Speaking Sound Doctrine


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" (Judges 17:6).

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.

A.       Sin

1.           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 unquestionably sin.

2.           Sin's Progressive Process

The Bible describes the stepwise process of how sin can enter and affect our life - James 1:14, 15:

1.       Temptation – the starting point: a testing or proving of our faith.

2.       A drawing away – literally, taking the bait.

3.       An appealing to our own desires

4.       A giving in to our desires

5.       Sin – the result of lust conceived

6.       Death – the result of sin fully grown

3.           Sin's Categories

The Bible also puts sin into three categories - 1 John 2:16:

1.       The lust of the flesh

2.       The lust of the eyes

3.       The pride of life

These are not of the Father but of the world.

B.       Standards Of Conduct

1.           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 transformed)

1 John 2:15, 17  (not the world's will, but God's will)

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

2.           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 back in.

3.           Be Different

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
("Peculiar" 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 it strange…

Matthew 5:14-16  Let your light so shine…

Matthew 7:16-21  …by their fruits you will know them…

4.           Deny a Fleshly Mindset

It ought not be the Christian's quest to fulfill every physical desire.

Matthew 16:24

Romans 8:5-14

Galatians 2:20

5.           Self-control

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

James 1:27

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 recklessly.

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.

C.       The Good Life

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 Spirit.

Matthew 12:30

Romans 6:16-23

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

D.       Making Moral Decisions

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.

1.           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

Colossians 3:5-9

2.           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.

Philippians 4:8

3.           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.

Romans 14:23

James 4:17

4.           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.

Ecclesiastes 12:14

Hebrews 4:13

1 Timothy 5:24, 25

5.           What would I want to be doing when Jesus comes again?

·          Worshipping God?

·          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

E.        Influence

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

F.        Avoid Evil

Some people try to see how close they can get without crossing the line.  Do not flirt with sin. 

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?

Proverbs 6:27

G.       Thoughts And Questions For Discussion

1.       Try to define sin in your own words.


2.       What exactly is lust?  Is it limited to only certain kinds of sin?


3.       Explain the possible differences between the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.


4.       In Romans 12:2, what does it mean to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind?"


5.       Do 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?


6.       Why has the world's standard of what is right and wrong changed so much?


7.       Is there anything wrong with the philosophy that all young people need to go through a phase of "sowing wild oats?"


8.       Will you be able to control every situation in which you find yourself?



Copyright 2009, Speaking Sound Doctrine