STATEMENT OF CHRISTIAN ETHICAL STANDARDS
It has been the practice of Calvinistic baptist churches for many years to send messengers to occasional Assemblies in order that they should confer together on matters of common concern. The churches which send messengers to such assemblies, do not, by doing so, commit themselves to any ongoing association with one another. The churches which are represented by the messengers remain independent in government, and no assembly can speak for the churches, or make decisions binding upon them.
In recent years, such assemblies have been held at approximately annual intervals, each assembly being designated as the “Grace Baptist Assembly”. At the Grace Baptist Assembly of 2013 it was suggested that the churches represented might benefit from a statement of Christian ethical standards. The proclamation of such biblical truths is good in and of itself, but it may be especially helpful in an era of biblical illiteracy in the general population and increasing intolerance towards Christian individuals, organisations and churches for their stance on ethical matters.
The task of drafting this statement was delegated to a small committee of interested men who now present it to the messengers gathered at the Grace Baptist Assembly of 2016. We understand the Assembly has no authority to impose it on any church, or to bind future Assemblies to adopt it. Nevertheless we, with the convening committee of the 2016 Assembly, encourage the church messengers present to take it back to their churches for discussion, use and benefit. We trust and pray that it will be useful to the churches that wish to adopt it, or to use it with appropriate emendations as a basis for their own statements.
This statement should not be regarded as an exhaustive list of ethical standards, and no inference should be drawn from the absence or otherwise of any particular ethical standard. Each individual church may adopt this statement in full or in part, and may amend the statement to reflect its own position. Individual churches are encouraged to take professional legal advice, or take advice from a religious liberty advocacy group, if they wish to adopt, or amend, this statement.
STATEMENT OF CHRISTIAN ETHICAL STANDARDS
WITH BIBLE REFERENCES
In this statement we have attempted to summarise some ethical standards which we believe to be taught or necessarily implied by the Bible and especially the New Testament. We recognise that not all commands given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament are now binding on New Testament believers who are drawn from many nations. Nevertheless, in many cases, we make reference to Old Testament passages originally addressed to Israel which support these standards. We do so in the conviction that these specific Old Testament passages are endorsed or extended within the New Testament. Thus, we believe these standards to be binding upon Christians in all generations and that Christians who fail to keep these standards should be called to repent and to seek God’s forgiveness. We believe too that churches should teach these standards and hold their members to account if they fail to live by them.
We are convinced that these standards reflect God’s will not only for believers but for all mankind. When unbelievers fail to live by these standards, in our view they are guilty of sin and will be held to account by God at the final judgement. However, we do not believe that all these standards should necessarily be imposed on society outside the church by legislation or enforced by sanctions. In some cases it would not be possible or advisable to do so. We offer this summary therefore, not as a manifesto for society in general, but (i) as a guide to individual Christians as to the duties Christ requires of them, and (ii) as a guide to churches as to the standards they should require from their members and to be upheld in the course of church life and activities.
In this statement, masculine pronouns (eg he, his) are frequently used for convenience, but in most cases should be understood inclusively to mean persons of both sexes.
A Christian must not seek, carry out, procure, or assist in the destruction of an unborn child by deliberately terminating the pregnancy, except where the mother’s life is at immediate risk such as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. We hold that human life begins at conception.
Exodus 20:13; Psalms 51:5; 139:13-16.
II. CIVIL AUTHORITY
A Christian must respect and honour the civil authorities, pay taxes, abide by the law, pray for the civil authorities, and make every effort to live in peace. However, if any human authority commands something which God has forbidden, or forbids something which God has commanded, a Christian’s duty is to obey God rather than human authority.
Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17.
A Christian must not lie, deceive or mislead, except to deceive an enemy in a time of war, or to lead astray an aggressor who is threatening to inflict imminent and serious physical injury. The concealment of information from those who are not entitled to receive it, or who are likely to abuse it, does not necessarily constitute improper deception.
Exodus 20:15-16; Joshua 2:3-6; 1 Samuel 16:1-3; 2 Samuel 17:17-20; Proverbs 12:22; Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:25; James 2:25.
IV. DRUNKENNESS and SUBSTANCE ABUSE
A Christian must seek to retain self control at all times and therefore must not become drunk or otherwise drink alcohol to excess. A Christian must not use for personal gratification any other chemical substance likely to impair judgement. A Christian who is addicted to a chemical substance may require pastoral support and love. However addiction, of itself, does not absolve a Christian of responsibility.
Proverbs 23:20; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18.
A Christian must not act with the intention of terminating prematurely his own life, or the life of another human being, on the ground that he is suffering from a painful, terminal or incurable condition or disability, or is in a coma, a vegetative state or any similar condition, or is judged to have a deficient ‘quality of life’. The administration of pain relieving medicine is permissible, even when the known side effect may be to shorten life, as long as the intention is to relieve pain not hasten death.
