John Stott on One Great Weakness of the Evangelical Church

“One of the great weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice. In consequence, we have become known rather as  people who preach the gospel than as those who live and adorn it…We are so busy preaching the gospel that we seldom teach the law. We are also afraid of being branded as ‘legalists’. ‘We are not under the law’, we say piously, as if we were free to ignore and even disobey it. Whereas what Paul meant is that our acceptance before God is not due to our observance of the law. But Christians are still under obligation to keep God’s moral law and commandments. Indeed, the purpose of Christ’s death was that ‘the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us’ (Rom. 8:3-4), and the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in our heart is that he might write God’s law there (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:37; II Cor. 3:3-8).”

Stott wrote this in his commentary on I Thessalonians 4:1-12 (page 76 of the Bible Speaks Today series), in 1991. Twenty years later, the problem he saw is still in the church, in some quarters even more deeply rooted. Salvation is from the penalty, power, and presence of sin, and we omit one aspect of God’s fullness of grace to our shame and our people’s detriment.



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