Moralism V. Gospel

I am in the process of writing my senior paper for Bible college on moralism versus the gospel. In my research I found this great article by Al Mohler called Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel– And Why So Many Christians Think It Is.

I highly recommend that you read the entire article. As Christians in the south, we must be able to distinguish between moralism and true gospel. Both when we evangelize, and when we take inventory of our own hearts.

Here are a few excerpts:

In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.

Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight.


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. (bold emphasis added)

Some questions to ask in light of this:

  1. Am I living a gospel centered life that acknowledges the work of Christ alone to save? Or am I seeking to achieve right standing with God through good behavior?
  2. When I share the gospel with others, am I clear about how a person becomes a Christian (faith alone in Christ alone)?

3 thoughts on “Moralism V. Gospel

  1. Kevin – this is an important reminder to keep the focus on the Gospel, and not behavior improvement. However, there is also a movement prevailing in the Church today that looks like the Gospel on the outside, but may be in essence just a veil for licentiousness.

    We must stress the fact that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. However, I’ve seen signs of a precarious handling of the scriptures that tell us how to act. What do we do with those?

    Do we raise our “grace” banner and say it doesn’t matter how I live, as long as I have grace? This is licentiousness, and Paul clearly speaks against that. True grace, that is ours through the true Gospel, will be manifested by good works (works that are “good” only because of Christ in us, but good works nonetheless).

  2. While reading the part of Ken’s post that said:

    Do we raise our “grace” banner and say it doesn’t matter how I live, as long as I have grace? This is licentiousness, and Paul clearly speaks against that. True grace, that is ours through the true Gospel, will be manifested by good works (works that are “good” only because of Christ in us, but good works nonetheless).

    I went right to Romans 6 mentally. That statement sounded exactly like Paul’s rhetorical question: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” his answer speaks to the heart (and mind) of the “holiness” issue. Paul’s answer is “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”.

    So here’s my point: Paul doesn’t seem to be saying we shouldn’t sin anymore. He doesn’t come across as if he’s saying we need to work on those sin areas in our lives. It seems like he’s saying we CAN’T be slaves to sin anymore if we are truly saved, because we have died with Him, and if we died with Him, we are dead to sin. Sin is no longer master over us, because we are no longer governed by the law, but by grace.

    It’s like he’s trying to explain to us what happens when we are truly saved. Of COURSE we won’t continue in sin! How can we uf we died to it. So th question is: If we are saved should we work really hard to stop sinning. Single those sins out one by one to eliminate them, or should we spend the same amount of energy to focus on the FACT that sin us no longer our master because we died with Him on the cross. As we accept the realty of our situation, and embrace the free gift which was given, won’t the shackles of sin dissolve away, since, in reality, they no longer exist?

    Paul wasn’t saying we need to be holy by working on trying to sin less, he was saying if we are saved, we WILL sin less. Our holiness is not something we have to work on! The work has been done. We fix our eyes on Jesus and the victory he has won for us and holiness is the guaranteed result! That’s how we get “transformed”! By renewing our MINDS, not by focusing on our flesh! Holiness is proof of our salvation, not a requirement if it. There’s no battle for holiness. Only a battle to accept what really happened when we got saved, and the resulting unbridled freedom and joy which has the unavoidable by product of holiness!

    I hope that makes sense. I’ve always wondered if that was the right thinking, but when I bring it up there seems to be a reluctance to let go of the “law”. Let me know if you guys think I’m way off…

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