Vol. 9, No. 2
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There is the tendency among many people to equate morality with being a Christian. While it is true that every devout Christian is a good moral person, it does not follow that every good moral person is a Christian. The moralist, separate and apart from Christ, is a sinner. The apostle Paul, quoting an Old Testament passage, stated that "There is none righteous, no not one." He further declared, "for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10, 23). It isn't that a man is born a sinner; he simply becomes one through violating the commands of God (1 John 3:4).
The moralist may be known for his sweet disposition, his kind words, his charitable deeds, his good citizenship and his participation in community affairs. But, if he has never obeyed the Gospel of Christ he is in a lost condition. When a person as previously described passes from this life, his peers are apt to say, "Well, he was not a member of any church, but he certainly was a good man, worthy of salvation."
The basic difference between a moralist who is not a Christian and a Christian who is morally clean is found in their relationship with God. The moralist exclaims that he deserves to be saved upon his own meritorious goodness. This attitude was found in the Pharisees "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others"; and, is found in the words of a self-righteous individual as recorded in Luke 18:9-12, "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'" The Christian admits his inability to save himself and submits to the will of God. He cries out, "God, be thou merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). If one moralist can be saved without the blood of Christ, then it must be concluded that all moralists can be saved. If this be true, Christ died in vain. There was no need for his crucifixion on Calvary.
Surely, if any moralist could have been saved without the vicarious death of Christ, the man Cornelius would have been saved without the death of Christ. It is rather doubtful that any living person would have been more moral in character than Cornelius. He was a centurion in the Roman army. This meant that he was a Gentile. He was a devout man and one that feared God. He was a benevolent individual and was habitual in his prayers to God. He is referred to as a righteous man and one who enjoyed an excellent reputation, even among the Jews (Acts 10:1-2, 22). In spite of such high standards, Cornelius was instructed by an angel of the Lord to "Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house" (Acts 11:13-14). This morally upright person needed to hear the Gospel of Christ in order that he might be saved. It is no different today. God is no respecter of persons. He saves all men alike and in like manner--through the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 1:7). God requires faith, repentance and baptism on the part of the alien sinner in order to receive remission of sins (Hebrews 11:6; Acts 17:30; 2:38). If we are saved, it is not by our own goodness, but by God's grace (Ephesians 2:5, 8).