ethics 24 7

being christian

Lust, Adultery, Divorce, and Adultery

Matthew 5:27-32 (NKJV) 27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

The “free sex” movement of the 60’s was anything but freedom; we are now enslaved to sexual lust, bodily passions, and sexual perversions beyond the imagination of most. The idea of having a monogamous relationship is no longer in vogue. Our nation has come to the point where it is thought that monogamy only happens in fairy tales or that there must be something missing in the lives of monogamous people.

One of the most obvious benchmarks of our sexual problem is the rate of divorce. In the United States a divorce happens every 13 seconds; that amounts to 6,646 per day. First time marriages divorce at a rate of 41%; second time at 61%, and third time at the astounding rate of 73%. The top five reasons people give for getting is a divorce is: 1. Poor communication, 2. Finances, 3. Abuse, 4. No longer attracted to one another, 5. Infidelity. Unfortunately the rate of divorce among Christians is about the same as in the society as a whole.

 adultery

How does divorce start? It starts with lust for the opposite sex. In the Matthew passage above Jesus talks about men lusting after women; but in today’s culture the same applies to women. We must understand it is OK to admire someone’s personal beauty; but when admiration turns to lust a change of heart has taken place. This change of heart can and often does lead to adultery which ultimately may lead to divorce.

The only valid reason Jesus gives for divorce is sexual immorality. Notice it is not mandatory; but it is permissible to divorce for infidelity. Also notice in the stats above infidelity was the fifth reason given for divorce; considering the negative consequences surrounding divorce the first four reasons seem trivial.

It is also important to notice, except for abuse, the 3 top reasons given are obviously unconscionable spin coving the most likely; i.e. the result of being involved in adulterous relationship. The idea of no longer being attracted to one another as a cause for divorce reeks with hedonism and is total disregard for the sanctity of marriage and the mental well being of one’s spouse.

It is also important that Jesus said when you divorce your spouse you cause that spouse to commit adultery. This is based on the premise that when either party remarries, or has a sexual relationship of any kind, they are committing adultery. The point is a divorce person may be legally separated from their spouse, but in the eye of God when two have been joined together they are together for the duration and any future sex outside of that marriage is adultery.

One last thought, the secular society we live in says Christianity has failed to give valid reasons as to why adultery, fornication, lusting, and sexual perversions are wrong; especially in this era of safe sex. But this is a canard and the lack of reasonable thought demonstrates that adultery is nothing more than a sociopathology deficient of moral responsibility and/or social conscience. No one can wipe away the wrongness of sex outside the bonds of a marital relationship by saying we are now in the era of safe sex. Disease prevention and birth control are not moral standards and cannot justify promiscuous sex.

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”
Gregg

Gregg public pic

I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

All comics can be found at: http://www.gocomics.com

 

 

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Transcendent, Personal, Powerful, and Good

The Ten Commandants are the place to start if one is going to build a Christian ethic. But we must be careful that we don’t understand the commandments as only a list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus clearly explains in the gospels that God’s commands are to be heartfelt and we are to have a nature of wanting to obey because it is the right thing to do. It is not enough to merely do the right thing, we have to be motivated by a cause; and that cause is our love of God and to bring Him glory.

The first commandment outlines what our relationship to God should be. He states He is the only God and won’t tolerant other gods. If we do have other gods, God considers this an “in your face” affront. In contrast a secularist would respond there is no value to be found in worshipping God in the external world. He might be kind and say, “It is ok for you but is not relevant to what is happening in the real world.” Each time we will be looking at a different commandment and other issues.

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Cartoon can be found at: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes

 Now let’s briefly consider other religions in the world and how they stand in contrast to Christianity. They all develop their ethos from one principle; live life to minimize pain and to maximize pleasure. They may do this in diverse ways but the differences are subtle if they are studied at any depth.

In the cartoon above we see Calvin exhibiting a hedonist worldview. He intends to maximize pleasure and get all he can out of life; it is the ethos of “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.” Notice the uncontrolled lust for pleasure in that Calvin does not fear the obvious impending crash of his wagon. He is determined to enjoy the ride disregarding the consequences. It is an enjoy life while you can ethos.

Epicureanism is similar, only it says enjoy the ride but protect the consequences. The motto would be “eat drink and be merry, but don’t do anything to cause pain.” It is an enjoy life but do it in moderation ethos.

