Preaching & Teaching

Two Enemies of the Gospel

Through Christ and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. Romans 1:5 (NIV)

Notice “the obedience that comes from faith.” Wherever you find Christian faith, alongside it you’ll find two views of the relationship between obedience and faith that are enemies of the gospel.

The first enemy is “legalism.” It says, “Obey God’s command, so that you may believe His promise.” In other words, to become a Christian, you must clean up your life first: “Leave your sins in order to come to Christ, and don’t think you can come to Him until you do.” The problem here is obvious: If you have to clean up your life in order to come to Christ, how will anyone ever be able to come?

The second enemy is “antinomianism.” It says, “Believe God’s promise, so that you may ignore His commands.” Antinomianism is the opposite of legalism: “If you come to Christ, you don’t need to worry about cleaning up your life. As long as you believe, nothing else matters.” The problem is obvious, and Paul deals with it in Romans 6: Faith unites people with Christ in His death and resurrection, so that through this union every believer is brought into a new life.

But the gospel says, “Believe God’s promise, so that you may obey His commands.” In every church you will find people who sin carelessly and live presumptuously, while others are defeated by their own failure, overwhelmed by a sense of their own unworthiness. The answer to both of these conditions is found in the gospel.

Do you tend to struggle more with legalism or antinomianism? Why?

Colin Smith is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, a multi-campus church located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and president of Unlocking the...

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