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Q: ‘What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?’

A: ‘By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’ (Romans 6:1-4)

Of late, a kerfuffle has broken out in the Reformed (i.e. Calvinist) camp.  One group — seemingly more Baptist-oriented — has accused the other of being ‘antinomian’.

Antinomianism in its purest form is a heresy.  In short, it says that Christians are free from all biblical law.  In fact, we are enjoined to follow Christ’s commandments of loving God and our neighbour.  These are summed up in the moral law contained in the 10 Commandments.  So, we are freed from the 613 Mosaic laws but obliged to obey the 10 Commandments, which, incidentally, used to appear on stone or wooden tablets near the altar in many Puritan churches a few hundred years ago.

This is the first of three posts exploring the obligations of pure Calvinism — that of the five solas.  We begin first with Dr Michael Horton,  Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, author of numerous books, host at White Horse Inn (WHI) and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

What follows are excerpts from his January 27, 2011 post for WHI, ‘The Fear of Antinomianism’, a rebuttal to his critics.  Emphases are mine, except for the words in the fifth paragraph.  I present these posts to help people better understand Calvinism, largely misunderstood by many Christians:

There are many today, who set aside God’s law as the standard for God’s righteous judgment, usually substituting their own prescriptions.  However, accusations have been raised over the last few days that target people who are decidedly not antinomian

Anyone who subscribes Lutheran or Reformed confessions is conscience-bound to repudiate antinomianism as a perversion of biblical teaching

The conventional wisdom in many Christian circles is that “we need to find the right balance between law and grace, so that we don’t fall into legalism or license” … its most recent expression was urged in Jason Hood’s article …  The author especially criticizes appeals to the point made by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (on the basis of Romans 6:1) that if we aren’t accused of antinomianism, we haven’t preached the gospel properly

This misunderstanding can be cleared up … by looking at the sharp denunciations of antinomianism in the Lutheran Book of Concord and the Reformed (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort) and Presbyterian standards (Westminster Confession and Catechisms), as well as the Savoy (Congregationalist) and the London Baptist confessions ...

What’s striking is that Paul answers antinomianism not with the law but with more gospel!  In other words, antinomians are not people who believe the gospel too much, but too little! …

The danger of legalism becomes apparent not only when we confuse law and gospel in justification, but when we imagine that even our new obedience can be powered by the law rather than the gospel.  The law does what only the law can do: reveal God’s moral will.  In doing so, it strips us of our righteousness and makes us aware of our helplessness apart from Christ and it also directs us in grateful obedience …  We need imperatives—and Paul gives them.  But he only does this later in the argument, after he has grounded sanctification in the gospel.

There is more at the link, along with a worthwhile selection of comments.

Next week: Presbyterian pastor Tullian Tchividjian

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