The greatest heresy raging within the church is one of which most are unaware. This ignorance should not be a surprise; destructive heresies are prophesied to enter the church secretly: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
The technical name for the heresy is antinomianism. Antinomianism comes from the Greek word anomos, which means to be without or against the law. The word and its cognates are used twenty-five times in the New Testament. Antinomianism can be defined as selective or partial obedience. The Antinomian typically finds certain commands unpalatable or too difficult; those commands are ignored or explained away. Despite the selective obedience, the antinomian still professes allegiance to Jesus. They are convinced they are Jesus’ followers.
Near the close of Jesus’ longest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a chilling prophecy that many who think they are His followers will be condemned because they are antinomians: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! [literally, antinomians]'” (Matt. 7:21-23).
The context is extremely important. Jesus had just finished teaching on a number of hard subjects, pronouncing new laws for His nation (including on anger, divorce and remarriage, oaths, love toward enemies, and storing up earthly treasures). At the close of this sermon, He impresses His listeners with four warnings: first, the necessity of traveling the narrow road that only a few find (Matt. 7:13-14); second, vigilance for false prophets (Matt. 7:15-20); third, forewarning about professing followers being condemned because of disobedience to Jesus’ law (Matt. 7:21-23); and fourth, the importance of building on Jesus’ teachings to avoid destruction (Matt. 7:24-27). Jesus seems to anticipate the obstinacy of the human heart toward the Sermon on the Mount and thus gives a fourfold warning to heed His words with the highest care.
Those who are sent away from Jesus are the antinomians, those who have rejected portions of His law. Selectivity and delusion are the hallmarks of antinomianism. Another portrayal of judgment, the parable of the wheat and the tares, highlights the presence of the antinomians within the church and their subsequent destruction: “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness [literally, antinomians]” (Matt. 13:41.
While perhaps counterintuitive, even though the Pharisees set up many man-made laws, they denied God’s laws and were called antinomian (Matt. 23:28). Legalism may be defined as either: believing that one earns salvation by good works; or adding humanly devised commands and doctrines in order to gain God’s favor. Either posture is dangerous. Legalism is no defense against antinomianism; legalism paradoxically fosters it.
Jesus prophesies that antinomianism will strengthen in the last days: “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness [antinomianism] will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:11-12). Remarkably, the final antichrist is literally called the man of antinomianism, usually translated as man of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:3). Antinomianism is the final great heresy of humanity, as it shakes its fist against Jesus’ reign. Because antinomianism opposes Jesus’ kingship, antinomianism opposes the gospel itself.
Despite these repeated warnings, the largest Christian denominations tragically depart from Jesus’ instructions in the very areas that the Sermon on the Mount dwells upon: divorce and remarriage, oaths, loving one’s enemies (nonresistence), and wealth. These denominations and churches will also hurl stones at those exhorting total obedience to the law of the King. The heresy gains force by the day. Yet surely the church stands without excuse.
This was an excerpt from the book “King Jesus Claims His Church,” (2013), by Finny Kuruvilla, pages 107-108