Good question! First of all, let’s define moralism. My American Heritage Dictionary defines moralism as, “The practice of or belief in a system of principles governing conduct, as distinguished from a religion.” They key thought here is moralism is “practicing a moral code DISTINCT FROM RELIGION.” In other words, the MORALIST adopts a set of rules and regulations that he/she feels is right according to their own perception of “right and wrong.” They are not adhering to any religious code of ethics from the Bible (where we have “the moral teachings of Christ”), though some of their practices may be spoken of in the Bible. I should add there is no element of FAITH involved in their moral code, for again their standard of morality is not based on the Bible which does indeed speak of “living by FAITH” (see Romans 1:17;  Galatians 3;11 and Hebrews 10:38….NKJV).

The Bible speaks of the moralist as one who thinks they are superior to those who do not live by the same set of rules and regulations that they live by. They look down on those who practice immorality and consider themselves more civilized and refined. The Bible condemns the moralist in Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” This teaches us what the Apostle Paul concludes in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So, even though they may not sin AS MUCH or AS DEEPLY as someone else, they are still guilty of practicing sin in their lives and will NOT “escape the judgment of God.”

Regarding “the moral teachings of Christ,” let’s read Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES of all the nations, BAPTIZING THEM in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” We learn in this passage WHO we are to teach and encourage to follow the moral teachings of Christ. In a word, it is those who are willing to become disciples of Christ by submitting to baptism in the name of the Triune God and then by observing all the commandments of Christ that they are taught. We saw that the “moralist” was one who did NOT adhere to religious teachings from the Bible so they would surely reject the idea of becoming servants of Christ. The Bible teaches us that it is THE SAVED SINNER who willingly follows Christ and His teachings. In our passage in Matthew the Lord Jesus is NOT teaching one HOW TO SAVED; He is teaching those who are saved to SUBMIT TO HIM AS LORD. In short, the sinner must first come to know the Lord Jesus as SAVIOR, and then they can become His disciples by owning Him as LORD.

Let’s look at a very familiar passage to prove this point. In Ephesians 2:8-10 we read, “For by grace YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED THROUGH FAITH, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Verses 8-9 teach us clearly that we are saved by the GRACE OF GOD THROUGH FAITH. Our works of morality have nothing to do with our salvation. Verse 10 teaches us that AFTER WE ARE SAVED and have become a NEW CREATION IN CHRIST, we can then do good works that are acceptable to God. This emphasizes the truth that “good works are the FRUIT of salvation and NOT THE ROOT.” In keeping with what we saw in Matthew 28, the one who has been saved is then able to become a true disciple of Christ and observe His commandments.

In closing, when we are seeking to “teach and encourage others to follow the teachings of Christ,” we must make it crystal-clear to them that we are NOT teaching “moralism” and that the “moralist” will actually be judged by God for judging others when they themselves are guilty of practicing sin. We must also show them that until they saved and made a new creation in Christ, they can’t possibly keep Christ’s commandments. But once they are born again, they will have both the desire and the power to “walk in good works” which God has designed for those who are “created in Christ Jesus.”  (368.3)  (DO)