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THE SPIRITUAL LIFE AND ETHICS

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/06/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

    The following is a manuscript of a radio broadcast of Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, director of Ariel Ministries.  The text is copyrighted material being reproduced with the permission of the Board of Directors of Ariel Ministries.  This material may be distributed free of charge, but it is asked that the text not be modified in any way.  Your cooperation in this matter is much appreciated.

    Ariel Ministries is an independent faith mission dedicated to the work of evangelism and discipleship of Jewish people. Unlike many other missionary societies, we do not obligate our staff to raise their own support.  Our missionary staff is financed through contributions from believers throughout the country.  If this manuscript has blessed you in some way and/or has added to your knowledge of the word of God, then we encourage you to pray concerning contributing to Ariel Ministries in accordance with Galatians 6:6 and Romans 15:25-27.  All those contributing will be sent a tax-deductible receipt.  Send your gifts to Ariel Ministries, P.O. Box 3723, Tustin, CA  92681. 

All scripture quotes are from the 1901 American Standard Version.



                  THE SPIRITUAL LIFE AND ETHICS

          This is a study on the spiritual life and ethics. Ethical behavior is a major area in the spiritual life.  Many believers are not as ethical as they should be and many unbelievers are more ethical than believers.  This topic will be discussed in five major categories.

        I.  TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

          The first category deals with total depravity and the righteousness of God.  Both aspects deal with the issue of ethics, or touch upon it.

                        A.  Total Depravity

          There are several erroneous concepts that people have about total depravity.  Total depravity is a theological term describing a truth taught in Scripture, but there are four erroneous concepts concerning total depravity.

          The first erroneous concept is that the natural man has no concept of right and wrong.  That is a mistake.  The natural man does have a concept of right and wrong as Paul makes clear in Romans 2:14-15, for he teaches that the works of the law are written in the hearts of even the pagan world.  The works of the law which are written in "their hearts" which includes their conscience.  When they do evil their conscience will either accuse or excuse their actions.  The natural, unregenerate man can have and does have concepts of right and wrong in their consciousness, in their conscience, and in their reasoning power.

          The second erroneous concept about total depravity is that all men are completely sinful.  This is not true either. This is not what total depravity means.  In fact, II Timothy 3:13 teaches that there is still something left in humanity that is still good.  The image of God is still in man and so there is still something in man that is good.

          The third erroneous concept is that man performs every type of sin.  This is cancelled out by Matthew 23:23; total depravity does not mean that every man does every type of sin.

          The fourth erroneous concept is that the unregenerate man has no good works.  Yet the Bible does teach that all men do have some good works.

          These are four false concepts about total depravity. So, what does it mean?  What is the correct doctrine of total depravity?  Three things should be noted.  First, it means that sin has touched every part of man; every part of man has been touched by sin (Rom. 1:31-32; 3:9-18).  Second, total depravity means that all men have a tendency to perform evil (Rom. 7:17; 7:20, 21, 23, 25).  The third thing that total depravity means is that no one has any good works in the sight of God.  Although man can do good works, those good works in no way commend him to God. That is what total depravity means.  It means that sin has touched every part of man, it means that all men have this tendency toward evil, and that no man's good works in any way commend him to God.  It is because of total depravity that believers and unbelievers both have a tendency toward unethical behavior and unethical behavior on the part of a believer will affect his spiritual life.

                  B.  The Righteousness of God

          The Bible speaks of two types of righteousness:  God's righteousness and man's righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4; Phil. 3:7-9). The Bible clearly draws a distinction between the two types of righteousness.

          First, man's righteousness does not satisfy God, but God's righteousness does satisfy God, does satisfy His demands (Isa. 64:4).

          Second, man's righteousness is practiced in the strength of his flesh, but God's righteousness is practiced on the basis of faith, by faith (Phil. 3:9).

          Third, in relationship of the righteousness of God to the unbeliever, there are two problems.  The first problem is the problem of sin.  Because he is totally depraved, sin has touched every part of him, he has a tendency toward evil and unethical behavior.  Even when he does behave ethically, his good works in no way commend him to God.  His second problem is that he does not have the righteousness of God.  The solution to the two problems of the unbeliever is found in II Corinthians 5:21.  To deal with the problem of sin, he needs salvation.  By that salvation he is forgiven of all of his sins.  Second, he needs to have the righteousness of God.  When he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God is imputed to him.  It is placed upon his account.

