Volume. XXXII, No. 22
Sunday, 26 November 2017

From the Pastor's Heart: Deadly Virtues (Part 1)

A few months ago, I delivered a message, titled, “Deadly Virtues.”  I have been reminded of this message repeatedly, as I have been pondering on different issues of life and Christian character.  I felt that I should rewrite on this topic and share my thoughts with my church families again.  I also found that Todd E. Outcalt’s book, The Seven Deadly Virtues by IVP Books, offers good insights on this subject.  I quote from it frequently.  We all know that Christians should be virtuous.  

Occurrences of virtue in the Bible
In order to study this subject again, I searched the scriptures to know the usage of the term virtue, or virtuous in the Bible.  I found three occurrences of “virtuous,” which have one common characteristic.  All three occurrences are used for women in the Old Testament.  
In Ruth 3:11, Boaz said to Ruth that she was virtuous: “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”  
Proverbs 12:4 says, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”  
Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”  
As a noun, virtue is found 7 times in 6 verses, but its use in the synoptic gospels is not so relevant to our study of virtue for the present.  Thus, I am going to deal with the remaining 4 occurrences in three verses.  They are:
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue [“Excellence” in ESV and NAS], and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  
2 Peter 1:3, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue [“excellence” in ESV and NAS; “goodness” in NIV].”  
2 Peter 1:5, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue [“virtue” in ESV; “moral excellence” in NAS; “goodness” in NIV]; and to virtue knowledge.”  

Greek and English definitions of virtue
Thayer’s Greek lexicon defines “virtue” (arete) as “a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action 1) virtue, moral goodness 2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.”  
Noah Webster gives us some interesting insights of the word.  It expounds the definition with an idea of strength: “The radical sense is strength, from straining, stretching, extending.”  The followings are its definitions:
(1)    Strength; that substance or quality of physical bodies, by which they act and produce effects on other bodies;
(2)    Bravery valor. This was the predominant signification of virtues among the Romans;
(3)    Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law;
(4)    A particular moral excellence; as the virtue of temperance, of chastity, of charity . . .
(5)    Excellence; or that which constitutes value and merit . . .
With this quick survey of the meaning of the word, we must have come to conclude that virtues are all good and excellent qualities we must have.  At this point, we need to be reminded that the Lord called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3).  

Then, what could be Christian virtues?   
I must say that there is no verse giving us a list of virtues Christian must have.  Some say that there are seven virtues like faith, hope, love, prudence, temperance, courage/fortitude, and justice.  Some people say that there are twelve virtues.  They borrow this list from Aristotle, a Greek philosopher.  Some argue that there are ten virtues.  All these different lists simply indicate that Christian virtue is far greater than we think.  We could say that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is a good guide for Christian virtues. Arthur F. Holmes describes “virtues” in the following way: “A virtue is a right inner disposition, and a disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways. Disposition is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from a sudden impulse in being a settled habit of mind, an internalized and often reflective trait.
Virtues are general character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct (Ethics: Approving Moral Decisions, Contours of Christian Philosophy, ed. C. Stephen Evans, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1984, 116).
Greg Herrick suggests the following ideas of virtue: “There are many key ideas . . . but for our purposes here I want to focus on three.  First, a virtue is a tendency, stemming from who you are at your core level, to act in certain ways.  Second, it is not simply, therefore, an impulse, good or bad, but rather a settled habit of mind.  Third, it has a function of providing judgment on motives and outward actions.  Virtues, then, relate to who we are as people; our character” (“Virtues Leading to Christlikeness,” in Go and Make Disciples of All Nations).  Having considered all such elements of virtue, I would relate them to both spiritual and moral excellence that Christians must have and nurture.  One of the best ways we can study and know about Christian virtues is to go to the Bible and to find what the Lord has well commended and what He has rebuked and cautioned.  By which, we shall know virtues He desires to see from us and vices He hates.  For the purpose of knowing such matters, I would choose Matthew 6 to make the points clear, though my discussions will not end with the chapter.  

Beginning with Matthew 6
Matthew 6:1-4 is one of many passages teaching us about giving.  It is probably charity giving, which is a virtue.  Jesus speaks about the believers’ prayer in 6:5-15, and we could say that it is also a virtue Christians must have.  It is hard to imagine that Christians do not pray.  They may spend different amount of time and pray in different depths and seriousness, but they pray one way or another.  Even His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  Fasting is taught in 6:16-18, which is an outstanding expression of our faith and dependence of the Lord, and treasure or money matters are found in the rest of the chapter.  There is no one arguing that money or wealth does not have anything to do with Christian virtues or character.  Let us observe the chapter contents first. Matthew 6 is one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible.  There are basically two reasons:
(1) The audience, readers, or students of this chapter are believers, neither pagans nor atheists.  The primary audience were the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, it is not evangelistic but educational to the believers.  Thus, if we are born again believers, we must pay attention to this chapter.  
(2) Though Jesus is talking about Christian virtues like charity giving, prayer, fasting . . . , His words imply rebukes not commendations.  It sounds strange, but it is true.  Jesus is not warning here against thieveries, lies, criminal activities, or immorality, which is pure vice and evil.  Jesus says of the virtue of charity with warning.  He does the same thing with prayer, fasting, and possessions.  Don’t we think that virtues are always good and must be encouraged?  Is it possible that our virtues could be turned into vices?
It means two things: (a) Believers are not naturally inclined to do spiritual things in the spiritual way.  They ought to be taught about how they should develop and improve spiritual traits.  Think about the topic Jesus chose here.  They are Christian giving, fasting, prayers and possessions, which are all Christian virtues.  (b) Though believers may be the doers of such virtues, it is more than possible that they are not virtuous people at all.  It sounds like a contradictory and irreconcilable statement.  Could it be possible that there is evilness in virtues?

Lovingly, Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



- Welcome to our pulpit: Bro Charles Scott-Pearson of Protestant Alliance (UK).
- Kitchen renovations: Please do not enter kitchen area in Church Hall. Please stay away from hard waste in Rectory garden. Due to renovations, Working Bee will be postponed to Sat, 9 Dec.
- Please note (Leaders): Fellowship groups using Sunday School rooms in Rectory must tidy up & arrange furniture into proper places for use by students on Sundays.
- An Afternoon of Carols & Items of Praise- Sun, 10 Dec at 2pm.
- Non-designated offerings next Lord’s Day will be given to IBPFM. Christmas Day offerings will go to Voice of Martyrs.
- Summer recess: No Ladies’ Fellowship Bible Study & Wed Prayer Meeting & Bible Study in Dec & Jan. No Joy Bible Study after 2 Dec.
- Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team A. Next week: Team B.

Praise and Thanksgiving
- Completion of exams- Year 12 & university students.
- Journey mercies: Ps Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Adl)

- Special prayer: post-surgery
- Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Pastor Daniel Mwinzi (Kenya)
- Journey mercies
- Health & safety in pregnancy
A comprehensive prayer list is available at the Sanctuary foyer. Please take a copy for your personal or corporate prayer time.



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