Lesson 27 - Doctrine of Virtue

Lesson 27 - Doctrine of Virtue

Lesson for July 1, 2012

Christian Integrity

DOCTRINE OF VIRTUE

Virtue is produced by believers who consistently reside and function within God’s power system.  Virtue is strength of character, bravery, courage, capability, worthiness, excellence, and high moral and ethical standards.  The Greek word used for virtue is “arete,” which refers to the qualities developed by consistently residing in God’s divine power system over time.  Virtue is developed through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to positive believers as they learn, believe and apply accurate Bible doctrine. (II Peter 1:2-4; Philippians 4:8)

Motivational virtue is category 5 in God’s divine power system.  Motivational virtue is directed toward God.  Functional virtue is category 6 in God’s divine power system and is directed toward mankind.  For example, the motivational virtue of confidence in God results in the functional virtue of courage toward others.  Again, the motivational virtue of personal love for God results in the functional virtue of impersonal love for all mankind.

These virtues correspond perfectly to your Royal Priesthood and your Royal Ambassadorship.  Your invisible relationship (priesthood) with God will motivate you to exhibit virtue toward others as His representative on earth (ambassadorship).  As a believer, you will never function properly as God’s ambassador until you develop your relationship with God as a priest. 

When motivational virtue is directed toward mankind (including self) a malfunction will occur which turns into arrogance, self-righteousness or legalism.  You cannot develop divine virtue by means of human viewpoint thinking or following some human formula.  Divine virtue is developed only within the system God designed.  His system is perfect, unlike mankind’s “system for success.”

A believer is a legalist if they think that they can develop virtue by means of their human works.  A legalist may outwardly look spiritual because of their seemingly high moral character.  But remember that morality and spiritually are not the same.  Attempting to glorify God and execute the Christian Way of Life by means of human works (morality) is getting “the cart before the horse.”  This attempt is tantamount to confusing your priestly function with your function as an ambassador.  Even an unbeliever can be moral, but can never be spiritual.

Personal and impersonal love are the quintessence of virtue.  Personal love for God and impersonal love for mankind when properly executed demonstrate the virtue that has been developed by the advancing believer through the persistent intake and application of accurate Bible doctrine. 

God loves you and me because He has integrity; you can love Him in return when you acquire Christian integrity.  Christian integrity is defined as a strict adherence or loyalty to the truth, soundness of moral principle, and a state of honesty and uncorrupted virtue as found in the Word of God.  Virtue is defined as strength of character exhibited in such characteristics as stability, courage, capability, worthiness, honor, high moral standards, kindness, humility, faithfulness, and patience.  Christian virtue refers to these qualities in a person as God designed us to be. 

Virtue in the Christian life can be produced only under the control of the Holy Spirit by maximum application of the Word of God. A believer needs a power greater than himself in order to acquire and apply virtue.  He needs the same power that our Lord Jesus Christ had while here on earth (the Holy Spirit). Remember, Jesus pioneered the Christian life for us while being tested in every way that we are tested, except without sin. (I John 4:9; II Peter 1:2-4)

Once again, the Greek word “arete” is translated virtue in English.  Paul uses this word in Philippians 4:8-9 and tells us that we as believers in Jesus Christ should be concentrating on the qualities from the Word of God that develop virtue.  Christian virtue is not avoidance of a set of taboos laid down by some religious organization.  Christian virtue is forming and exhibiting the character of Jesus Christ by consistent intake and application of Bible doctrine, which is the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5) God loves you and me because He has integrity and virtue.  He loves each believer personally because we possess His righteousness, not because we merit God’s love. God’s love towards us is a grace gift. This same integrity and virtue is available to us and is the means whereby we are able to love God and our fellow man. (I John 4:7)

Personal love is based on the virtue of the object, the one who is loved. Personal love for God is a function of the Royal Priesthood of the believer.  Before we can love one another, we must learn to love God.  We learn to love God only by getting to know Him through His attributes as revealed in His Word.  As we get to know Him through His Word and obedience to His Word, we develop capacity to appreciate Him and enjoy His blessings.  Our personal love for God is based upon our thinking, not our emotions.  No one can be forced to love God.  As with everything in the Christian Way of Life, it is a matter of personal volition.  However, I must tell you that you are commanded to love God. (Deuteronomy 6:5) 

Loving God changes our human norms and standards to divine norms and standards and gives us a foundation upon which to build our Christian lives.  This, of course, not only affects our relationship with God (our spiritual life), it also affects our relationship with others (our Christian life). (I Peter 1:8; Ephesians 3:19)

Impersonal love is not what we normally think of as love.  It is the virtue in your soul that causes you to have a relaxed mental attitude toward others and treat them with kindness, compassion, patience and forgiveness.  In other words, impersonal love is how we treat others.  Therefore, impersonal love must be based on the virtue of the subject, the one doing the loving (“the treating”). Impersonal love is a function of the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer.  It is our love for God that motivates us to exhibit impersonal love toward all.  Impersonal love operates from the integrity and virtue that you have developed from learning and applying Bible doctrine.

