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The Holy Spirit and Ethics… Part I

by R. Keith Whitt

INTRODUCTION

Can the Holy Spirit make a difference in a person’s life? Of course He can. But that really isn’t the question most of us should be asking. If you are a believer or have been associated with a Bible-believing church for any period of time, you know the answer is “yes.”

Will I yield to the Holy Spirit so He will enable me to make ethical decisions? This is the right question! The central truth of this lesson is “The Holy Spirit influences Christians to live ethically.” One of the Holy Spirit’s roles here on earth is to lead us in truth. Truth enables us to make right ethical choices, regardless of how difficult some of the choices may be. Although Scripture doesn’t always provide a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” statement for each of the situations we encounter, the principles are there. We then must have the wisdom and strength to make the right choice, regardless of the economic or positional impact.

The desires of our flesh are often at war with spiritual truth. In those situations we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to forge ahead and do what is right. No one is exempt from these settings; however, some believers may face more of them due to the nature of their work and their personality. For example, if you are a person who greatly desires the approval of others, you might be prone to make decisions that make you “look good” and receiving the acclaim of others. Or, perhaps your income is determined by sales and commissions. Will you “stretch the truth” to make the sale?

When believers allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lifestyle and decisions, there will be no ethical conflicts or compromises. We will do what is right, even if it hurts. However, doing right always brings the blessing of God’s favor despite the discomfort of our choice.

Making ethical decisions enables a believer to “sleep soundly” at night, knowing truth based on the Word of God and the guidance of Holy Spirit has prevailed.

I. SPIRIT-TRANSFORMED LIFE (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20)

A. Freed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Titus 3:3-8)

John 16:8. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Titus 3:3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

4. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6. Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

7. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

One aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is clearly stated in the initial verse of our lesson (John 16:8). He is here to repress the actions of sin. One dimension of that occurs within the life of believers. If believers cannot live ethically and eradicate sinful tendencies in their lives, how can they expect sinners in their fallen moral state to follow paths of righteousness?

Usually we see the role of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter – the One who stands alongside to defend. However, here we see the Spirit on the other side of the legal fence. He stands as the prosecutor bringing attention to people’s sins. The purpose isn’t just to cause people to feel guilty, but to bring them to righteousness.

The Holy Spirit’s convicting work in a person’s life is what causes her or him to realize their pitiful condition. As Paul writes to Titus, he lists specifics of unbelievers’ sinfulness. We understand not all unbelievers are involved in every type of sinful activity. However, the unbeliever is heavily influenced by personal passions and the desire for pleasure which may be immoral and/or illegal (3:3). This leads to foolish and disobedient actions which may result in ongoing consequences.

Paul emphasizes how sin deceives. It may cause us to assume we are having “the time of our life” or on the road to great happiness when in reality this is a major deception. Instead of being on the road of freedom we are enslaved. This enslavement could be to drugs, sex, greed, or frivolity. All of them speak of being in bondage to the enemy of our soul who seeks to destroy us.

Rescue from this state of bondage cannot occur by our own attempts to do good. No number of positive deeds will change our sinfulness into righteousness; only “the kindness and love of God our Saviour” (v. 4) can save us. Verse 5 emphasizes the process of spiritual renewal being the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, which makes us “heirs having the hope of eternal life” (v. 7 NIV).

The freedom we experience through the work of the Holy Spirit isn’t totally separated from our own actions. We cooperate and maintain what has been done in our lives by daily following a lifestyle of holiness which is in accord with God’s Word (v. 8), but even that is made possible through God’s grace.

B. Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

19. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Though we are freed by the Spirit and enjoy Christian liberty, there still are rules of conduct which govern how we live. Here at the end of a definitive statement on sexual immorality (vv. 12-20), Paul presents the biblical view of the believer’s human body.

He clearly underscores the unity of the spiritual and the physical. Our physical body isn’t an entity separate from our spiritual nature. Unlike those who say the actions of the body have no connection with the spiritual relationship with God, Paul points to our body being “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (v. 19 NIV). His indwelling and covering of us places us at the service of God. We are not being independent self-serving agents. At the price of Christ’s sacrificial death, we can be free from the bondage of sin. Once we accept this offering, a transfer of ownership occurs. Now we are Christ’s! The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work places us in the privileged position of glorifying God (v. 20). This is to take place in the words of our mouth and the actions of our bodies.

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