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ANTINOMIANISM IN ITALY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 8, 2013

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).


The other day I received an e-mail from the dear lady who translates my sermons into Italian. She told me that she read one of my sermons to some “believers” in Italy. But I found out that they weren’t really “believers” in the Biblical sense of the word! That term “believers” is, in my thinking, overused and sometimes confusing. It is true that “believers” are spoken of twice in the New Testament (Acts 5:14; I Timothy 4:12), but the word has been misused today. It is often applied to those who have “notional” belief in the Bible, without union with Christ in a real conversion. Such people are described as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5). They are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7). And “these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (II Timothy 3:8). Those verses describe the so-called “believers” who deny that conversion changes the direction of the convert’s life. They say that people can live in perpetual sin and be Christians, because they believe some verses in the Bible. To them, belief in some Bible verses saves them, without having union with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The first text says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). But they twist that to mean, “If any man believes some Bible verses he is saved.” This is the great heresy known as “Sandemanianism.”

Furthermore, these so-called “believers” think that it is normal for a Christian to go right on living in sin. Thus they are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). That is a second theological error called “antinomianism.” In a recent sermon on the Prodigal Son I said,

A few years ago a woman who headed a house of prostitution here in Los Angeles said that she was a “born again Christian.” One evangelical leader told me, “Don’t judge her.” What madness! This confusing brand of evangelicalism is called “antinomianism,” and it comes out of the belief that one can live in the hog pen of sin and be a child of God at the same time. (R. L. Hymers, Jr., Th.D., “Misinterpreting the Prodigal Son,” August 25, 2013).

Thus, antinomians turn “the grace of God into lasciviousness” (i.e. “lewdness, indecency, shameless conduct” – W. E. Vine). The Greek word translated “lasciviousness” also appears in Galatians 5:19, along with other “works of the flesh” – and we are then told, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). The entire passage says,

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

I don’t know what could be clearer! “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Yet antinomians say they will inherit the Kingdom! What madness! In Ephesians 4:17-19, the Greek word translated “lasciviousness” is given to describe the unsaved. What could be clearer? And yet modern evangelical antinomians continue “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). This heresy is not confined to Italy. Not at all! It is so rampant here in America that nearly every lost person you meet thinks they are saved, even though they are living in habitual sin. In fact antinomianism is destroying Christianity in America!

Jude says they are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They deny the Lordship of the Father, and they deny the Lordship of Christ. They often do this by separating Christ as Saviour from Christ as Lord. Our Italian translator said, “In Italy many evangelical people say that Jesus could be your Saviour, but not necessarily your Lord.” Dr. A. W. Tozer gave a strong statement against that false doctrine. He famously said,

      A notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles – the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!...
      What a tragedy that in our day we often hear the gospel appeal made on this kind of basis: “Come to Jesus! You do not have to obey anyone. You do not have to change anything. You do not have to give up anything – just come to Him and believe in Him as Saviour!”
      So they come and believe in the Saviour. Later on, in a meeting or conference, they will hear another appeal: “Now that you have received Him as Saviour, how would you like to take Him as Lord?”
      The fact that we hear this everywhere does not make it right. To urge men and women to believe in a divided Christ is bad teaching for no one can receive half of Christ...When a man believes on Jesus Christ he must believe on the whole Lord Jesus Christ – not making any reservation! I am satisfied that it is wrong to look upon Jesus as a kind of divine nurse to whom we can go when sin has made us sick, and after He has helped us, to say, “Goodbye” – and go on our own way...
      We do not come to Him as one who, buying furniture for his house, declares: “I will take this table but I don’t want that chair” – dividing it up! No, sir! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ!
      I believe we need to preach again a whole Christ to the world – a Christ who does not need our apologies, a Christ who will not be divided, a Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!
      I warn you – you will not get help from Him in that way for the Lord will not save those whom He cannot command! He will not divide His offices. You cannot believe on a half-Christ. We take Him for what He is – the anointed Saviour and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of Lords! He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives…
      Can it be that we really think we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience? We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if [you] do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if [you] are really converted!
      I see things and I hear of things that Christian people are doing and as I watch them…I do raise the question of whether they have been truly converted…
      I believe it is the result of faulty teaching to begin with. They thought of the Lord as a hospital and Jesus as the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have gotten into trouble! “Fix me up, Lord,” they have insisted, “so that I can go on my way!”
      That is bad teaching…It is filled with self-deception. Let us look unto Jesus our Lord, high, holy, wearing crowns, Lord of Lords and King of all, having a perfect right to command full obedience from all His saved people!...
      God desires that we be honest with Him above everything else. Search the Scriptures, read the New Testament, and if you see that I have given a germ of truth, then I urge you to do something about it. If you have been led to believe imperfectly in a divided Saviour, be glad that there is still time for you to do something about it! (A. W. Tozer, D.D., I Call It Heresy!, Christian Publications, 1974 edition, pp. 9-21).