Buddhism, Confucianism, Stoicism, Deism, and others all have the ethos of minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. The pleasure aspect could be purely hedonistic or it might be striving to be a better person. But the bottom line is making one feel better about self.

The teleology of pagan religions and secular atheist is ultimately focused on self and the only purpose to life is to make your own life better in this world. In contrast Christianity’s teleology is focused on God and the life He offers in the hereafter. The ultimate purpose is to love God and others as yourself. This purpose cannot be thought of as a “to do list.” Love is a heartfelt nature coming from the inner person. It must guide everything you think, say, or do.

If you are unfortunate to believe self pleasure is your purpose then you have no purpose or pleasure. Your entire life will be structured around attempts to control personal circumstances. It is analogous to driving a race car on one of those South American cliff roads. Each corner is a crisis the driver is trying avoid, he lives with the fear if he drives fast enough and long enough the inevitable will happen; a crises that can’t be afforded.

Christianity differs in that it understands there is suffering as well as pleasure in life; but there is the over arching knowledge we are not alone and it is God who is in control and has given all believers a purpose which brings blessings to self and good works to the glory of God.

Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”

Gregg

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I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

 

 

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Marriage is more than Sex
Just as there is much more to love than sex there is also much more to marriage than not being adulterous. Couples get married for a plethora of reasons, some of them good and some of them bad if they are the only reason. Reasons would include love, companionship, sex, meaning to life, children, romance, security, and sometimes a lot of selfish reasons we don’t have time to discuss.

Statistics tells us if true love is removed from the marriage relationship it fails after about 2 years. The initial passion and romance cannot sustain a marriage forever. If love is not the reason marriage moves to an arranged relationship where the couple remains together for marital benefits. It is not that marital benefits are wrong; but they shouldn’t be the reason for marriage. If the benefits are the primary goal, then something needs to be change.
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All comics can be found at: http://www.gocomics.com

Scripture commands us to love one another in the marriage relationship as Christ loves the church. But just what does that mean? In scripture there are three Greek word we translate into the English word love; eros, phileo, and agape. All three words are applicable to a marriage relationship but they have distinctively different meanings.

Eros is where we get the English word for erotic. In real terms it means to be passionate, romantic, and erotically in love. In the modern vernacular we misunderstand the meaning and typically associate erotic love with something perverted. But this is not the scriptural understanding. The fact is scripture commends and approves of erotic love in the marriage relationship. Just a cursory reading the Songs of Solomon and you will know what I am referring to (SoS 2:5, 4:1-7; Prov. 5:15-19). The one caveat is, eros is the love of one person and one person only. This is the kind of love that belongs only in a marriage and is captivated by love.

Proverbs 5:15-19 (NKJV) 15 Drink water from your own cistern, And running water from your own well. 16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be only your own, And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. This passage is filled with the ideal erotic love. The commands here are to be drunk with love for your spouse. It tells us to relinquish all self-control and fall under the influence of erotic love. It shouts out, “I NEED YOU!”

Phileo refers to brotherly love and typically involves friendship and love for a relative or close friend. It means to love someone because we admire them for who they are, but not for what they have or do in life. This is not “sucking up” to someone to gain favors. But we should “phileo” our spouse; they should be our best friend and we should admire their personhood and their physical body. The best times of our life, the most fun times should be when we are with our spouse. Although phileo is to be applied to everyone, it is best when it endeared to our spouses. It shouts out, “I WANT TO BE WITH YOU.”

Agape love is unconditional, selfless, giving, and never demands. It covers all the flaws, warts, and hard times found in all relationships. It is the kind of love that dwells on the good times and uses them as unction to get through the difficult times. There are times in all marriages when our spouses seems unlovable (this is a two way street and applies to both); but agape says love them anyway and always. This is the love which gives endurance to the relationship when the passion and romance starts to cool. This is the love which enriches eros with realism. This is the love that says, “I married you because…….;” and shouts out, “I GIVE TO YOU”.

So, how does scripture tell us to interact in the marital relationship? The principle is found in Ephesians 5:1, the specifics are enumerated in 5:15-27. Since God is not married the principle is we are to imitate God by loving our wives as Christ loves the Church; and wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.