          Fourth, in relationship of the righteousness of God to the believer, two things should be noted:  position and practice. Insofar as position is concerned, the believer possesses the righteousness of God.  The moment he believed on Jesus as his Messiah, the moment he accepted Jesus as his Saviour, at that moment he received salvation and at that instantaneous moment the righteousness of God was imputed to him, He is now viewed as being righteous.  Positionally speaking, the believer possesses the righteousness of God.  As far as practice is concerned, the believer now has the option to work out God's righteousness or to work out man's righteousness (Matt. 6:1-18; I Cor. 3:1-23).  In the area of the spiritual life and ethics, if he works out man's righteousness, he will be guilty of unethical behavior.  This is why so many believers are unethical.  They have chosen to work out man's righteousness.  It might be "good business sense," but it may still be unethical.  However, if he chooses to work out God's righteousness and obey the word of God and the commandments of God, then he will be characterized by ethical behavior.

          To summarize total depravity and the righteousness of God, man is born totally depraved, and the solution is the imputed righteousness of God and that is the basis of ethical behavior.

                    II.  FREEDOM FROM THE LAW

          The second major area in the study of the spiritual life and ethics is the doctrine of the freedom from the law; what it does mean and what it does not mean.  This will be discussed in four parts.

                        A.  Romans 7:1-8:4

          This passage can be divided into four parts.

          1.  The Law and the Believer -- Romans 7:1-6

          The principle is found in verse 1.  He began with the word, "or," showing that what he was about to say was related to the previous section of Romans 6.  In the previous section he made the point that the believer is not under the Law, but he is under grace.  The Law ruled over living people only.  The Law had no authority over a dead man.  That is the principle.  From that principle, Paul gives the illustration (vv. 2-3).  The illustration is that a married woman is bound by the law of the husband as long as the husband is alive.  If she has relationships with another man while the husband is living, she is an adulteress.  However, once the husband is dead, she is free from the law of the husband, because death separates.  Now, if she chooses to marry another man, she is free to do so and is not guilty of adultery whatsoever.  The application of the illustration is in verses 4-6.  Through co-crucifixion, the believer has been made dead to the Law in order to be joined to Christ (v. 4).  For that reason, the law no longer has authority over him; he is dead to the Law.  The Law instigated the sin nature to commit acts of sin (v. 5).  However, the believer is now in a new life under grace (v. 6).  Being under grace means to be free from the Law.  The believer has been discharged from the Law.  He has died to that wherein he was held.  The "law" of this verse is the entire Mosaic Law, all 613 commandments.  The believer is free from all 613 commandments, including the famous ten.  The believer is free from every type of commandment.  That includes civil, moral, and ceremonial commandments.  He has been freed from the Law.  He now has a new life and now serves in newness of the spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

              2.  The Law and Sin -- Romans 7:7-12

          Paul started out with a problem that the previous section might raise.  Does what he said in verses 1-6 mean that the Law is sin?  This is a false conclusion derived from a correct premise.  The correct premise is that the Law instigated one to commit acts of sin.  But does that mean the Law is sin? The answer is no.  The Law reveals the fact of sin.  The fault does not lie in the Law, but in the sin nature.  The sin nature uses the Law as an occasion to cause one to sin even more.

          3.  Deliverance and the Law -- Romans 7:13-25

          Here Paul pointed out five things:  first, it is impossible to have spiritual victory under the Law.  Second, he looked at the believer as being under the Law apart from the work of Christ.  Third, there is a cycle of proof, contrast, proof, contrast.  What he was trying to show here was that if a believer tries to live the spiritual life on the basis of the Law, he will fail.  Just as with the unbeliever, the sin nature uses the Law as a basis to cause him to sin even more.  By the same token, the sin nature will use the Law again to cause the believer to commit sin even more.  The believer is dead to the Law.  He cannot be saved through it, but neither can he live the spiritual life through the Law.  Fourth, the question is, why is there no deliverance?  The reason there is no deliverance when the believer tires to live the spiritual life by means of the Law is that the believer's flesh is still under sin.  There is no good thing in the flesh of the believer.  There is the constant presence of the sin nature and, because of the presence of the sin nature, he will never achieve the spiritual life by means of the Law.  Fifth, his conclusion was that there is no deliverance or victory under the Law.  That means there is no justification through the Law, and it means there is no sanctification under the Law.

