Shall We Preach the Gospel or Morality? Part Three: Morality and Gentile Nations

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J Ng's picture

So, is preaching against and condemning sin the same as "preaching morality"?

Just wondering about the use of terms.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Morality is shorthand for "right and wrong." So preaching against sin is preaching against wrong. Whenever we condemn the wrong, it necessarily follows that we are urging people to do right instead. Otherwise, the "against" part is disingenuous.

Much appreciate this series by Kevin. I've made some of these arguments myself but he's making a much stronger case than I've attempted, or seen elsewhere.

Nice summary in the closing paragraph of this installment (emphasis added)

God wants unbelievers to come under conviction for their sins. He wants the secrets of their hearts to be disclosed (1 Cor. 14:25), though He does not presently use prophetic revelation to expose them. He judges them, not only for their rejection of the gospel, but also for their transgression of the line between right and wrong, virtue and vice. God holds people accountable for their actions whether they are believers or not. In the past, He has even sent prophets to administer reprimands. In the present, He commands His saints to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). The proclamation of moral standards and the rebuke of immorality have always been part of God’s plan, and they are part of God’s purpose for church saints now.

J Ng's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Morality is shorthand for "right and wrong." So preaching against sin is preaching against wrong. Whenever we condemn the wrong, it necessarily follows that we are urging people to do right instead. Otherwise, the "against" part is disingenuous.

No idea how the "against" part could be "disingenuous."

But there's the rub: what could it mean "that we are urging people to do right instead"?

"Preaching morality" sounds like telling people to reform themselves, which is not the same thing as turning away from sin and turning unto God period.

It's one thing to tell people to do right things instead, to do right even (defined in any way other than, like to "do virtue" rather than vice); it's another thing to preach Christ and Him crucified.

According to the apostolic message to Gentiles at the Areopagus, they had been commanded to repent not reform.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Kevin's essay answers most of those concerns pretty well. God is not shy at all about telling unbelieving individuals, nations, etc. to do right.

"Reform themselves" is not the same as "do right." The phrase "reform yourself" implies self-transformational power. "Do right" or "repent" does not have that implication.

... although there is a certain amount of temporal self-transformation that people are certainly quite capable of exercising. Common grace. Every day people quit smoking, decide to improve their health through exercise, decide to stop wasting time watching TV, decide to stop beating their wives, decide to give up criminal activity, etc.  I wouldn't know how many do this or how long it lasts, but it does happen.

They reform themselves.

What they don't do is even begin to pay for the debt of their sins or to be genuinely righteous in the way God requires.

Nonetheless, God cares whether they commit crimes, deceive their neighbors, rape, murder and pillage.

...as the passages Kevin refers to show.

One of the loose ends in all of this for me is determining exactly in what way the morality of the unbelieving "matters" to God. Clearly it does, but it would be inconsistent with the gospel to suggest that it matters in the sense of "it gets them closer to being forgiven and reconciled to Him." So that's off the table. We know only imputed "alien" righteousness can do that.

Yet it clearly matters whether they do right or not.