Preaching through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, I have received quite a bit of feedback – more than I receive during most series I have done. Much to the relief of my thin skin, I have received no criticism (to date). Most of the comments have been appreciative, either for the reminder of things that we need to remember, or for clarity on matters previously not understood. (Either way, this is music to any ministers ears!) The rest are questions – good questions; well-intentioned questions – concerning the role of our obedience. One godly man, a man I respect and enjoy, offered concerns about the possibility of people “hearing” cheap grace, knowing neither I nor our church believes grace is ever cheap.
These interactions have reminded me of what Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote regarding the possible charge of anti-nomianism:
If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Anti-nomianism you are probably not putting it correctly.
(NOTE: Anti-nomianism means “against law” or “anti-law. It is a $20 word for someone who sees no use or present value for God’s law or commands in the Christian Life.)
This semi-famous saying is excerpted from Lloyd-Jones commentary on Romans. Lloyd-Jones’ insights are so well expressed that they are worth revisiting even now and again. Below are his thoughts from Romans 3 (which include the above statement):
A very good way of testing any view that you may hold is this one: Is this view humbling to me, glorifying to God? If it is, it is probably right. You won’t go far wrong if whatever view you are holding is glorifying to God, humbling to man. But if your view seems to glorify you and to query God, well (there’s no need to argue or to go into details) it’s wrong. It’s a very good universal rule– that!
My last word of all is, again, a word primarily to preachers – indeed it’s a word to everybody in the sense that if ever you are putting the Gospel to another person, you’ve got a very good test whether you are preaching the Gospel in the right way. What’s that? Well, let me put it like this to you: If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Antinomianism you are probably not putting it correctly.
What do I mean by that? Just this: The Gospel, you see, comes as this free gift of God – irrespective of what man does.
Now, the moment you say a thing like that, you are liable to provoke somebody to say: “Well, if that is so it doesn’t matter what I do.”
The Apostle takes up that argument more than once in this great epistle. “What then,” he says at the beginning of chapter 6, “shall we do evil – commit sin – that grace might abound?” He’s just been saying: “where sin abounded grace does much more abound.” “Very well,” says someone. “This is a marvelous doctrine, this ‘Go and get drunk, do what you like the grace of God will put you right.’” Anti-nomianism.
Now, this doctrine of the Scriptures – this justification by faith only, this free grace of God in salvation – is always exposed to that charge of Anti-nomianism. Paul was charged with it. He said, “You know, some people say that’s what I’m preaching.” Paul’s preaching was charged with Anti-nomianism…So I say, it is a very good test of preaching.
You see – what is not evangelical preaching is this: It’s the kind of preaching that says to people, “Now, if you live a good life; if you don’t commit certain sins; and if you do good to others; and if you become a church member and attend regularly and are busy and active you will be a fine Christian and you’ll go to Heaven. That’s the opposite of Evangelical preaching – and it isn’t exposed to the charge of Anti-nomianism because…it is telling men to save themselves by their good works…And it’s not the Gospel – because the Gospel always exposes itself to this misunderstanding from the standpoint of Anti-nomianism.
So, let all of us test our preaching, our conversation, our talk to others about the Gospel by that particular test…If you don’t make people say things like that sometimes, if you’re not misunderstood and slanderously reported from the standpoint of Anti-nomianism, it’s because you don’t believe the Gospel truly, and you don’t preach it truly.