What Legalism and Antinomianism Have In Common
Legalism and antinomianism have one important thing in common, as Sinclair Ferguson points out: they both regard God's commandments as a heavy burden which weighs us down rather than lifting us up, and enslaves us rather than freeing us. For the legalist, God is a miserable father who makes rules because he wants to stop us enjoying ourselves; the appropriate response is to strive harder, keep the rules and eventually, somehow, please him. But the antinomian has the same vision of divine commands: they are there to crush and to kill, not to free and make alive, and the best reaction is to flout them. As Tim Keller puts it, "Both mindsets share the same incomprehension of the joy of obedience."
I love how O’Donovan expresses this in Resurrection and Moral Order. He is talking about how imperatives are often (wrongly) assumed to function in Christian ethics:
Thus every creative and redemptive summons from God must be introduced, as it were, with an apology for the fact that it is not good news. But the command of God is not to be dismissed as an unevangelical praeperatio evangelii. It is not a crutch; it is a life-giving command, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!”
Indeed it is! I’m on my way rejoicing.