What is neonomianism?

by Matt Slick
11/21/2016

The word neonomianism means a new law or the Law of grace. It teaches that the first law of God, the Mosaic law, could not be followed properly by anyone (except Jesus). Therefore, in order for people to be saved from their sins, a new law, the Law of grace was instituted by God. This new law of grace has different obligations in the old Mosaic law where perfect obedience was required (Deut. 27:26).  The new requirements of the gospel are faith and repentance.  Though no one can perfectly hold to faith and repentance, neonomianism says that the intended obedience of these obligations, though imperfect, is acceptable to God.  Neonomianism is...

"the idea that Christ has, by his atonement, so lowered the requirements of the Law that mere endeavor is accepted in room of perfect obedience."1

Neonomianism is false because it says the sinfully-stained heart of man is sufficient for salvation by our trying, though not perfectly, to keep a new law that has two requirements: faith and repentance.  Therefore, it teaches salvation by faith and keeping a new law.  This is so because repentance means to turn from sin and the Law tells us not to sin.  Therefore, salvation by repentance and salvation by keeping the Law.

  • Exodus 20:4, make no idols
  • Exodus 20:7, don't take the Lord's name in vain
  • Exodus 20:13, don't murder
  • Exodus 20:14, don't commit adultery
  • Exodus 20:15, don't steal
  • Exodus 20:16, don't bear false witness

So, if salvation is by repentance, along with faith in the atoning work of Christ, then salvation is based partly in our ability to keep the Law by obeying the commandments that tell us to not commit various sins. in other words, it's by turning from your sin and obeying the law of God.  This is theologically dangerous.

The truth is that we are not able to do anything good perfectly (even repenting) and perfection is the standard God requires (1 Peter 1:16). This is why God the Son was sent into the world, to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17) and meet the requirement of perfection and do what we could not.  If our sincerity was good enough to make up the difference between the perfect requirement of the Law and our failed attempts to keep it, then God would be accepting the sin-stained effort of people for salvation as they try and keep the Law.

Faith and Repentance

We should have faith and we should repent of our sins. Faith is the means of our justification (Romans 3:28; 5:1). But repentance is never said to be a requirement in order to be saved. Now, I'm not saying this is a license to sin. We ought to repent and turn from sins. I'm saying that are keeping the Law by repenting does not save us.

 Few people really know this, but God grants us faith As well as repentance.  They are his work.

  • Philippians 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
    • John 6:28–29, "Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”"
  • 2 Timothy 2:25, "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."

Our repentance is the result of regeneration which God has worked in us,.  It is granted to us by God. It is one of the evidences of our salvation.  In these truths we find not a failed sincerity being sufficient, but faith and repentance granted to us by God.  this way, He receives all the glory.

Neonomianism proposes an insufficient understanding of the person and work of Christ regarding the atonement. It was Jesus who fulfilled the Law, the Law that we could not keep (1 Peter 2:22). Furthermore, since he did what was impossible for us to do, when he died on the cross for our sins, we died with him (Rom. 6:6, 8), so we are dead to the Law (Rom. 7:4).

The moral requirements of the Law are still in place and still necessary - because they are based on the character of God. Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1,14), met the moral requirements of the Law. This way, God did not lower his standards because of our inability. His standard of perfection is still in place, but it is met by God the Son. This is why dear justified by faith in what Christ is done on the cross.

What must I do to be saved?

Acts 16:30–31, "and after he brought them out, he said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' 31 They said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'"

In order to be saved we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith alone is necessary because it excludes human effort to keep the law in any way.  Repentance is human effort to obey the Law by turning from that which is evil.  It is not this repentance that saves us. Instead, it is faith in Jesus obtained by what God has granted to us (Philippians 1:29).

 

 

 

  • 1. M’Clintock, John, and James Strong. Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1891–1894.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.