The difference

3 Nov

On Sundays we are beginning to look at Ephesians 4 and Paul’s instruction to believers regarding how they should live. In other words, Paul’s discussion of what some might call Christian “virtues.” It is important as we study these characteristics to understand the difference between what Christianity teaches and what every other form of morality teaches. Martyn Lloyd Jones suggest several essential differences between Christianity and any and every form of pagan culture or collection of pagan virtues:

1. The first important difference is to be found in the reasons that non Christians give for living their own type of life. They invariably isolate their conduct and behaviour as something in and of itself…The reason why the Christian does not do certain things, but does do other things is always in terms of the Lord Jesus Christ!

2. These pagan systems…always presume natural ability; obviously, because they come and tell us to pull ourselves together, to conform to the pattern. They are presuming that we have the ability and power to do so. Because of that, it is generally a kind of teaching that only appeals to a certain type of person…Non-Christian teaching has nothing to offer failures. If a man is unable to respond to it they just denounce him and leave him; they cannot understanding him.

3. Moralities and ethics, divorced from the Christian faith, for the reasons I have been giving, minister to self-satisfaction and pride.

4. Non-Christian systems really leave the old man and the old nature quite untouched. They merely whitewash the surface a little and conceal the foulness that is within.

5. Worldly moral systems simply hinder and put a brake upon the great outbreaks of vice and the coarse manifestations of vice, they do not really deal with the vice itself.

6. Non-Christian systems really deal with nothing but repression. They know nothing about expression. They are negative, they lack freedom. But Christianity has both. You stop doing one thing, you do the other.

7. Non-Christian systems are always cold. It is the coldness of artificiality. It is all the difference between a rose blooming on a branch in your garden and an artificial rose. They look very much alike at first…but oh! that artificial thing! it is cold, it is dead, it is hard, there is no warmth about it, there is nothing that really attracts when you get near it. And that is true of all the merely moral, ethical systems. You cannot really get near people who are merely moral and ethical, there is a coldness about them; they are self-content, they are very perfect, but you do not get sympathy out of them, there is no warmth, they do not encourage you, they do not sympathize with you. But when you come to a Christian, what a contrast! He is warm, he is human, he is sympathetic, he is approachable, he is encouraging, he is not for ever standing on his dignity, he can forget himself, he can enthuse, he is governed by a principle of love, which is found at the centre of his life and radiates from him. He is not always watching and observing himself on the outside, there is spontaneity, this principle, this blessed principle of life. He is what he is by the grace of God, and because the grace of God has been able to do this for him, he makes you feel that grace can do it for you also.

Darkness and Light, An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17, p.205-10

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