There is a form of antinomianism, I believe, that comes from the belief that even Christians are helpless against the power of sin. I use the term “anti-nomianism” because this belief leads one to excuse his sins, and to think that fighting against sin and temptation is pointless. If God wills it, so goes this thinking, then I will be able to avoid sin without any hard work of my own. The power will come spontaneously. I say this because I used to think this way. I used to think that Christians were in the same boat as the rest of sinful humanity, that even though we were baptized, possessed the Holy Spirit and faith, we were helpless, powerless even against sin. So, when the temptation comes, don’t fight it.
It is true that by ourselves we are powerless. By ourselves, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, without the aid of prayer and sanctified wisdom, we are helpless. But a Christian is not without these tools. If it were true that Christians were powerless against sin’s invitations, then what would be the use of inviting believers to pray? What would be the point in instructing Christians in holy living, as the Epistles do, and as Christ himself does in the Holy Gospels? If Christians were incapable of resisting sin, then why bother telling them to do so?
I think we Christians, and we preachers especially, need to beware of this tendency to see ourselves and those to whom we preach as being no different than the common unbeliever, as if every time we preached we were preaching to the unregenerate. The Law may “always accuse,” but we do not preach the Law for this purpose alone. The Law “semper accusat” because of sin, and certainly we must never forget that, or rely on the preaching of the Law to make one acceptable to God. Surely this acceptance is through faith alone. Justification. But make no mistake: the Christian is not powerless against sin and the devil. We do not *have* to obey it. To the extent that we do of course shows that we have not yet cast off these bodies of sin completely. But we dare not allow sin to reign in our minds or our mortal bodies, as St. Paul says. We fight it, we wrestle with it, we struggle against it, we use every means at our disposal to say “no” to it, not because by doing so we gain favor with God, but because we want, as St. Peter says, to “be found by Him without spot or blemish” when Christ returns. And Christ has not left us without help, without weapons. He has given us a regenerate will, and wants us to use these wills in service to holiness and sanctification.
We cannot keep our hearts free from sin, but we can keep the wind from blowing on those ever-glowing embers which lay just beneath the surface, and we need not be its slave. When we do fall, we pray that God would have mercy on us. We know it will happen. We know that we will let our guard down at some point just long enough for sin’s tentacles to creep into our hearts, and we know that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus is the propitiation for our sins.” But let us not fail to fight, struggle, and mortify the flesh with all its passions and desires. We are not completely powerless. We are weak, but not powerless. We are not unregenerate, and neither are the members of our flocks. We should, I think, preach to them differently than we would an unbeliever, who is powerless against sin.