Morality And Christianity

Foy W. Vinson
Elgin, Illinois

The sermons are legion which have been preached upon the subject of morality and Christianity. The burden of such sermons has always been to show the distinction between the two. Is has been pointed out that Christianity includes morality but morality does not include Christianity. In other words, one cannot be a faithful Christian without being moral, but one can be perfect moral and still not be a Christian. We have illustrated this with the examples of Cornelius and Saul of Tarsus, men who were morally upright apart from Christianity and yet who were lost in spite of their morality. The application of this distinction between the two has most always been made to the alien to show him that he must become a Christian in order to he saved and that morality alone will not make him such. The purpose of this article is to extend the application of this distinction to the child of God as well. I believe that before this study is concluded you will see the need for such an extension.

Very often when a Christian is queried about his relationship to the Lord he will reply that he believes himself to be a faithful Christian for a number of reasons. What are his reasons? He loves his wife and children and always provides them with the necessities of life. When he sees one of his fellowmen in dire circumstances and he is able to extend aid to him he does so. Furthermore he doesn't lie, steal, get drunk, commit adultery, etc. Therefore he concludes that for these reasons he is a faithful Christian. He does his "Christian duty." (I personally believe that the expression "Christian duty" is one of the most misunderstood and consequently one of the most misused expressions among brethren today. My reason for so thinking will be manifest as we continue this study.

Moral Duties or Christian Duties?

Now here is where we need to apply the distinction between morality and Christianity to the child of God. In the above list of duties do we have enumerated Christian obligations or moral obligations? Now I realize that in a broad general sense every moral obligation is a Christian's obligation, but not just because he is a Christian. Moral duties fall upon all men alike, but Christian duties fall upon Christians alone! In the above list we have a number of duties mentioned, but they are moral, not Christian. Is loving one's own wife and children and providing their necessities peculiarly and exclusively the duty of Christians? Most assuredly not! Hence this is not really I Christian duty in the true sense of the expression, but rather a moral duty.

Is helping a fellowman in need peculiarly and exclusively the responsibility of Christians? Again we must reply in the negative. It is a moral obligation. The Good Samaritan was not a Christian nor even a child of God under the Mosaical system, yet he obviously felt a sense of duty to the man who lay nearly dead by the side of the road. Moralists today who make no pretense of being religious, let alone Christians, admittedly have a sense of duty toward their destitute fellowmen. In this sense all of us from the beginning have been our "brothers' keepers."

Furthermore it is acknowledged by all that it is the duty of a Christian to refrain from dishonesty, drunkenness, adultery, etc. But again we can see that this duty extends to all men and therefore is moral in its nature, not Christian.

Why Concerned with a Distinction?

Perhaps you are wondering however why we should be concerned with such a distinction as it pertains to Christians. Here is the reason: morality will no more save a Christian or prepare him for eternity than it will save an alien or prepare him for eternity! If one cannot BECOME a Christian by morality alone, then neither can one be a real Christian by morality alone. I fear that many children of God are resting their hope of salvation in their moralitv rather than in their Christianity.

What Are Christian Duties?

What duties then are genuinely Christian duties? Let us remember the test which we must use in order to determine whether a duty is moral or Christian in its nature. If it is a duty which falls upon all men alike, then it is a moral duty. If it falls only upon those who are Christians, then it is a Christian duty. Now I can only call to mind three duties which in view of the above could be correctly 1abeled as Christian duties, at least in a preeminent sense in contra-distinction to moral duties. They are: (1) Teaching the gospel to the lost; (2) Edifying, the saints (Such would involve our worship to God, our assembling together, etc.); and (3 ) Helping needy saints. This would seem to exhaust the list at least in a general way of those duties which are Christian in nature. However, we want to apply the above test to them one at a time.

First there is the matter of teaching the gospel to the lost. No doubt you have often heard sermons emphasizing this obligation. Paul instructed Timothy relative to the things heard of him to commit the same to faithful men who would be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2) The writer of the Hebrew epistle rebuked those brethren by saying, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. (Heb. 5:12) However, you have never heard anyone even imply that this particular duty fell upon any other than Christians. The man outside of Christ has no such duty. This then is truly a Christian duty.

This also holds true in the matter of edifying the saints. There are numerous commands in the New Testament which teach us to engage in this function. Paul says: "Let all things be done unto edifying." ( I Cor. 14:26) This is that of which he also speaks when he states: "From whom (Christ) the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." All of this language is directed to children of God. Edifying the saints then is a duty, but a duty only binding upon Christians.

Finally there is the duty of helping needy saints. This one we want to consider in more detail. Let us notice Galatians 6:10: "As we have therefore opportunitv, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." In this passage the Apostle sets forth not only two duties but also two kinds of duties. As we have noted previously, doing good to all men or general benevolence is an obligation resting upon all men. It cannot be said of a person that he is completely moral when he has the ability and opportunity to help another in need and fails to do so. However, to do good "especially unto them who are of the household of faith" does not apply to the man in the world. It applies only to the Christian. Let me illustrate. Suppose there were two individuals in need and I had only enough ability to relieve one. One of these individuals, however, was a child of God while the other was not. As a Christian, can you not see that my duty would be clear? I would have to relieve my brother in Christ or I would fail of my dutv. This would not be the case with an alien. He could relieve either individual without failing of his duty and would have fulfilled his moral obligation. Therefore, the first part of Galatians 6:10 contains a moral obligation while the last part contains a Christian obligation. The reason a Christian's first duty is to his fellow Christian is because of their spiritual relationship. He sustains no spiritual relationship with the world. And since the alien sustains no special relationship to the Christian he has no special obligation to him.

An alien can be moral without ever teaching the gospel to a soul, edifying a single saint or helping materially a saint because he is such. It is also true that a child of God can be a lover of wife and children, a good provider, a good citizen, a good neighbor, one who is honest and upright and not be a faithful Christian. Morality and Christianity are different and we need to respect that difference. The practice of morality can do nothing more that make one moral. It takes the practice of Christianity to make one really a Christian.

My brother in Christ, are you really a faithful Christian? Do you teach aliens the way of life? Do you edify your brethren? Do you help needy saints? THIS is Christianity and strange as it may sem to some this too is the legitimate work and activity of the Lord's church. So when we understand that which is genuinely Christian duty we also understand that which is genuinely church duty. May God help us to fervently engage in both.

Truth Magazine IV:7, pp. 20-22
April 1960