We’re afraid to say things are wrong simply because God says so. So in cases like premarital sex for instance, we talk all about broken relationships, STD’s, AIDS etc., as though that’s WHY God says its wrong – rather than the fact that God alone determines what is right or wrong, whether anything has tangible, outward negative results or no.
So what’s wrong with moralistic preaching? Here’s a couple of ideas.
1 – A purely moralistic sermon can be preached by anyone in any religion. Christ is not necessary if we are simply exhorting each other to do better or follow the commandments. Dr. Laura does the same thing every day. For us, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) Seeing our sin BY the Law, we cry out for mercy to be saved from its just penalty.
2 – Preaching the Law as though we CAN do it (who has EVER loved the Lord our God with all their heart. Mind soul and strength?) – Man must respond in one of two ways. 1. Either they imagine themselves keeping the Law and justifying themselves before God. Or, 2. They realize they can’t, and end up bound by their sin with no answers. The Scripture says the Law was given to expose our sin to us, not to be the means to overcome sin: Romans 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
3 – Preaching the Law as some moral code that we can keep in order to make us acceptable to God removes the need for the Cross and redemption by the blood of Christ. If all men need to do is obey, Christ died in vain. But what does Scripture say?: Heb. 7:18 “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
4 – Preaching the Law as a moral code we can keep to be acceptable to God ignores the fact the Scripture say that a man cannot become righteous that way: Galatians 3:21 “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, “then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”
5 – It tells men to look to themselves and not to Christ: Romans 10:3 “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” It denies the humbling which man needs to come to Christ to meet his need before God.
The chief difficulty here is not so much in what IS said – It is always good to obey God’s law – but what is NOT said: The law cannot make a man acceptable to God – such obedience cannot justify; the Law can only expose and aggravate sin, not reign it in; the Law is meant to convict us so that we flee to Christ, not make us better; the Law has no power to make us better. Both the Law AND the Gospel must be preached in tandem. All Law only condemns or makes man self-righteous, and all Gospel makes man think there are no consequences or final judgment to be reckoned with.
So let us be clear what the Gospel entails: As Paul states the matter in very candid terms in Ephesians Chapter 2 – “1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” And Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”