Love: The Christian Ethic

Date written: August 5th, 2006
Scripture ref: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

SUBJECT: Love, Ethics

TITLE: Love: The Christian Ethic

PROPOSITION: To discuss the ethical standard of God: 1) That there is no other standard that can take its place, 2) That love is this ethical standard as it is revealed in the entirety of the Bible, 3) That God's ethical standard has been perfectly exemplified in the person of Jesus.

Objectives: Each ought to be able to explain how love is God's ethical standard and why it is superior to other ethical standards.

Aim: That each would be impressed with the idea that the entirety of the Bible is God's manual on how to practice his ethical standard.


1. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

2. About the Text:

1) 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Bible's chapter on love.

2) Paul begins the chapter by telling us that any task that we propose to undertake is without profit if we don't do such things with the attitude of love.

3) Paul then describes for us in these verses the characteristics of true love. Read verses 4-8a.

4) To have love in our lives, we must have these characteristics in our lives.

5) Love isn't merely an emotional feeling for the Christian, it is an attitude that influences and controls our behavior.

6) That's why Paul can say that anything that we do, if love isn't involved in it, has no profit.

3. What is ethics?

1) eth•ic n. 1. a. A set of principles of right conduct. b. A theory or a system of moral values: “An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain” (Gregg Easterbrook). 2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy. 3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics (American Heritage Dictionary).

2) In other words, ethics are the standards and principles by which we determine how we ought to behave in every day life.

a. You're driving down the road and you see a stop sign. What do you do?

b. A lady comes onto a bus and there aren't any other seats available. What do you do?

c. A friend calls and says he is having marital problems and needs a place to stay for the night. What do you do?

d. Our ethic, our standard for how we are going to behave, will determine how we answer such questions.

4. The Ethic of Love

1) I love you.

2) How can I say that to someone half way around the world that I don't even know?

3) Christianity demands of its adherents that they love.

a. They must love God first.

b. They must love their neighbor and one another.

c. The must love their enemies.

4) How is it that the Christian can walk up to a complete and total stranger and say that?

5) It is because “love” for the Christian isn't merely an emotion, but a way of life.

6) Every decision the Christian makes is to come from a heart of love.

7) Every word he speaks and every action he takes is based upon the concept of love.

a. For God.

b. For man.

5. Ref. to S, T, P, O, and A.


I.   There Is No Other Standard That Can Take It's Place

1. Consider some of the ethics that mere men have produced.

1) Might makes right – Machiavellianism.

2) Do that which brings the most pleasure to you – Hedonism.

3) Whatever is practical is right – pragmatism.

4) Whatever the situation calls for – situation ethics.

5) The Golden Mean – Moderation is the measure.

6) The "group" is right – Humanism.

7) There is no universal standard of ethics – subjectivism.

2. Each one of these standards fails as a universal standard of right and wrong.

3. Moreover, those who came up with these standards could not live by them perfectly.

4. Ultimately any standard that man produces for ethics is destined to failure.

1) Jeremiah wrote, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23).

2) Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

3) Proverbs 14:12 "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

4) Proverbs 20:24 "Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?"

5) Psalm 119:9 "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word."

5. Man simply cannot supply the answer to the question, "How ought we to behave?" Only God can do that.

II.  Love IS The Ethical Standard of God

1. It flows from the character of God Himself.

1) 1 John 4:8 "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

2) 1 John 4:16 " And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."

3) God's very essence, his very character, is that of love.

2. God has Personally demonstrated that standard.

1) We mentioned a few weeks ago how he did that.

a. In the creation.

b. In the written word.

c. In giving man a standard of morality.

d. In providing a plan for man's salvation.

e. In His promise of eternal life.

2) Our God is not a god that simply sits back and ignores his creation.

3) God gets involved in His creation.

4) John 3:16, Romans 5:8-9, Ephesians 2:4-5 "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"

5) So God's standard of ethics isn't a standard that He Himself isn't willing to practice.

3. That standard is summarized for us in several places.

1) Consider Matthew 7:12 "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

2) We call this the golden rule, because it teaches us God's standard of love for others.

3) Now think about Matthew 22:37-40 "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

4. That standard is revealed in detail in the written word of God.

1) Imagine if God had simply said, "Love one another" and then not provided any details on how to do that.

2) We would live in a world that is more chaotic than the one we have right now.

3) But that's not what God has done.

4) God has given us details as to how we are to love one another.

5) Consider Romans 13:8-10 "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

6) This is why John can say in 1 John 5:2-3 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."

7) The implications of this are staggering if we think about it.

8) Every single word in the Bible has been given so that we can know how to love God and love one another.

9) God hasn't left us with a theory of ethics only; he has supplied details.

III. The Standard of Love Has Been Perfectly Exemplified

1. No other can do what God has done in exemplifying His standard of love.

1) Here is where the philosophers and theologians of the ages have failed in setting forth standards of ethical conduct.

2) The bottom line is that when all is said and done, they cannot perfectly exemplify their standard, whatever it is.

3) Their standard will either become self contradictory at some point, or it simply won't be able to meet all of life's challenges.

4) But that's NOT the case with the standard that God gives.

2. God has exemplified His ethical standard.

1) God wasn't satisfied with simply telling us what his ethical standard is.

2) I suppose God could have just said, "Here it is; learn it and do it."

3) But then what would we have had? Nothing more than a computer manual. Ever try to use one of those?

4) But the Bible is more than just a computer manual. It is history.

5) It is history of how God's people behaved, both right and wrong, thus exemplifying God's standard of right and wrong.

6) Moreover, it is the history of His Son, and His personification of God's ethical standard.

7) John writes, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10).

8) Jesus perfectly exemplified God's ethical standard of love and thereby left us a perfect example to follow.

9) 1 Peter 2:21-24 says as much, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."

10) John 1:18 sums it up: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."

11) That word "declared" is from a Greek word that literally means "to lead out."

12) Jesus has taken the lead, so to speak, and lead out in front so that everyone can see God's ethical standard in practice.

3. Thus, when we obey God's word and follow Christ's example, we are practicing the Christian ethic.


1. God's ethical standard…

1) There is no other standard that can take its place.

2) Love is that ethical standard as revealed in the entirety of the Bible.

3) It has been perfectly exemplified in the person of Jesus.

2. Invitation