Can Good Morals Save Us?

December 25, 2018

Good Morning Fellow Travelers,

Read: Matthew 5:20-44


“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20


Jesus goes to great length in the Sermon on the Mount to help us understand that there is a higher standard of righteousness than moral law. He takes issue with what no man had ever questioned, the validity of the law. He declares that to abstain from wrong deeds alone is not sufficient. He raises the bar. Mere obedience is not enough.

Righteousness, rather than being a system of legal obedience which is external and superficial, goes beneath the surface. It goes for the heart. Jesus refuses to allow us to divide between thoughts and motives on one hand, and deeds on the other. Christ was requiring righteousness within.

We can be the best moral man in the world, and still be lost. If our thoughts are not pure, or our motives are not pure, we are still sinners. You may never commit adultery, but if your mind is there, you are an adulterer just the same. You may never commit murder, but if you are murdering your brother daily in your mind, you are a murderer just the same.

Christ’s standard of righteousness claims the whole man. The wholeness that He requires is illustrated in Matthew 12:36-37. Every idle word shall be accounted for in the judgement. The idle word, the chance act, are the clue to our real character. What is Jesus really saying here? Those truly redeemed, and bearing the righteousness of Christ can stand judgement even on their idle words.

Christ’s standard of righteousness has a positive and active character, and this is beautifully illustrated in verses 40-44. It is not just the colorless abstaining from vices, but it comes closer to inspired passion. He wants a changed heart that results in a new spirit, a new attitude. He wants servants filled with his life and filled with love for others. Good morals will not save you. We need redemption.

– James Baer

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