Christians Should Not Deny Their Moral Superiority
by Stuart DiNenno
During the course of discussion or evangelism I have witnessed, more than a few times, believers saying to unbelievers “Christians are no better than anyone else”, “we are sinners just like others”, or a similar statement. I believe these things are often said because most Christians feel uneasy proclaiming any kind of moral superiority out of fear of appearing that they are exalting themselves or denigrating others. That is understandable and while there is a sense in which it is true that we are no better than anyone else and that we are sinners, I believe we should not be so quick to say such things to non-Christians.
Christians are no better than others in the sense that we are all part of fallen humanity. The Bible clearly teaches that all men, being descendants of the same original man, also inherit the same spiritual corruption of the original man. “…by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). We are all thoroughly depraved and none of us apart from God is good. “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:2-3) It is not possible for anyone to stand before God on his own merits: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3)
But in another sense, Christians are better than non-Christians — far better. How could it not be so? Is not a man who believes the testimony of God, has repented of his sins, and is sincerely trying to obey and serve God, better than a man who rejects the testimony of God, unrepentantly continues in sin, and is only concerned with fulfilling his selfish lusts? Is not someone “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14) better than those who walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2)? If, being regenerate, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), then how can we be merely equal to those whose “carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7)? Are not “the children of God” superior to “the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10)? Yes, far superior.
I believe we are wrongly abandoning the moral high ground when we say such things. If we are telling others that Christians are no better than anyone else, that is saying we are just as bad as the ungodly. What way is this to evangelize the lost? If we are telling those outside the household of faith that we are no better than them, then what reason do they have to desire to come into that household? If we are telling a man that Christianity has not made us any better than heathens, should we be surprised if he has no interest in inquiring further into it? And how can we claim any moral authority while we are saying that we are no better than non-Christians?
The fearful shrinking back from declaring Christian superiority that we see among most professing believers today is just another manifestation of the church’s conformity to the spirit of the age. The prophets of this world who incessantly preach the equality mantra have convinced even many so-called Christians that any claim to superiority is invalid. But Christianity is the only true religion and it is our duty to emphatically declare it to be so, and to seek the overthrow of the many false religions of this age, including the false religion of equalitarianism. We cannot do this without militantly proclaiming that Christ alone has the power to lift men out of the mire of sin and raise them to a higher place, and declaring that He has done so for ourselves. Inherent in the gospel message is an assertion of superiority.
It is true that we need to guard against prideful self-righteousness. We must be ever mindful that we have no righteousness of our own: “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We have nothing for which we can glory in ourselves and so it is said “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31) But we have to be careful that we do not, out of a false humility, go to the other extreme and deny what God has, by grace, given us and made us. The gifts of God received by those born of the Spirit do make them superior to those not similarly gifted, and if we want others to attain to that superior position along with us, then we must not deny the superiority we have obtained by the grace of God and we must proclaim the superiority of the Christian religion by which we attained it. It is obvious that if we are going to “shine as lights in the world” “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Philippians 2:15), then we are only contradicting ourselves if we simultaneously declare that we are no better than the crooked and perverse.
So while it is not entirely wrong for a Christian to say “we are no better than anyone else”, if it must be said, then it should never be said without additional qualification. We are not magnifying Christ if we make statements that lead others to believe His sheep are no better than goats. Nor are we serving God if we cause others to think that Christianity’s claim of having the power to make a better man are false. Therefore, it is much appropriate to say something like: “were it not for the grace of God, we would be no better than anyone else.” In such a statement, we give the glory to God, confess that we would be nothing without Him, and yet we affirm our superior moral position.