The underlying nature of every issue of faith and life is ethical. We are to love and glorify God with our whole being in everything. No part of our lives must be separated from loving Jesus (1 Cor 10:31, Matt 22:37-40, cf. Deut 6:5,10:12, Lev 19:18 etc). Every evangelical Christian affirms this. We are to love God and neighbour. This statement of purpose needs to be accompanied by an underlying blueprint. How do we get from a statement of purpose to the blueprint? By asking one fundamental question; “by what standard?” This cuts through the guff and hits the bone, quickly.
Enlightenment thinking attributed ethical creativity to man. It was nothing new. Once again, man was simply coaxed into believing he is the final arbiter of truth (Gen 3:4,11:1-9). It never takes much to convince a sinner that truth is determined by his own autonomous reason. This is where we are today. Men and unfortunately many Christians and their churches believe that man can autonomously determine truth in some or all areas of life. Let’s flip this on its head to try and get to the heart of the matter. Jesus has all authority in heaven AND on earth (Matt 28:18-20). Jesus is in the position of power, ruling the nations from the Father’s right hand (Matt 22:44; Acts 2:33,7:55-56; Ro 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3,8:1,10:12,12:2; 1 Pe 3:22; Rev 3:21). If we are to glorify Him we must do the will of God here on earth as it is done in heaven (Matt 6:10). To glorify Christ Jesus we must confess His lordship over every inch of faith and life and faithfully obey His revealed Law-Word as the standard, period (1 John 5:1-5, Jn 14:15 etc). There is no neutrality.
This precludes salvation by man’s own works of obedience or anything of the sort. God’s will states that all people are dead sinners (Eph 2:1-5) who deserve the death payment (Ro 6:23) for transgressing His Holy Law (1 Jn 3:4). Man is spiritually lifeless without a hope in Hades to save himself. Dead sinners cannot raise themselves; man needs resurrection. Thus we are saved by God’s grace through the faith that He gives us (Eph 2:8-9). Most stop here. Unfortunately we’ve forgotten the covenantal nature of salvation. We are not saved to continue a life of lawlessness. Salvation leads to the good works God preordained for us to walk in (Eph 2:10). Our new hearts of flesh and renewed minds have the Law of Jesus written on them (Heb 8:10,10:16).
Law is inescapable. Every issue of faith and life is inherently ethical. As redeemed creatures we must deny the myth of ethical neutrality. It is all of Christ for all of faith and life. No gaps, no traditions of man.
By what standard?
What is the standard of truth for all of life? Jesus Christ and His revealed Law-Word. Our mighty saviour is Lord over hearts, minds, families, churches, communities and nations (Matt 28:18-20). There is no area in life that does not cry out: “what is Jesus’ standard?” We do not autonomously determine truth (2 Cor 10:5). Our hearts are deceitful above all else (Jer 17:9); we cannot trust our own fallen reason to determine the standard for all of life (2 Cor 1:9).
When we ask “by what standard” we must acknowledge the sovereignty and Lordship of Jesus over all things. It is only His revealed Law-Word that gives the ethical foundation to address every issue that confronts us (2 Tim 3:16-17). When the rubber hits the road, all issues are ethical (1 Cor 10:31) and we must learn to submit to the Lordship of Jesus over everything.
This means that every question must be framed with; “what does King Jesus say in His Law-Word?” Our starting point is, Jesus is Lord and then we move on to determine what His Law-Word says about the matter? Easy really.
A working faith
So, what does this look like? I think some examples will be helpful. I have heard many well meaning. Some Christians argue that there are issues in life that fall outside of the Lordship of Jesus. I think not. Let’s run a quick test with some popular examples.
- Education is simply the transfer of factual information and therefore cannot be ethical in nature, right? Wrong. Let’s be consistent and ask “by what standard” do we understand education? The Bible says that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Jesus (Col 2:3). All wisdom and knowledge are found in and belong to Jesus. In order to attain knowledge and wisdom you must presuppose God. Yes, unrepentant people then deny this by suppressing the truth and unrighteously continuing in their sin (Ro 1:18-23).
We also read in Jesus’ Law-Word that we are to cast “down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). All knowledge and wisdom belongs to Christ and we are to bring every thought faithfully under King Jesus’ feet. Is maths a thought? Is science a thought? Is economics a thought? You get the point.
But even further than this; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pro 1:7). Education or the gaining of knowledge is ethical at heart. It has to do with exploring, learning and understanding treasures hidden in Christ. We can either come as faithful servants or unfaithful thieves. This means that our children’s education matters. Are your children receiving an education that recognises the Lordship of Jesus over everything? If not, who is the idolatrous lord who is being reverenced in their education?
