Pristine Grace

Three Heresies
by Don Fortner

     There are three forms of heresy to which men and women are naturally attracted, which appeal to our flesh, and are damning to the souls of all who embrace them. These three damning heresies have been around since the days of Cain, who embraced them all. They may appear to contradict one another; but frequently a person who embraces one will embrace the others as well. These three damning heresies need to be clearly identified and carefully avoided. They are Freewillism, Legalism, and Antinomianism.

     Freewillism is that doctrine that says, “God loves you; Christ died for you; and the Holy Spirit is calling you; but all will be vain unless you choose to be saved. The decision is yours. It’s up to you.” Freewillism makes the determining factor in salvation to be the will of man, rather than the will of God. It makes the work and grace of the triune God to be impotent without the consent of man’s imaginary omnipotent free will. Freewill religion is in direct opposition to the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. The Word of God tells us plainly that salvation is not accomplished, determined by, or in any way dependent upon the will of man (John 1:11-13; Rom. 9:16).Salvation comes not by the will of man, but by the will of God. The words “free will,” when used in connection with man and salvation, are an obscenity, a blasphemous obscenity!

     Legalism is the teaching that men and women are saved, at least in part, upon the basis of their own works. Some legalists assert that justification is dependent upon the works of men. Others, who vehemently deny justification by works, declare that we are sanctified by our works. It is sheer legalism either way! To make our acceptance with God, at any point or to any degree, dependent upon our works is the legalism of Cain in the beginning of time and the Judaizers of Paul’s day. And this is the wine of Babylon’s fornications by which the vast majority of religionists in our day are intoxicated. Legalism is as damning to the souls of men as Freewillism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Atheism! This is not a gray, fuzzy area, but a matter of such plain revelation and vital importance that dogmatism here is demanded. Anything less than dogmatism here is treason to our God and to the souls of men. We are not justified by our obedience to the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:5-6). We are not sanctified by our obedience to the law (Gal. 3:1-3; Heb. 10:10, 14). And our inheritance with Christ in heaven is not, to any degree, won or earned by our personal obedience to the law of God (Rev. 7:9-10, 13-14).

     The simple fact, plainly stated in Holy Scripture is this: Believers are not, in any sense or to any degree whatsoever, under the yoke of the Mosaic law. Christ fulfilled the law for us. By his obedience and death he brought in everlasting, perfect righteousness for all his people. Christ alone is our righteousness. And being made righteous in him, we are dead to and freed from the law. Read the Word of God for yourself, and you will see that those who would bring you again under the yoke of legal bondage for any reason, to any degree do so in obvious contradiction to Holy Scripture (Rom. 6:14-17; 7:4; 8:1-4; 10:4; Gal. 5:1-4, 18; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). Freewilism is a damning heresy. Legalism is a damning heresy. And antinomianism is a damning heresy.

     Antinomianism is that doctrine that says, “Since we are saved by grace, it does not matter how we live. We have no law by which to regulate and govern our lives. Character and conduct are of no importance to a believer.” Antinomianism means “lawlessness” or “against law.” This is not a mere theological issue that has no bearing upon our lives. It is a real problem in our day. I have personally known preachers who threw caution to the wind, who totally disregarded the teaching of Scripture regarding godliness, even teaching that a person has no responsibility for moral righteousness, godliness, or his personal character and conduct, as long as he trusts the Lord and believes the right doctrine. I know people who claim to be believers who have no interest in the worship of God, the church of God, or the glory of God. They say, “I believe in salvation by grace. My works do not matter.” I have known some over the years who have gone so far as to excuse or at least be indifferent to drunkenness, fornication, and adultery, saying, “Salvation is by grace. We cannot judge those things.” What absurd nonsense!

     That is not the language and teaching of the New Testament. When the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ went into the pagan, amoral Gentile world, (A world in which drunkenness, homosexuality, adultery, and fornication were just as rampant as they are today!), it changed men’s lives and taught them to honor God in their personal habits of life as well as in their doctrine (Rom. 6:12-18; Eph. 5:17-24).

     I realize that it is not possible for a man to preach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, without being denounced as a vile antinomian. The Pharisees accused our Lord of being an antinomian, a wine-bibber, the friend of publicans and sinners. The Judaizers accused Paul of being an antinomian, a promoter of licentiousness. And I have had the ugly, slanderous charge thrown at me by those who despise the message of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ for twenty-nine years. I am not crying about that. I count it an honor for Arminians and legalists to hurl their venom at me. I do not mind being accused of antinomianism; but I do not want to be one. The fact is, anyone who really is an antinomian, anyone who has no regard for the law of God and the honor of his name, anyone who seeks to use the grace of God as an excuse or covering for sin is as lost and ignorant of God as the freewiller and the legalist. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Tit. 1:16). The grace of God that brings salvation teaches all who are saved to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Tit. 2:12).