Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014
Page 13

Ethics for Eternity

Robert Johnson

“And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!” (Romans 3:8). Situation ethics is a system of ethics by which acts are judged within their contexts instead of by categorical principles. Situational ethics is a teleological or consequential theory in that it is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action. It is concerned with the end, as opposed to an action being intrinsically wrong. In the case of situational ethics, the ends can justify the means, so it is claimed.

In the Scripture quoted, Paul confronted those who would accuse him of preaching a cheap gospel. The grace of God is how all will be saved, both Jew and Gentile. While God’s grace does not negate the necessity of obedience, it does emphasize no one can be saved by one’s own good deeds. In a sense, they were accusing Paul of applying situational ethics. His response to such a charge indicates what God thinks of such: “their condemnation is deserved.”

God’s truths are to govern the situations we encounter because they are based on His love for us. Paul instructed Timothy, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it” (2 John 6). That the Gospel applies to us in every situation is seen in what Paul reminded the Corinthians about sending Timothy to them; “he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17).

While the world justifies its actions with situation ethics, it is a shame when Christians do the same. There is always a reason why one does not have to be faithful in attendance, right? There are plenty of reasons why one can spend time and money on oneself but not on the Lord’s work, aren’t there? What one does may not be exactly what one should do, if good comes out of it, it’s acceptable, isn’t it? “They don’t really understand… I know this is for the best… I only have their best interests at heart.” No doubt King Saul reasoned so when he refused to totally destroy the Amalekites; however, God thought otherwise. While Saul claimed to have obeyed God, Samuel told him God counted it as rebellion (1 Samuel 15:20, 23). In like manner, the Corinthians thought they could live an immoral lifestyle and still be faithful to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Jesus even told His disciples, “An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). The words of Paul again remind us that “their condemnation is deserved.”

 Paul reminds us, “But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Our lives must reflect God’s righteousness, not sin. No matter how one may justify his or her motives or actions, if we know them to be wrong, they are wrong, no matter what good one may claim comes from them. Excusing our sins doesn’t justify them, but simply condemns us. “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).

May we not use our situations to justify sin, but allow God’s Word to determine how we respond to every situation we face. “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Forgiving and Forgiven

Robert Johnson

Part of the human experience is the emotions we feel. Through these emotions we know joy, love, happiness, contentment and a host of other positive values. Not all of our emotions are as pleasant, as we also feel pain, hurt and sorrow. Sometimes, we inflict these feelings on each other, and because of their intensity, we may find it hard to forgive. The pain can be so great that we think we can never forgive.

As we know what it is to feel pain and sorrow, so does our Heavenly Father. Each time the word grief or grieve is used in Scripture about God, it is always due to sin, our sin. God was grieved during the days of Noah because the thoughts of humanity were “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). King Saul grieved God because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:11). By our sins we can grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). Our sins have demanded a price, which is the blood of the only Son of God. How much sorrow has each of our sins caused?

Still, God loved us enough to send His Son that we might know His forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is complete, never holding a grudge, never recalling forgiven sins to gain an advantage. Once sins are forgiven by God, they are forgotten (Hebrews 8:12). God offers us an example for the attitude that we should have for one another. “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).

Since we are human, we will know both joy and pain, happiness and sorrow. Since we are recipients of the mercy of God, we know forgiveness through His Son. How can we refuse to forgive? Jesus said we should always be willing to forgive (Matthew 19:21ff), for the one who is unforgiving to others will be unforgiven by God (Matthew 6:14-15).

There will always be the need for forgiveness, whether for or by us. When you are asked to forgive, remember your need for forgiveness, and respond as your Father has for those who seek His forgiveness in Christ, offering it from a loving heart and a humble spirit. “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

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