Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Paul the Antinomian

Here's a little quote from our dear brother Paul:

"Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:1-6).

If you want to bear fruit for God, then please accept this challenge: Read this text. Do not immediately filter this text through everything else you think you already know about following God. That will be hard, but try. And do not immediately say, "Yeah, but what about ___________? (Fill in your favorite verse.) Just read this text and write down what you think Paul is saying. The language Paul uses is not hard to understand and the sentences are very clear. What Paul is saying here is very straightforward to understand. But it might be difficult to accept.

Exegeting (interpreting) a text requires us to come to terms with the text itself before running all over the rest of Scripture looking for help explaining it. Only after we are confident that we have wrestled with a text like the one above long enough to hear what the author is saying are we free to see how all the pieces fit together.

Now, about the title of this post. There are those who insist that anyone who doesn't view the "law" in the same way they do is an antinomian, or against law. They mean this term in a derogatory way, suggesting that such a person just wants to be able to freely sin. If I wrote Paul's words above today, instead of finding them in Romans 7, I have no doubt such people would accuse me of being antinomian on the basis of this text. Paul's writing above fits their definition. But I doubt they'd admit it. Instead, I think they'd sidestep this text rather than exegete it and find some other text they think fits their idea better. Rather than let Paul say what he says, they just might say, "Yeah, but what about ______________? and fill in their favorite "pro-law" text, probably from the Psalms. Beloved, we cannot be more righteous than the God who wrote Romans 7:1-6. I don't care how many laws we try to follow.

3 comments:

Debbie Blair said...

Thank you for this post Darby!

I just saw the word "Likewise" in a new way that I hadn't connected before. In the first three verses, Paul knew that anyone who understood the law would agree completely that when a husband died the wife was released and made free from the law that had bound her to him. When Paul uses the word "Likewise..." he is saying that if you can so easily understand how the marriage law works, you should have no problem at all understanding what he goes on to say, "you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so you belong to another..." In other words, because we can grasp verses 1-3, there should be no reason not to grasp the verses that follow. Bearing good fruit depends on it!

Cathy said...

Exegeting (interpreting) a text requires us to come to terms with the text itself before running all over the rest of Scripture looking for help explaining it. Only after we are confident that we have wrestled with a text like the one above long enough to hear what the author is saying are we free to see how all the pieces fit together.

Thank you, Darby, for making this point. I have heard it said that we are to interpret scripture with scripture, but what you state above is so needful. Wrestling with the original text first and giving the Holy Spirit time to help us glean that particular truth, prior to then leading us to corresponding scriptures.
Greatly appreciate your post!

Darby Livingston said...

Debbie,

I am so glad you saw the likewise! I was hoping someone would point that out without me having to. That little word carries a megaload of theology in this text.

Cathy,

You're exactly right. We need to soak in a text for awhile before immediately trying to explain away what seems upsetting to us. There's plenty of time for harmonizing.