The Differences between Antinomianism, Sandemanianism, and Libertinism

The Differences between Antinomianism, Sandemanianism, and Libertinism

Antinomianism, Sandemanianism, and libertinism are constantly confused with one another. Antinomianism comes from anti “against” and nomos “law.” It is the belief that the law has little to no role to play in the Christian life or sanctification. This is because they argue that the entirety of the Old Testament law has been abrogated and none of its laws are binding on Christians today unless they are explicitly repeated in the New Testament (which makes the Old Testament irrelevant for Christian ethics). Because the law is no longer for today, they deny the third use of the law which is that the law has been given to us as one of the means of sanctification to show us how we are to live.

In antinomianism, the law cannot be a reflection of the righteousness of God since it is no longer binding on us and God’s righteousness does not change. The categories of moral, ceremonial, and judicial law are rejected as well. A rejection of the distinction between moral and ceremonial law inevitably results in either rejecting all Old Testament laws as in antinomianism or believing that all Old Testament laws (but thankfully and inconsistently not animal sacrifices) are binding today as some Messianic Jewish groups do. They believe our obedience to the law is not an evidence of salvation or a means of assurance of salvation. God sees no sin in believers (a partial truth which fails to distinguish God’s love of benevolence toward believers with his love of complacency together with his fatherly displeasure toward the sins of believers) and is therefore equally pleased with all of them.

Antinomianism is commonly confused with Sandemanianism, named after Robert Sandeman, which is the belief that the nature of saving faith is simply assent to truths about Jesus Christ and therefore a person can be a genuine Christian while living in lifelong carnality (contra James 2 and 1 John). Sandemanianism is expressed today in what is known as “non-lordship salvation.” Those who hold to antinomianism reject the term because they have redefined it as Sandemanianism or libertinism. Those who are Sandemanians have probably never even heard the term before and call everyone who disagrees with them a legalist.

Libertinism is the belief that because we are saved by Christ and are eternally secure in him, we have the freedom to live however we want which perverts the grace of God into a license for sin (Jude 1:4). It answers Paul’s question “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1) in the affirmative in contrast to how Paul answered his own question: “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2). Libertinism is damnable heresy which denies the transforming power of the gospel.

Antinomianism, together with Sandemanianism and libertinism, are in contrast to covenant theology which holds that the moral law is a rule of life binding on all people and reflects the righteousness of God. Because the moral law is rooted in God’s unchangeable nature, it cannot be changed. Old Testament laws are binding on Christians today unless they are abrogated by the New Testament or can be shown to be unique ways Israel was to distinguish themselves from the nations around them. Antinomianism errs by creating a false dichotomy between the law of God and the Word of God (Pss 19:7-11; 119:97; John 14:15, 23; 17:17; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:22-24). Paul assumes in 1 Corinthians 5-6 that the Corinthian church was bound by the Old Testament laws concerning sexual immorality (Lev 18:8). The book of 1 John is a healthy corrective to antinomianism’s and Sandemanianism’s misunderstanding of assurance of salvation.

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Sunday Meditation – Faith and Repentance

Sunday Meditation – Faith and Repentance

“Repentance grows as faith grows. Do not make any mistake about it; repentance is not a thing of days and weeks, a temporary penance to be got over as fast as possible! No; it is the grace of a lifetime, like faith itself. God’s little children repent, and so do the young men and the fathers. Repentance is the inseparable companion of faith. . . . Do not sit down and try to pump up repentance from the dry well of a corrupt nature. It is contrary to the laws of your mind to suppose that you can force your soul into that gracious state. Take your heart in prayer to Him who understands it and say, ‘Lord, cleanse it. Lord, renew it. Lord, work repentance in it.’ The more you try to produce penitent emotions in yourself, the more you will be disappointed. However, if you believingly think of Jesus dying for you, repentance will burst forth.”

Charles Spurgeon

Paedobaptist Testimonies to Immersion

Paedobaptist Testimonies to Immersion

The historic practice of the Christian church is that baptism is to be carried out by immersion in water. This is because the word baptism comes from the Greek word baptisma which describes the dipping of an object in liquid. This is recognized by all secular historians and Greek scholars. That baptism was practiced by immersion also is confirmed by the Jewish roots of baptism. The practice of baptizing by sprinkling or pouring water arose over time for pragmatic reasons in the Western Church while the Eastern Church which knew Greek continued to practice baptism by immersion. The following quotations come from those who believed in infant baptism and practiced baptism by sprinkling yet nevertheless recognized that immersion was the ancient and biblical mode of baptism. Many more quotations could be added to this list:

Martin Luther

“The name baptism is Greek; in Latin it can be rendered immersion, when we immerse anything in water, that it may be all covered with water. And although that custom has now grown out of use . . . yet they ought to be entirely immersed, and immediately drawn out. For this the etymology of the name seems to demand” (On the Sacrament of Baptism; Opera Lutheri, 1:319).

