I. Principles In Moral Excellence
What is morality?
Morality pertains to a code of conduct that distinguishes right from
wrong. The original New Testament word
for morality is ARETE and is sometimes translated "virtue,"
"excellence," or "goodness." W. E. Vine describes it as that which results
in a high esteem from others. J. H.
Thayer refers to it as goodness in thought and action. In the world today, most people live by a
standard of right and wrong based on their own personal judgment. This is the way it was during the period of
the Judges, when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes"
This lesson will preview the basic principles that form the
framework of a proper attitude toward morality.
Many of these points will have a specific bearing upon each moral issue
that is later discussed in greater detail and should flavor our approach to the
study of each.
What Is Sin?
Missing the target - James 4:17
Going outside God's authority - 1 John 3:4
Sinful behavior is often condemned on the basis of general
principles, not specific prohibitions.
Some, attempting to justify their actions, will proclaim that the Bible
nowhere states that such-and-such is absolutely sinful. The Bible does not necessarily have to
mention a particular behavior by name for us to determine that it is
Sin's Progressive Process
The Bible describes the stepwise process of how sin can
enter and affect our life - James 1:14,
– the starting point: a testing or proving of our faith.
drawing away – literally, taking the bait.
appealing to our own desires
giving in to our desires
– the result of lust conceived
– the result of sin fully grown
The Bible also puts sin into three categories - 1 John 2:16:
The lust of the flesh
lust of the eyes
pride of life
These are not of the Father but of the world.
Worldliness And Godliness
God calls us away from sin to a higher standard. The world's standard for proper conduct is
not God's standard. Note the contrast
from scripture between the world and godliness:
Romans 12:2 (not conformed, but
1 John 2:15, 17 (not the world's will, but
Conduct matters, and our standard of godly behavior is not
based on what everyone else may be doing.
Your peers may try to pressure you to go along with a certain
activity. If the only reason you can
give for why you think it should be okay is because a bunch of other people are
doing it, perhaps it is not according to God's standard.
Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13
Flesh And Spirit
A sampling of worldly deeds motivated by the flesh is
compared in scripture with godly fruit motivated by the Spirit:
Galatians 5:19-22; Now the works of the flesh are evident, which
are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred,
contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions,
heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell
you beforehand, just as I also told you
in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the
kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Note that, in case any evil deed was specifically omitted by
name, it is included in the phrase "and the like." We will be examining many of these things in
greater detail in lessons to come. It
should be evident from these passages that God's intention is not that we
merely refrain from that which is wrong but that we are fully occupied by those
things which are good and wholesome. If
we are not actively involved in things that are good, the bad will creep right
When we make alive within us the distinction between flesh
and spirit, between worldliness and godliness, people will be able to see that
we are different. This peculiarity is
not something we should ever be ashamed of or try to conceal but rather welcome
and embrace. We are a people of God's
own possession; we should therefore act like it.
Titus 2:14, 15
in the KJV does not mean to be odd but rather to be selected as a possession).
2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1
If the world sees you as no different from anyone else in
the world, maybe you're actually one of them.
1 Peter 4:4 …they think
Matthew 5:14-16 Let your
light so shine…
Matthew 7:16-21 …by their
fruits you will know them…
Deny a Fleshly Mindset
It ought not be the Christian's quest to fulfill every
The original New Testament word for "self-control"
is EGKRATEIA and is translated as "temperance" in the King James
Version. J. H. Thayer defines it as
"the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions." God calls upon us to restrain ourselves; we
are to be keepers of our own minds and bodies.
1 John 5:18
God places within each of us by nature certain physical
desires, urges, and cravings. He also
provides a lawful way of fulfilling each one of them. Nevertheless, He has also given us the free
moral choice of fulfilling these desires unlawfully. The significance is this: God does not want a
race of robots who do His will mindlessly; He wants a race of people who make a
conscious and intelligent choice to serve Him against their natural urge to run
The main purpose of this study is to show the dire
consequences of immoral behavior; the by-product of this study will be to
understand that it is ultimately far more fulfilling for us to satisfy these
desires lawfully than unlawfully.
A study of morality might seem at first glance to be a
listing of all the pleasurable things in life a Christian is restricted from
doing. For examples, as the study
progresses, we will see that a Christian ought not bet on horse races, tell
dirty jokes, smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, dress indecently or immodestly,
dance lewdly, engage in premarital sex, or do many of the other fun things
people of the world do. To the contrary,
this study will reveal that the very best way to live a life set free to the
fullest on this earth is to live it in subjection to God. The simple fact is that we all ultimately
must be a slave to something. Bob Dylan
once wrote, "You're gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the
devil or it may be the Lord, But you're gonna have to serve
somebody." These words have a
sound, scriptural basis. Jesus states
that whoever is not with Him is against Him.
