Dr. Prince has an important new article on preaching up at the ERLC website.
In Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, Edmund Clowney makes a helpful distinction between what he describes as “truth to the first power” and truth realized in Christ, “truth to the nth power.” The difference between preaching the moral and ethical truths of the Bible and preaching bare moralism is found in whether the meaning of the biblical truth is contextualized by the gospel of the Kingdom. When preachers simply assume the gospel while preaching the imperatives of Christian living, the result is ever-increasing self-righteousness or despair in the hearers.
Jesus and his apostles confronted liberal Sadducees and conservative, legalistic Pharisees who had the same problem, albeit stemming from opposing directions. Both were pursuing religious justification and satisfaction centered on a moralistic grid rather than Christ.
In his 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen warned, “Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity — liberalism is altogether in the imperative (what you do) mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative (what God has done); liberalism appeals to a man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.”
Machen’s critique is true of many today who gladly sign theologically conservative doctrinal statements and intellectually affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. Moralistic preaching abandons a central focus on the gospel and is unfaithful, whether the message affirms liberal or conservative morality.
You can read the whole article here.