Philip Melanchthon

“Baptism is immersion in water, which is performed with the accompanying benediction of admiration . . . Plunging signifies ablution from sin and immersion into the death of Christ” (Catechesis De Sacramentis; Opera Omnia, 1:25).

Ulrich Zwingli

“When ye were immersed into the water of baptism, ye were ingrafted into the death of Christ; that is, the immersion of your body into water was a sign that ye ought to be ingrafted into Christ” (Annotations on the Epistle to the Romans on Romans 6:3; Opera Omnia, 4:420).

John Calvin

“The very word baptize, however, signifies to immerse; and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church” (Institutues of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 15, Section 19).

Theodore Beza

“Christ commanded us to be baptized, by which word it is certain immersion is signified” (Second Letter to Tilium).

Girolamo Zanchius

“Baptism is a Greek word, and signifies two things; first, and properly, immersion in water: for the proper signification of Baptizo, is to immerse, to plunge under, to overwhelm in water” (Works 6:217).

William Tyndale

“The plunging into the water signifieth that we die, and are buried with Christ, as concerning the old life of sin which is Adam. And the pulling out again, signifieth that we rise again with Christ in a new life full of the Holy Ghost, which shall teach us and guide us and work the will of God in us, as thou seest” (Obedience of a Christian Man, 1571 edition, 143).

Richard Baxter

“We grant that Baptism then was by wash­ing the whole Body: And did not the differences of our cold country as to that hot one, teach us to remem­ber (I will have mercy and not sacrifice) it should be so here” (Paraphrase of the New Testament on Matthew 3:6).

Herman Witsius

“It is certain, that both John and the disciples of Christ ordinarily used dipping; whose example was followed by the ancient church, as Vossius, Disput. 1. de baptismo, Thes. 6, and Hoornbeck de baptismo Veterum, sect. iv. have shown from many testimonies both of the Greeks and Latins. 2dly, It cannot be denied, but the native signification of the words, baptein and baptizein, is to plunge or dip” (The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, 3:390).

Francis Turretin

“As in former times the persons to be baptized were immersed in the water, continued under the water, and emerged out of it; Matt. 3:16. Acts 8:38; so the old man died in them and was buried, and the new man arose” (Disp. de Bap. Nubis and Mans, § 24. Inst. Theol., tom. 3, Loc. 19, Quaes. 11, § 14).

Thomas Chalmers

“The original meaning of the word baptism is immersion” (Lectures on Romans on Romans 6).

John Wesley

“Mary Welsh, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church, and the rule of the Church of England, by immersion. The child was ill then, but recovered from that hour” (Extract of Mr. John Wesley’s Journal, from his embarking for Georgia, 10).

Buried with him,’ alluded to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.” (Wesley’s Notes on Romans 6:4).

Philip Schaff

“Immersion and not sprinkling was unquestionably the original normal form of baptism. This is shown by the meaning of the Greek word and the analogy of the baptism of John” (History of the Apostolic Church, 2:256).

James Gibbons

“For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity baptism was usually conferred by immersion; but since the 12th century the practice of baptism by infusion has prevailed in the Catholic church, as this manner is attained with less inconvenience than by immersion” (Faith of Our Fathers, 317).

William Cave

“The action having proceeded thus far, the party to be baptized was wholly immerged, or put under water, which was the almost constant and universal custom of those times, whereby they did more notably and significantly express the three great ends and effects of baptism. For, as in immersion there are, in a manner, three several acts, the putting the person into water, his abiding there for a little time, and his rising up again, so by these were represented Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and, in conformity thereunto, our dying unto sin, the destruction of its power, and our resurrection to a new course of life. By the person’s being put into water was lively represented the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, and being washed from the filth and pollution of them; by his abode under it, which was a kind of burial unto water, his entering into a state of death or mortification, like as Christ remained for some time under the state or power of death” (Primitive Christianity, 220).

