ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Whole Christ: Legalism and Antinomianism

Updated on February 28, 2018
Chase Chartier profile image

Chase is a recent graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and a minor in Biblical Studies.

Two Errors with the Same Root

Think back to the two boys looking at themselves in the mirror. Each comes to a different conclusion but their mistake is the same. The error comes from an improper understanding of what physical appearance is and their relationship to it. In the same way, Christians can unknowingly slide into two categories based on a misunderstanding of the law of God. These two errors are known as Legalism and Antinomianism. Usually regarded as opposites, they are known as two incorrect ways to respond to the realization that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Let's look at those two conclusions.

Legalism

Most are familiar with the term 'Legalism'. It's a word probably thrown around too often in the wrong way. The modern understanding of Legalism is an attempt to merit salvation or earn favor with God based upon one's own effort. What we do determines how God acts in response. Our keeping of the law is the grounds for which we receive benefits. Believers understand that we are not saved by works but by faith. However, we also find that in the Bible there are exhortations to follow the law. The response of some is that in some way we are still under the Law of Works. Why else would we be commanded to keep the law after we have been saved? Our law keeping then becomes a subtle form of legalism that still believes in some way that we are bound to the law as a way of maintaining our salvation. Those who come to this conclusion do so in part because of their natural disposition but mainly because of an improper view of the Law. In The Whole Christ, legalism is "simply separating the law of God from the person of God".

At The Root of It

For true believers, we know that grace is a gift not of ourselves, yet our old selves still hold onto the old pattern of works salvation. We still see the law as only the means to an end and nothing more, but we forget its original intent because we're used to seeing it in a do-or-die way. Sinclair Ferguson says, "The essence of legalism is a heart distortion of the graciousness of God and of the God of grace." The law in its first phase was the Natural Law Adam and Eve were capable of following. The law was as much for our benefit as is the gospel, and after receiving the gospel the law is to our benefit even though we fall short of it. Legalism rises from "view[ing] God’s law as a contract with conditions to be fulfilled and not as the implications of a covenant graciously given to us". We never realize that the law is an expression of God's character, and in giving it to us He enables us to live a life of true joy and fulfillment not found in the fleeting pleasures of sin. When a legalist sees the law, he wrongly sees a harsh standard enforced by a God who doesn't care for our deepest well-being. The call to follow these commandments as a believer appears as a call to merit-based work. Here are a few of his quotes on legalism from the book.

“Legalism is almost as old as Eden itself. In essence it’s any teaching that diminishes or distorts the generous love of God and the full freeness of his grace. It then distorts God’s graciousness revealed in his law and fails to see law set within its proper context in redemptive history as an expression of a gracious Father. This is the nature of legalism. Indeed we might say these are the natures of legalism.”

"Grace highlights legalism’s bankruptcy and shows that it’s not only useless; it’s pointless; its life breath is smothered out of it.”

Antinomianism

Antinomianism (anti-not/against, nomos-law) is the other conclusion one arrives at when realizing there is no condemnation for believers. If there is no punishment, then there is no need to follow the law. We can live as we like and those who tell us otherwise are in danger of legalism. Those who zealously observe the law can only appear to the antinomian as driven by fear of punishment. The truth is antinomians have the same problem as legalists. Though their conclusions may appear to be opposed to each other, they are nonetheless rooted in the same view of the law apart from God. The real issue behind legalism is the same issue behind antinomianism.

“Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.”

“There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It’s the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself.”

"Legalism and antinomianism are, in fact, nonidentical twins that emerge from the same womb."

"The gospel never overthrows God’s law for the simple reason that both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace."

"Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from his gracious person. It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything his Father commanded him. Nor is it for us."

They View The Law Apart from God's Character

The two errors fall on a spectrum, and the answer is not to slide from one side to the other. The cure for legalism is not a dose of antinomianism, and the cure for antinomianism is not more legalism. Understanding that the graces and benefits of Christ are not separate from his law is the first step in untangling these two lies.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Tony Muse profile image

      Tony Muse 

      8 months ago from Texas, USA

      Great article! Someone one told me "While we are under the law of grace and not under the law on Moses, there is no conflict between the two". I thought that it was quite thought provoking. Blessings!

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      9 months ago from The Caribbean

      "Antinomianism and legalism are . . . both antithetical to grace." Important message. Thanks.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)