Request your free, three-month trial to Tabletalk magazine. You’ll receive the print issue monthly and gain immediate digital access to decades of archives. This trial is risk-free. No credit card required.Try Tabletalk Now
Already receive Tabletalk magazine every month?
Verify your email address to gain unlimited access.
It is impossible to overestimate the sanctifying power of a strong pulpit ministry. God designed the preaching of the Word to be the primary means of grace in the life of every Christian. The proclamation of the Scripture is to be the principal means by which true spirituality is nurtured in our local churches. Faithful preaching will equip believers to shine brightly in a godless culture of political correctness and immoral depravity. The full counsel of God must be brought to bear upon every listener—and this includes the critically important subject of Christian ethics. By God’s grace, thus follows a word of exhortation to every preacher.
As a preacher devoted to God’s Word, you will inevitably confront many ethical issues. Biblical teaching contains not only theological truth but necessary implications concerning ethics. Doctrine always makes practical demands on our lives. I have found this practical guidance helpful for what is required in your preaching on Christian ethics.
preach the bible
Whatever you assert about ethics must find its basis in the written Word of God. There is no binding authority in the societal trends of the day or in the religious traditions of a culture. Apart from the Bible, any imposing of morality leads to legalism. You have one primary authority: the inspired Scriptures. The sole determinative standard in all the ethical demands we preach must be “Thus says the Lord.”
define the issue
You must specify the moral issue, clearly spelling out what is right and wrong. The ethical subject being addressed—abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, or other matters—will be addressed somehow in Scripture. Sometimes the moral law, found in God’s commands, will deal with it directly. At other times, implications from the text and the good and necessary consequences of biblical narratives will provide the guidance. Christian ethics are also stated in timeless principles drawn from Wisdom Literature, and likewise we find sins rebuked by the prophets. Christian ethics are taught in discourses by Christ and explained in the epistles of the Apostles. Wherever ethics are found in the Bible, you must stand in the pulpit and proclaim these timeless truths with clarity and courage.
explain the reason
You should explain why each ethical issue is of great importance. Every moral issue must be seen in light of the holy character and righteous attributes of God. Moreover, you must present this truth in light of other doctrines and teachings found elsewhere in Scripture. Every moral issue you address must square with the rest of the Bible. It must be consistent with God’s design for the sanctity of life and the institutions of the home, church, and government, as well as the workplace.
expose the heart
You should begin your application by addressing the heart condition of the listener. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus prioritized and stressed a religion of the heart. He maintained that sinful actions proceed from sinful thoughts and carnal desires. He stated that murder and adultery are sins conceived in the heart before they become outward deeds. Every departure from proper ethics, whether in word or deed, always initially takes root in the heart.
call for obedience
Having established the morality of the issue, you must call for proper obedience. It is not enough that people be hearers of the Word. You must hold them accountable to be doers of it. Do not give people suggestions to contemplate. Instead, you must point them to the statutes of Scripture and challenge their wills. You must go beyond speaking only with indicative statements and address them with imperative commands that require their response.
promise the blessing
God will honor those who keep His Word. Though the path may be demanding and costly, it nevertheless glorifies God. It is better for your listeners to be in a scorching desert inside the will of God than to be in a stunning palace outside His will. No matter how countercultural this Christian ethic may be, you must reaffirm that a pure heart and obedient submission will inevitably lead to God’s blessing.
warn the listeners
Do not withhold admonishment concerning ethical matters. Your hearers should be warned that violating God’s Word always comes at a high price. In our day, we see the destruction that sinful morals have brought upon our world. As you preach, never apologize for issuing God’s warning against wickedness. The law of sowing and reaping has never been rescinded. Some effects from sin are long-lasting, some even lifelong. Others yield shorter effects. Either way, there will always be painful consequences for disobedience.
promise the forgiveness
Undoubtedly, there will be those in your congregation who have already committed the sin you are addressing. This does not mean, however, that it should not be confronted from the pulpit. This necessitates their confession of sin and repentance. However, you should promise the living water of divine forgiveness to those who have already transgressed in this matter. Assure them that God is more than willing to forgive their sin.
fortify the faithful
Your listeners live in a world of moral tolerance toward every sinful compromise. They must be equipped to resist the temptation to be silent when they should give witness to the truth. Bold preaching will deepen their convictions, lest they compromise with the crowd at work or in their neighborhood. They must be prepared to stand alone, if need be, for the sake of righteousness—even if they have to suffer for it.
As a minister of the Word, you bear this weighty responsibility. You are appointed by God to teach the Bible and feed the flock entrusted to your care. An important part of your pastoral duty is to instruct your congregation in their moral obligations as found in the Scriptures. Intellectually understood truth is never an end in itself. It is only a means to reach a far greater goal, that hearts and lives be committed to moral purity for the glory of God.
Only then will the people of God be prepared to hold forth the torch of truth in our present hour.