I went out street preaching at NC State recently. I was drained to the core of my being by four hostile hecklers: two atheists and two antinomians. I think that atheists are relatively easy to handle, because you can just dismiss them on the presuppositional grounds of Romans 1; but antinomians are tougher, because they deceive well-meaning Christians into thinking that their Jesus has a “higher road” of morality in universal tolerance (which they call “love”), carnally-minded “friendship evangelism,” loose morals, and strong opposition to the doctrine of Hell. Truly, truly these cheap grace, cheap love antinomians are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4), and while they claim to “know God,” they not only disobey His commandments (1 John 2:4), but will publicly oppose and argue with evangelists who preach obedience to them. In my experience, antinomianism, or what is also called cheap grace or easy-believism, is an old lawless spirit (2 Thess. 2:7), the “faith of devils” (Jas. 2:19), and is all too readily the norm in evangelical churches. Campus ministries are often full of antinomianism; and not the true faith of Israel (lordship salvation).
This is “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) than that spoken of in the New Testament: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But the antinomian Christ, and the portrait that is painted of him, comes from taking a few select passages of Scripture out of their context, placing meanings on them that no Matthew Henry, nor Adam Clarke, nor John Wesley would ever ascribe to:–and with their maverick hermeneutic of lawlessness, end up deceiving the minds of the elect, who then fall into the sexual trap of frats and sororities, in the name of this Jesus of theirs, and his “love for sinners.” The true Jesus loves sinners in a saving way (John 3:16), but not in an antinomian way that bails them out and doesn’t help them transform.
1. The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42). This one was used on me recently. I was out street preaching about repentance from sin, faith in the blood of Jesus, and the consequence of eternal punishment in Hell for rejecting the Gospel–only to be interrupted and eventually shouted over by a young man who had imbibed some antinomian doctrines. In this particular case, he was trying to persuade me, and demonstrate publicly in front of my group of listeners, that I was wrong for evangelizing the way I was. He said the more Christlike way to evangelize is through loving one-on-one relationships, like Jesus and the woman at the well. The inconsistency in his argument had already shown itself, so I asked him deeper and more thoroughly about the passage of Scripture on Jesus speaking to the woman at the well. He avoided the part about Jesus confronting her about her sin of adultery (John 4:16-19); so after quizzing him a bit, he came to admit that Jesus did indeed confront her about her adultery. He said other things about his concept of “friendship evangelism,” that led me to conclude he had forgotten that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (Jas. 4:4), so I questioned him: “So, are you the kind of guy who goes to drinking parties to make friends and bring them over there to the Baptist Student Union? Watching carnal, worldly movies; and having no concept of holiness?” At which point, he got very angry, because he was embarrassed, and got about 2 feet away from me, intimidating me, pointing his finger in my face, shouting, and demonically raging against me, all the while telling me that “God is love” and I shouldn’t preach to people about Hell! “You’re going to punch me in the face!” I said, bracing myself. He eventually got on his bike and rode away. He had taken a portion of Scripture out of context and was operating on a picture of Jesus that was a semi-Biblical, half-truth; it created a picture in his mind of Jesus gently sharing God’s love to sinners, by being a gentle anonymous friend, who doesn’t talk about their sins. Boy, was he wrong!
2. Jesus at Matthew the Tax Collector’s House (Luke 5:27-32). Antinomians love this passage; this is their favorite one. In this passage, Jesus goes to the apostle Matthew’s house (before he was born again), while he was still a tax collector (often guilty of deceit and extortion), and He goes to the party with Matthew and all his unconverted sinner friends. The Pharisees avoided association with such people, but Jesus went to eat and associate with them in order to “call sinners to repentance” (v. 32). However, in the antinomian version, they always take the “call sinners to repentance” part out of the story, and once again they operate on this picture of a morally loose Jesus, and they follow suit with such behavior, going to frat or sorority parties all in the name of this “Jesus”; they drink beers, get tipsy, lust around, and then go to Campus Crusade or BSU and praise the Lord together as “the Friend of Sinners.” They even base their behavior on the Pharisees’ accusation of Jesus, which He was quick to deny: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19). Then in a few days, they will go to another frat party. Of course, this is not what Scripture says about Jesus. 1. Jesus Himself said the whole reason He went to Matthew’s party was to find an opportunity to preach repentance and grace to them. 2. Matthew was eventually converted and wrote what is probably the most ethically-driven of the four Gospels, which includes the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). 3. This whole argument is absolutely ridiculous, and blasphemous, and reduces God Almighty into a party animal; people should be ashamed of such retarded reasonings, but nevertheless, they buy into these deceits of the devil, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), in order that they may “continue in their sins” (Rom. 6:1), and not be “transformed by the renewal of their minds” (Rom. 12:2). 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
3. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). Look at the classic Bible commentaries. None will suggest that the Pharisee symbolizes the “righteous man” and the tax collector “the sinner.” But this is always the antinomian’s understanding. In their minds, they make the Pharisee out to be a good guy, but who Jesus ironically condemns as a bad guy; and then commends the tax collector for at least admitting that he sins, unlike the lying Pharisee who is probably just covering up his sins by saying that he is holy. But the reality is, this is not the concept that Jesus was trying to convey at all in this parable. And I am not alone in my interpretation: see Henry, Clarke, Wesley, and the all the rest of the evangelical commentators. This is no private interpretation; its out in the open!–Jesus was teaching against spiritual pride, especially when coming to God in prayer. While many of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28), Jesus did once admit that a particular Pharisee who said loving God and neighbor was the most important thing, was “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). The apostle Paul used to be a Pharisee (Php. 3:5). I don’t think Jesus was condemning the Pharisee group in this parable so much as He was attacking a popular sin found among them; and that was this: many of the Pharisees–the word “Pharisee” means “separate,” “holy,” or even “Puritan”–had an attitude of superiority over others because they lived a holy life (which some of them, no doubt, tried to do, even if misguided), and Jesus was not at all condemning the Pharisee for his avoidance of sin and pursuit of righteousness: on the contrary, Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:20). Jesus was not against the Pharisaic emphasis on holiness; in fact, He felt many of the Pharisees didn’t go far enough, and this He agreed on with John the Baptist (Matt. 3:7; 12:34). This parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying to God in the temple is to illustrate the sin of spiritual pride, or the pride of holiness: an insidious devil’s trap that saints can fall into at times, when they lose sight of the influence of the Holy Spirit on their hearts, the grace of God, and they forget the former corruptions that they were saved from. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector'” (Luke 18:11). By comparing himself with others, and lifting himself up above others, he made God angry with him. Why? Because there was no love for his fellow man in such a thought, nor humility. Love and humility are fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). And the tax collector at least prayed with a repentant heart and prayed for God to forgive his sins, and the thought about comparing himself with someone else had not even crossed his mind. Antinomians, however, distort this whole passage, and you will find they will refer to this passage partly, and come off with this idea that Jesus was against Pharisees because they emphasized holiness and were prideful on account of it; and Jesus supported the tax collector because at least he was honest with God about his sinful life. To clarify: the true interpretation is that Jesus was against the Pharisee in the parable NOT because the Pharisee was holy, but because he had become PRIDEFUL about his holiness by comparing his behavior with those of others; the tax collector was favored NOT because he was a sinner, but because he had A HUMBLE, REPENTANT, AND HONEST HEART. Jesus ends the parable with: “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
4. The Woman Who Washed Jesus’ Feet with Her Tears (Luke 7:36-50). I can’t really say that I’ve heard any antinomian references to this passage, per se. But I think I have in passing. The idea seems to go something like this: Jesus was eating with the Pharisees, and all of a sudden a prostitute comes in (often thought to be Mary Magdalene), and she had been so impacted by Jesus’ teaching on grace, that she barged into the Pharisee’s house uninvited and was weeping so profusely, out of her love for Jesus, that she washed His feet with her tears; but the Pharisee, offended at the impropriety of this behavior, thought badly of it; but Jesus rebuked his attitude, because He favors sinners and dislikes righteous people. So, 90% of what I recounted is the Gospel story, but the end conclusion, or interpretation: is antinomian. Its this view that Jesus is a “Friend of Sinners” and an enemy of the righteous (the Pharisees). Beware of falling into this trap. Note that Jesus viewed the majority of Pharisees as being “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28). Jesus was not showing partiality to the woman because He Himself was morally loose–as the Pharisees thought He was; no, Jesus is “the Holy One” (1 John 2:20) and could see that this woman was truly, truly sorry for all of her adulteries and fornications, and that the Holy Spirit was working repentance into her heart, so that she weeped profusely; to which Jesus assured her, “Your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50).
5. The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11). Whether this woman is the same as the woman in the prior case, I don’t know. But in this case, she had been caught in the act of adultery and delivered to the Pharisees, who were prepared to stone her, according to the law of Moses (Lev. 20:10). Whether or not this was legal under Roman occupation, I can’t tell, but in order to put Jesus on the spot in front of His disciples, they brought the woman to Him, and a mob was ready to stone her to death. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for us to stone her?” He replied, “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:5, 7). And as they became convicted, they all dropped their stones, and left, with Jesus telling the woman, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). The antinomians like this passage because it illustrates the severity of the Law and its eagerness to expose, rebuke, and punish sin and sinners–and it shows that Jesus is grace-oriented and ready to forgive sin, and not punish–unlike the Law. The antinomians, however, almost always conveniently forget the last statement of Jesus in this story–which is perhaps the most important: “GO AND SIN NO MORE” (v. 11)–which means that the grace and forgiveness that God has shown to her is to be responded with transformation in her life.
Modern-day antinomians seem to take an “all love, no rules, and no Hell” view of Jesus and the Christian life. I believe that based on these distorted interpretations of Jesus in the Gospels; and also confused readings of other New Testament texts, the antinomians on today’s college campuses, and in our churches, feel that they have the Bible on their side (for a thorough handling of these texts, see my book The Gospel of Jesus Christ, pp. 83-92). Oh, how wrong they are! These are the people Peter said, “Twist the Scriptures to their own destruction!” (2 Peter 3:16). Beware of these false doctrines! They are DAMNABLE heresies, not just harmless but misguided views. DAMNABLE! Any teaching that is anti-holiness will not permit its adherent to see the Lord.
NO HELL? Give me a break! Jesus spoke about Hell more than anyone in the Bible! Take a look at the following passages for proof that Jesus believed in eternal punishment in Hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched!–Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 7:13-14; 10:28; 18:8-9; 23:15; 25:46; Mark 9:43, 45, 47-48; Luke 16:19-31; John 3:36. Interesting to note that most of it comes from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW THE TAX COLLECTOR!