- Politics is a hot topic this year in Australia. Our Prime Minister has threatened a double disillusion and an early election in July 2016 if some legislation doesn’t get through a special sitting of both houses. Surely politics is comes under the dominion of Caesar and not Jesus? Wrong. The Civil Magistrate is the servant of Jesus; he is the minister of God (Ro 13:4). Every minister of God is the servant of Jesus and thus must ask “by what standard?” The Civil Magistrate’s tool for dominion is the sword and he is to avenge wrath on those who do evil things (Ro 13:3-4). Again, “by what standard” does he determine good from evil...i.e. the laws of a nation? And “by what standard” must the civil magistrate gauge the ferocity of his sword wielding vengeance...i.e. who determines the penal code?
There is no neutrality in law and politics. The battle is not over keeping religion out of politics and law. Rather, the battle rages over whose law will be codified; man’s or God’s? As Christians we have been fighting the wrong battle. We have stuck our finger in the dyke to try and stop the coming torrent of secular humanistic laws. In such efforts ten fingers are a limitation. Time is up, water is bursting through and destroying our civilisations. We need to re-think our strategy and re-cast the vision. Our role is more than plugging holes through which the secular river is now raging. We must recognise that Jesus is Lord over Australia and His Law-Word is to be codified as the law of our nation.
- Ok, maybe politics but surely Jesus wants nothing to do with filthy lucre. Money definitely belongs to Caesar, Jesus says so Himself (Matt 22:18-21). Therefore, money, finances and economics all fall outside of the Lordship of King Jesus. He’s simply not interested; right? Wrong. Money does not ethereally fall outside of the reign of Jesus. Our Lord says; “thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Money and its usage is thus an ethical issue.
Seeing it’s a federal election year in Australia a political/law example is fitting. If we are not to steal then we must ascertain what Jesus’ entire Law-Word says about taxes. The Bible does not give the civil magistrate the right to take away a man’s God ordained responsibility to provide for himself and his family. Taxation that places such a high burden on a man and his family is unbiblical and immoral. Plus we must also ask what does Jesus say the civil magistrate is responsible for. That question is deep and deserves a separate article to this one. Taxes however, should only be used to pursue the responsibilities that Jesus has given to civil governments (Ro 13). Our taxes should not be used to support anything else. This precludes taxpayer money funding abortions, healthcare, social security and a wide range of areas that the civil government is erroneously involved in. Thus money and its usage is an ethical issue.
Some of the immoral taxes in our society include property taxes and income taxes. It may surprise you that these types of taxes are foreign to the Bible. Jesus has never given the Civil Government the authority to take take tax based on an individual or business’ level of income. These types of taxes are wealth redistribution and immoral governmental theft. Property taxes or land taxes also cripple individuals and families from living a free, independent life under the Law-Word of God. Such taxes assume that the crown or civil government owns the land and individuals simply hire the usage of it.
- Private property is one of the foundational bedrocks of our western civilisation (aka Christendom). And not surprising, it is a moral issue. “Thou shalt not steal” presupposes private property; what is mine is truly mine and no one should be permitted to take it by force. Individuals should have the freedom to use their private property in whatever way pleases them (Matt 20:1-16, esp v. 15). Individual’s rights to private property is a freedom that Jesus cares deeply about. So much so that moving your neighbour’s boundary mark is immoral and a crime per the Law-Word of Jesus (Deut 19:14,27:17, Job 24:2, Hos 5:10). Boundary marker laws or who owns what land is an important moral issue to King Jesus. In 2014 the Tasmanian government “refused to deny rumours that it's going to acquire land compulsorily, to gain access to a port on the state's east coast.”1 Our state civil government can force private individuals or companies to move their boundary markers. This is immoral. Why? Thou shalt not steal. When the government determines what you can or can’t do with your private property they are stealing and going against the freedom that the gospel brings (Matt 20:1-15).
God has always saved His people and then given them His Law-Word as the blueprint for all of faith and life. Salvation is not simply the saving of souls to heaven. King Jesus requires His subjects to be loyal in every area of faith and life. Plus He is the one who determines the standards for loyalty and the associated rewards (Deuteronomy 28). The amazing thing about all of this is that faithfulness produces freedom. In turn this individual freedom develops free, prosperous and safe nations. The old paths of Deuteronomy 8 and 28 are to be followed. God does not change His mind. The reigning King, Jesus, judges those people and nations who determine truth by their autonomous reason. Our commission as heralds of the King is to proclaim the good news that He reigns and then to teach all people everywhere to repent, trust and obey the new King (Matt 28:18-20).
As Christians we need to be grounded in King Jesus’ Word-Law and justice. He defines what is moral and immoral across all of life; we don’t. When we address political issues from a Christian stand point it brings the gospel into the discussion. It's all about the gospel. There is a new King who rose from the dead and all the nations must submit themselves to the rule of His Law-Word.
This article with link to a free PDF book is a good place for further reading: http://www.reformedresources.com.au/index.php/writing/law/107-the-law-of-god-in-the-new-testament.
You can also find many free audio books and PDF links at this site: http://reconstructionistradio.com.
1. Taken from http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s4101433.htm.