Friday, September 11, 2009

Moralism or the Gospel? Part2

For part 1, See Sept. 9 post.

Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel
-- And Why So Many Christians Think It Is: Part 2
Albert Mohler

The theological temptation of moralism is one many Christians and churches find it difficult to resist. The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world.

Christ's Church has no option but to teach the Word of God, and the Bible faithfully reveals the law of God and a comprehensive moral code. Christians understand that God has revealed Himself throughout creation in such a way that He has gifted all humanity with the restraining power of the law. Furthermore, He has spoken to us in His word with the gift of specific commands and comprehensive moral instruction. The faithful Church of the Lord Jesus Christ must contend for the righteousness of these commands and the grace given to us in the knowledge of what is good and what is evil. We also have a responsibility to bear witness of this knowledge of good and evil to our neighbors. The restraining power of the law is essential to human community and to civilization.

Just as parents rightly teach their children to obey moral instruction, the church also bears responsibility to teach its own the moral commands of God and to bear witness to the larger society of what God has declared to be right and good for His human creatures.But these impulses, right and necessary as they are, are not the Gospel. Indeed, one of the most insidious false gospels is a moralism that promises the favor of God and the satisfaction of God's righteousness to sinners if they will only behave and commit themselves to moral improvement.

The moralist impulse in the church reduces the Bible to a codebook for human behavior and substitutes moral instruction for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Far too many evangelical pulpits are given over to moralistic messages rather than the preaching of the Gospel.

The corrective to moralism comes directly from the Apostle Paul when he insists that "a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus." Salvation comes to those who are "justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified." [Gal. 2:16]

We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law. Moralism makes sense to sinners, for it is but an expansion of what we have been taught from our earliest days. But moralism is not the Gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves is the Gospel of Christ. As Paul reminded the Galatians, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." [Gal. 4:4-5]

We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God.

The Church must never evade, accommodate, revise, or hide the law of God. Indeed, it is the Law that shows us our sin and makes clear our inadequacy and our total lack of righteousness. The Law cannot impart life but, as Paul insists, it "has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." [Gal. 3:24]

The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Hell will be highly populated with those who were "raised right." The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Moralism is not the gospel.

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