Exodus 20:13; Job 1:21; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Hebrews 9:27.
A Christian must be careful with personal finances, not living beyond his means, not incurring debt without the means to repay it, not being idle or work shy. A Christian must not be a lover of money, nor covet the possessions of others. A Christian should be generous in the use of his property, ready to give to, or share with, those who are in genuine need.
Exodus 20:17; Proverbs 19:15; Luke 12:15; Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Timothy 6:10.
A Christian must not participate in any activity which involves the transfer of property mainly on the basis of chance and with significant risk of loss. A Christian should only obtain wealth by working for it, by receiving a gift, or by a fair exchange of value, or by sensible investment. A Christian who is addicted to gambling may require pastoral support and love. However addiction, of itself, does not absolve a Christian of responsibility.
Genesis 23:16; Leviticus 25:14; Proverbs 13:11; Matthew 22:39; Galatians 5:23; 1 Timothy 5:18.
A Christian must not be habitually greedy or excessive in eating food, especially so when others do not have enough food.
Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:20-12; Galatians 5:23.
A Christian must not put another person under unreasonable, prolonged, aggressive pressure, or intimidation, or unreasonably cause another person to repeatedly experience unwanted and annoying actions.
John 13:34-35; Romans 12:9-21; Ephesians 4:31.
A Christian, acting as a private individual, must not take the life of another human being, unless it is the only way of protecting an innocent person from serious and imminent harm. Nor may a Christian endanger life through negligence or carelessness. We recognise that the use of lethal force by the state may be justified as an act of legitimate warfare, or in the exercise of judicial execution, and that a Christian may act as the agent of the state in such contexts.
Genesis 9:6; Exodus 20:13; 22:2; Deuteronomy 22:8; Romans 13:4
A Christian must not be involved in the occult, including the use of magical arts, witchcraft, voodoo, sorcery, astrology, fortune telling, or wizardry.
Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Acts 19:19.
XII. PARENTS AND CHILDREN
A Christian must honour his parents, showing them due respect and obedience, and caring for them when they are in need.
Christian parents have the primary responsibility for the care of their children and must not neglect that responsibility or allow other agencies to usurp it. Christian parents must instruct their children from the Bible, prepare them to be useful and wise citizens, restrain them from antisocial or dangerous behaviour, and exercise appropriate discipline. Christian parents may employ various sanctions – including if necessary physical chastisement – to train their children but must be sure that such chastisement is in the context of love, and causes neither physical nor psychological harm.
Parents must not bring dishonour upon themselves or provoke their children to anger by unreasonable or insensitive behaviour.
Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Proverbs 13:24; Matthew 19:19; Ephesians 6:1-4.
A Christian who chooses to marry should do so with the hope and intention that he and his marriage-partner will have children unless there are compelling reasons that would make it impossible, unwise or unsafe for them to do so. If a Christian couple proves incapable of producing children naturally, they may seek medical intervention. However, Christians must not resort to any medical or scientific techniques which would result in a child of which they are not the two biological parents. A Christian must not be involved with any medical or scientific activity which involves the destruction of human embryos, genetic experimentation on human embryos, or which leads to modification of the human genome.
Genesis 1:28; 9:1; Exodus 20:13; Psalm 139:13.
A Christian must respect other people as made in the image of God, irrespective of race or ethnicity, for all mankind shares the same forefather Adam. Within the body of Christ there should be no racial distinctions, nor partiality.
Genesis 1:26; Romans 10:12; Colossians 3:11; James 2:9.
XV. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
A Christian must acknowledge the right of all to worship according to their conscience, and to teach and practise their religious convictions without unjust hindrance from the state. We recognise the right of all voluntarily to associate in order corporately to practise their various religions. We recognise, however, that the state has the right and duty to forbid and punish activities which, though done in the name of religion, involve violence, sexual abuse, theft or other behaviour contrary to the commandments that God has given for the ordering of civil societies.
Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; 16:37; Romans 13:1-7.
XVI. SEX AND MARRIAGE
A Christian may only engage in sexual activity within the commitment of marriage. A Christian must not indulge in any lustful behaviour such as fornication, adultery, prostitution, autoerotic or homosexual behaviour, immodesty, the use of pornography or actions which pervert the natural uses of the body.
We understand Christian marriage to be the union of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others, sealed by vows of lifelong faithfulness, and (where physically possible) consummated in the act of sexual intercourse. A church should not give its approval to any of its members entering any other form of “marriage”, even if sanctioned by the state.
