Biblical Ethics? Absolutely

Who has the right to resolve the ethical controversies of our day, such as abortion, gay marriage, transgender hormones and sports competition, pornography, gambling, stealing, lying, etc?  Are ethics just a matter of cultural trends and personal opinion, or are there moral absolutes? Because our generation has answered this question foolishly, our culture is descending into moral chaos.

Dr Jerry Newcombe of Truths That Transform warns us,

“In our time, millions of Americans have shed many traditional values… In contrast to 39% of Americans today saying that religious faith is important to them, in 1998, the Wall Street Journal noted that that percentage was 62%. Along with this drop in professed religious faith is a drop in the belief that there is such a thing as absolute truth. But the founders of America affirmed that there is. In the Declaration of Independence, they declared, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’. ‘Self-evident truth? Well, maybe that was their truth,’ someone today might opine, ‘But my truth is different.’… Dr. Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries and author of the book, Truth Changes Everything, writes: ‘America has passed a tipping point. A majority of young Americans now say that there is no absolute truth, rather it is up to each individual to define their own truth. People talk about “speaking my truth” rather than “seeking the Truth.”‘” [1]

Not only is there a need to rediscover biblical faith and morality, we also need to appreciate the importance of parents and church leaders living by example and teaching biblical ethics.

A famous list of moral absolutes is passed down to us in Proverbs 6:16-19. The literary device of listing is intended to encourage memorization. The “six…seven” numbering denotes that there are more items that can be added to this preliminary list.

“These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”

This a character sketch of an evil person.

Of course we all have missed the mark of God’s righteousness…and continue to; that’s why we absolutely need redemption. As the apostle Paul wrote,

“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).

In the Christian life we are saved by grace and we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” in our character, behavior and words because we are spiritually new creations and indwelt by God’s Spirit: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Matt 5:6; Phil 2:13).

Consider the virtues that would be opposite of the Proverbs 6:16-19 portrait:

The characteristics that please God include:

A humble look,
A truthful tongue,
Hands that protect human life,
A heart the devises righteous plans,
Feet that are swift in running to virtuous goals,
A true witness who speaks honestly,
And one who encourages unity among the brethren.

The one who perfectly exhibited righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26; see 2 Cor. 5:21).

So, we recognize the evil characteristics of the Proverbs portrait and their polar opposites. We rejoice in God’s gracious salvation through Christ and His perfect example. But how do we become a better example of righteous values, attitudes, behavior, and speech? Progressive sanctification [2 Cor. 7:1]  doesn’t happen by trying to live up to the moral law in our own strength; that trips us up with increased inner conflicts and misery (Rom. 7:7-25). Rather, we come to believe in our union with Christ, and welcome the privilege of being under grace. We need to yield to—and depend upon— the indwelling Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus … For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1,3,4).

Does being “under grace” excuse sin or ignore the need for godliness? By no means: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

In conclusion, keep in mind that we need to “speak the truth in love.” Although we should be salt and light in our world, avoid a self-righteous attitude. Instead, defend Judeo-Christian ethics with a testimonial posture: “I agree with biblical morality because of the revelation of Scripture, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and because it works in real life.”[2]

So wisdom calls to us: wake up! Dismiss the false theory of moral relativism. Let’s live a vibrant Christian life and be proactive in teaching morality to the next generations.

[1] Jerry Newcombe, “Does Truth Matter?” The Stand, March 30, 2023
Dr Newcombe serves with D. James Kennedy Ministries.

[2] Reasons for affirming moral absolutes revealed in God’s Word include logic, language and life.

  • The declaration that “there is no absolute truth”contradicts itself because it is an absolute statement.
  • Language conveys meaning about the real world. Either water freezes and boils at consistent temperatures or it does not. Either George Washington served as the first president of the United Stats, or he did not, etc.
  • Because moral law is an aspect of God’s design law as Creator, the believer can have a worldview that is consistent with his/her experience in this world. However, those who declare they believe in relativism do not live consistently with this belief. Pyrrho (360-270 B.C.) taught that we must always suspend judgment since our sense perception may deceive us. He taught that nothing made any difference. But one day he quickly stepped out of the way of a chariot; one of his students asked, If it made no difference, why did he dart out of the chariot’s path?  Philosopher David Hume taught that knowledge was limited to sense perception, therefore there is no proof of an external world. Yet Hume conceded that he did act as if the real world is there. (See Erwin Lutzer, “Relativism,” in Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, ed. R. K. Harrison: Thomas Nelson, 1992)

Copyright © 2024 by John B. Woodward. Permission is given to reprint this article if credit is given to the author and Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright © by Thomas Nelson).

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