William Wall

“Their (the primitive Christians) general and ordinary way was to baptize by immersion, or dipping the person, whether it were an infant, or grown man or woman, into the water. This is so plain and clear by an infinite number of passages, that as one can not but pity the weak endeavors of such Pedobaptists as would maintain the negative of it, so also we ought to disown and show a dislike of the profane scoffs which some people give to the English Antipedobaptists, merely for their use of dipping. It was, in all probability, the way by which our blessed Savior, and for certain was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism. Tis a great want of prudence, as well as of honesty, to refuse to grant to an adversary what is certainly true, and may be proved so. It creates a jealousy of all the rest that one says. As for sprinkling, I say, as Mr. Blake, at its first coming up in England, ‘Let them defend it who use it.’ They (who are inclined to Presbyterianism) are hardly prevailed on to leave off that scandalous custom of having their children, though never so well, baptized out of a basin, or porringer, in a bed-chamber, hardly persuaded to bring them to church, much further from having them dipped, though never so able to bear it” (History of Infant Baptism, part 2, chapter 2).

“In the case of sickness, weakness, haste, want of quantity of water, or such like extraordinary occasions, baptism by affusion of water on the face, was by the ancients, counted sufficient baptism. France seems to have been the first country in the world where baptism, by affusion, was used ordinarily to persons in health, and in the public way of administering it. There has been some synods, in some dioceses of France, that had spoken of affusion, without mentioning immersion at all, that being the common practice; but for an office or liturgy of any church, this is, (Referring to Calvin’s ‘Form of administering the Sacraments’) I believe, the first in the world that prescribes affusion absolutely; and for sprinkling, properly called, it seems it was, at 1645, just then beginning, and used by very few. It must have begun in the disorderly times after 1641. But then came The Directory, which says: ‘Baptism is to be administered, not in private places, or privately, but in the place of public worship, and in the face of the congregation,’ and so on. ‘And not in the places where fonts, in the time of Popery, were unfitly and superstitiously placed.’ So they reformed the font into a basin. This learned assembly could not remember that fonts to baptize in had been always used by the primitive Christians, long before the beginning of Popery, and ever since churches were built; but that sprinkling, for the common use of baptizing, was really introduced (in France first, and then in the other Popish countries) in times of Popery; and that accordingly, all those countries in which the usurped power of the Pope is, or has formerly been, owned, have left off dipping of children in the font; but that all other countries in the world, which had never regarded his authority, do still use it; and that basins, except in case of necessity, were never used by Papists, or any other Christians whatsoever, till by themselves. What has been said of this custom of pouring or sprinkling water in the ordinary use of baptism, is to be understood only in reference to these western parts of Europe, for it is used ordinarily nowhere else” (History of Infant Baptism, part 2, chapter 9).

Sunday Meditation – The Death of Death

Sunday Meditation – The Death of Death

“But because Christ is God He had an everlasting and unconquerable righteousness. These two, the sin of the world and the righteousness of God, met in a death struggle. Furiously the sin of the world assailed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is immortal and invincible. On the other hand, sin is a mighty tyrant who subdues all men. This tyrant pounces on Christ. But Christ’s righteousness is unconquerable. The result is inevitable. Sin is defeated and righteousness triumphs and reigns forever. In the same manner was death defeated. Death is emperor of the world. He strikes down kings, princes, all men. He has an idea to destroy all life. But Christ has immortal life, and life immortal gained the victory over death. Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of death. The curse of God waged a similar battle with the eternal mercy of God in Christ. The curse meant to condemn God’s mercy. But it could not do it because the mercy of God is everlasting. The curse had to give way. If the mercy of God in Christ had lost out, God Himself would have lost out.”

Martin Luther

Apparent Contradictions in Christian Theology

Apparent Contradictions in Christian Theology

Why is it that there are so many different theological beliefs and heresies in the church today? I do not believe that the Bible ever contradicts itself, but at first glance, there are many verses which appear to teach different doctrinal truths which cults appeal to in order to draw followers to themselves. Let me give you some examples and then I’ll briefly explain how they can be reconciled:

1. God says in Isaiah 44:6 that “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” But Psalm 82:6 says, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.”

In Psalm 82, the term “gods” is being used sarcastically to describe human judges who were usurping the place of God, not literal gods.

2. Jesus says in John 8:58 that, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Yet he says in John 14:28 that “the Father is greater than I.”

