Living Christianity: Introduction
October 2, 2018
by Peter Amsterdam
Living Christianity: Introduction
As Christians, we understand that Scripture teaches that we are to live in alignment with God’s Word. We’re called to be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.1 This is a high and noble goal and one which we, as Christians, want to espouse and work toward. The clarion call expressed here is that we apply our knowledge of God’s wisdom and understanding to our lives and bear fruit, further our knowledge of God, and live a worthy life which pleases Him.
Understanding what God teaches through His Word and applying that teaching is what a life that pleases God is all about. But the complexities of daily life, the multitude of decisions we are faced with, the weight of responsibilities that consume our time, the temptations to cut corners, sometimes make pleasing God and applying His Word a challenge. Yet Scripture makes it clear that obeying God’s Word is key to following Him, which Jesus emphasized when He said:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.2
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.3
How do we apply the teachings of the Bible to our daily lives? How do we know if our choices align with the teachings of Scripture? The choices we make reflect how we think; they mirror our morals and our ethics. In this series, Living Christianity, I hope to offer some insight on living a moral and ethical life in accordance with the teachings of Scripture. The focus will be on Christian ethics and what the Bible teaches about making moral choices and decisions.
There are different ways to approach this topic, and the approach I’ve chosen is to use the Ten Commandments as a framework. Each commandment will serve as a sort of directory with subdirectories under it. For example, if we were to open a directory on the fourth commandment, Honor your father and your mother,4 we would find a number of subdirectories which address types of authority besides parental authority. For example, how are Christians supposed to respond to the authority of civil government? Is it ever right to disobey the government, and if so, when? What is the proper way to relate to others such as employers, teachers, etc., who have some authority over us?
While Christians are not required to live according to the Old Testament law, as the Hebrew people who lived in Old Testament times were, the Ten Commandments provide a framework for addressing moral and ethical standards for Christians. The apostle Paul wrote, Whatever was written in former days [the Old Testament] was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.5 Elsewhere, he wrote about Scripture (referring to the Old Testament), that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.6 Even though Jesus’ life and death fulfilled the Law of the Old Testament,7 Paul considered it to be useful to instruct Christians.
Paul affirmed this point when he wrote:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.8
While love fulfills the law, that love is manifested by avoiding murder, theft, envy, and all the other applicable moral dos and don’ts found within Scripture. As such, we can look to both the Old and New Testaments for moral and ethical guidance on how to live a life that is pleasing to God.
According to Scripture, our fundamental purpose as human beings is to glorify God. I like how the Westminster Catechism puts this: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. In Scripture, we read:
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory … my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.9
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.10
A Christian who glorifies God can be seen as one who has a Christlike character, bears fruit for God’s kingdom, is obedient to God, and has a personal relationship with Him.11 The apostle Paul wrote that Christians are to be conformed to the image of his Son.12 Elsewhere he wrote: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.13
What is the basis of Christian morality and ethics? Scripture teaches that the Bible’s moral and ethical standards are based in the moral character of God, and we are to imitate God's character. God is good, just, loving, holy, faithful, truthful, merciful, and more. He is morally perfect, and He rejoices to see His moral qualities reflected in us.
As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.14
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.15
We love because he first loved us.16
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.17
The concept of God as the basis of morality and ethical standards is also expressed throughout Scripture by means of reference to God as light.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.18
One author wrote:
Light does not refer only to God’s moral excellence. It also refers to the communication of that excellence, the revelation of it, to human beings. The light of God’s essence is a light that we are to walk in. [If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin] (1 John 1:7).
The light is our ethical guide. [Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path] (Psalm 119:105). The light reveals good and evil. [This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil] (John 3:19). So we should not walk in darkness. [Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life] (John 8:12). [Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light] (Romans 13:12). To dwell in light is to dwell with God; to dwell in darkness is to be apart from him. Indeed, we are to be the light.19
If we want our lives to reflect God, then we will want to align the way we think and act with what He has revealed in Scripture. What the Bible teaches us to do, we will do; what it says we shouldn’t do, we won’t do; when making nonmoral decisions, we are free to determine our personal choice. My prayer is that this series will be a blessing by helping to deepen your understanding of what Scripture teaches regarding moral and ethical living, will offer some guidance when you are faced with moral choices, and will in some way enhance your walk with the Lord.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Colossians 1:9–10.
2 John 14:15.
3 John 15:10.
4 Exodus 20:12.
5 Romans 15:4.
6 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
7 Matthew 5:17–18.
8 Romans 13:8–10.
9 Isaiah 43:6–7, 20–21.
10 1 Corinthians 10:31.
11 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2018), 107.
12 Romans 8:29.
13 1 Corinthians 15:49.
14 1 Peter 1:15.
15 Luke 6:36.
16 1 John 4:19.
17 Colossians 3:9–10.
18 1 John 1:5.
19 John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), 133.