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The Johannine Neonomianism of John's First Epistle

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I John 1: 8 - 10

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

I John 2: 1 - 8

"There is a brief Rehearsal in this Lesson, Of three laws which God gave to the World; The first Law directeth men who have judgment and reason, Viz. to know God, and to pray to his Creator. For he that hath judgment, may well think with himself, That he formed not himself, nor anything else: Then here he who hath judgment and reason may know, That there's one Lord God who created all the World, And knowing him, he ought much to honour him; For, they were damned that would not do it. The second Law which God gave to Moses, Teacheth us to fear God, and to serve him with all our strength; For he condemneth and punisheth every one that offends. But the third Law which is at this present time, Teacheth us to love God, and serve him purely: For he waiteth for the Sinner, and giveth him time, That he may repent in this present life. - La Nobla Leyczon (twelfth century Waldensian poem)


merica will not be restored until Dispensationalism is destroyed. On the doctrinal level, Dispensationalism, with its defeatist, antinomian theology, is the parasite that gnaws at the root of America's spiritual health and vitality. Only its total extermination can salvage what remains of our beloved republic.

This is especially true because Dispensationalism is inevitably destructive to Biblical Soteriology. While the Covenantalism of the Godly Puritans who laid the foundation for our nation united the Scriptures in a solid, harmonious body where Law and Grace served a single purpose in winning and saving souls to the glory of God, Dispensationalism reduces the Word of God to a disjointed jumble of disconnected "dispensations" of trial-and-error whose relationship to one another is altogether unclear and completely disharmonious. There is not one feature in the entire system that does not bear the discordant stamp of chaos and confusion. And since God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians

14: 33), we say unequivocally that Dispensationalism is unmistakably Satanic in terms of its very essence. If Dispensationalism be true, then the Bible cannot be said in any thematic way to be Christological, a unified revelation of Jesus Christ. If Dispensationalism be true, than the Bible is merely an incongruous anthology of conflicting Zionist documents, written to glorify and advance the political agenda of national Israel.

Consequently, not only our system of hermeneutics, but also our Soteriology is in need of restoration. The long decades of exposure to Dispensational corrosion and confusion have left the Church with a very shabby grasp of the Scriptural teachings regarding the doctrine of salvation. The modern Church, at least in the United States, is confused and uncertain about essential soteriological principles, such as conviction, repentance and sanctification.

To this end, an overview of historic Soteriological viewpoints will be beneficial. Since the Reformation, there have been four major schools of Soteriology among Protestants and Baptistic groups. These four schools are as follows:

Calvinism - Generally attributed to John Calvin, Calvinism as we know it today owes its current form more to Theodore Beza, John Owen and the Synod of Dort than to Calvin himself. Far from the static system that now bears his name, Calvin's own theology underwent the natural changes that one would expect from anyone who was still growing in grace and sorting out the error so long imbibed from his days as a Roman Catholic. By the time of his death, he was unquestionably less Calvinistic than those who claim to follow him today. Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists are the three major denominations where Calvinism has long maintained a stronghold. The Waldensians also embraced Calvinism during the Reformation at the same time that they embraced pedobaptism. The modern Waldensian Church in the United States is strongly linked to Presbyterianism (Calvinist), though its European counterpart is now more closely connected to Methodism (Arminian). Calvinism is currently enjoying an international resurgence through the influence of popular evangelical leaders such as R. C. Sproul (Presbyterian), John Piper and James White (Reformed Baptist), Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist) and veteran Calvinist pastor John MacArthur (Baptistic non-denominational).

