The Dangers of Perverting the Gospel by Over-Emphasizing Morality
The Apostle Paul wrote plenty on the importance of godliness, Christian character, and God-honoring morality, but he never disconnected Christian morality from knowing and believing Christian doctrine! In fact, he always connected the two. For instance:
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer
live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, t
o put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
A look @ Paul’s prayers will tell you what was important (first & foremost) to the Apostle Paul:
17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlighte
ned in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…
…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…
Paul’s focus was not on a mere list of do’s & don’ts (simplistic or mindless morality); it was first and foremost about the possessing and the comprehending of GOSPEL TRUTH! Consider how Paul dealt with Corinth, an immoral church, in 1st Corinthians and then consider how Paul dealt with Galatian churches, Christians who were confusing the Gospel. He was stern with Corinth but commending of their Gospel adherence and very hopeful of their future. The letter to the Galatians was very harsh and it seemed unclear to Paul whether they would even endure as a Christian church because of their neglect of the Gospel!
Non-thinking Christians or non-Gospel treasuring Christians often fall into the trap of correlating Christianity to morality, as if morality is the chief end of Christianity! And this is where many American Christians fall into worldliness without even knowing it! Yes, worldliness! Because to confuse or distort truth (i.e. Gospel) is worldliness!
The Unseen Form of Worldliness:
We must be careful that we do not fall into any form of worldliness, but especially the kind of worldliness that we may not be accustomed as seeing as worldliness.
- Not understanding the Gospel message correctly by adding a necessity of works to it is worldliness.
- Thinking that Christianity is mainly about morality and not about God’s answer for sinful man’s need for a savior is worldliness.
- Not understanding the Gospel message correctly by making more about moral principles rather than Christ and Christ crucified is worldliness!
- Thinking that it is unimportant to know Christian doctrine is worldliness.
- And the possessing of bad theology is also worldliness.
And perhaps these things are the worse kind of worldliness. Perhaps this is why Paul stresses the importance of the growing in knowledge of the Gospel in his prayers (Ephesians 1 & 3; Philippians 1; Colossians 1). Perhaps this is why Paul stresses the importance of teachers having sound theology (1 & 2 Timothy; Titus). And perhaps this why Peter & Jude say the darkest place in Hell is reserved for people who distort God’s truth and Gospel (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13).
We must guard against a worldly or distorted view of the Gospel. For if good understanding of the Gospel truth leads to good/godly living; a worldly gospel will surely lead to more worldliness.