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June 16, 2012

Anti – What?

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

This past week, I recorded a 30-minute interview with KFUO Radio in Saint Louis dealing with the topic of antinomianism. Briefly, antinomianism is a theological understanding that says that since Jesus Christ died for my sins, why do I need the Law? Grammatically, the word means “anti-law.” And it poses a danger to Christianity.

Within the Christian Church and in Lutheranism in particular, there is a growing acceptance that since Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, the Law has no value. Instead, we should just live our lives as if it didn’t exist. We should place our trust that Jesus died for us and live as if God’s Law never existed. While this sounds nice and, in a way, kind of fits within the understanding of justification of faith alone in Jesus Christ (sola fide), it poses a dangerous theological hole in the heart of Christianity. It ignores the purest instruction of the Christian life as found in God’s Word and destroys the deep understanding that we rise to newness of life through the waters of Baptism.

The Law was never destroyed by Jesus when He lived the perfect life on our behalf. It wasn’t erased from God’s Word just because Jesus died for our sins. We are not to get amnesia when it comes to the power of the Law just because Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven.

Instead, the Law plays a good and critical role in our lives as Christians. It is the great expression of God’s love because in God’s own words, He shows us what it is to love Him above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Antinomians say the opposite: The Law has no power over us because Jesus died for our sins. The Law is not a guide for our moral and ethical selves. The Law was defeated and thus we live free of it.

And how wrong are they. The Law expresses to us what it means to love God and our neighbors. It doesn’t mean we are silent to the actions of the sinful world. For example, the issue of abortion. God says killing is wrong. In the medical act of abortion, we are killing an innocent child. The church stands in deep opposition to abortion because it goes against the Word of God in His Law. But the antinomian would refrain from attacking the issue of abortion on religious grounds because the Law is the reason the church stands opposed to that horrific act.

It is similar to how the culture views “sin.” They say what is sin to you may not be a sin to me. Thus, we are not to judge the sinner and leave it to the Lord. And as this thinking goes, because Jesus died for the sins of the world, the individual sin doesn’t matter anymore. There is no need for repentance since the Law is void; why does a Christian repent if the Law is not in effect?

That is why this theological thought is dangerous. Without the ethical and moral guidance given to us by God, anything goes in this life. The hymn “The Law of God is Good and Wise” sums it up: Its light of holiness imparts The knowledge of our sinful hearts, That we may see our lost estate And seek deliverance ere too late. To those who help in Christ have found And would in works of love abound It shows what deeds are His delight And should be done as good and right.

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