Tag Archives: ethics

A Different Kind Of Faith — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

The uniqueness of Christianity sets it apart from other world religions. At times, believers have received ill treatment ranging from simple ridicule to outright persecution. In the first century, Christianity appeared as a faith different from anything the Roman Empire had ever seen. Although many differences emerge upon close examination, Christians differed from their religious neighbors in three significant areas: their worship of one God, the promotion of morals, and religious practice.

Exclusive Worship of One God. Christians differed sharply from their pagan neighbors in worshiping only one God at the exclusion of all others. The Romans had no problem with Christians worshipping God as long as they paid respect to the gods of Rome. Pagans saw early Christians’ refusal to do so as both bizarre and intolerable. Christians acquired the reputation of being seditious, divisive, and dangerous to the well-being of the empire.

The Romans tolerated Jew’s insistence upon worshipping Yahweh alone because of the antiquity of the Jewish faith. As a recent development with no ties to any particular ethnicity or nation (Gal. 3:28b), Christian beliefs found little sympathy. The Romans saw the exclusive worship of one God as unprecedented and unjustifiable.

Promotion of Morals and Ethics. Christianity is not merely a religion of theological tenets and beliefs but prescribes distinctive ethical teachings. The typical person in the ancient world made little if any connection between religion and morals—this was the domain of philosophy. The religious were interested in placating the gods and warding off unwanted attention from vengeful spirits. Christianity offered a moral and ethical system of belief designed to imitate God’s holiness and righteousness (Eph. 5:1-14). Indeed, ancient religion had little interest in emulating the gods, whose behavior was often deplorable if not criminal.

Religious Practice. Religious activities made up a significant part of the fabric of daily life. Christianity differed from paganism in that it had no altar, sacrifices, depictions of God, shrines or temples, or priesthood (at least, not how pagans understood them; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:5). Temples could often be found in the heart of the city, and shrines and altars could be seen throughout (e.g., Acts 17:16). Rome expected its citizens to worship the gods, which Christians in good conscience could not do.

With an abundance of opportunities for showing the necessary reverence to the gods, Christians must have had a difficult time navigating society. In the modern world, concealing one’s Christian faith is relatively simple; in the Roman Empire, such a thing would have been almost impossible. Living out the faithful Christian life was not only a matter of choice but of consistency. New Testament writers commended the perseverance of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:2-7) and the Ephesians (Rev. 2:2-3) for their resolute faith under challenging circumstances.

The behavior of the early Christians must have left their neighbors befuddled. The disdain and even hostility of the Romans toward early believers is proof of the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. It differed from both the traditional religions of the classical world and the mystery cults. In spite of the consequences they suffered for their faith, Christians lived their lives as a “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). They weathered the efforts other others in their day to compromise their distinctiveness and conform to popular attitudes toward religion. They serve as a model for those today who still seek to imitate Christ and bring the light of life to a darkened world (2 Cor. 4:6-11).

Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX. He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.

God-Centered Ethics — Eric Diaz

Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior. God-centered ethics are the moral principles provided to man through His inspired Scriptures. God’s will for mankind has always been that we come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, He does not desire that any should perish. His love for mankind was shown by sending His only begotten Son to be that Savior and Mediator between us and the one and only living God (1 Tim. 2:3-6). God has always blessed men with a system of right and wrong as well as the free will opportunity of choosing right or wrong.

The first commands from God were given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. At this time commands were given directly to the patriarchs such as Noah, Abraham, and his descendants. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt God gave His people the ten commandments and other spoken commands for them to live by. There have also been judges and prophets who have relayed information to the people to live righteously. When we come to the New Testament period we have Jesus, our mediator who provided a better way established on better promises (Heb. 8:6).

A lawyer once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This great foundation of love for God and awareness of others is crucial in understanding God-centered ethics. As usual, Jesus was the best example of loving God by perfectly carrying out His will, even to the point of giving Himself as a ransom for all. Love always involves sacrifice. We gladly sacrifice our time, energy and money for what we love the most.

It can be easy to recognize how to love your neighbor as yourself because we have a vested interest in caring for ourselves. Paul describes a husband loving his wife just like he loves his own body: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Eph. 5:29) We also have the example here of how the Lord loves His church. Another well known scripture that’s important in this topic is Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” So we have yet another example of God-centered ethics summed up in one short verse, often hailed as the Golden Rule.

But what is a sign of someone who loves God? Jesus answers this question very simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John also records a contrast between love of God and love of the world in 1 John 2:15-17; one cannot have both love for the world and for God. These verses also cast a light on the darkness that is sin. This doesn’t mean that Christians will never sin, or that when we do sin we don’t love God. It shows the internal struggle between willing spirits surrounded by weak flesh. This is the struggle of living in the world but not being of the world. We are not to avoid the people of the world but we are to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2). This is our reasonable service.

The Alternative

A truly fair system of ethics must be objective (Acts 10:34), just (Deut. 32:4), and unchanging (Heb. 13:8). Without an objective standard of truth, ethics would be dependent upon any given situation or perspective; injustices would abound and as time goes on standards would change. The alternative would be a system of self-centered ethics, a system built upon the desires of the individual or the majority of a people. This alternative system would be subjective in nature and may even progress to the point of calling good evil and evil good. But if there is no objective standard there cannot definitively be good and evil.

We are repeatedly warned by God not to lean on our own understanding and that our own hearts can be deceptive (Jer. 17:9). This kind of self centeredness has been the downfall of mankind since the very beginning. Through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life we can be drawn away from God, toward a path of death and destruction (1 John 2:16; James 1:14,15). Adam and Eve fell prey to the craftiness of the devil, who promised something contrary to God’s given word. They sinned and faced the consequences of their actions and so death spread to all men.

God in times past left men up to their own devices. These have always been times of great despair in our history upon this earth. Mankind in Noah’s day showed that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). The wicked cities in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah also suffered from a lack of God-centered ethics and were destroyed. During the period of the Judges, being without a king as leader and guide, everyone did what they felt was right in their own eyes (Judg. 17:6). So we see time and time again the consequences of people with an absence of God-centered ethics.

Conclusion

Regardless of the past, today God requires all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31). We ought to count it a blessing that a truly objective, omniscient Judge will be in charge of such an undertaking. There will be no partiality shown or mistakes made by Him. Every man will give an account of himself to God, so let us be prepared for that day by basing our lives on an ethic that revolves around God. We are without excuse recognizing the tremendous importance of trusting and obeying the one and only living God. We ought to love God by knowing and respecting His will for us. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Eric Diaz is a servant of God residing in the Gulfport, Mississippi area. He’s married to his high school sweetheart Charlotte Diaz and they have four sons. Together they strive to follow Christ with the support of their loving brethren.