The Moral Message of the New Testament

pmichelreichold Jul 15th, 2016 216 Never
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  1. The Moral Message of the New Testament
  2. and Christian Ethics
  3. Mike Reichold
  4. Rel. 220
  7. The Moral Message of the New Testament
  8.                 Do not be afraid of God.
  9.                                                                         Pope John Paul II
  10. Abstract
  11.      The moral message of the New Testament begins with the "Good
  12. News" of reconciliation between God and Man. As children of God, we are
  13. members of His Kingdom. However, sin separates us from God. God calls
  14. on us to recognize our condition before God and turn from our sins.
  15. Redemption requires faith that God is faithful to honor his promise of
  16. redemption through grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. To live as
  17. children of God, we must follow the example set by Christ's ministry and
  18. obey the laws established by Moses and fulfilled by Christ's command to
  19. love God whole-heartedly and our neighbors as though they were us. As
  20. disciples of Christ, we are sent into the world to spread the Good News
  21. and to teach others to live as God commands. We are also to establish a
  22. community of believers apart from worldly influences. The building block
  23. for this community, the family, is consecrated through the sacrament of
  24. marriage. Although Christ's message is one of reconciliation, redemption,
  25. and hope, there is also a knowledge of God's justice. Those who hear and
  26. obey the moral message of the New Testament reap its benefits. Those
  27. who fail to do so reap the consequences of that failure.
  29.     For the Christian Ethicist, the study of ethics begins with the moral message of
  30. the New Testament. Ethical systems develop methods for determining human values,
  31. and the Christian carries into the study of ethics a set of values derived from the
  32. teachings of Jesus Christ, the Gospel as revealed in the New Testament, and traditions
  33. handed down through the Church. Jesus Christ's teaching revolutionized the moral
  34. thinking of His day. In his teaching, he summarized all of the Jewish law in a single
  35. sentence. He introduced the notion of a compassionate God who not only desires
  36. worship, but who also wants his followers to love even their enemies. The New
  37. Testament addresses all areas of human concern, from mankind's place in the universe
  38. to how we treat others. Church tradition offers special insights derived from two
  39. thousand years of seeking the will of God. Starting from this basis, the Christian has a
  40. strong foundation for moral reflection. This reflection leads to interpretations that are at
  41. once similar to and different from those arrived at by secular ethicists. An understanding
  42. of the moral message of the New Testament is essential to understanding this system of
  43. values .
  44.     Central to Christ's teaching was the Gospel of the Kingdom of God-- "the joy of
  45. Creation" (John Paul II, 20). The "good news" is joyous because Jesus taught that a just
  46. and holy kingdom was to be established under God's rule. It would have the benefit of a
  47. just and true King, one who is truly concerned with the welfare of His subjects. The idea
  48. of a compassionate God who was interested in his people was introduced during the
  49. days of the Old Testament. The New Testament differs from the old in that God takes a
  50. more direct role in human affairs through the Son. In this new Kingdom, oppression
  51. would be unheard of, crimes unthinkable, all human sickness but a fleeting memory.
  52. This kingdom would be spiritual rather than physical and would be made up of people
  53. filled with God's righteousness. It would be a system of government under the power
  54. and compassion of God, one in which God's compassion can redeem people from sin's
  55. suffering (Hellwig 62). As in the Old Testament, God is concerned with more than toting
  56. individual moral balance sheets (Isaiah 58). He also desires a just society implemented
  57. through His Kingdom. His is a Kingdom of liberation rather than oppression.
  58.     We see evidence of the healing and liberating nature of the Gospel in accounts of
  59. Christ's ministry. For instance, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their
  60. synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of
  61. sickness and all manner of disease among the people" (Mat 4:23). He traveled around
  62. the country saying, "Take my yoke upon you " and "my yoke is easy, and my burden is
  63. light (Mat 11:29, 30). This must have made a strong contrast with the rule of the
  64. Romans. Whereas the Roman Empire existed to further the interests of rich Romans,
  65. "The Kingdom of God . . . has to do with the fulfillment of our humanity." Therefore,
  66. "salvation is humanization, and humanization occurs through authentic liberation"
  67. (McBrien 505). He goes on to point out that Jesus preached a kingdom which was
  68. imminent and which required repentance and faith (McBrien 420).