This is one of the most conflict-ridden passages in all of scripture because women don’t like the word “submit” and men misunderstand submit to mean heavy-handed and demanding. But both men and women who think such are miss-informed and lack understanding as to what submit means scripturally.

First of all the word, “submit,” does not mean the male is to dominate the female. Nor does it imply the male is superior and the female is inferior. Scripture is filled with passages proclaiming there is neither male nor female in the kingdom of God. Male and female are to be equals just as the races are to be equal. Gender is not to be a quality which differentiates.

The word and the passage do imply a mutual submission to one another because of our relationship to Christ. However, this does not mean we are always to be submissive despite the consequences of the circumstance. It would be contrary to scripture for the wife to submit to her husband if his intent was to physically or verbally abuse her.

The correct view of mutual submission is to submit as appropriate which may or may not be fully reciprocal. This is to be governed by the circumstance. This is submission based on other biblical principles, on mutual obedience, honoring, and yielding to one another. This kind of submission is defined as being and being able to be our real-self, willing to make ourselves vulnerable to our spouse. It is being true and honest in our relationship never hiding anything or never afraid to expose our short comings. The goal of submission is not a giddy happiness where everything is cake and ice cream. The goal is to promote a holy union so as to control the relationship as Christ administers the church.

If the husband will love his wife and be the spiritual leader in the relationship as commanded by scripture; then the wife should have no problem with submitting to his spiritual authority. I have been married 50 years and once I got on track with God my wife has never failed to submit to spiritual authority.

Fifty years sounds like a long time; but it seems like only yesterday when I first kissed that cute little gal, and you can trust this, the kisses are just as sweet today as they were then. We are still best friends and do everything together; sometimes she does things with me when she would rather be somewhere else and vice versa. But our love has always been sacrificial, fully willing to give into one another to make the other happy. Our worst arguments come from trying to outdo each other in mutual submission.

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”
Gregg

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I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

All comics can be found at: http://www.gocomics.com

 

 

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We have been building a format for the development of a believer living under the rule of Christian ethics. The four principles important in the development of ethics are; duty, character, goals, and discernment. These principles are formulated to answer the four essentially questions outlined in part 3, what I/we to do and what I/we to be. Today we want to address discernment and the consequences of our decision.

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http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes#.U0WXXFfncVI

In the cartoon above Calvin is using discernment to make a decision as to whether he should or should not cheat on his test. Unfortunately Calvin makes the fatal error; instead of relying on character he uses consequentialism to make his final decision. So, what is wrong with considering the consequences of our decision? Nothing as long as they have a basis other than those solely founded on the consequences

Calvin never looks at his duty, character, or goals. Without this kind of critical discernment when Hobbs asks him “What did you decide,” he has no answer. Dr. John Frame answers Calvin’s dilemma this way: “Here I focus on the process of application, the subjective experience at applying God’s Word to circumstances.” He goes on to say: “Such applications require the ability to see the circumstances in the light of biblical principles. For Christians, the challenge is to give biblical names to human actions.”

Frame is saying the guidelines for making ethical decisions must come from an absolute and that absolute is God’s word. This is critical; otherwise we will discern our actions based solely from experientialism. Frame identifies the problem as being engrained in our nature; “People with healthy sense organs may not be able to see moral patterns and analogies. Someone may be very much aware of something he has done, without being able to make the right moral evaluation of his act.” He says this is; “In part [because] I resist any negative evaluation of my own actions because of my pride.” The issue is we may not beware of our own feelings, thus we are “without being able to make the right moral judgments.” There is more than our 5 senses and intellectual reasoning involved in the discernment process. Knowing the facts of the issue is not the same as seeing the relevant character trait found in scripture.

The opposite of discernment is blindness and a myopic attitude as we evaluate to see God’s ethical character development. But never the less we are called to discernment in scripture. Romans 12:1-2 is such a calling. This passage tells us to transform and renew our minds for the purpose of discerning what is good and acceptable and the perfect will of God. Where does this ability come from? Verse 3 Paul says it comes from the character God gives us through a “measure of faith.”

Now, we need to look at consequentialism because it is God who determines which actions leads to summon bonum/the greater good. No matter how we live there are always consequences to our actions; either for good or for bad. But there is hope because scripture is filled with consequential language.

