|Volume 17 Number 2 February 2015||
“You ought not say that dear!” the mother exclaimed to her little boy, after he repeated a curse word he had heard someone else use. Oh how true it is that we often mimic the actions and vocabulary of those around us. All too often this happens without us giving it much thought. Yet, have we ever stopped long enough to consider that little word “ought”? The term implies a distinction between what we should do and what we should not do.
When parents tells children what they ought to do, they are trying to encourage proper behavior. However, how did the parent decide what should be done? Not many years earlier, they themselves were in the place of a child. Some behavior their parents would not have tolerated, they are now permitting with their own children. Sadly, much of the advice being given is based upon changeable social norms.
Ethics basically pertains to human behavior regarding right and wrong – principles of morality. For ethics to be legitimate there must be a standard. The Bible reveals that the standard is based upon God Himself. To Israel of old, Jehovah declared, “be ye holy; for I am holy …be ye holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; cf., 1 Peter 1:16). If there is no God (Psalm 14:1; 53:1), there can be no such thing as right and wrong. Without a standard we must wander adrift in subjectivity!
Human conduct and accountability are based upon the divinely endowed freedom of choice. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
[Editor’s Note: Mankind is no more capable of being his own moral compass today than he was anciently. “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV). It is as important in modern times as it was thousands of years ago for we mortals to choose wisely to serve God and conform to His divine instructions. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
God has had expectations for humanity from the beginning of time (Genesis 2:16-17). The Creator’s revelation to mankind has been progressive. The three dispensations of time are (1) Patriarchy, (2) Judaism or Mosaic and (3) Christianity. Any good teacher brings pupils along by gradually increasing the difficulty of the material being studied. Students begin by learning simple concepts, and then they progress to more complex matters. During the first period of time, God provided basic revelation. For the descendants of Abraham, Jehovah provided a detailed written law. The final segment of revelation is the New Testament of Jesus the Christ. This covenant was ratified by the blood of the Son of God (Matthew 26:27).
In former times God exercised toleration, as would a parent with young children. When the Jews questioned Jesus regarding “a bill of divorcement” (Matthew 19:7), our Lord responded: “Moses for your hardness of heart suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so” (Matthew 19:8).
There was some relaxing of God’s demands while the immature Jewish people were waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. However, once the Savior arrived, He became the “mediator of a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6).
Today, the ethical standard for all of humanity is this better covenant of Jesus Christ. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Note three important things this verse reveals. First, there was a time in the past when ignorance was overlooked. Second, God has commanded; this is not a mere suggestion. Third, His demands are universal. No wonder Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
[Editor’s Note: No pseudo, manmade ethical standard will suffice when each of us takes our turn to appear before the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew [approved of] you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV). Furthermore, relying upon a divinely given but obsolete and replaced law of God will prove useless for those who lived in the Christian Age. “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt To be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]