The statement, “Christianity is not about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s,”
is a bit ridiculous…

February 7, 2013

johnathan_pritchettBy Johnathan Pritchett

I find troubling statements like “Christianity is not about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s.” Sadly (for some, not me), the Bible protests against such statements, however popular they are. Avoiding the whole relationship between “Law and Gospel,” or “Law and Grace,” or “Biblical commands or principles,” or however one wants to deal with the related issues of Old Covenant and the New Covenant, or to there being New Covenant commands and how they function in and for believers, and just sticking to the New Testament in general; those under grace are given a whole bunch of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” There is no way around it. There is nothing wrong with it either. The “do’s and don’t’s” are from God.

One day, it ought to be possible to talk about “do’s” and “don’t’s” without having to preface the whole conversation with the total sum of Protestant theology. We don’t live in that day. So yes, no one is saved or justified by doing any “good works” or following “rules and regulations;” but, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is not the total content of Christianity.

See, I felt the need to preface this myself (though I will not expound it any further than the comments offered) because it seems that lately, certain folks at weird extreme ends of Reformed theology and the non-Reformed, easy-believism crowd love to rant and rave at anyone and everyone who actually talks about these sorts of things. They toss accusations of “your preaching law, not grace,” and “legalism,” and “works-righteousness,” despite the fact that folks are preaching NT texts filled with “do’s” and “don’t’s.”

I really admire the many holiness preachers from all the various orthodox theological traditions. They have no problem dealing with these charges. They deal with them by ignoring them. Likewise, they do not feel burdened with feeling the need to offer long-winded prefaces of Protestant theology and offering disclaimers before preaching from texts that have Spirit-inspired, apostolic commands, instructions, exhortations, etc., much less the ones from Jesus’ mouth in the Gospels. They just jump right in and tell folks what the Bible says they should do and not do.

However, sadly, it seems like one faces the “heresy” charge from someone anytime a person dares to exhort Christians to (gasp!) actually behave and act like Christians.

In any case, the idea that Christianity isn’t about “do’s” and “don’t’s” is totally devoid of having a sound biblical basis.

By having a glance at one New Testament Epistle, let us see if there are actually “do’s” and “don’t’s” in Christianity. Since Romans is the first one, we’ll take a gander at it.

1. Don’t: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires” Romans 6:12;

2. Don’t: “And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness” Romans 6:13;

3. Do: “But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God” Romans 6:13;

4. Do: “and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness” Romans 6:13;

5. Do: “For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification” Romans 6:19;

6. Don’t: “for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die” Romans 8:13 (i.e. don’t live according to the flesh);

7. Do: “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” Romans 8:13 (i.e. put to death the deeds of the body);

8. Don’t: “do not brag that you are better than those branches” Romans 11:18;

9. Don’t: “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid” Romans 11:20;

10. Do: “Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness” Romans 11:22;

11. Do: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” Romans 12:1;

12. Don’t: “Do not be conformed to this age” Romans 12:2;

13. Do: “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2 (passive, but still imperative);

14. Don’t: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think” Romans 12:3 (oh, how I wish this one were plastered on our foreheads);

15. Do: “Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” Romans 12:3 (ditto above comments);

16. Do:” If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith” Romans 12:6;

17. Do: “if service, in service” Romans 12:7;

18. Do: if teaching, in teaching” Romans 12:7;

19. Do: “if exhorting, in exhortation”Romans 12:8;

20. Do: “giving, with generosity” Romans 12:8;

21. Do: “leading, with diligence” Romans 12:8;

22. Do: “showing mercy, with cheerfulness” Romans 12:8;

23. Do: “Detest evil” Romans 12:9;

24. Do: “cling to what is good”Romans 12:9;

25. Do: “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love” Romans 12:10;

26. Do: “Outdo one another in showing honor” Romans 12:10;

27. Don’t: “Do not lack diligence” Romans 12:11;

28. Do: “be fervent in spirit” Romans 12:11;

29. Do: “serve the Lord. Romans 12:11;

30. Do: “Rejoice in hope” Romans 12:12;

31. Do: “be patient in affliction” Romans 12:12;

32. Do: “be persistent in prayer” Romans 12:12;

33. Do: “Share with the saints in their needs” Romans 12:13;

34. Do: “pursue hospitality” Romans 12:13;

35. Do: “Bless those who persecute you” Romans 12:14;

36. Do: “bless” Romans 12:14;

37. Don’t: “and do not curse” Romans 12:14;

38. Do: “Rejoice with those who rejoice” Romans 12:15;

39. Do: “weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15;

40. Do: “Be in agreement with one another” Romans 12:16;

41. Don’t: “Do not be proud” Romans 12:16;

42. Do: “instead, associate with the humble” Romans 12:16;

43. Don’t: “Do not be wise in your own estimation” Romans 12:16;

44. Don’t: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” Romans 12:17;

45. Do: “Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes” Romans 12:17;

46. Do: “If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18;

47. Don’t: “Friends, do not avenge yourselves” Romans 12:19;

48. Do: “instead, leave room for His wrath” Romans 12:19;

49. Do: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” Romans 12:20;

50. Do: “If he is thirsty, give him something to drink” Romans 12:20;

51. Don’t: “Do not be conquered by evil” Romans 12:21;

52. Do: “but conquer evil with good” Romans 12:21;

53. Do: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities” Romans 13:1;

54. Do: “Do good and you will have its approval” Romans 13:3;

55. Do: “Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience” Romans 13:5;

56. Do: “Pay your obligations to everyone” Romans 13:7;

57. Do: “taxes to those you owe taxes” Romans 13:7;

58. Do: “tolls to those you owe tolls”Romans 13:7;

59. Do: “respect to those you owe respect” Romans 13:7;

60. Do: “and honor to those you owe honor” Romans 13:7;

61. Don’t: “Do not owe anyone anything” Romans 13:8;

62. Do: “except to love one another” Romans 13:8;

63. Do: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Romans 13:9 (and the commandments before it are thereby included);