But I have found that it is extremely rare for an antinomian to repent of his lawlessness and be truly converted. I have been preaching for over 55 years, and I have personally never met a single committed antinomian who repented of this heresy and then experienced a real conversion. I believe this is true because committed antinomians are under the control of Satan. I base that on I John 3:8, which I am giving here from the English Standard Version, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil…” Thus we are told that antinomians who make a practice of sinning are “of the devil” – that is, they are under the devil’s control. The devil is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). I quote here from the note on "antinomianism" in the Reformation Study Bible. It says, 

Antinomianism means “opposed to law.” Antinomian views are those denying that God’s law in Scripture should directly control the Christian’s life…they draw the false conclusion that their behavior makes no difference, provided they keep on believing. But I John 1:8-2:1 and 3:4-10 point in a different direction. It is not possible to be in Christ and at the same time to embrace sin as a way of life (p. 1831).

Also, the antinomians in Italy appealed to I Corinthians 5:1,

“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife” (I Corinthians 5:1).

The Italian antinomians said that “this is an example of incest among believers.” So, they said, this proves “that a believer could be carnal too.” I have heard that kind of nonsense here in America as well. But I Corinthians 5:2-13 shows that Paul told the church at Corinth to “put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (I Corinthians 5:13). It is clear that the Apostle Paul told them to put a “wicked person” like that out of the church, and not even to eat with such a person (I Corinthians 5:11). The commentary on this is given one chapter later, in I Corinthians 6:9-11,

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

The Apostle gave a list here of the kind of antinomians who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9). This makes it quite clear that the man committing incestuous “fornication” would “not inherit the kingdom of God.” In I Corinthians 6:9 the Bible tells us that “fornicators” will not be in the kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 tells us that sexually immoral people like that will be cast into the Lake of Fire. They will be in Hell-fire for all eternity.

As I said, antinomianism is not restricted to Italy. Not at all! This demonic teaching is expanding throughout the Western world, and particularly in America. Antinomianism is perfectly described in our second text,

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

Antinomians say that since we are saved by grace we can go right on living in sin. They say you don’t have to give up anything. They don’t have to tithe or win souls. They don’t even have to attend church services! And they say that those of us who insist on obedience in these matters are “legalists.” That’s one of the favorite words of antinomians. They call obedient Christians “legalists” or “Pharisees.” But they misuse those terms. The legalists and Pharisees taught that people are saved by doing good works. Yet we teach that we are saved by grace alone, and then good works flow out of the life of a person who is truly saved. Legalists and Pharisees teach that good works save you. True Christians teach that grace alone saves you, and real salvation then produces good works in the life of every real convert. Legalists teach that good works produce salvation. We teach that grace produces salvation, resulting in good works. Legalists say that good works produce salvation. We say that salvation produces good works – the exact opposite of legalism! But antinomians don’t emphasize good works at all. They don’t even think Christians need to join a church and attend services every Sunday without fail. They don’t even think you need to attend prayer meeting every week. They don’t think you need to tithe your income, or go soul winning every week. They don’t think you need to wear modest clothes. They often attend church looking like beach bums because they strongly rebel against wearing proper clothing. Last week my wife saw the teenage daughter of an antinomian preacher wearing a micro-miniskirt at the funeral of an aged pastor! When an antinomian evangelical attends our church we give him a tie to put on. No one else objects. Roman Catholics, Buddhists and others, who are not evangelicals, never object. But antinomian evangelicals always object. They often rip the tie off and throw it on the floor, or refuse to wear it at all. They strongly rebel against appropriate clothing! No dress codes for them! They are lawless. They are against all rules. They are antinomians! Also, they don’t think you have to repent and forsake heinous sins. In other words, antinomians think you can be a born again Christian and not experience any change in your life at all!