  69.     God calls us to sonship and membership in his kingdom. However, the very
  70. nature of the Kingdom requires its members to leave behind all that would come
  71. between ourselves and God, between ourselves and others. To belong to God's
  72. kingdom, we must set aside our vices and hates and our propensity to judge others.
  73. Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Mat 7:1). Nor are we to be blinded to
  74. God's presence in others by considerations of race or ethnicity. We are to "put no
  75. difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). We are to
  76. have our relationship to God. as our prime concern and a willingness to grow in God as
  77. our atitude of spirit The words of Christ show the importance the penitent heart holds for
  78. him-- " I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that
  79. repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just (Luke 15:7). But human virtues are not
  80. sufficient for entry into God's kingdom or for the quality of relationships that set it apart
  81. from earthly kingdoms. Human efforts at doing good are also insufficient. Saint Paul tells
  82. us that, "a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ "
  83. (Galatians 2:16). We are to look to God for help in striving beyond our limitations.
  84.     Through faith we believe in Christ's commandments and call to repentance.
  85. Through faith we strive toward the good that God holds out for us (John Paul II 192). To
  86. believe in His kingdom, we must trust God. We must trust and rely upon God to supply
  87. us with the grace to live lives that are full of love for Him and for our neighbors. Such
  88. faith comes to us as a benefit of divine grace. We can count on God to reveal himself.
  89. "The vision of God 'face to face' allows enjoyment of the absolute fullness of truth (John
  90. Paul II  71). Then again, we must prepare to receive this grace by recognizing our lack
  91. and turning to God for help in removing our faults. Jesus talks about the rigorous self
  92. honesty conversion requires in the parable of the two men who went up to pray. The one
  93. who was justified prayed, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13) Repentance is
  94. necessary to faith because one must break from sin to experience a personal
  95. relationship with Christ (McBrien 35).
  96.     Knowledge of God's requirements for entry into the kingdom, the standard
  97. against me must measure our behavior, is found in the law as revealed in the
  98. commandments and in the teachings of Christ (McBrien 203, 378). A legalistic
  99. knowledge and adherence to the letter of the law is nearly a starting point in Christian
  100. morality. We must go beyond the letter of the law and understand the Spirit of the law
  101. (Mat 19:21). This means a good deal more than keeping the ten commandments. It also
  102. means developing an attitude of brotherhood toward others, even when they are
  103. opposed to our notions of how to live. God empowers us to forgive the faults of others
  104. and the injuries they do to us, and to demonstrate God's love in our responses to them.
  105. St. Paul writes, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from
  106. the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2 ). We are not called to a wanton disregard for a
  107. moral sense by this freedom. Rather we are freed to live and promote virtue while
  108. demonstrating to others how to live.
  109.      Mostly, we are freed to overlook the faults of others. We are instead called upon
  110. to examine our own lives for faults and go to God with theses faults. He is quick to
  111. forgive and sends us help in overcoming them. Under Christ, the law becomes an
  112. invitation "to live beyond fear, beyond selfish disregard for others, beyond greed and lust
  113. for personal power" (Hellwig 89). Jesus claimed to be "the way, the truth and the life"
  114. and that he was the sole route to salvation (John 14:6). He is the embodiment of God's
  115. will on earth and our example for living a Godly life. His life of good works, forgiveness
  116. of his enemies, and death for our sakes present the ideal toward which His believers
  117. should strive. This is more than a call to philosophical contemplation; it is a call to
  118. vigorous action. It is not a call to isolation from the world; it is a call to engagement with
  119. it. We are called upon as living witnesses of God's love for us, and of our love for
  120. others. The dual commandment of loving God and loving our neighbors is the starting
  121. point for the Christian moralist. In the light of this commandment, one must examine
  122. Christ's teachings and actions. The ultimate act of love is his sacrifice on the cross.
  123. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John
  124. 15:13).