        4.  Deliverance and the Holy Spirit -- Romans 8:1-4

          Here Paul made five points.  First, he drew a summation when he said there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.  Even when believers sin, there is now no condemnation.  Second, he pointed out the principal:  the believer is now under the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ and this has made him free from the Law of sin and of death.  Third, he pointed out again the inability of the Law:  it could not empower one to live the spiritual life.  The reason is that it was weak through the flesh; the flesh weakened the believer's ability to keep the Law.  Fourth, through the death of the Son, sin was condemned in the flesh.  Fifth, this in turn leads to the enablement of the Holy Spirit.  Negatively, sin condemns. Positively, the Holy Spirit enables.  Together, the righteous requirements of the Law are fulfilled.

          To summarize what Paul has been saying in this passage: first, there is no deliverance under the Law; second, deliverance is based upon the work of Christ; third, deliverance is accomplished by the Holy Spirit; and, fourth, one purpose of freedom from the Law is to bear fruit.

                        B.  Antinomianism

          "Anti" means "against" and "nomianism" is from the Greek word, nomos, which means "law."  Basically the word means, "against law."  Many believers throughout church history have misunderstood what is meant to be freed from the Law.  They have been guilty of the other extreme, which is antinomianism.  They have turned against all kinds of law.  They took the Biblical teaching of freedom from the Law of Moses to mean that the believer has no law to obey.  There are believers still teaching that today.  They get rather flippant and spiritual sounding by saying, "I just do whatever the Spirit tells me to do;" although often what they claim the Spirit told them to do violates the commandments the Spirit gave in the Scriptures.  Antinomianism then is the teaching that freedom from the Law means that the believer is not under any law whatsoever.  That is not biblically true.  Believers have been freed from the Law of Moses, but not to live any way they choose, but to walk by the Holy Spirit. Their walk by the Holy Spirit fulfills the Law.  It is true we are no longer under the Law of Moses, we are freed from all 613 commandments of the Law of Moses.  However, we are under another law today.  We are under the Law of Christ.  Just as the Law of Moses had many commandments, the Law of Christ also has many commandments.  There are many commandments for the believer in the Law of Christ, and, as believers, we are obligated to obey these commandments.  We have laws we have to obey, they just do not happen to be the commandments of the Law of Moses.

      C.  The Law of Moses and the New Testament Imperative

          Concerning the relationship of the Law of Moses and the New Testament imperative, there are four things by way of contrast.  First, the Law of Moses included penalties for disobedience, the Law of Christ does not; the Law of Christ only includes chastisement, which has a corrector force.  Second, the Law of Moses provided no enablement to keep the Law; the Law of Christ does by means of the Holy Spirit's ministry of indwelling by which He enables the believer to keep the demands of the Law of Christ.  Third, the Law of Moses resulted in man's righteousness, but the Law of Christ means that the believer lives out God's righteousness.  Fourth, the motivation for each is different:  the motivation under the Law of Moses was blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, therefore, "obey in order that you may be blessed."  The Law of Christ, however, states "You have been blessed, therefore do."

                          D.  Legalism

          Because this is a major issue in the area of the spiritual life and ethics, this will be discussed in ten segments.

                        1.  Romans 14:1-13a

          The main point of this passage is freedom from the Law and freedom in Christ.  First (vv. 1-3), he discussed two brethren, one was strong and one was weak.  However, the two brothers were both obligated to refrain from judging each other. Second (vv. 4-9), Christ is the Lord of both.  Christ is the Lord of the weak believer and He is the Lord of the strong believer. Because Christ is the Lord of both, that is the reason for the previous command that neither one should judge the other.  Third (vv. 10-12), he pointed out that the right to judge belongs to Jesus.  He is the rightful judge and He alone is to judge the actions of a fellow believer.  These are actions which the Bible leaves in a neutral state, not actions that actually violate commandments of God.  If a believer lives immorally, he should be condemned by the local church.  But in dealing with amoral issues, in those areas which are neutral, biblically speaking, the right to judge belongs to Christ.  Fourth, the conclusion (v. 13a) is, "Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore." In the areas of amoral issues and in the area of neutral issues, this is the principle.