Amyraldianism - Pioneered by Scot John Cameron and named for Moise Amyraut who developed it more fully,i Amyraldianism is simply four-point Calvinism. It adheres to four of Calvinism's five points, but excludes the teaching of a Limited Atonement. It advocates a twofold will of God, wherein God desires all to be saved on the condition of faith, but unconditionally saves those whom he has predestined to receive salvation.ii While Presbyterians have historically been five point Calvinists, Amyraldianism seems to have found

strongholds among Congregationalists, Baptists and Bible churches. Emerging Church celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll is probably the leading advocate of Amyraldianism today. Neonomianism - Most often associated with Baxterianism, the Soteriology advanced by the great seventeenth century soulwinner, Richard Baxter, Neonomianism teaches that the Gospel is a New Law. "Faith is imputed for righteousness because it is real obedience to the Gospel, which is God's new law... Jesus Christ, who procured the new law for mankind by satisfying the prescriptive and penal requirements of the old one, should be thought of as Head of God's government, enthroned to pardon true believers."iii By meetings the conditions of this New Law, repentance and faithiv, a sinner is removed from the condemnation of "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8: 2), justified in the sight of God, regenerated and brought into the New Covenant of Christ's blood. Baxterianism has been claimed as a mild form of Calvinism by some Calvinists, with J. I. Packer trying to identify it as a sort of three point version of Amyraldianism. Other Calvinists however have rejected it entirely as a legitimate form of Calvinism, labeling it instead as Armenianism. Part of this may result from the insufficient systemization in Baxter's writings as well as some doubtful statements made in his explanation of his view, making it important to distinguish between Baxterianism specifically and Neonomianism as a broader Soteriology. Baxter openly opposed five point Calvinism and considered his writings on Soteriology to be his most important contribution to the body of divinity. He laid great stress on the continued relationship of the believer to God's Law after salvation in an effort to overthrow tendencies among Calvinists of his time, which he considered to be antinomian in character.v His teachings found popularity among the Puritans throughout England and Scotland, but resulted in division between the Presbyterians and Today, many independent Baptists hold to a Soteriology which is similar to Baxterianism on a certain level, while failing to comprehend and incorporate the vitality of God's Law as understood in Baxter's more in-depth view. This is, of course, the result of their Dispensationalism watering down and obfuscating their Soteriology. Arminianism - Named for the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacob Arminius, Arminianism is essentially the inversion of Calvinism.vii Armenianism maintains the free will of man, universal atonement, resistible grace and, among some groups of Arminians, the possibility of falling from grace after conversion.viii Arminianism has its strongholds among the modern Anabaptists, Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, German Baptists, General Baptists, Separate Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Quakers, Pietists, Brethren, Methodists, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, the Assembly of God churches, Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ.ix Nazarene author and psychologist, James Dobson, is perhaps the most well-known and influential Arminian teacher today.

While these four schools underwent systemization during the Reformation and Puritan Eras, they have roots deeper in Church history. Calvinism and its sister theology, Amyraldianism, emerged directly from

the Augustinian tradition advocated by Augustine of Hippo in the fifth century. In contrast, Armenianism has strong ties to Pelagianism, the doctrine taught by Pelagius in the fifth century that denied the total corruption of the human race through Adam's sin.x But Neonomianism, the forgotten middle path between the two extremes, seems to have had its predecessors among the preReformation Waldensians who sympathized strongly with Augustine, but taught that Election was according to God's foreknowledge, rather than independent of it.xi That the pre-Reformation Waldensians rejected Pelagianism and shared the Augustinian view of the Federal Headship of both Adam and Christ, the last Adam (I Corinthians 15: 45), is evidenced by the following passage from their twelfth century poem, La Nobla Leyczon:

"How came this evil to enter into mankind? Because Adam sinned at the first beginning, By eating of the forbidden Apple. And thus the grain of evil seed taking root in others, He brought Death to himself and all his Posterity; Well may we say, this was an evil morsel; However Christ has redeemed the good by his death and passion."xii

This is an excellent point for us to turn our attention to the teachings of John in I John 1: 8 - 2: 8, where we catch a glimpse of this important doctrine. It is true that John does not set forth the doctrine of Adam's Federal Headship or of Christ's Federal Headship in the same distinct manner in which the Apostle Paul does so in the Epistles of Romans and I Corinthians, yet this teaching may be seen here, at least by extension. And by comparing the Apostle John's writings with the Apostle Paul's writings, this extension may be highlighted and amplified.

