1. Is there a yardstick?
…the apostle John portrayed the political “beast” of Revelation 13 as requiring that his own name be written on men’s foreheads and hands (vv.16-17), thereby symbolising that the state’s law had replaced the law of God, which was to be written on the forehead and hand. That is why those who stand in opposition to the beast are described as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev.14:1, 12). God’s people insist that the state does not have ultimate ethical authority, for God’s law is the supreme standard of right and wrong (p.15).
2. What of the medieval church?
The medieval church…came to foster two yardsticks of ethics: a standard for religious ethics found in the revealed scriptures, and a standard for natural ethics found in man’s reason as it examined the world. Of course that left some ethical decisions or evaluations independent of the word of God, and those religious issues which remained under the umbrella of the Bible were ultimately decided by the Pope. Thus the medieval world was ripe for tyranny in both a secular state and despotic church (p.15-16).
3. What about the Enlightenment?
…with the coming of the alleged “Enlightenment,” the yardstick of ethics progressively shifted from the law of God in the Bible to human laws fostered by independent reason and experience. A neutral or critical attitude towards the inspired Scripture undermined its recognised authority over all of life, and modern ethics has come to be characterised by an autonomous spirit-an attitude of “self-law.” The yard-stick of ethics would be found within man or his community (p.17).
4. What about modern ethics?
The one thing shared by all schools of modern ethics is an antipathy to taking moral directions from the Bible, for to do so is viewed as outdated, ignorant, unreasonable, prejudicial, undemocratic, and impractical. Being uncomfortable and irritated by the holy requirements of God’s law for every aspect of human conduct, “modern” men reject this shackle upon their personal liberty and desires, and they ridicule its provisions for social justice (p.17).
5. What about the Reformation?
The Reformation challenged the traditions of men and reasserted the full authority of God’s word, declaring sola Scriptura and tota Scriptura (only Scripture and all of Scripture).The final standard of faith and practice, the yardstick for all of life (personal as well as social morality), was the Bible. That is why the Puritans strove to let God’s word form their lifestyle and regulate their behaviour in every sphere of human endeavour. A holy God required them to “be holy in all your conduct” (I Peter 1:15), and the standard of holy living was found in God’s holy law (Rom.7:12). Accordingly the Puritans even took God’s law as their yardstick for civil laws in the new land to which they eventually came… (p.16).
6. What is the Biblical attitude?
The Biblical attitude is expressed by the apostle John when he says, “The love of God is this, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John.5:3). Believers in Jesus Christ do not wish to live as a law-unto-themselves, unfettered by external divine requirements. They welcome and love the biblical standard of right and wrong, no matter what it may stipulate for any aspect of life. God’s holy law is not a burden to them, and they are not constantly searching for substitutes which will be more pleasing to the autonomous attitude of their age. They do not prefer self-law to God’s law, for they recognise that it is impossible to draw straight lines and make accurate measurements in ethics without the infallible yard-stick of God’s word (p.19).
7. What about sin?
From the outset we read that man has fallen into sin, by disobeying the moral standard of God; as a consequence man has come under the wrath and curse of God, His just response to rebellion against His commands. Sin and curse are prevailing characteristics, then, of fallen man’s environment, history, and relationships.
8. And Jesus Christ?
To redeem man, restore him to favour, and rectify his wayward life in all areas, God promised and provided His own Son as a Messiah or Saviour. Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to qualify as our substitute, and then He died on the cross to satisfy the justice of God regarding our sin. As resurrected and ascended on high, Christ rules as Lord over all, bringing all opposition into submission to His kingly reign. He has sent the Spirit characterised by holiness into His followers, and among other things the Holy Spirit brings the practice of holiness in their lives. The church of Christ has been mandated to proclaim God’s good news, to advance His kingdom throughout the world, to teach Christ’s disciples to observe everything that He has commanded, and to worship the Triune God in spirit and truth (p.23).