          From this first passage there are four observations. First, all have rules to live by.  Some of these rules are biblical rules, some are man-made rules, some are church rules, some are government rules, some are employer rules, and some of these rules we made ourselves.  Second, an honest conviction may lead a believer to conformity to a non-essential.  A believer may have a specific conviction about a specific amoral, neutral issue, and that will lead him to conform his action to that (Rom. 14:5).  That does not make him a legalist.  Every believer has the right to live by whatever extra-biblical laws he may choose.  However, the third observation is that one becomes a legalist when he begins imposing his own will and standards upon a fellow believer.  That is where he has gone too far.  While every believer has the right to live according to a set of rule that he has chosen to keep, once he starts judging the spirituality of fellow believers, or judging the ethics of fellow believers based upon their conformity to these extra rules, then he has become a legalist.  The fourth observation is that there are two attitudes to avoid in this relationship (Rom. 14:10). The first attitude to avoid at all costs is judging, especially in this context, the weaker brother judging the stronger brother. Usually, that is the case.  Usually, the one who does the judging is the weaker brother.  The weaker brother must not judge the strong brother.  The weaker brother must realize that the strong brother is free to partake of neutral issues.  The second attitude to avoid is becoming a despiser, a word that means, "to think little of."  This is often the attitude developed by a stronger believer toward the weaker believer.  A strong believer who knows that he is free to do something must not despise the weaker believer for his convictions.  He has a right to those convictions.

                      2.  Romans 14:13b-21

          The point of this passage is, "giving no offense." This passage has three parts.

          First (v. 13b), no man is to put a stumbling block before another.  There are three key terms that need to be clearly defined because they involve the spiritual life and ethics.  The first key term is "stumbling."  The meaning of "stumbling" is when a brother patterns his life after the liberty of another believer, but does not have the faith to accept the fact that God gives him liberty to do that which the brother is doing.  If the weaker brother does this, he will fall into sin (v. 23).  A weaker brother stumbles when he has problems with certain issues, but goes ahead and does them to imitate a stronger believer.  Because he is not able to partake of this in faith, he sins and, therefore, stumbles.  The responsibility in the realm of stumbling is this:  the strong believer is to so guard his conduct that a weaker brother does not follow his pattern of life so as to fall into sin because of a lack of faith on his part.

          The second key term is "offended."  To "offend" in this context means that a strong believer allows a weak brother to see him exercise the liberty that he has, which the weaker one does not have, and so the testimony of the stronger one is jeopardized before that brother.  In this case, the weaker brother does not stumble into sin but the testimony of the strong believer has been set aside as far as he is concerned.  He has been offended. As a result, the strong believer no longer has any spiritual input into his life.  The responsibility which comes out of the concept of being offended is that we must so conduct our manner of life that the weaker brother is not given cause to discount out Christian liberty.

          The third term is "made weak."  "Made weak" in this context means that a spiritually immature brother understands the teaching of liberty, but he sees a brother partake of that which he is free to, but the weaker brother is repelled from the truth, and is not willing to have anything to do with it.  He is driven to a weaker position still.

          The second part of the passage (v. 14) discusses the fact that things in themselves do not defile.  He is not dealing here with the differences between kosher and unkosher, clean and unclean.  The distinction is between the weak and the strong in a specific area.  Anyone who reckons something to be unclean, for him it is.  It may not be unclean for another, but it is unclean for him.  Third (vv. 15-21), the stronger believer is to limit the use of his liberty because the law of love always supercedes the law of liberty.  The stronger believer needs to follow two goals.  First, follow after peace; peace between fellow brethren, peace between believers who are strong and believers who are weak.  Second, seek to edify.  Seek to build up the weaker believer.

                      3.  Romans 14:22-15:3

          His point here is having a good conscience before God. This passage has three divisions.

          The first division (vv. 22-23), is to discuss the danger of liberty.  For the strong, the danger is the flaunting of his liberty.  He can practice liberty, but he should not flaunt it.  He may have to limit the occasion and place where he will use it.  The danger of liberty for the weaker believer is acting apart from faith.  If he chooses to imitate the stronger believer, but does not have the faith to do so, he sins.

          The second part of the passage (15:1-2) speaks of the sacrifice of liberty and points out two things.  First, the strong believer should bear the infirmities of the weak believer, which means giving up the use of his liberty in certain situations for the weaker brother's sake.  Second, aim to edify. This should always be his goal.  Aim to edify, to build up the weaker believer.  The sacrifice that the strong believer must make is always viewed as temporary until the weaker brother matures.  Once the weaker brother matures, the stronger believer no longer has to limit his liberty in a given area.

