Thursday, August 11, 2016

Not a New Moral Standard

Paul says that we need to teach the things that adorn sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The idea here is that our behavior beautifies our teaching. Now it is interesting that what he commends is not some extreme expression of devotion, becoming a missionary to Papua New Guinea or something of that sort. Not that there is not a place for that if it is what God calls you to do. But Paul starts in the nitty-gritty of life. He talks about older men and women teaching younger men and women to carry out their normal, everyday duties (Titus 2:3-8). Now there have been times and groups within Christianity where there has been an emphasis on the exceptional. There were the monks, for instance, who emphasized extreme spiritual gymnastics to show their devotion to God. But this is not God’s emphasis.

To understand this we need to realize that God’s purpose is not to introduce a fundamentally new moral standard.  Now do not get me wrong; I am convinced God’s standard is the perfect standard (Romans 7:12; James 1:25; Galatians 3:19-21). But that is to say that out of the moral instructions that have come to us from different cultures, the Bible is the one that gets it exactly right. However, I am convinced C. S. Lewis is right that the basic principles of morality are a deposit that has been entrusted to all mankind. And it looks very much like something that was revealed to us in the beginning, but that various people have adapted to fit their own notions. What Christianity is, is an offer of forgiveness (Colossians 2:13,14; Ephesians 1:7; Titus 3:4-7) through faith in Christ (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9) for the fact that we are sinners and have broken the moral law (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6). Along with that, God promises power to enable us to change into the people we should be (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Philippians 2:13), though this is a process that happens over time (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14). 

Now God does give us the correct specifics of what He requires, if for no other reason so we will realize we cannot keep them and need Christ (Romans 3:19,20; 7:14; Galatians 3:10-14). But He then sends us back to our regular lives to live them as they should be lived. This includes duties of husbands and wives to each other (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18,19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Commands regarding the relationship of parents and children (Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20,21; Matthew 15:4-6). He even deals with those who are stuck in the role of slaves and with their masters (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1; 1 Peter 2:18-20). Now God does call certain people to do extraordinary things, and those who are so called should do them. But God more often calls us to obey Him in the ordinary, mundane things of life. Though with a new attitude, grounded in trust in Christ.

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