Paul writes that we will either be slaves to the flesh or slaves to the
God has our best interest at heart when He asks us to submit
to His will. Eternal life is the end
result, but death is the inevitable end of serving the flesh. Proverbs 13:15 says, "The way of the
unfaithful is hard." If we will follow God's instructions in life,
we will be spared much hardship. Living
for the flesh has brought many people to ruin.
Lying has ruined trust, jealousy has ruined relationships, greed has
ruined careers, lust has ruined marriages, drug abuse has ruined health,
gambling has ruined fortunes, indecency has ruined influence, and pre-marital
sex has ruined youthfulness. Doing these
things is actually no fun at all and in no way sets us free. In contrast, godliness is the true pathway to
a fulfilled life indeed. Read carefully
Paul's instructions to the young evangelist:
1 Timothy 6:3-19
One of the most difficult things for a young person in
today's society is to decide what is right and wrong. The world tries to obscure the distinction
between good and bad so that many Christians do not know which way to
turn. Consider these five questions
before making a decision.
Is it obviously wrong?
The point earlier that not every sin is prohibited by a
specific command is overshadowed by the fact that many are. If you know an activity will violate a clear
command of God, you need to leave it alone.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Is it wholesome?
If you cannot honestly say it is true, noble, just, pure,
lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy, reconsider what you're are
about to do. Ask yourself if you think
the activity will strengthen your faith or if it could lead you away from God.
Will it violate my conscience?
Our conscience should be trained by a knowledge of the
Bible, but what if we're not sure? If
the thought enters your mind that an activity might be wrong, do not engage in
it until you learn more. Chances are, if
you think it might be wrong, it probably is.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Regardless, it is sinful to go against your conscience whether a thing
is truly wrong or not.
Would I want others to know I am doing it?
Things done in secret never stay that way. Besides, even if no one else sees, God
does. Ask yourself if you would want to
be doing it if your parents saw you.
1 Timothy 5:24, 25
What would I want to be doing when Jesus comes
Studying His word?
Involved in wholesome entertainment?
Doing chores or schoolwork?
Committing some act of immorality?
2 Corinthians 5:10
2 Peter 3:10-12
Influence can work both ways: I can have a good influence on
others, or I can allow others to have a bad influence on me. In every situation, we will have to make a
judgment about which way those scales will tip.
We certainly need to sometimes be in the presence of ungodly people;
work, school, or even family occasionally demands it. Also, it is a way we can teach by example. However, when we find ourselves tempted by
those around us and we feel like we're losing control, we must find the way of
escape the Lord provides.
1 Corinthians 10:13
Before we willingly place ourselves in a situation of strong
temptation, we should think ahead what can be our possible way out. For some situations, it's more wise to stay
out than to have to get out. Moreover,
we deceive ourselves if we think ungodly friends will not have a bad effect
upon us. Choose your friends carefully.
1 Corinthians 15:33
Some people try to see how close they can get without
crossing the line. Do not flirt with
1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22
This passage teaches that we are to avoid, stay away from,
and shun sin in every shape, form, and fashion in which it appears, not to draw
near to it. This is a point that will
especially have application as we study each specific moral issue.
Sin is a hidden, deadly danger with eternal
consequences. If there was an exposed
known danger, for example, a deep, open pit or ledge where you could easily
fall to your death, you would probably not see how close you could get without
actually falling, and you would certainly not amble carelessly along or make
sport of its edge where one unsteady step could bring disaster. You would probably consider what is a
reasonable safe distance with a margin for error and stay yet even somewhat
further from that point. How much more
should sin be avoided with consequences more grave than physical death?
And Questions For Discussion
Try to define sin in your own words.
exactly is lust? Is it limited to only
certain kinds of sin?
the possible differences between the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye,
and the pride of life.
Romans 12:2, what does it mean to be "transformed by the renewing of your
you behave differently around some of your friends than you do with others, for
example when you're with Christians and when you're not? If so, why?
has the world's standard of what is right and wrong changed so much?
there anything wrong with the philosophy that all young people need to go
through a phase of "sowing wild oats?"
you be able to control every situation in which you find yourself?