Flavel and Piper on Antinomianism

According to Flavel, antinomians fail to

distinguish, as they ought, between vindictive punishment from God, the pure issues and effects of his justice and wrath against the wicked; and his paternal castigations, the pure issues of the care and love of a displeased father. Great and manifold are the differences between his vindictive wrath upon his enemies, and the rebukes of the rod upon his children. Those are legal; these out of love. Those unsanctified; but these blessed and sanctified to happy ends and purposes to his people. Those for destruction, these for salvation. —A Blow at the Root of Antinomianism (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1840), 75.

HT: Josh Young’s BJU PhD dissertation (unlinkable at the moment)

And here’s John Piper (around 45:25 in the first video) addressing a related tendency* in our day:

In [2 Corinthians] 7:1, Paul makes “fear of God” the motive of Chrsitain holiness. “Since God promises to be your father”—6:18—“bring holiness to completion in the fear of God.” What is it about the judgment [in 2 Cor. 5:10] that is so serious, or produces this fear in verse 11? [What is it that] makes it so motivating for holiness in a right, godly, gospel, not legalistic way?

Don’t let your theology dictate here: “Woah, if we preach this, we’re just going to produce legalists who just try to get into the favor of God, blah, blah, blah…”

Look, the Bible is the Bible; you’re not! Don’t tell the Bible what it should say! Say what it says, and labor all your life to put the pieces together! Don’t bring your little “gospel” paradigm over here that’s so limited… so limited! Make it big with all the Bible! You won’t lose the gospel, you’ll have a biblical one.

*Flavel’s quote focuses on a Hebrews 12 chastisement; Piper’s focuses on a 2 Cor 5 eschatological judgment—of believers—which is even more alien to current conservative evangelical thinking. It’s a topic I’m eager to read more about in Josh’s dissertation. A verbal summary of it was instructive and, believe it or not, very edifying.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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