As a Royal Ambassador for Christ, you are to conduct your life accordingly.  This calls for high standards of excellence in every area of your life.  It calls for honor in your dealings with your fellow-believers and with unbelievers alike.  With Jesus Christ as our example, we are to exhibit the same kind of love that He exhibited.  This kind of love can be accomplished only by a believer with Bible doctrine in the soul, who is being controlled by the Holy Spirit. 

When we are properly functioning under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will adhere to the principles found throughout the Word of God.  These principles will enable us to exhibit impersonal love toward others.  This means that we will treat everyone with respect, not on the basis of our “pet prejudices” regarding race, social status, ability or what a person can or cannot do for us. We will refrain from gossip, maligning, judging, character assassination, etc. In other words, we will “live and let live.”  The principle of treating everyone with respect also means that we will be tolerant, be thoughtful and be kind toward others.  We will hold no grudges or resentment against anyone. (I John 4:17-18)

The Word of God teaches us who we are to love. We are to love God, ourselves, and others.  Husbands are told to love their wives, and wives are told to respect their husbands.  Parents are to love their children and children their parents.  We are to love fellow believers.  We are even to love our enemies. (Ephesians 5:21-6:4; I John 3:14)

The Word of God teaches us how we are to love.  We are to love unconditionally, as God loves.  This means that we are to love others regardless of their race, their beliefs, their language, their place of birth, their body type, the color or style of their hair, their clothes, their behavior, etc.  We are even to love them despite their sin.  We love the “sinner” not the sin.  And, of course, our great teacher was the Lord Jesus Christ.  We simply need to practice loving in the same manner as He did. (I John 3:16-24; James 2:1-10)

The Word of God also teaches us why we are to love.  Remember what we have learned about God’s love.  He loves because He has integrity.  Integrity is defined as a state or quality of being complete (God’s love is complete); an unimpaired state of honesty and purity (God’s love is honest and pure); a character of uncorrupted virtue or a loyalty to the truth (God’s love is virtuous and based on truth).  Virtue is strength of character based on objective reality.  Since God is all of these and more, the objective reality is that He is love.  We love because God first loved us. (I John 4:7-11)

Since the entire Godhead indwells each of us as believers in Christ, God’s love also abides in us.  The question is how do we get it out of us so that it benefits us, and others.  This is what we have studied with regard to the character of Christ being formed in us.  Under the filling or control of the Holy Spirit, God is able to produce the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer.  The first fruit listed is love. (I John 4:11-16)

No one can execute the Christian Way of Life without love.  This includes love for God, love for yourselves and love for others.  This is the correct order in which we are to love - God first, ourselves second and others third.  Why is this true?  The Bible says that if we are unable to love our fellowman we cannot love God.  Therefore the opposite is true; only by loving God can you have unconditional love for others.  The Bible also says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which means that love for self, precedes love for others.  As a matter of fact, love of self teaches us how to love others. (John 15:10; I Corinthians 13:1-3; I John 3:16-24; [Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31 – The Golden Rule])

The challenging kind of love is unconditional love.  Unconditional love is loving someone that we don’t enjoy, that we don’t admire, that does not make us happy, that does not treat us nicely, etc.  Developing and learning to utilize unconditional love as a “tool” in our daily experience is of utmost importance for a victorious Christian life.  This requires setting aside our emotions and instead, thinking and applying Biblical principles in order to produce right attitudes. 

Right attitudes will produce right behavior.  Loving others unconditionally often requires adjusting and adapting to others instead of expecting others to adjust and adapt to us.  This does not mean that we condone bad behavior.  Rather, it means that we love others in spite of their behavior.  After all, we don’t know what a person has gone through or is going through that is affecting their behavior (“walk a mile in his shoes”).  Unconditional love is selfless love - loving without asking “what’s in it for me.”