We believe what the Bible teaches – that real salvation by grace produces a life of good works. That is crystal clear in many Scriptures, such as this classical passage in Ephesians, chapter two,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Created in Christ Jesus unto good works” – that is plain and clear. That should be easy to understand.

But antinomians will not accept those Scriptures. They will even fight against them. They say, “Don’t judge.” But they are the most judgmental people of all! Some of the worst attacks I have ever experienced in my own life and ministry have come from wicked antinomians. My very first sermon was against the antinomianism I saw among young people in the church of which I was a member in Huntington Park, California. I was seventeen years old at the time. The youth leader took me aside afterwards and told me never to preach like that again. While he was rebuking me, his assistant told the young people I was wrong, and not to be upset by my sermon. But a few months later this youth director had to flee from the church when parents found out he was having sex with their children. Over the years I watched as virtually all the young people I preached to that day fell away from the church to live godless lives. Then God said to my heart, “Robert, you go right ahead and preach against antinomianism. It is a horrible heresy. Don’t be afraid. Preach boldly against it!”

I have tried to do that throughout my ministry. I was viciously attacked as a “legalist” by an antinomian church leader in Marin County, north of San Francisco, when I was pastoring there. Later it was revealed that this man was having sex with girls in his church. In Westwood, on the west side of Los Angeles, an antinomian “Bible teacher” called me a Pharisee and a dangerous false teacher. I was listening on another line as he tore me to pieces on the phone with a young person in our church. When I said, “Hello, Bill, this is Dr. Hymers,” he screamed and slammed down the receiver. The young people in his Bible class were smoking marijuana, and were strongly opposed to Sunday church attendance. That’s what this antinomian “teacher” taught them. In a few years his entire “ministry” fell apart – and went out of existence. To this very day an antinomian woman viciously attacks me on the Internet, labeling me a legalist and a false teacher. She carries a pistol and says that the gun tells her, “Shoot, shoot to kill!” We have reported her to the FBI. But long ago I learned not to be overly disturbed by antinomian attacks. Attacks like that have gone on against true Christians ever since Cain killed Abel in the ancient world. The Apostle John referred to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. He spoke of “Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (I John 3:12-13).

Antinomians reject strong preaching on “repentance from dead works” (Hebrews 6:1). They literally hate that kind of preaching – and will fight against a preacher who does it. Herod beheaded John the Baptist for preaching repentance from sin. The Sanhedrin called for the crucifixion of Christ because He preached repentance from sin. The Apostle Paul was “in perils among false brethren” for preaching repentance from sin (II Corinthians 11:26; Acts 26:20, 21).

Committed antinomians have not been converted. They have never been born again. And they literally hate those who tell them they are lost. Dr. Tozer wrote about their rage in his essay, “The Once-Born and the Twice-Born.” He showed from the Scriptures that those who have never been born again always fight against those who are born again − twice-born. Antinomians belittle, threaten, and attack those who have experienced the new birth. Dr. Tozer said, “This mighty rage against the twice-born only serves to confirm the truth they teach” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “The Once-Born and the Twice-Born,” Man: The Dwelling Place of God, Christian Publications, 1966, page 21).

It’s very sad that this is the case. We long for antinomians to be saved. We often pray that they might be converted. They know that Christ died on the Cross to pay for their sin. They know He is alive in Heaven. But they have never truly repented, and have never truly trusted Him.

Someone here tonight may be an antinomian, clinging to a false conversion and fighting in your heart against a real one. Or someone reading or hearing this sermon on the Internet may be fighting against having a real conversion. To you I say with a heavy heart, “You are clinging to the dead and rotting body of a false profession. You are missing the peace and joy of a real conversion. Choose life! Choose life! Throw off the rotting, stinking corpse of a false conversion! Then throw yourself on Jesus Christ! He will cleanse your sin with His own Blood! He will make you a new creature who obeys God out of love, instead of rebelling against Him in these evil days.” The Bible says,

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

When you repent and throw yourself on Jesus you will be able to sing, “I Surrender All.”

All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give;
   I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
   All to Thee, my blessed Saviour, I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow,
   Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
   All to Thee, my blessed Saviour, I surrender all.
(“I Surrender All” by Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1855-1939).

We are available to speak with you about being saved by Jesus. If you would like to talk with us, please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Cagan will lead you to a quiet place where we can talk. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone who responded will trust Jesus tonight. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Ephesians 2:4-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Surrender All” (by Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1855-1939).