The greaterness of which Jesus speaks is not a greaterness of nature, but a greaterness of role in the work of redemption which evidences itself by his being sent into the world through the incarnation and his ascension to the right hand of God which is what Jesus is speaking about in the context of this verse. The Son always obeys the Father which is compatible with ontological equality. His role as a servant taking upon himself our human nature in addition to his divine nature must be taken into consideration as part of the reason why he can speak of the Father being greater than him since deity is greater than humanity (Phil 2:5-11).

3. Jesus says in Luke 24:39 that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:45 that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit.”

This is because “spirit” and “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 15 describe that which is incorruptible, not non-physical. Paul taught that Jesus was still human after his resurrection (Acts 17:31; 1 Tim 2:5).

4. Paul says in Romans 3:28 that a man “is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” But James 2:24, the only verse in the Bible where “faith alone” is used, says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Faith in James 2 is not the same as faith in Romans 3. James is defining faith as mere intellectual assent while Paul defines it as trust. Justification in James is the declaration by man that a person is genuinely righteous before God while justification in Romans is being declared righteous by God himself.

5. Jesus said to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 that “today you will be with me in Paradise.” But Paul says in Ephesians 4:9 that Jesus “also descended into the lower parts of the earth.”

The “lower parts of the earth” is not hell, but the earth itself to which he came in the incarnation. It is called “lower” because it is lower with respect to heaven since where he ascended from is where he descended to.

6. Paul says in Ephesians 1:13 that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit after believing in Jesus. But 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.”

Peter clarifies what he means by saying, “not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Baptism saves as an act of faith and repentance which is what an appeal to God for a clean conscience is. It is not the physical action of immersion in water that saves which Peter calls “a removal of dirt from the body.” And a person does not need water to appeal to God for a clean conscience. Baptism was the common way to do so in the first century like our “altar call” is today and normally was part of the overall conversion process.

7. Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed for man to die once and then face judgment. But Paul talks about people in 1 Corinthians 15:29 “being baptized on behalf of the dead.”

Baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is Christian baptism in which we take the place of Christians who have died. By being baptized, we join the visible church which they have left by death to fill up what is lacking in their suffering for the church (Col 1:24).

8. Jesus says in John 5:28-29 that all who are in their tombs will be raised from the dead. But Job 7:9 says, “he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.”

From our perspective, those who die do not come back to life because Job and his friends never saw such a thing. But Job did believe in a future day of resurrection at the end of the age (Job 19:25-27).

9. Jesus says in Matthew 25:46 that the wicked will receive eternal punishment for their sins. But 2 Peter 2:6 says that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned to extinction “making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.”

Peter is drawing an analogy between the destruction of those cities and the destruction of the wicked in hell. But the way in which the wicked will be destroyed is not the same as those cities in every way. That is the nature of analogical language. We must consult the rest of Scripture to determine how the wicked will be destroyed which is a destruction that never ends because it is eternal conscious torment (Rev 14:9-11; 20:10).

10. Jesus taught that it was better to have never been born than to go to hell (Matt 26:24). But Paul says in Romans 5:18 that “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

The “all men” Paul is talking about are all men who are in the humanity of Christ. This is limited to “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17). Paul is speaking of two different humanities: one in Adam and one in Christ. All in Christ receive justification and life while all in Adam receive death. But not all men are in Christ.

Now, why did God ordain verses that appear to contradict each other? Why not instead give us verses that say, “there is only one God,” “Jesus is God,” “Jesus was raised bodily from the dead,” “justification is by faith alone,” “Jesus did not go to hell after he died,” “the act of baptism does not bring about regeneration,” “there are no more opportunities for salvation after death,” “everyone will be raised from the dead when Christ returns,” “hell is eternal conscious torment” and “not everyone will be saved in the end”?

This is because God has written the Bible in such a way that those who do not want to believe in what the Bible teaches can always find a rescuing device to avoid conclusions they do not wish to embrace. The Bible does not reveal doctrinal truth in the propositional format we would like so that false teaching and cults can exist to purify the church. If the Bible had said, “Jesus has eternally existed as God and shares equally and indivisibly with the Father the same identical divine nature,” then Arianism never could have existed. But Arianism was part of God’s overarching divine plan for history to purify his church and clarify the deity of Christ in the mind of his people.

