Paul Says Try Harder

Mark Jones on Paul’s commands and imperatives.

This point is absolutely fundamental to the [antinomian] debate. Not infrequently will one hear that we should just “preach the gospel” and then let the Spirit do his work in believers. Of course, this statement can be taken in a number of ways that even the staunchest opponent of antinomianism could agree to. But often there is such an overreaction to “moralizing sermons” that preachers fail to give appropriate, soul-searching application in the form of commands. Direct and specific application is something Paul does not omit in his letters. For example, he reminds the Thessalonians to love on another and then urges them “to do this more and more” (I Thess. 4:10). Try harder? Yes. Do more? Yes. For Paul, the law functioned as a means of sanctification. But the antinomians utterly rejected the view that the law could function as an instrument of sanctification.

I believe one of the main reasons we do this is because we adopt Paul’s theology when we preach, but we do not adopt his methodology. We believe the things Paul believed about Jesus, but we do not apply those things the way Paul applied them.

The Questions Behind the Antinomianism Debate

Mark Jones mentions nine questions that need to be answered as one considers antinomianism.

1. Are there any conditions for salvation?

2. Is the moral law still binding for Christians?

3. What is the precise nature of, and relationship between, the law and the gospel?

4. Are good works necessary for salvation?

5. Does God love all Christians the same, irrespective of their obedience or lack thereof?

6. Who is the subject of spiritual activity, the believer or Christ?

7. May our assurance of justification be discerned by our sanctification?

8. Does God see sin in believers?

9. Is a person justified at birth or upon believing?

I thought these questions help to frame the debate well. He gives nuanced answers throughout the book that show the different shades the answers can take. Yet at the same time he shows how one answers these questions goes a long way towards determining whether someone is antinomian or not.