We are to be what we are: mere Christians redeemed and sanctified by grace alone, through faith alone, and seeking to live according to God’s moral law, in union with Christ, out of gratitude for God’s free favor in Christ—not in order to be justified and saved but because we have been justified and saved.
Some years ago, while explaining Heidelberg Catechism 114, on the moral law, I wrote, “Paul was not a Gnostic, a Valentinian, an Anabaptist, a Familist, nor an Antinomian. He was a sinner saved and justified freely through faith alone, a Christian living in union and communion with Christ, seeking to bring his life into conformity to all of God’s holy moral law.”
A reader wrote to ask what this paragraph means. It is a loaded with historical references that would take some time to explain but each of these represents some kind of over-realized eschatology. By that I mean someone who thinks that he has or can have heaven on earth right now. In order to have it each of these groups changed the rules of the game. In one way or another they got rid of God’s moral law, God’s grace, or God’s church.
The Gnostics (including the Valentinians) did by getting rid of God himself and by making themselves into gods. This is probably the dominant theology of our age. The Anabaptists certainly had an over-realized eschatology. They were not content to be mere Christians. They wanted to make themselves into apostles and fancied that they were super-spiritual—perhaps they were the Super Apostles of the sixteenth century?—who both mastered the law and were free from it. They did not need justification and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone and the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ alone—the first generation of the Anabaptists rejected the Reformation solas. They fancied that they had the apostolic gifts and powers including tongues, being slain in the Spirit, and continuing revelation. They were the true precursors of American evangelicalism from 1800 to today. The Familists was a movement founded in the 1540s, in Emden. They were precursors to the early Pietist movement of Jakob Boehme (1575–1624). They were radical subjectivists who rejected the sacraments. Their views were adopted by the Quakers. Again, this is a manifestation of an over-realized eschatology.