How Not To Respond To Antinomianism Or Nomism

The Antinomian denies the abiding validity of God’s moral law. He may say the Ten Commandments are “not for today” or he may just teach people practically to ignore God’s holy law in their daily lives. The Nomist says that the Christian can and must obey the law for acceptance with God and salvation. He may even say that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in this life but the rest of the story is, he says, that we are finally justified or saved through obedience to the law. The Antinomian is guilty of easy-believism. The Nomist is guilty of easy-obeyism. The proper response to both is to say: a pox on your house. The Nomist and the Antinomian each underestimates our sin and God’s righteousness. Each underestimates the wonder of God’s free favor to sinners and the unique role faith has as the instrument of justification and salvation. Each confuses obedience for sanctification when, in fact, just as justification is an act of God’s grace, sanctification is a work of God’s grace. Good works are the necessary fruit and evidence of sanctification but they do not justify or save. The Nomist wants to make them justifying or saving and the Antinomian denies their necessity.

The Antinomian ignores the law and the Nomist ignores the gospel. The truth is that, in God, in themselves, the law and the gospel cohere, they “sweetly comply.” They both offer justification and salvation but they do so on different terms. The law says: do and live. The gospel says, “Christ shall do” (from the Old Testament looking forward) or “Christ has done” (from the New Testament looking backward). These are distinct words and for the sinner that distinction makes all the difference. Gospel literally means Good News. To the sinner, insofar as the law demands perfect and perpetual righteousness, it is bad news since we cannot meet that test, not even with the help of grace. The gospel is that Christ has done it for us and he and his benefits (righteousness and salvation) are freely received through faith alone (which itself is a gift). To the sinner, renewed by grace alone, justified and saved through faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s obedience for his elect alone, the law is no longer a threat but a guide and the norm for his new life in Christ.

So, away with nomism and antinomianism. Stick with the glorious gospel of free salvation and a right standing with God through faith alone and the holy moral law of God as the standard according to which we live.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. Outstanding sir. I don’t know why this simple truth is so difficult for so many to grasp. Well, actually I do, but that’s a post all in itself.

  2. Dear Dr Clark,

    As I reflect on the condition of antinomianism it seems to involve holding a set of values above the law! Those ‘held’ values are the ‘law’.

    Perhaps this could include sin as well. The belief that some sins could never be forgiven or covered by the blood of Christ. It seems the condition of antinomianism is more complex and hidden in the heart and mind of man, especially to the man himself.

    I am grateful our Father is Gracious and Merciful!

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