64. Do: discard the deeds of darkness” Romans 13:12;

65. Do: “and put on the armor of light” Romans 13:12;

66. Do: “Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight” Romans 13:13;

67. Don’t: “not in carousing and drunkenness” Romans 13:13;

68. Don’t: “not in sexual impurity and promiscuity” Romans 13:13;

69. Don’t: “not in quarreling and jealousy” Romans 13:1;

70. Do: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 13:1;

71. Don’t: “and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires” Romans 13:14;

72. Do: “Accept anyone who is weak in faith” Romans 14:1;

73. Don’t: “but don’t argue about doubtful issues” Romans 14:1;

74. Don’t: “One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat” Romans 14:3;

75. Don’t: “and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does” Romans 14:3;

76. Do: “Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another” Romans 14:13;

77. Do: “but instead decide not to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way” Romans 14:13;

78. Don’t “By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died” Romans 14:15;

79. Don’t: “Therefore, do not let your good be slandered” Romans 14:16;

80. Do: “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another” Romans 14:19;

81. Don’t: “Do not tear down God’s work because of food” Romans 14:20;

82. Do: “Keep it to yourself before God” Romans 14:22;

83. Do: “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength” Romans 15:1;

84. Don’t: “and not to please ourselves” Romans 15:1

85. Do: “Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.” Romans 15:2

86. Do: “Therefore accept one another,” Romans 15:7;

87. Do: “Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles” Romans 15:9;

88. Do: “and I will sing psalms to Your name” Romans 15:9;

89. Do: “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people!” Romans 15:10;

90. Do: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles” Romans 15:11;

91. Do: “all the peoples should praise Him!” Romans 15:11;

92. Do: “watch out for those who cause dissensions and pitfalls contrary to the doctrine you have learned” Romans 16:17;

93. Do: “Avoid them” Romans 16:17;

94. Do: “be wise about what is good” Romans 16:19; and,

95. Do: “yet innocent about what is evil” Romans 16:19;

That is 95 “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the book of Romans alone. I probably missed some. Granted, most of this becomes “more natural” to believers because of the Holy Spirit working in their lives during sanctification, but that is beside the point I am making here. Paul believed in the Holy Spirit and His work, and was inspired by that same Spirit to spell it out almost as a bunch of instructions to “do” or “not do,” as it were. Thus, trying to make it all indicative is irrelevant, because there it is in Scripture: A bunch of things to do and not do in Christianity. That is 95 things in one Epistle. The estimated number of laws in the Mosaic Law is 613. Hmm — I wonder if the NT passes that number. Whether you call these things law, commands, commandments, imperatives, or principles, the one thing they are is a bunch of “do’s” and “don’t’s” for Christians. Saying Christianity isn’t about that is wrong-headed from the start.

Please realize that those people who want nothing to do with “do’s and don’t’s” in Christianity, or claim Christianity isn’t about them, effectively remove a significant chunk of Romans, and, of course, the rest of the New Testament (I can do this for all 27 books, you know).

Why not embrace the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of Christianity, promote them, and expound them? That list is from God! It is Christ-centered because we are commanded not only to be like Him, but to obey Him as well, if we love Him anyway (John 15:14). The only way any of that happens is to believe in Him.

Exhorting all of this does nothing to endanger the doctrine of justification by faith alone. God is smarter than I am, and smarter than you are. So following all those “do’s” and “don’t’s” is probably a good idea. What is so wrong with all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” God has for Christians to obey and follow? Because of faith in Jesus, God makes us new creatures in Him, and through the Holy Spirit we can actually do (or not do, as it were) those things that please God and be obedient. Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and a whole host of other passages make the idea of “do-nothing believers” a contradiction in terms.

Are those things just that awful to talk about and preach? No way! Those are wonderful things worth adhering to in our lives as Christians. Rightly following those things doesn’t lead to arrogance, pride, “works-righteousness,” or boasting. Following them leads to pleasing God in the Spirit. That doesn’t sound so bad to me.

They are from God. I am thankful for them. So folks, please stop saying “Christianity isn’t about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s.” We believers need to worry less about issues of “legalism” and “works-righteousness” (and the charges involved) and as Christians be more concerned with holiness and living to please our Master; i.e. Christians should act like Christians. God gave us the Bible to instruct us for training in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16) So, let us all read it, delight in it, and get on with the training!

There seems to be plenty of “do’s and don’t’s” in Christianity and they are there for good reason. We should do (or not do, as it were) them. God knows best!