ABC Extra – Christ Alone

November 21, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Human beings tend to be attracted to either legalism or antinomianism.   Legalism describes when a person adds to the Law of God, creating rules, regulations, and stipulations which God has neither commanded nor forbidden.  Antinomianism is when a person subtracts from the Law of God, claiming autonomy to do whatever he wants.  In the Bible, the Pharisees are legalists.  They continuously add their own laws to God’s law (e.g., Mark 7:3-4), creating “heavy loads and putting them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4).  Satan, on the other hand, is an antinomian.  In the Garden of Eden, he calls into question the veracity and gravity of God’s law.  After God warns Adam not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil under penalty of death, Satan declares,  “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4)!  Satan seeks to subtract from what God has said.

Interestingly, legalism and antinomianism often go hand in hand.  The legalist Pharisees, at the same time they add to God’s law, also “let go of the commands of God and hold on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).  In other words, given the choice between holding to their own legalist traditions and letting go of the true law of God, they always choose their own legalist traditions.  They subtract from God’s law at the same time they add to it.  The antinomian devil, at the same time he rejects God’s law, also initially tempts Adam and Eve with a question:  “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’” (Genesis 3:1)?  God did not say this.  He only forbid eating from one tree in the garden, not every tree.  Satan adds to God’s law at the same time he subtracts from it.

Ultimately, legalism and antinomianism make the same mistake – they trade the law of God for the will of men.  And this is the problem in Philippians 3, our text from past weekend in worship and ABC.  In this chapter, Paul addresses a group known as the Judaizers, who, while being believers in Christ, nevertheless insist that a person must be circumcised according to Jewish tradition in order to be saved.  They fall into the error of legalism.  And Paul has a harsh word of warning to the Philippians and against the Judaizers:  “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).  Paul describes legalism as “dogged” and “evil.”  And he says that an insistence on circumcision for salvation is nothing less than a mutualizing of the flesh and of no value to the soul.  Legalistically insisting on regulations and stipulations, no matter how pious or holy they may sound or seem, is wicked and heinous.  It harms faith rather than helping it, for it seeks to add the work of men to Christ’s work on the cross.

Tullian Tchividjian, the senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, preached a sermon series a couple of years back with a title that succinctly explains the glory of the gospel while countering every specter of legalism.  It was titled, “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.”  Legalism tries to add something to Jesus.  Antinomianism seeks to subtract something from Jesus.  But Jesus will not be added to or subtracted from.  He alone is sufficient.  Thus, we are to find our joy, our hope, our meaning, our purpose, and our salvation in Him alone.  He is to be our everything because He has given us all that we have and promises to provide all that we need – even our eternal lives.

Do you add to Jesus with your own pious rules and regulations?  Do you seek to subtract from Jesus with, engaging in what he forbids and chasing after the own sinful lusts of your heart?  If you answered “no” to either of these questions, you’re not being truthful with yourself.  We all do these things.  But by God’s grace, we are continually called back to Christ and Christ alone.  Today, thank God that you have everything in one thing – Jesus Christ.

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