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[Note: some excerpts are taken from the Wikipedia article]
According to Wikipedia, Antinomianism (a term coined by Martin Luther, from the Greek ἀντί, "against" + νόμος, "law"), is a belief or tendency in most religions that some therein consider existing laws as no longer applicable to themselves. The term originated in the context of a minority Protestant view that since faith itself alone is sufficient to attain salvation, adherence to religious law is not necessary, and religious laws themselves are set aside or "abrogated" as inessential.
While the concept is related to the foundational Protestant belief of Sola Fide where justification is through faith alone in Christ; it is taken to an extreme. It is seen by some as the opposite of the notion that obedience to a code of religious law earns salvation: legalism or works righteousness.
I would argue that many modern Christians embrace this extreme notion of antinomianism, especially as it concerns the 10 Commandments.
However, to be fair, an antinomian theology does not necessarily imply the embrace of ethical permissiveness; rather it usually implies emphasis on the inner working of the Holy Spirit as the primary source of ethical guidance; a notion I’m in complete agreement with.
But some do embrace this permissiveness. Perhaps the best biblical example of this is Nicolas.
Act 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
Act 6:2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.
Act 6:3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
Act 6:4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
Act 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
Act 6:6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
Later, Jesus Himself makes reference to the teachings of Nicolas in His words to the church of Ephesus.
Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
Rev 2:6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
… and a little later, to the church in Smyrna,
Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
Rev 2:15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Rev 2:16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
So, here we have Nicolas, a man appointed by the Apostles to serve the early church, teaching heresy.
Theologians will tell you that Nicolas taught his followers to ignore the 10 Commandments and to give in to their human passions and indulgences because they couldn’t control them anyway. He taught them that were “Saved” already and should not worry about their Salvation. Sound familiar? Many churches are teaching this today!
This kind of thinking is related to Gnosticism. Gnosticism is a like a coin, having two sides. On one side is the Nicolas model. Having accepted that you can’t control yourself you give in freely to your passions. The other side is strict control over all aspects of ones life leading to the heresies of monasticism, legalism, ritual scourging and the like.
Yes, those monks in secluded monasteries may have helped to preserve scripture, but they were also living a heretical lifestyle.
So, what’s the answer? If, as a good friend has said, our attempts at “perfection” are arrogant human vanity and hubris, then what are we to do?
As always, I argue we go to the source – the Bible.
The progressive sanctification of the individual, in biblical nomenclature, is to be “perfect”, to achieve “perfection”, to be “perfect” in all our ways. It’s easy to understand why we think of this as hubris; pride or arrogance, an excess of ambition, ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin.
So, I’m going to use this root word, “perfect”, and do a search of it’s uses in the Bible (you’ve gotta love e-Sword!). Obviously, you should look up each reference and read it in context. :
(Gen 6:9) This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.
(Lev 22:21) And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.
(Deu 25:15) You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deu 32:4) He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
(1Sa 14:41) Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, "Give a perfect lot." So Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped.
(2Sa 22:31) As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
(2Sa 22:33) God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.
(Ezr 7:12) Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth.
(Job 36:4) For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.
(Job 37:16) Do you know how the clouds are balanced, Those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
(Psa 18:30) As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
(Psa 18:32) It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.
(Psa 19:7) The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
(Psa 101:2) I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
(Psa 101:6) My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, That they may dwell with me; He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.
(Psa 138:8) The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
(Psa 139:22) I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
(Pro 4:18) But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
(Son 5:2) I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, "Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one; For my head is covered with dew, My locks with the drops of the night."
(Son 6:9) My dove, my perfect one, Is the only one, The only one of her mother, The favorite of the one who bore her. The daughters saw her And called her blessed, The queens and the concubines, And they praised her.
(Isa 18:5) For before the harvest, when the bud is perfect And the sour grape is ripening in the flower, He will both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks And take away and cut down the branches.
(Isa 26:3) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
(Isa 42:19) Who is blind but My servant, Or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, And blind as the LORD's servant?
(Eze 16:14) Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord GOD.
(Eze 27:3) and say to Tyre, 'You who are situated at the entrance of the sea, merchant of the peoples on many coastlands, thus says the Lord GOD: "O Tyre, you have said, 'I am perfect in beauty.'
(Eze 27:11) Men of Arvad with your army were on your walls all around, And the men of Gammad were in your towers; They hung their shields on your walls all around; They made your beauty perfect.
(Eze 28:12) "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
(Eze 28:15) You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
(Mat 5:48) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
(Mat 19:21) Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
(Luk 1:3) it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,
(Joh 17:23) I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
(Act 3:16) And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
(Rom 12:2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
(1Co 13:10) But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
(2Co 12:9) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(Gal 3:3) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
(Eph 4:13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
(Col 1:28) Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
(Col 4:12) Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
(1Th 3:10) night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?
(Heb 2:10) For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
(Heb 7:19) for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
(Heb 9:9) It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—
(Heb 9:11) But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
(Heb 10:1) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
(Heb 11:40) God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
(Heb 12:23) to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
(Jas 1:4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
(Jas 1:17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
(Jas 1:25) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
(Jas 2:22) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
(Jas 3:2) For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
(1Pe 5:10) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
(1Jn 4:18) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
(Rev 3:2) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
An honest reading of all these verse references (within context) will indicate that Jesus does expect a certain degree of “perfection” in us, as He declares what is perfect.
Our human hubris aside, it becomes obvious that God does expects us to try, try, and try again!