Dan Popp
Lawless Christians
By Dan Popp
March 10, 2012

Why do you call Me, "Lord, Lord"' and do not do what I say? — Jesus (Luke 6:46, NASB)

In this series I've said that our lawless government is at least partly the fault of lawless churches — social clubs, really, that exercise no discernment, enforce no standards, and teach more pop psychology than timeless truth. Naturally, lawless churches are populated with lawless Christians, the greatest absurdity of them all. "What fellowship have righteousness and lawlessness?" asked Paul (1 Corinthians 6:14). How can I walk North and South at the same time?

No, I'm not expecting "sinless perfection" of anyone. Christians certainly can and do sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8) What a Christian cannot do is indulge in sin as a lifestyle, and justify it — perhaps even going so far as to assert that God delights in it.
    By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

    Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)
The distinction between "sin" and "practicing sin" is surely as simple as it seems: it's the difference between stumbling and wallowing; between committing an act and making that act a habit; an event versus a commitment.

You might be a heretic...

Heretics do not exist — just ask any heretic. They always describe themselves as Christians, probably for the same reason that Communists call themselves Progressives, and Satan's business card reads, "Angel of Light." But Christians recognize several types of heresy. To be candid, maybe we sometimes draw doctrinal "necessities" too finely and anathematize brothers and sisters who are merely seeing through the glass darkly, as we are. But there really are false doctrines, and one of them is pretty prevalent right now. It's Antinomianism.

The word means "against law." The Greek root, anomia, has been defined as: "...rejection of the law, or will, of God and the substitution of the will of self." [1] Please don't miss that equivalence. God's law is an expression of His will. Negatively, you can't say that you're doing the will of God while you're breaking the Law of God.

An Antinomian claims that because he is "not under law but under grace," he's free to sin all he wants. Responding to my articles [2] on What Jesus said about homosexuality, someone commented along the lines that the "Jesus in me" didn't condemn this sin. But, my friend, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) The Lord is saying now exactly what He said 2,000 years ago, and 5,000 years ago. A billion years from now, not one of His positions on morality will have changed in the slightest. If the "Jesus in you" contradicts the Jesus in the Bible, the Jesus in you is the devil.

What does it mean, then, that Christians are "not under law but under grace?" Romans 6:14 reads, "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace." Right away we see that, by stripping the first half of the sentence, the Antinomian has twisted the scripture around backwards. The effect of not being under law but under grace is emancipation from the power of sin: sin shall not be master over you. This is in fact the theme of the entire chapter. We don't organize parades to celebrate our slavery to our invincible Massa Sin, and sing with glee that we were "born this way." Of course we were all "born this way" — born sinners. That's why we must be born again! The very next sentence shoots down any potential abuse of grace. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" (v.15)

Grace is the antidote to sin, according to these verses that heretics use to excuse their sin. [3]

The New Testament believer's relationship to the moral Law is established succinctly and early in the book of Romans: "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." (3:31)

Just as he disingenuously deletes half of Romans 6:14, the Antinomian reads only the first part of Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the Law...." "Woo-hoo! Par-tay!" But the whole truth is that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." If you're not concerned about righteousness — if you're looking for verses to help you rationalize your unrighteousness — this verse doesn't apply to you. And "everyone who believes" is the same as saying, "everyone who obeys." "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36) There is no invisible faith inside a person if conformity to God's Law/will isn't showing on the outside. (See James 2:14ff.)

The Legalist wants to re-burden us with the yoke of the obsolete ceremonial law. The Antinomian thinks he can wish away the eternal moral Law. The Christian says that his new heart gives him new freedom, new motivation and new strength to do God's will. "I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart." (Psalm 119:32)

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

Live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. (1 Peter 4:2,3)

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5,6)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.... (Colossians 3:5-10)

Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21)


[1]  Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

[3]  I've dealt with Romans 6 more fully here and here.

© Dan Popp


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