We notice that John shares with Paul a universal view of human sinfulness and condemnation. According to John, there are no exceptions. Everyone, even a born-again Christian, carries with them a depraved, sinful nature. Everyone is guilty of committing sin, even blood-washed children of God. John's "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1: 8) answers to Paul's "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3: 10). His "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (I John 1: 10) answers to Paul's "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3: 23).

By extension then we recognize that John's shared Paul's view of the Federal Headship of Adam. He saw the entire human race as fallen and "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2: 1 - 3). This resulted from Adam's Federal Headship as explained by the Apostle Paul:

"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Romans 5: 15 - 19)

In the book of I Corinthians he explains it like this:

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (I Corinthians 15: 22)

Now John is viewing all of this in legal terms, just as Paul does. He sees man on as being on trial as a sinner in the courtroom of Heaven. So he uses legal terms and phrases to describe this situation. Later on, he will defines sin as "the transgression of the law" (I John 3: 4). But here he uses another legal term, which is the word "advocate".

Now, needless to say, the word "advocate" carries the same meaning in the Greek language that it does in our King James Bible. Strong's defines it as "one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader".xiii And that is just what we call in the English language "an advocate".

So again we see John's view of mankind on trial in the courtroom of Heaven as having transgressed God's Law. But he is not alone. He has an advocate. It is "Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2: 1 - 2).

And Jesus Christ pleads before God the Father on behalf of the believing transgressor that the legal demands of God's Law have been satisfied.


The satisfaction of God's Law has been accomplished through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. That's what John means when he tells us "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world". God's Law demanded the death of the sinner: "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18: 4). God's Law demanded blood for the remission of sins: "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9: 22). And so the Lord Jesus Christ came in a human body through the miracle of the virgin birth and lived a perfect, sinless life so that he could be our substitute on the cross of Calvary, so that he could suffer God's wrath in our stead, shed his blood and die and afterwards rise again. The result of all of this is that God's Law is now completely satisfied by the all-sufficient propitiation offered "once for all" "in the end of the world" (Hebrews 9: 27 - 28; 10: 14).

Notice that God's Law has been satisfied. It has not been abolished, nullified or relegated to the theological dustbin of some bygone "dispensation". If the cross of Christ did that, then John's entire argument here is invalid and meaningless. What place does an advocate have arguing a case against a law that no longer has any jurisdiction? There's no trial at all, there's no incarceration, there's no arrest, there's nothing of the sort. The advocate is completely useless and irrelevant. He has no purpose because there's no violation, there's no transgression. You cannot violate, you cannot transgress a law that has no jurisdiction. You're free to do as you please without fear of consequences because the law is irrelevant.

Notice how the Apostle Paul is careful to specify precisely what happened on the cross of Calvary in Colossians 2: 14. He does not say without qualification that Christ took away all ordinances, all requirements, all Law through his sacrificial and substitutionary bloodshedding and death. Rather, he qualifies exactly what it was that Christ took away: "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us". In other words, that part of the Law which condemned "us" and demanded our blood, our death, that was abolished, that was taken away, and that specifically in relationship to "us", to the Elect, to all who would "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 16: 31) and be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2: 8 - 9) in the only begotten Son of God. But the Law itself, the Law as a whole was not abolished or taken away. If it were, than John's whole courtroom scenario in I John 2: 1 - 2 with its advocate and propitiation of God's Law is nonsensical and meaningless.

To sum up then: we do not have a meaningless trial here with no Law to be transgressed. Rather, we have a very meaningful trial with a Law that continues to maintain its divinely-ordained jurisdiction, and which has been and continues to be transgressed, even by the born-again children of God. But our Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ pleads on behalf of all who have believed upon him and his sacrificial and substitutionary bloodshedding, death and resurrection that "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us" has been satisfied and taken away in respect to God's children.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1 - 2)


This simple doctrinal truth is the difference between Dispensational antinomianism and Covenantal Neonomianism. The Law and its condemnation have nothing to do with time or time periods. They have everything to do with whether or not one has believed "on the Lord Jesus Christ" and been saved (Acts 16: 31). God's Law is every bit as much in force today as it ever was. In fact, it is even more so, even for the believer. For the believer has not been given an exemption so that he may now go and violate God's Law simply because he has been forgiven. He has no right to go and kill and steal and lie and commit adultery and take God's name in vain and profane the Lord's Day (Revelation 1: 10 - 11) simply because he has been saved. He has only been exempted from the condemnation, "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8: 2), "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us" (Colossians 2: 13 - 15).

