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Reasons For Believing in Christian Theistic Ethics - part 2

The Christian theistic ethical system not only answers the key ethical questions, it explains why the secular ethical theories are a failure. Secular theories attempt to explain something that is written on their hearts. But without the aide of God's revelation, they don't know how it got there.
  • Rom. 2:14-15a - for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their heart
To the extent that man retains their sense of right and wrong, they demonstrate that God has imprinted His law upon their hearts.

The Foundation of All Ethics

Obedience to God's law is the basic principle of morality. God is the ultimate and final authority. He is the highest law giver. Therefore, His law trumps all other obligations. Ultimately, we will have to give an account before him of all of our actions and thoughts.
  • Is. 33:22 - For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King; He will save us
  • James 4:12 - There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
  • Matt. 12:36 - But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
  • Rom. 14:11-12  - For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
  • Heb. 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Obedience and its Relation to the Covenants

The theme of the whole Bible is the covenant of works, broken by Adam, and God's subsequent covenant of grace to God's children. In the covenant of grace, Christ fulfills God's requirement of perfect obedience, in our place. This theme is summed up in the contrast between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:19.
  • Rom. 5:19 - For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
The obedience aspect of Christ's work is often overlooked. His active obedience (every perfect work done by Jesus) was just as important to our salvation as His passive obedience (Jesus' death upon the cross). The following passages emphasis Christ's obedience to His Father.
  • Matt. 26:39 - O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will
  • John 4:34 - My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
  • Matt 6:38 - For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
  • Phil 2:8 - And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
  • Heb. 10:7 - Then I said, “Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.

The Motive of Christian Ethics

Christian ethics not only involves actions but also motive. The motive of ethics and obedience is the love of God. Our aim in ethics is to be pleasing to God.
  • Deut 11:1 - Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.
  • John 14:15 - If you love Me, keep My commandments.
  • John 14:21 - He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.
  • 1 John 5:2 - For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
  • 2 Cor. 5:9 - Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
  • Eph. 5:8-10 - Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
  • Col. 1:10 - that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God
  • 1 Thess. 4:1 - Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God

Are There Two Laws in the Bible?

Some would argue that the Bible does not declare a consistent ethical system. They would use polygamy and divorce as an example and show that both of these were tolerated in the Old Testament. Jesus answers that divorce issue clearly in Matt 19:8 (also read Matt. 19:3-8 and Mark 10:2-9) saying "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." When Jesus says "from the beginning it was not so" He declares that the ethical prohibition against divorce always stood from the beginning. But God being gracious, allowed for divorce in place of the death penalty in cases where a spouse leaves and marries another (adultery - see Deut. 24:1-4). The sin of adultery had become so prevalent in Israel that Moses made this concession regarding the civil death penalty.

We see the same principle for polygamy. Men in the Old Testament were permitted to take more than one wife. But "from the beginning it was not so." Genesis 2:24 says "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

A clear distinction between the moral, civil and ceremonial law is important to understand. The moral has and always will be binding. However, the civil expired with the authority of the nation that it belonged to (the Jews), and the ceremonial was fulfilled by Christ replaced with new ceremonial ordinances (baptism and the Lord's supper). Heb. 7:12 - "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law."
  • Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.
  • To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.
- 1647 version of Westminster Confession of Faith - Chapter 19 "Of the Law of God" section 3 and 4