The word "antinomian" comes from the Greek anti (against) and nomos (law). It refers to the doctrine that it is not necessary for Christians to obey the moral law. In other words, faith frees the Christian from such obligations.
Though antithetical to Scripture, this view is popularly embraced by many who hold influential positions on radio and TV in our day and believe the teaching of "once saved, always saved" (OSAS). Under the heading of the "carnal Christian," OSAS teachers have especially spread antinomianism. The following are some of their actual teachings:
And so, sometimes out of ignorance or whatever it might be, they attempt to gratify and meet those needs the same way they did before they were saved, and therefore, you can't tell a carnal believer from a lost man. That is, you can't tell the cold from the carnal because the truth is, they're both acting the same way. Now, one of them is in Christ and one of them isn't. One of them is lost and the other one is in Christ. One of them knows about God and know him in the experience of salvation; the other doesn't know him at all (Charley Stanley, "Spiritual vs. Carnal: Study in 1 Corinthians," audiotape #8).
As far as overt behavior is concerned, a carnal believer cannot be distinguished from an unbeliever (R. B. Thieme, Jr., The Prodigal Son, p. 8).
So according to popular teachers of our day, a carnal Christian behaves the same way as the unsaved! Sadly, others, besides the ones just mentioned, have been teaching the same way. Yet, they seemingly go unchallenged.
Paul can only mean that these carnal Corinthians lived like unsaved men. That clarifies why the word carnalcan label both unbelievers and believers, simply because the lifestyles of both are the same. The cure for the unbeliever's carnality is salvation; the cure for the believer's is to grow in the Lord (Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, p. 62).
Ryrie then gives this definition of carnal: "To have the characteristics of an unsaved life either because one is an unbeliever or because though a believer, one is living like an unsaved person" (p. 155).
Chuck Swindoll made a similar assertion about one's understanding of the carnal Christian:
Let me clarify something because many, many in the family of God have no room in their theology for the carnal Christian, which creates tremendous confusion. If you don't understand the carnal Christian, you will begin to believe that you have fallen from grace. You will believe that you have been born again and then you will think later when you do these number of things, you have not been born again ("Clearing the Hurdle of Carnality: Selections from 1 Corinthians," audiotape #5).
According to Chuck Swindoll, one may have a misconception about falling from grace unless he understands the OSAS carnal Christian teaching! This teaching is a dangerous distortion of the image of true Christianity. Multitudes are being deceived by fabricating this new type of Christian, who is behaving just like the darkened, God-hating, hell-bound, Christ rejecters. Some are even open to the greatest possible danger, being thrown into eternal fire, yet are unaware of their danger.
This OSAS concept of the carnal Christian is refuted by Paul:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
First, Paul stated through the use of a rhetorical question that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Then he told us that the wicked can be identified by their behavior. The sexually immoral, drunkards and the greedy, among others, are included in this group and will, therefore, be excluded from the kingdom unless they turn from their sins. No exception is made for those who previously believed on Christ. This is the true grace teaching of the Scriptures. Do not be deceived by the glib-speaking, OSAS teachers of our day who present grace in an antinomian way.
[See the review of Dan's book, The Believer's Conditional Security, in the previous issue of The Arminian. Visit Dan's web site Evangelical Outreach or e-mail him at Evangelical Outreach. Also contact Dan for cassette tapes from the Bible Conference on the Believer's Security held at Wesleyan Chapel in Beckley, WV on September 25-27, 1998].