Lloyd-Jones on The Gospel and the Charge of Antinomianism
A professor in seminary first directed me to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' well-known statements--at the beginning of his commentary on Romans 6:1--about the true preaching of the Gospel always being liable to the charge of Antinomianism. The relationship between Romans 5:21 and 6:1 made this idea all the more convincing to me. This was not, however, true for all who were introduced to this quote in class that day. I distinctly remembering debating this issue with several students after class. In a zeal to protect the Gospel from any charge of license in the name of grace, they rightly appealed to such places as Titus 2:11-14, John 15:9-14 and 1 John 1:3-6. Notwithstanding, Lloyd-Jones convincingly developed his argument from both the contextual connection between Rom. 5:21 to 6:1 and from the Apostle Paul's argument in Romans 3:7-8. There Paul acknowledged that the charge of Antinomianism was wrongfully being leveled at his preaching of the free grace of God in the Gospel when he wrote:
For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.Lloyd-Jones first unpacked the idea that the true preaching of the Gospel will always be susceptible to the charge of Antinomianism in his sermon on Romans 3:3:
A very good way of testing any view that you may hold is this one: Is this view humbling to me, glorifying to God? If it is, it is probably right. You won't go far wrong if whatever view you are holding is glorifying to God, humbling to man. But if your view seems to glorify you and to query God, well (there's no need to argue or to go into details) it's wrong. It's a very good universal rule--that! And, my last word of all is, again, a word primarily to preachers--indeed it's a word to everybody in the sense that if ever you are putting the Gospel to another person, you've got a very good test whether you are preaching the Gospel in the right way. What's that? Well, let me put it like this to you: If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Antinomianism you are probably not putting it correctly. What do I mean by that? Just this: The Gospel, you see, comes as this free gift of God--irrespective of what man does. Now, the moment you say a thing like that, you are liable to provoke somebody to say, "Well, if that is so it doesn't matter what I do." The Apostle takes up that argument more than once in this great epistle. "What then," he says at the beginning of chapter 6, "shall we do evil--commit sin--that grace might abound?" He's just been saying: "where sin abounded grace does much more abound." "Very well," says someone. "This is a marvelous doctrine, this 'Go and get drunk, do what you like the grace of God will put you right.'" Antinomianism. Now, this doctrine of the Scriptures--this justification by faith only, this free grace of God in salvation--is always exposed to that charge of Antinomianism. Paul was charged with it. He said, "You know, some people say that's what I'm preaching." Paul's preaching was charged with Antinomianism...So I say, it is a very good test of preaching. You see--what is not evangelical preaching is this: It's the kind of preaching that says to people, "Now, if you live a good life; if you don't commit certain sins; and if you do good to others; and if you become a church member and attend regularly and are busy and active you will be a fine Christian and you'll go to Heaven. That's the opposite of Evangelical preaching--and it isn't exposed to the charge of Antinomianism because...it is telling men to save themselves by their good works...And it's not the Gospel--because the Gospel always exposes itself to this misunderstanding from the standpoint of Antinomianism. So, let all of us test our preaching, our conversation, our talk to others about the Gospel by that particular test...If you don't make people say things like that sometimes, if you're not misunderstood and slanderously reported from the standpoint of Antinomianism it's because you don't believe the Gospel truly and you don't preach it truly.1Again, in his comments on Romans 6:1, Lloyd-Jones made similar statements about the true preaching always being susceptible to this charge:
First of all, let me make a comment, to me a very important and vital comment. The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean.
If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man’s preaching is, ‘If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God and you will go to heaven’. Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. Nobody would say to such a man, ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’, because the man’s whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves. So that misunderstanding could never arise . . . . . . Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, ‘This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust’, and so on. ‘This man’, they said, ‘is an antinomian; and that is heresy.’ That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought George Whitfield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Christianity – if there is such a thing – has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God ‘justifies the ungodly’ . . . That is my comment and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.21. An excerpt from Lloyd-Jones' sermon, "The Faithfulness of God Without Effect?" 2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989) pp. 8-9