An Introduction to Biblical EthicsDecember 26, 2022 ● 20 min
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A. The Bible and ethics. See J. Douma, Responsible Conduct (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003)
- Bible at completely true in all it affirms, the standard for truth (sola Scriptura), and applicable to all of life
- Bible as a guide (Psalm 119; 2 Tim. 3:15-16), the ultimate authority.
- Bible as a compass, provides and orientation, but not specifics on some matters; a way of life (Proverbs [wisdom and folly], Ecclesiastes, Deuteronomy 30)
- Bible as a source or moral and immoral examples, narratives (Historical books of OT; Jesus in Gospels, Hebrews 11)
Two errors in appealing to the Bible for ethics:
1. Biblicism: the letter of Scripture without context and sense of placement in redemptive history.
2. Latitudinarianism: Scripture shorn of authority, diluted, distorted by contemporary tastes, preferences, orientations. Theological liberalism. See Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, “progressive Christianity.”
II. Three categories of law
- Ceremonial law
- Civil law - When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof (Deuteronomy 22:8)
- Moral law: Ten Commandments
III. Three Uses of the Law (Calvin, Institutes, book 2, chapter seven)
A. Constraint on evil (1 Tim. 1:9-10): barricade
B. Condemnation of sinners, pedagogical use (Galatians 3:24): mirror Lutherans emphasize this as the primary function.
C. Guidance for the godly (Jer. 31:33; Romans 15:4; Heb. 10:16): yardstick
IV. Uniqueness of Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-18; Deut. 5)
A. Sinai Event itself occasioned by special signs (Exodus 19)
B. Torah within the Torah: “summarily comprehends” the moral law (Westminster Larger Catechism)
C. Emphasis on the Ten Commandments throughout Scripture
D. Justification and sanctification
V. Understanding the Commandments
A. View in light of (1) original situation and (2) larger canonical setting, particularly the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
B. Two tables of the Law (see Matthew 22:37-39)
C. Eight principles for interpreting the Ten Commandments: Westminster Larger Catechism.
1. What are the duties required?
2. What at the sins prohibited?
3. What are the blessings of obedience?
VI. Pursue virtue; avoid vice (Matthew 5:1-16)
A. Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:22-26)
B. Gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12-14)
C. Don’t let the gifts get ahead of the fruits: God’s work in you is prior and more important than God’s work through you (ministry)
D. Works of the flesh (Galatians 5)
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
A. Do as much good as you can for as many as you for as long as you can without breaking God’s law or grieving the Holy Spirit.
B. Blessings for obedience to covenant (Deuteronomy 8, 28, etc.)
C. Be zealous for good works in the power of the Holy Spirit; zeal and knowledge, not one without the other
D. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
E. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13)
F. He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you [duty]?
To act justly [consequences] and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God [virtue] (Micah 6:8)
1. Scott Rae, Moral Choices
2. J. Douma, Responsible Conduct
3. Westminster Larger Catechism Commentary on the Ten Commandments.
4. David Clyde Jones, Biblical Christian Ethics
A Prayer about Growing Fruit - Your Daily Prayer - January 28
The power of winter in the physical world allows the ground to rest so that in the growing season, it can do what God designed it to do—produce life. We also produce life. We can speak life with our words and bring life with our actions. But there’s a season for rest too.
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