  125.     In other words, "the crucified Christ is the proof of God's solidarity with man"
  126. (John Paul II 63). But we are not to throw away our lives. Instead we are to "present
  127. [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God . . ." (Romans12:1). We are
  128. called to an abundance of life. We are called to call others to this abundance. We are
  129. called upon to share materially and spiritually. The law of the Old Testament had
  130. become an impossible burden. But God is not so unreasonable as to call us to do the
  131. impossible, or to suffer needlessly. We are called upon to appreciate the abundance he
  132. gives us and to show that appreciation by spreading the Good News. To this end, Christ
  133. sent his early followers into the world. Ultimately, the church was to spread the Gospel
  134. throughout the world. It is a message that cannot be contained or overlooked. It is a
  135. message the Church never tires of proclaiming (John Paul II 111).
  136.     As life oriented as the Gospel is, it must be concerned with families. The family is
  137. an essential part of the Kingdom of God, the building block for constructing a
  138. community. Pope Leo XIII said that "marriage has God for its author" and that "the family
  139. is the primary and essential cell of society" (Werth 4, 118). It is in the home that we first
  140. learn about life and about God. We learn not only theory, but more importantly, we learn
  141. by the example our parents set for us. Although it is primarily the union of two people
  142. bound by love and mutual respect, it is the means for perpetuating life and passing on
  143. knowledge. The responsibilities of marriage are great. In Credo; A Practical Guide to the
  144. Catholic Faith, Harrison discusses the obligations of marriage. Just as each partner in
  145. the marriage is to be subordinate to the needs of the other, they are to set aside their
  146. desires and respond to a sense of duty to God and the community. But marriage is also
  147. a blessing and a means of drawing closer to God. It is a "gift from God" and when a
  148. couple marries, it is as if they were "following . . . above all the voice of God" (John Paul
  149. II 122).
  150.     Jesus "becomes the standard by which the world will, in a sense, judge itself"
  151. (McBrien 378). The benefits to establishing a society based on Christian principles are
  152. overwhelming. St. Paul make this clear when he writes, "Thou hast loved righteousness,
  153. and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of
  154. gladness above thy fellows" (Hebrews 1:9) The kingdom requires the full participation of
  155. all members of society. Ledger-book law-keeping is the route to damnation rather than
  156. salvation. One must have brotherly love to attain true righteousness. Jesus told us how
  157. to recognise  wrong and behavior-- "In this the children of God are manifest, and the
  158. children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that
  159. loveth not his brother" (1 John 3:10 ). If we are to be sons of God, then all mankind are
  160. to be aour brothers. Fundamental to this is forgiveness of others. Believers must be able
  161. to see God in their fellow man, and to treat others as they would treat Jesus or
  162. themselves. He spoke of a day of judgment in which rewards and punishments would be
  163. meted out. On the final day God will regard us in the light of our treatment of our fellow
  164. man (Mat 25:31-46).
  165.     To review, the moral message of the New Testament guides the moral values of
  166. the Christian. This is a positive message of a call to action rather than a simple list of
  167. "do"s and "don't"s. It is the "Good News" of a God that covenants with mankind and is
  168. concerned with our well being. It is a revolutionary call to faith and living that forbids a
  169. sense of superiority in its followers.  This covenant involves joining and building the
  170. Kingdom of God- a kingdom of love, compassion, fellowship and justice.. It is thus a call
  171. to leave behind anything that makes us less human. It is a call to establish justice and to
  172. advance the common good. It is a call to turn from loss, privation and selfishness and
  173. toward abundant life.
  175. Works Cited
  177. 1. Harrison, Martin OP. Credo; A Practical Guide to the Catholic Faith. Chicago: Henry
  178.     Regnery Company, 1954.
  180. 2. Hellwig, Monika K. Understanding Catholicism. New York: Paulist Press, 1981.
  182. 3. The Holy Bible. King James Version.
  184. 4. John Paul II. Crossing the Threshold of Hope. New York: Knopf, 1994. Editor Vittorio
  185.     Messori. Translated by Jenny McPhee and Martha McPhee.
  187. 5. McBrien, