Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished… Matt 5:17-18
Having come from a heavy fundamentalist brand of legalism, I’ve wrestled quite a bit trying to understand the place for Law. I don’t feel too badly about that because it’s a complex thing that people get big fat degrees trying to understand. Honestly, I had spent so much time being beaten by a cheapened version of the Law and held back from the gospel, that every single notion of Law terrified me for a while. I spent the first full year outside of “fundyland” reading ONLY gospel portions of the bible until my conscience was assured that it was freed from Law’s condemnation.
I also had to get away from particular words because they had been defined poorly for me, my ears could only hear them in terms of shame. I had been given a taste of the gospel and I wanted more of that freedom; but instead of running away from theology, I dove deeper in. I needed a completely new framework, but this would not happen over night, it would take time. I began learning more meaningful terms that did not bring past terrors to my conscience.
So in all of that, you wonder, where has Sarah landed? Is she an antinomian?
1. Do I believe in repentance? That word still makes me duck for cover, so instead I speak in terms of confession.We can freely confess all of our failures because we’ve already been absolved by the work of Christ. We died with him and we were raised with him. Every time that I bring my confession to him, I am admitting death. Every time I am reminded that my sins are forgiven and that I am loved, I am raised. When you are crushed by the reality of your own sin and find yourself still held by an irrevocable love that will never let go? You don’t want to keep forsaking that love for lesser things. It pains you to think about it.
Shout out to Robert F Capon …
“True repentance leads only to the conclusion that the time for the repair of one’s life is over and gone and that one is in need not of a physician but of an embalmer — or per impossible and unthinkably, of someone who can raise the dead. This point is crucial. Confession is not the first step on the road to recovery, it is the last step in displaying of a corpse.”
2. Do I believe in good works? I speak first (and admittedly, more often) about Christ’s good works for me because of my tendency towards merit. From there, I speak in terms of loving my neighbor. The freedom that I’ve been given in the gospel actually turns me towards my neighbor. My desires change and I find myself actually wanting to serve them out of the love that I’ve been given. (When I fail at this, and boy do I!!? Back to number 1.)
Shout out to Ephesians 2 …
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
3. Do I believe in sanctification? I speak about it in terms of death and resurrection. Which, as I understand it, takes place in and through those times of confession. This will play out like a million trillion gazillion times* in the course of my life. (*rough estimate) As many times as death needs to occur in my life, I am raised again to newness of life. If you were to ask me if I am getting better, I would laugh loudly and then shrug. What I know is, I’m kind of a jerk. What I also know, is that God promised to sanctify me so I can’t really argue with that. Just know that your sanctification is less in your hands than you’re probably willing to admit.
Shout out to Michael Horton …
Sanctification is something God is doing in us because we are in union with Christ.
For me, these new terms speak grace to my ears, as the hearer. They have helped deliver me from the delusional notion that any of this is up to me, while allowing me to see their absolute necessity in my life as a believer. I’m still diving in deep, trying to understand how these things play out, functionally. I do recognize that all of this includes a function of Law. It has to. I must have something to crush me and show me my inability to do any of these things in my own strength. I must see where I am failing in order for my stubborn ass flesh to fall on Christ, who never failed. The Law is there to show me my pietism as well as my licentiousness — but it cannot deliver me from those things, in the same way that it cannot bring about my justification. For that there is the gospel, there is Christ. The only way that I can live by faith alone is to see that I can never keep the Law, even in part. Back to the classic definition of what an antinomian is, I would argue that in order to see my need for Christ, I must observe the Law BUT I must only observe it in light of the finished work of Jesus Christ.
No, I am not an antinomian.