The Book of Proverbs directs us toward the goal of summon bonum. Looking at Proverbs 3:1-8 we are given a command/duty followed by the consequences of acting on that duty. Verse one we are told our duty is to keep God’s law and commandments. Verse two says the consequences will be a long life filled with peace. But note the duty is to have a character which keeps God’s commands close to the heart. Thus our actions and consequences of those actions are based on the foundation coming from a Christian/Godly ethic.

I encourage you to look at the following verses to gain a greater insight into the consequential language found in scripture: Proverbs 6:6-11; Matthew 18:15; and 1 Peter 3:8-9.

The bottom line is, like Calvin, we are constantly faced with decision which will govern our actions. We can rely on our experiences and the consequences hoping for the best, or we can develop a character based on Godly ethics as we study and rightly discern the Word of God.

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”
Gregg

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If this is your first look at this series there are 3 other issues preceding.
I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

 

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Exodus 20:14 (NKJV) “You shall not commit adultery.

It’s All About Sex?
The seventh commandment is most certainly a prohibition of cheating on your spouse; anyone who doesn’t understand that principle doesn’t comprehend the English language. It is plain and simple; God says if you are married you are to only share the intimacy of sex with your marital spouse. But is there more than just sex in this commandment? Yes, it is all about marriage!

First we need to exclude the obvious. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman. That doesn’t include Adam and Steve, Jane and Fido, nor Ralph and Sue, Mary, Martha, Betty, and….. The point is biblical marriage is between one man and one woman; nothing more nothing less. But is there still more? Yes!

If God is against adultery then He is for the sanctity of a loving intimate relationship between a man and a woman. The commandment boldly proclaims fidelity and this doesn’t include cohabitation; cohabitation whether accidental or deliberate does not prove sexual compatibility. Cohabitation delays marriage, may stop marriage, and leaves one or both parties feeling they have been taking advantage of. If cohabitation does end in marriage the stats are against the marriage lasting more than 3 years. Cohabitation sounds like the good life on the TV sitcom; but the stats says these couples have a lower rate of sexual and marital satisfaction.
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Why so much about cohabitation? Because 60 to 70% of married couples cohabitate before getting married. The “moral basis” for this is; if everyone is doing it, it must be normal; if it is normal it must be good. The belief is you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on. You can read more about this in an article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-downside-of-cohabiting-before-marriage.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

So, what is marriage? Marriage is a covenantal relationship instituted by God and ordained in Genesis 2:23-25 (NKJV) 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

First the man and woman are to leave their families. Their mothers and fathers are to no longer have priority of relationship. Neither are their children to have priority of relationship; they are now in a special relationship which trumps all other relationships.

Secondly they are to be united to one another. They are to be lifetime companions who have promised the fidelity of their wills. This union comes before sex and is what makes marriage a God ordained institution. This union leads to the couple’s nakedness meaning they are emotionally and spiritually living as partners bounded by a loving caring relationship. They are no longer ashamed to express their deepest feeling to one another.

Thirdly they become one flesh; they are united in a physical union of intimacy; in a word, sex. The union of the flesh becomes a physical expression of their love for one another. It is an expression of the permanency of the relationship, never to be violated through an adulterous act. Jesus explains the sanctity of this in Matthew 19:6 (NKJV) So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Some final thoughts on adultery, sex, and marriage. If we violate this commandment we have violated several of the other nine if not all of them. When we cheat on our spouse we have lied to him or her about how we feel about the relationship. They are no longer the top priority of our life. We have also coveted something we have no right to; someone else’s spouse or someone’s physical body. We have stolen their modesty and intimacy. We have elevated sex to the status of an idol and have put it before our relationship to God. We have killed that something which lies deep in the inner soul of all of mankind; the value of being created in the image of God. We have lowered the level of morality to point we are no better than the beast of the field.

“Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”
Gregg

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I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

All comics can be found at: http://www.gocomics.com

 

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To develop an ethical/Christian character we must understand the terms. We could go to the dictionary and find definitions; that would give us a linguistic sense but it would not demonstrate ideals such as development, what is good, what is bad, and the standards or the basis for what is considered the ideal. Today we will define character by looking at how we move from what we are to what God would want us to be.

