by Mike Ratliff
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)
I’m sure the title of this piece got the attention of some of you. What is Ratliff thinking? Has he gone missional and incarnational on us? The point of this piece is to show that the genuine Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ does indeed have ethical implications and the Church is obligated to live these out in tangible ways. However, the missional people who have created their own contextualized version of this in order to appeal to post-modernism, will probably not agree with what I am about to say here about these true ethical implications of the gospel. To them it is all in the framework of cultural reform and Dominionism with an emphasis on justice and fairness. Are these the true makeup of the call of the church as it lives this out as it should?
I will use for this short study Paul’s first epistle to Timothy. This letter is a clear call for the true church to live out in real tangible ways the ethical implications of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are seven points in this outline, which I am taking from the ESV Study Bible’s introduction to 1 Timothy, page 2322.
- The gospel produces holiness in the lives of believers, and there is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior. Thus, those who profess faith but do not demonstrate any progress in godliness should question their spiritual state. (1 Timothy 1:5; 2:8-15; 3:1-16; 4:6-16; 5:4-6, 8; 6:3-5, 11-14, 18-19)
- Worldwide evangelism is essential and is rooted in God’s own evangelistic desire. (1 Timothy 1:15; 2:1-7; 3:16; 4:10)
- One key evidence of reception of the gospel is proper behavior in corporate worship (evangelistic prayer, unity, modesty, and submission). (1 Timothy 2:1-15)
- Church leaders should be people whose lives are shaped by the gospel. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:6-16)
- Appropriate honor is a key element in how Christians should relate to one another in the church. (1 Timothy 5:1-6:2)
- The created order (e.g., wealth) is good and is to be appreciated, though not worshiped. (1 Timothy 4:4-5; 6:17-19)
- It is important to labor for the purity and preservation of the gospel. (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 18-20; 4:6-16; 6:2-3, 12, 20-21)
What are the ethical implications of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in reference to the obligation of the Church? Is it to turn from proclaiming the Gospel to pursuing social justice? No, we do not see that here at all. Instead, we see a focus on a call to holiness and prayer and true evangelism and transformed lives by the work of the Holy Spirit not the work of man. Do you see how simple God’s truth is my brethren? I find it very interesting that evidence of false Christianity is the very lack of the things Paul mentioned here. The false leaders are pushing things in every direction away from these points and their followers are running madly after them. Let us stay the course my brethren, remaining faithful to our calling to live out in real tangible way the ethical implications of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!