God wants us to walk in love, which requires avoiding law-based sanctification as well as grace-abusing approaches to the Christian life—not only for our spiritual health but also for the sake of those whom we disciple.
The heart motivation behind Jesus’ teaching ministry was His love for God and others. This explains why, when He saw how the external, law-keeping approach to spirituality placed unbearable burdens upon others, He spoke against them (Luke 11:37-46). But He also warned against a loose view of the commandments of God by exalting the listening that leads to obedience (Matt. 7:24-29). The apostle Paul did the same.
In his letter to the churches of Galatia, the apostle warns congregations to avoid two distortions of biblical grace that hinder sanctification.
Two Dangerous Ditches
Properly understood, the Christian life is a balanced walk, which means we need to learn to stay on God’s good road by keeping out of the ditches. Two ditches that Galatians warns against are legalism and antinomianism.
- Antinomianism is a compound word made up of anti (against) and nomos (law), meaning against law, or against the righteous standards of the law. This error stems from a misunderstanding of the sanctifying power of grace. Though the person guilty of this error rightly understands that when we come to God for salvation, He accepts us the way we are, they also wrongly think that God is content to leave us that way. In his outstanding book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance, Sinclair Ferguson says it this way: Antinomianism “fails to appreciate that the law that condemns us for our sins was given to teach us how not to sin.”