We often set goals to become a better athlete, to be economically successful, or to be a better spouse or parent. But a more important goal would be, how do I become more like Christ; i.e. how do I gain knowledge of Him and how do I conform to His likeness. For a Christian this is obvious; it involves prayer, study of scripture, testing our desires against scripture, and committing our plans and goals to His sovereign authority. The issue is not that we don’t know this; it is in that we don’t mediate on doing it for the purpose of developing a natural desire to be like Christ. Romans 6:1-14.

So, the first part of our strategy is to establish a goal of becoming a person with a high level of ethical Christian character. Next we must understand the place of duty, the do’s and don’ts of God’s revelation. Duty is important to character; it is good to be obedient to God’s word. But duty is not the essence of character nor is it the essence of Christ. Duty can be doing the right thing for the right reason; but just as easily it can be doing the right thing for the wrong reason. When the latter happens it is not because we have an ethical character.

An example would be the woman who refuses to get an abortion. Is her refusal grounded in her belief in the sanctity of life, or is it because she wants child support from the father? The sanctity of life is motivated by her Christian ethic where as the child support comes from a pragmatic motive. The problem with pragmatism is when the circumstances change the action and consequences often changes. For example if the father said I will give you $X dollars to have the abortion she could easily change her mind and abort the baby.

Therefore character is about asking ourselves who am I in Christ and am I motivated to be more like Him? How can I see things God’s way; i.e. seeing the right option and doing it? Duty is the do’s and don’ts and whether or not we do the right thing or don’t do the wrong thing. The obedience to God found in duty is the result of a Christian character. The character is developed from setting proper goals and proper discernment in the process of setting those goals. Philippians 2:12-13.

Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”

Gregg

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Lecture III

I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/

 

 

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When thinking about developing a personal Christian ethic our first source of information in formulating a basis of thought is obviously Scripture. This is reasonable because scripture doesn’t change; only our understanding of it changes. Sproul refers to this as being normative because it is an absolute basis derived from an absolute truth. Any other ethic is therefore normal and is relative to what the culture determines to be permissible thought and activity. What is normal then becomes the morality of the culture.

 So we can conclude an ethic is different from a moral standard. For Christians God is our standard for ethics and thus should be our standard for moral conduct. But for the un-redeemed an ethical code is in reality the current moral conduct of the society and changes as the whims of the majority changes. The difference between Christian ethics and cultural morality is the difference between ought-ness verses is-ness. That is to say what we ought to be doing verses what we are doing.

 The ideal of ought-ness is determined by how we approach scripture. Do we come to scripture with a problem trying to find a solution; or do we exegete scripture then look for a problem to solve. The Apostle Paul gives us some insight to this in Romans 12:1-2: 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV.

 Paul makes clear we are to listen to God, allowing God to change our minds, and as a result change our behavior. But he doesn’t stop; he goes on to say we are to put it to the test. I think he means we are to try it, learn by experience, thus know it better; and then keep repeating the process till it works in perfect harmony with God’s will. Then our lives will be good, pleasing and perfect in God’s sight.

 How do I come to this conclusion? Because of what Paul says in Romans 5: 3 Not4  only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God5  has been poured out6  in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. NET. Do you see the progression? The more we suffer life (i.e. experience life) the greater our ability to endure what comes to us. This then develops our Godly character making us more Christ-like. How do we verify our Christian character? Through the love of God which is poured out by the Holy Spirit. How is this love manifested in our lives? Through this love we will have a greater understanding of the Holiness of God.

 If we were to put all this thought in a bag and shake it up we would find ourselves at John 7:15-17 where Jesus says; 15 The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” 16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.17If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. NIV.

 What did Jesus just say? I think He is telling us if we want to be obedient to God we need to and will understand what He is saying. But how does this work out, how can we obey if we don’t understand? What He was telling the scribes is, if you are motivated to be obedient and are trying to be obedient you will then become a better interpreter of what God is saying through scripture. Otherwise, how you follow the teaching of Jesus makes you a better interpreter of scripture. It is the ideal that all right knowledge of God is from obedience not from study. Thus as we live life, we will be provided from life, the proper questions to ask God from His word.

 This is the difference between a Christian ethicist and a secular moralist, the former is trying to learn from experience drawing closer to an absolute truth while the later is accepting the normal and labeling is morality.

 Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”

Gregg

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I would like to thank Dr. Dan Doriani and Covenant Theological Seminary for making the course, “Christian Ethics,” freely available at:

http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/courses/christian-ethics-doriani/