To teach the standards of moral conduct that adorn the gospel and insist that our hearers heed them is neither legalism nor pharisaism but plain apostolic Christianity.”
Stott, The Challenge of Preaching, p. 35
And what is gospel morality? We could answer from, say, the apostle Paul’s letter to Ephesus, where he speaks of what we have been taught by the gospel, contra to the old way we used to live. But, seeing that the apostles’ teaching was based on the teaching of our Lord, we need to ask, “What morality did Jesus teach?”
The answer to that question is simple: the very same morality he taught on Mt. Sinai to Moses: keep the law, which is summarized in the words, “Love God and love your neighbour.” This is why Paul tells us in Romans that the Spirit has been given to us so that the righteousness of the law - which we had avoided and broken - might be fulfilled in us.
Jesus was not a legalistic or a Pharisee. He came to save us from our sins, viz. our transgression. Why? Lots of reasons. But one main reason, per Ephesians 1, is simply that he loves us. It’s all about love. Any doctrine that is against the law of God is all about hate. It ends in death.
On this day, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, the Epistle reading in the American Prayer Book (1928) is that famous passage from Philippians 2, where we read that, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord. In the Jewish tradition, a child is named at his circumcision (which is why Christians traditionally name their children at their baptism). Thus, Mary's child was given the name Jesus on this day - but what a picture! The name given on this day is the name of him who would save his people from their sins. It is the name of the promised King. It is the name before which everyone - and that means everyone - will bow and confess that he is indeed Lord of all. When Jesus was circumcised, he - as in his baptism - fulfilled all righteousness and was made like his brethren. He continued his act of humility, becoming another son of Abraham, a member of his own covenant with Abraham centuries before. Yet, in this humble act, he takes on his name; that name full of his mission and his destiny. A name that would hold more glory than any name a man ever held. The traditional Epistle reading for this day was from Romans 4. I rather like this one from Philippians 2. Don't you? [image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Menologion_of_Basil_047.jpg]