Consider just how true this is. The Old Testament saints such as David and Solomon practiced polygamy. But what would you do today if a born-again child of God came to your church and asked to join, along with his two wives? The Old Testament saints such as Samson took vengeance on their enemies. But what would you do today if a church member went out and killed a few dozen men because he had been cheated while gambling at a party? David was not verbally rebuked for looking upon Bathsheba, but for physically committing adultery with her. Yet the New Testament saint knows well enough that even looking upon a woman to lust after her is a form of adultery that takes place in the heart (Matthew 5: 28). Moses suffered the children of Israel to put away their wives, but today we know that God hates putting away and that the practice of divorce is directly connected with adultery (Matthew 5: 31 - 32). The Old Testament saints were permitted to hate their enemies, but we know well enough today that

we are commanded to love all, without distinction (Matthew 5: 43 - 48). The Old Testament saints were permitted to swear, but the New Testament saint is told to "Swear not at all", but to "let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay" (Matthew 5: 33 - 35). In all of this, we see not the relegating of the Law to the theological dustbin of some bygone "dispensation", but rather, the enlargement of God's Law, the dilation of God's Law to its full extent, force and meaning. So, when you are ready to practice polygamy at your church, when you are ready to allow you church members to look at pornography, when you are ready to tolerate divorce and remarriage among your church members, when you are ready to tolerate vindictive attitudes and hatefulness among your church members, and to prove from Scripture that all of this is permissible, then I too will believe in your Dispensationalism, and I too will bow the knee and confess that Dispensationalism came from God and not from Satan. But until then, I say just the very opposite.

Now this is just what John the Beloved says here in I John 2. Notice that he does not say "The Law is abolished now, so you can just go do as you please, especially since it was 'only for national Israel anyhow'". He says nothing of the sort. In fact, he says just the opposite. He says "hereby we do know that we know him". How John? How do we know? "If we keep his commandments" (I John 2: 3).

But John, what if someone says that he knows God, but doesn't keep his commandments? What if he believes that he's in "the Age of Grace" and "not under the Law" and has the right to do as he pleases? "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." (I John 2: 3 - 8)

Beloved, Dispensationalism is a lie from the pits of Hell, from the lips of Satan. The Bible nowhere teaches that God's Law has been relegated to the theological dustbin of some bygone "dispensation" and that now we're in some sort of "Age of Grace". It teaches just the opposite. It teaches "a new commandment", a new Law (I John 2: 8) in keeping with the New Covenant. In terms of justification, it is the "law of faith" (Romans 3: 27). In terms of sanctification, it is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8: 2). In terms of interpersonal relationships, of practical piety, it is "the royal law" (James 2: 8), the "law of liberty" (James 1: 25; 2: 12) and "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6: 2). The Judge did not set us free from the condemnation of the Law with an exemption from obeying it altogether. No. He gave us a commandment, "a new commandment" (I John 2: 8) in keeping with the New Covenant, one which is even greater and higher in glory, in righteousness and in moral perfection than that which the Old Testament saints lived under. And he expects us to obey it. Believers everywhere now have a solemn duty to live in obedience to this "new commandment" of our great Lawgiver, the Lord Jesus Christ. May God, by his grace make us, every one, Biblical Neonomians, both in our Soteriology and in our practical piety.

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 157. ii Theopedia (accessed 24 March 2014). iii Packer, 156 - 158. iv Ibid. v Ibid. vi Ibid. vii Ibid. viii Theopedia (accessed 24 march 2014). ix Ibid. x Theopedia (accessed 25 March 2014). xi Antoine Monastier, A History of the Vaudois Church from Its Origin, and of the Vaudois of Piedmont to the Present Day (New York: Lane & Scott, 1849), 137. xii The Reformed Reader (accessed 24 March 2014). xiii (accessed 25 March 2014).