Saturday, January 28, 2012

Free to sin or free from sin?

Our church is studying the book of Jude in our weekend services and Life Groups over the next several weeks. The philosophical dilemma in Jude is the influence of false teachers whose doctrine and lifestyle is called antinomianism (lit. Greek anti,"against"; nomos,"law"). This is a term used to characterize believers in the early church who wrongly thought that salvation by faith in Jesus Christ freed them from all moral obligations and that they could sin without fear of consequence or punishment.

Advocates of this teaching and lifestyle would agree that God's grace redefines the believer's position with God, but would also insist that grace redefines sin! Therefore, antinomianism means: a) the doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that lifestyle is irrelevant to salvation; or b) the belief that moral laws are relative in meaning and application as opposed to fixed or universal.

Antinomianism believes the Christian is free from obligation to observe the moral law as set forth in the Old Testament or any prescribed moral guidelines from an authoritative church tradition. It is a concept that sits within discussions on Christian ethics and morality.

Application Planning
This week take stock of the current influences in your life; perhaps even write them down in a notebook. Consider if you would share these with your group later. Answer questions like these:

  • What books/authors are making a strong impression on you lately?
  • Are there any particular charismatic leaders, teachers or prophetic figures you are paying attention to?
  • What is the content of their message(s)?
  • Are you drawn toward seeking "new revelation" or knowledge? How have you been evaluating this against the Evangelical/Pentecostal tradition of our church?
  • Have you been resenting any moral constraints taught by this tradition?
  • What relationships around you help ensure that you are staying in the love of God and trustworthy teaching?

An article about antinomianism:

Suffering for the sake of His body

A curious statement is made by Paul concerning an aspect of his ministry: “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, [mature] in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” (Colossians 1:24–29, NLT)

Let me quote the ESV Study Bible notes on the phrase “I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church”: “[This] does not imply that there is a deficiency in Christ’s atoning death and suffering on the cross, which would contradict the central message of this letter and all the rest of Scripture as well (cf. Heb. 9:12, 24–26; 10:14). Christ’s sufferings are in fact sufficient, and nothing of one’s own can be added to secure salvation. What was “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions was the future suffering of all who (like Paul) will experience great affliction for the sake of the gospel, as Paul described, e.g., in 2 Cor. 1:8–10” (The ESV Study Bible, 2008, p. 2295).

Paul certainly experienced sufferings in his ministry in the form of opposition, persecution, imprisonment, and rejection from those outside of the church. But remember he also named the daily pressure of his concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28)! Read the whole list starting from verse 22 for a scary job description!

Could it be that suffering through conflicts, offences, and sin from other Christians is a part of “participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church”? Moreover, that these sufferings are a part of what it takes to present everyone mature in their relationship with Christ? How does this possible interpretation change how you view being hurt by the church? How would it change the way you engage in relationship with those you may be in conflict with or hurt by?