I hear this word a lot now and I wonder in many cases if it is just convenient to call someone that because of the different way that people express their deep seated beliefs or small nuances in the thinking process. I don’t know that I’ve ever been given a full description of what a true antinomian is and I’m sure it varies like all other things. According to the dictionary:
1. Theology The doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.
The definition as stated above needs some tweaking but in essence, the Gospel, the Work of Christ absolutely does free us from required obedience FOR salvation as it is fully through faith and divine grace, it just doesn’t address that when the Lord writes the law in our heart we now love the law of God because it is His law and it no longer condemns us. We have a new desire to be obedient from the heart. And that is the issue…..a heart issue! The Law is not outward commandments that must be kept, many people do that to some degree and feel very satisfied that they have been obedient. ( I think of the rich young ruler) "The essence of the law is this: To love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves." (Rev. C. Pronk: "Sanctification or works-righteousness) No one can keep that law in the spiritual sense for we don’t love God above all and we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves, no one does, no not one! This brought to mind an acquaintance I had years ago who was a true antinomian; but more about that later.
This subject came up recently in researching the teaching of a man named Fredrick Kohlbruegge and just last night in my reading of a man named William Huntington. They both have been accused of being antinomian and I don’t see the evidence or the reasons in the things I have read about either of these men.
It has been said this of Kohlbruegge:
“His theology was basically Reformed but included such an immense emphasis on justification through faith without works that he was almost unwilling to use the term “good works’ as descriptive of what a Christian might do. He insisted that Christian ‘good works’ were really God’s works since he held it impossible that any holiness might be attributed to a fallen human being. He was careful to claim that the Christian is holy in Christ, but never in himself”.
I don’t understand how there can be too much of an emphasis on justification through faith without works, or we would have to throw out the whole book of Romans for sure and Galatians. Then we would be hard pressed to even understand or know about justification by faith. I do understand the sentiment of being unwilling to use the term ‘good works’ because who can know what ‘good works’ truly are except God and because the term leads many down the path of self-righteousness. The Scripture uses the words ‘good works’ though so we can’t shy away from using Scriptural terms, we just need to know what is meant by them. I believe that God alone can see into the heart where the motive lies and He alone determines a work to be good.
I remember a great revelation when, after struggling with the sin of idolatry all of my life, knowing that idolatry was the sin, but not knowing the depth of it, the Lord in one moment, after a particular struggle, gave me full understanding and knowledge of the root of that sin and a change of mind (repentance). I sobbed great tears, but they were great tears of thankfulness to Him for giving me that revelation and understanding. It was the first time I knew without a single doubt what a ‘good work’ was, it was a work that the Lord Himself had done in my heart. He keeps me aware of that sin today. So you see, I agree with Kohlbruegge in his statement, they are God’s work in us, not ours.