          The third part of the passage (v. 3) spells out the example to follow in all such things.  The example to follow Christ himself.  "For Christ also pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me," and that should be the example to follow.

                        4.  Romans 15:17

          The emphasis here is to do all things to the glory of God.  Here he points out two things.  First, be like minded with fellow believers.  This does not mean to always agree on something being right or wrong, but to be like minded in the sense of being willing to give way for the sake of helping a weaker brother grow.  Second, to agree.  That which may be right for me may not be right for someone else.  God's will for his life is not any of my business.  I should reach an agreement with the weaker brother.  I will refrain at certain situations and I will understand that just because something is right for me does not mean it is right for him.  It could be wrong for him.  Where God may lead me to do certain actions of freedom, He may not lead another brother to do certain actions of freedom, and God's will for the other believer is not any of my business as far as my right to interfere is concerned.  It is my business as far as being concerned that he find God's will and carry it out, but it is not my business to interfere.

                    5.  I Corinthians 8:1-13

          This passage deals with the question:  How far can one go as a believer?  In discussing this subject, Paul gives three key principles.

          The first principle (vv. 1-6), is our freedom in Christ.  We are free in Christ.  We are free from the Law of Moses, we are free in Christ to do whatever the Bible allows us to do and does not forbid.  In all amoral and neutral issues, we are free to do.  According to verses 1-3, knowledge leads to freedom of action, but this freedom is to be tempered by the law of love. Yes, we are free to do whatever the Bible allows us to do, but our actions must be limited by the law of love.  In verses 4-6 he points out again that the believer is free in all areas of amoral issues, but it must be tempered, limited, by the law of love of the brethren.

          The second principle (vv. 7-12), is that liberty should not be used where a weaker brother either stumbles or is offended.  Remember, "could" does not mean "should".  Just because you could do something, does not mean you should do something.  Liberty should not be used where a weaker brother will either stumble or be offended.  Again, if he stumbles, he falls into sin, if he is offended he does not fall into sin; but he has removed you as having any influence in his life spiritually.

          The third principle (v. 13) is be willing to give up liberty for the sake of a weaker brother.  This does not mean you have to give up your liberty forever, but in the situations where you are in contact with the weaker believer, or as long as he remains a weaker believer in those situations, you will refrain from the exercise of your liberty.

          These are the three principles concerning how far one can go in I Corinthians 8.  In I Corinthians 9, Paul goes on to give the illustration of rights surrendered.  What you do or do not do in amoral issues does not really matter to God.  You must act according to your conscience.  However, God does not allow us to use our liberty to cause stumbling or offense on the part of a fellow believer. 

                        6.  John 17:1-10

          The main goal of the believer is to do all to the glory of God.  Under this point three things should be noted.

          First, the need of the unbeliever is to receive Christ as Saviour.  When one receives Jesus as Messiah and Saviour, he glorifies God through the salvation which he receives (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).  Having received Christ, the second goal is to live a daily life in conformity to Christ.  This glorifies God through the new life which he now lives (I Cor. 10:31; II Cor. 3:18, I Thess. 2:12).  Third, Jesus is glorified by us being brought into glory or glorified; this is glory through all promises being fulfilled (Col. 3:4; Heb. 2:8-9).

          There is a past, present and future aspect by which we glorify God.  In the past, we glorify God by receiving Jesus as our Saviour, as our Messiah, and so this was glory through salvation received.  Now, in the present, we lead a daily life lived in conformity to Christ and this is glory through new life which is now received.  The future aspect is that someday Christ will even be further glorified by bringing us into glory, bring us into that same glorified state in which He now is.  This is the future glory, the glory through all the promises being fulfilled.  Past, present and future, we are fulfilling our goal and the goal of the believer is to do all to the glory of God. This, in turn, will be the rule of life for our ethical conduct today.  Everything we do we should give glory to God.  Unethical conduct blasphemes God.  Ethical conduct on the part of the believer glorifies God.

                    7.  Dangers To Be Avoided

          In the area of legalism three dangers must be avoided. First, is legalism itself.  Again, legalism is not when a believer chooses to live by a set of rules and regulations which are outside of Scripture, but when a believer makes a list of doubtful things, or amoral things, and then uses this list to judge another believer's spirituality.  Ultimately, legalism ma

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