the duty of talking / preaching about sin.
Since antinomianism is a perversion of God’s grace which embraces immoral living, then it makes sense why many antinomians despise obedience and adherence to God. It is because antinomianism is a false gospel that deceptively promotes the love of sin, rather than the hatred of sin.
It is a false gospel that is resistant to the Lordship of Jesus Christ but yet is only willing to accept Him as Savior. Antinomians profess to be living a “Christian” life but without Christ being Lord of it.
However believing in Jesus Christ and accepting Him into our life means that we must accept the entire nature, fullness and Personhood of Jesus Christ. We must accept and embrace all His titles and functions. We cannot accept certain parts of His character and nature but then reject or deny other parts of who He is in our life.
The Bible says that Jesus is our Savior (1 John 4:14; John 3:16). Jesus is also the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2); He is our “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15); He is the “alpha and omega” (Revelation 1:8); He is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5); He is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11; Psalm 23:1-6) and much more in our life.
So when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are embracing all of His titles including His entire nature and His fullness. We are also believing and embracing the entire transformational function He must play in our lives so that Christ increases and we decrease.
God’s Grace does not Promote Lawlessness
So antinomianism is a false doctrine which promotes lawlessness rather than obedience, good works and repentance.
However the Bible teaches that even though we are not saved by good works, God still expects Christians to be obedient and perform good works after we have been saved.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Emphasis Added]
Titus 1:11-14 says that the true grace of God is not a license to sin. Instead the grace of God trains us to forsake immoral living and instead pursue a life of righteous godly living where we become zealous for good works.
Titus 2:11-14 says: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. [Emphasis Added]
Therefore antinomianism is a dangerous doctrine which deceives people and creates false converts who think they are justified to live immorally under the guise of being “under grace”.
It is a doctrine that does not promote a genuine loving and obedient relationship with Jesus Christ.
Indeed salvation is a free gift received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. However the grace of God does not give us a license to sin.
According to Scripture the authentic grace of God does not promote immorality or lawlessness.
People who possess saving faith earnestly desire to obey God’s moral law. They do not seek to do so to merit eternal life; they do so because they love God and they love others and they desire to demonstrate the authenticity of their faith. We must take care not to obey the law as a means of justification, but if we do not want to obey God’s moral laws, then we are in spiritual deception indeed.
So it is important to avoid antinomianism or any religious group that teaches antinomian doctrines.