But let me give you a third reason for rejecting this extraordinary view that dismisses the doctrine and simply puts up an ethical way of life, saying that only the teaching of Christ matters: That view is the ultimate and final denial of Christ. That was the whole trouble with the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the scribes. Our Lord once contrasted them with the tax-collectors and the harlots. He said, “John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matt. 21:32). “There is more hope in the end,” our Lord said in effect, “for the publican, the sinner, and the harlot than there is for you Pharisees.”
So who is the Pharisee? The Pharisee is the person who is interested in the teaching of Christ but denies Him at the most vital and essential points. What annoyed the Pharisees was when Christ told them they were sinners. They were always pointing to the tax-collectors. So now religious people get excited when a prurient magazine is about to be produced, and they point at the editors. But Christ says, “You are worse than them. You are self-righteous. You think you can save yourselves. You are satisfied with your morality. And when I say that I have come to die for you and to save you, and that is the only way you can be saved, you reject Me and hate Me.”
That is the final blasphemy; that is the ultimate denial of Christ. There is more hope in London tonight for hopeless drunkards, for prostitutes, for people in the very gutters of sin, there is more hope for them than for these people who say, “All we want is the teaching of Jesus. We can imitate Him and follow His example and put ourselves right with God.” That, I say, is the final denial. But they are not aware of this. These people are like the late Lord Birkett, who was once a Methodist local preacher but gave that up. When he was interviewed on television and was asked, “What is your position now?” he replied with a smile, “I no longer believe the doctrine, but I still hold on to the ethic.” Poor man.
*Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). Vol. 1: Authentic Christianity (1st U.S. ed.). Studies in the Book of Acts (120–121). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.