False teaching exists in God’s providence to purify the church by using it as a means to separate the wheat from the chaff before the day of judgment. False converts leave their profession of the faith when they embrace heresy to demonstrate that they were never truly saved in the first place so that they can be evangelized. By leaving the church, they are making evident to everyone else what God already knew was true. Heresy forces the church to diligently study Scripture to discover the truth God already has revealed to us. In the face of heresy, the church does not invent the truth, but discovers it afresh. Heresy tests and refines our faith by forcing us to wrestle with the text of Scripture so that we will have a greater knowledge and confidence in his Word. If cults never existed, then we could never evangelize cult members which is a means God has ordained to grow our faith and bring his elect to salvation by rescuing them out of false teaching.

Sunday Meditation – Conversion and Regeneration

Sunday Meditation – Conversion and Regeneration

“Conversion is a thing which is caused by regeneration, but regeneration is the very first act of God the Spirit in the soul. ‘What,’ say you, ‘does regeneration come before conviction of sin?’ most certainly; there could be no conviction in the dead sinner. Now, regeneration quickens the sinner, and makes him live. He is not competent to have true spiritual conviction worked in him until, first of all he has received life. It is true that one of the earliest developments of life is conviction of sin; but before any man can see his need of a Savior he must be a living man; before he can really, I mean, in a spiritual position, in a saving, effectual manner, understand his own deep depravity, he must have eyes with which to see the depravity, he must have ears with which to hear the sentence of the law, he must have been quickened and made alive; otherwise he could not be capable of feeling, or seeing, or discerning at all.”

Charles Spurgeon

Is Baptism for the Church Today?

Is Baptism for the Church Today?

Believe it or not, there are some professing Christians who do not believe that the practice of baptism is for the church today. One such organization is the ironically named Berean Bible Society named after the noble Bereans of Acts 17:11. Another group who do not practice baptism are the Quakers. When I first read about the belief that baptism is not for the church today, I thought it was a joke that would make a good article for Christian satire. No one could actually believe this, right? But I was wrong. This organization claims that baptism is no different from Jewish practices like circumcision which were only intended for Israel. They make the incredible claim that “there is not one verse of Scripture instructing one member of the Body of Christ to baptize with water another person who is already a member of that Body.”

According to them, the practice of baptism as instituted by Jesus Christ is “a bad testimony,” “a confession of a lack of appreciation of the finished work of Christ,” that baptism “betrays a poor understanding of the heavenly character and position of the Church of this age,” and is an expression of “presumption and religious pride.” Those who disagree with their position are described as “some well-meaning brethren,” as if the belief that baptism is for the church today is some minority position rather than the universal teaching of Christianity until the rise of hyper-dispensationalism.

If baptism is not for the church today, then why did Jesus command the apostles to make and baptize disciples in Matthew 28:19-20? If baptism is not for today, then why should we believe that making disciples of all nations is also for today? This is the same kind of argumentation that the hyper-Calvinists used. They argued that the command to make disciples of all nations was only given to the apostles and therefore there was no command for the church today to do so. But as William Carey pointed out, this line of reasoning also makes the command to baptize only for the apostles as well so that if we are  going to argue that we have no warrant to reach the nations for Christ today, to be consistent, we should not baptize anymore either resulting in a reductio ad absurdum.

If baptism is not for the church today, then why did Paul baptize the Gentile Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16:33? Why did Paul baptize Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas in Corinth? Why is the book of Acts filled with references to baptism? Why does Paul assume that all of those he is writing to have been baptized? (Rom 6:3-5; Gal 3:27). The New Testament assumes that all Christians have been baptized to signify their desire to follow Jesus as Lord (Acts 19:3-5; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12; 1 Pet 3:21).

A common verse used to argue that baptism is not for the church today is 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” But this argument completely ignores the context of the verse where Paul says that he did baptize Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. When Paul says he was not sent to baptize, the point he is making is that the proclamation of the gospel is more important than the act of baptizing. We are saved through the proclamation of the gospel, not through the action of immersion in water. Paul’s primary mission was to preach the gospel, not to baptize. But that does not mean he never baptized people.

Another verse that is used for their position is Ephesians 4:5 which speaks of “one baptism” all Christians share in. They argue that because there is only “one baptism,” water baptism cannot be for today or else there would be two baptisms: one in water and one in Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). But Paul can speak of “one baptism” because he assumes that all Christians have been baptized. Water baptism unites all Christians together because it is an event which every Christian would have participated in as part of their conversion process into the Christian faith. Paul’s point is that there is only one water baptism into which we are baptized. There are no additional baptisms after that which distinguish some Christians from others.