No-Law-Ism is BOTH Antinomian and Legalistic

Romans 7:4–“You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bear fruit for God.”

Saying that our “activity” is not law-obedience is still NOT the gospel. First, there is no end run around God’s law. God is both just and justifier of the ungody, so God’s law has been satisfied for the elect alone by Christ’s obedience to death. Second, faith has as its object not just any “Jesus” or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

There is no escape from legalism in a “difference” between a demand for faith and a demand for law-obedience. Does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument?

In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply eliminating any antithesis between law and gospel. Thus they want to distribute Christ’s righteousness to both the “instead of us” AND the “in us”. They instruct us to stop looking only at the past and at the cross, and begin to look also to the salvation of the Holy Spirit in us (and thus the future work of Christ in our “activity”)

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ’s death satisfying what the law demand, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

We must not attempt to eliminate the law/gospel antithesis by the abolishment of law. “No-law-ism” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic –it misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity (even if you don’t call it “fulfillment of the law” as in Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s law will not go unsatisfied.

The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

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7 Comments on “No-Law-Ism is BOTH Antinomian and Legalistic”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    quoted in Baugh’s essay in The Law Is Not of Faith—-T.L Donaldson, Israel serves as a representative sample for the whole of humankind. within Israel’s experience, the nature of the universal human plight–bondage to sin and to the powers of this age– is thrown into sharp relief through the functioning of the law. The law, therefore, cannot accomplish the promise, but by creating a representative sample in which the human plight is clarified and concentrated, it sets the stage for redemption. Christ identifies not only with the human situation in general, but also with Israel in particular….

    “The Curse of the Law and the Inclusion of the Gentiles”, NT Studies 1986, p 105

  2. markmcculley Says:

    sure god loves me, but it would mean nothing, IF I DID NOT LOVE SECOND

    sure god initiates, BUT I RECIPROCATE

    and that makes it a “mutual EXCHANGE”, because without me god can do nothing

    “accept your acceptance” you can, maybe, I did

    the group from Dallas Seminary which talks about “the exchanged life” (Miles Sanford) NOT the legalism of rewards for the “Christian life” (Zane Hodges) but rather “the new successful self” (Andrew Farley-Naked Gospel and Needham-Birthright)

    It’s just another kind of “happy talk”, more “positive thinking”.

    I AM ONE PEARL who now always counts myself dead.

    I AM ONE PEARL who is no longer divided in my desires.


  3. markmcculley Says:

    To walk in the spirit means not to obey the law in order to get any blessing., but it does not mean that there are now no laws . “Husbands love your wives” as Christ loved the church—now you can say that they are not laws or commands but only “instructions” but if that’s all your saying, you are not saying much. New covenant laws define sin for everybody, even though the non-elect have not been loved by God nor will they be justified.

    It’s sin for anybody not to believe the gospel. It’s sin for the non-elect to not believe the gospel. The gospel is not that Christ died for you. The gospel is that Christ died for the eelct and will save the elect and cause them by regeneration to believe the gospel. The first command in Romans 6 is “to count yourself dead to sin and justified) Nobody can or will do that unless God has first counted them dead to sin. But it doesn’t change the sin of not believing the gospel, or of not walking in the Spirit.

    I think the reason the NT tends to say “law” instead of “laws” is if you break one, you break all. That’s not a reason to say, I already broke this one law or this law once, so just forget it and don’t think about laws

  4. markmcculley Says:

    to say that law has no meaning for Christians because law has no meaning for the righteous assumes that Christians are no longer sinners but now righteous in something other way than by imputation

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Nick Batzig—Legalism turns out to be a worse form of Antinomianism than the Antinomianism it seeks to battle. In Matthew 15:3 and 6, our Lord told the Pharisees that by adding commandments to God’s Law they had subtracted from God’s Law. They laid aside the commandments of God in seeking to establish righteousness through their own commandments.
    Legalism always ends in antinomianism and antinomiansim always ends in legalism. They are two sides of the same coin of human autonomy
    Antinomianism also becomes its own form of legalism. When men and women set aside a continuing validity of God’s law in the name of “grace” they inevitably end up replacing it with some other set of rules and regulations. Some of the most graceless and legally spirited people I have met have been those who most strongly insist that God’s Law is, in no sense, binding on those who are in Christ.
    Because the two errors stem from the same fleshly motives, seeking to correct the one error with the other will always be the default reaction We do not cure the error of legalism by sprinkling in a little antinomianism and we do not cure the error of antinomianism by sprinkling in a little legalism—

  6. markmcculley Says:

    The Error of Legalism and Antinomianism
    February 4, 2015 by Jordan Cooper
    It has often been said that legalism and antinomianism are two opposite poles of theology which need to be guarded against. Throughout Christian history, these two errors have been prominent, and careful theologians have attempted to keep a clear path between the two with a balanced approach to grace and works within the Christian life. Though they seem to be different errors, they really have the same basic problem: a failure to understand the two kinds of righteousness.
    For Luther, Christian righteousness is twofold: on the one hand, passive righteousness is given freely by God unto salvation. In one’s relationship to God (coram Deo) it is this righteousness, and this righteousness alone which avails. On the other hand, Christians are called to live in this world for the good of others. In the earthly ream (coram mundo), Christians are called to be obedient to God’s will. These two kinds of righteousness must both be proclaimed boldly, but also must be consistently distinguished.
    Legalism and antinomianism essentially have the same error. Both reject the two kinds of righteousness by clinging only to one type of righteousness. The problem with the medieval church was that theologians taught only one kind of righteousness: active righteousness. The Christian’s works were viewed, not only as efficacious in the world before others (coram mundo) but also as meritorious before God (coram Deo). This is legalism. It is argued that because law-keeping is necessary for the Christian, then this law-keeping must establish one’s standing with God. On the other hand, others have rightly rejected this type of works-righteousness, but have fallen into the same error of holding to only one kind of righteousness: passive righteousness. Joel Biermann and Charles Arand explain this connection well:
    Lutheranism in the twenty-first century finds itself in a unique situation. For the past five hundred years it has fought against conceiving of life only in terms of one kind of righteousness whereby human performance provided the basis for making the claim that God must accept us. But at times in the twentieth century, Lutheranism itself fell into its own form of one kind of righteousness whereby our passive righteousness before God became all we needed. And so active righteousness in conformity with the Law was left unstressed or was transformed into Gospel ways of talking.[1]
    The solution to both antinomianism and legalism is the same: the two kinds of righteousness. Every error related to legalism or antinomianism goes back to a confusion of this distinction. Before God, works have no merit whatsoever, and one is dependent solely upon the merit and righteousness of Christ. This is where assurance is to be found. Before the world, works matter, and we should strive to be obedient to God’s law in love toward the world around us.

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