A Christian wife must give obedience to her husband unless he commands disobedience to the law of God. A Christian husband must love his wife, putting her well-being and happiness before his own. Christian marriage partners must not deprive one another of normal sexual relations except by mutual consent and then only for a limited period.
Marriage is dissolved by death or may be terminated by divorce. Divorce is contrary to God’s declared will but, even in the case of Christians, may in the last resort be necessitated by the sin of one or both partners.
A Christian who is free to choose should only marry a believer. However, a person who becomes a Christian and is already married to an unbeliever should do everything within his power to perpetuate the marriage. If his unbelieving marriage partner is determined to end the marriage, he should consent to its termination.
Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:3-9; 1 Corinthians 7:5, 12-16; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4.
A Christian must keep control of his tongue, and must not use profane or unedifying language, or speak gossip, slander or hatred.
Romans 1:28-32; Ephesians 4:29; 5:4; James 3:1-12.
A Christian must not take or use property which does not belong to him without the owner’s permission, or without legal right. Rather he must seek to uphold the right of others to keep secure and to enjoy their property.
Exodus 20:15; Romans 2:21; Ephesians 4:28.
XIX. TIME & EMPLOYMENT
A Christian must be careful to use his time wisely, giving proper place to each of his responsibilities including private devotion, the activities of the church, family life, work and needed rest.
A Christian should attempt to set aside one day in seven each week for activities directly related to his Christian faith such as private prayer, acts of Christian service, and especially attendance at the regular gatherings of the church. Throughout Christian history, the day when Christians have met together in this way has been the first day of the week and Christians have a special responsibility to gather on that day in order to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A Christian should not choose to enter employment which necessitates his regular involvement in secular labour seven days a week, if other employment is open to him. If, in the absence of any alternative, it becomes necessary for him to enter seven day a week employment, he should view it as a temporary expedient and seek other employment.
A Christian should aim to make full use of the remaining six days of the week. He should as far as his strength and circumstances permit, be involved in work, whether paid or otherwise, which benefits himself and others. A Christian who enters paid employment should work hard and conscientiously, seeking to advance the interests of his employer, following his employer’s instructions willingly and treating any fellow employees with respect.
A Christian should not knowingly accept employment which will necessarily involve him in acts contrary to God’s commandments, such as misrepresentation or the promotion of immoral behaviour. If required by an employer to commit such acts, a Christian should refuse.
A Christian who employs other workers should treat them with respect, pay them fairly and regularly, and should not impose conditions of work which endanger their health, safety, or freedom to enjoy family life. Especially, a Christian employer must ensure that his employees are able to have a regular one day in seven when they are not required to work for him.
Christians who offer services to the public should treat their customers with respect and courtesy, be truthful in all their representations, and show themselves trustworthy in every way. They should not offer to the public any service or product which condones, promotes or facilitates actions contrary to God’s commands, and if requested to supply such products or services, should refuse.
Genesis 2:3, 15; Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 19:35-36, 25:14; Acts 5:29, 19:23-27; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 7:21; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Ephesians 5:16, 6:5-9; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 10:25; Revelation 1:10.
A Christian must not adopt a sex other than his biological sex, for example by wearing clothes appropriate only to the opposite sex; by using pronouns applicable only to the opposite sex; by using a given name associated exclusively with the opposite sex. A Christian must not use hormonal blockers, surgical alteration, or any other means in an attempt to take on the physical characteristics of the opposite sex. A Christian must not encourage any other person to relate to him or to address him as if he were a member of the opposite sex.
Gen 1:27; Deuteronomy 22:5; Psalm 139:13-16.
A statement of Christian ethics is, by its nature, a statement of stark do’s and don’ts. We feel it is appropriate to attach as an appendix these essential truths which complement, rather than compete with, the ethical standards.
There is forgiveness full and free to those who genuinely repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ by his grace. Repentance involves a heartfelt sorrow, an acknowledgement of guilt, and a renewed determination to live a life which is pleasing to God. Christians should not withhold forgiveness from those who have repented, for each Christian has been forgiven his own sins.
Psalm 103:12; Matthew 6:12; Acts 3:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 3:13; 1 John 1:9.
Without condoning any sin, there should be pastoral sympathy, support and concern for any person suffering from any besetting sin which the person is genuinely trying to overcome. Christians should be patient, kind, long-suffering, bearing with each other’s burdens, confronting sin in a spirit of love with the goal of restoration and purity.
1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; 4:32; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Timothy 2:24
Temptation is not sin, but it is a sin to yield to temptation in thought, word or deed, or needlessly to expose oneself to temptation. Our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted repeatedly, yet remained without sin. We should not rebuke anyone for his or her temptations, which may differ from person to person. A Christian must flee from temptation if it is possible to do so.
Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1-13; 1 Timothy 6:11; Hebrews 4:15; James 1:12-14.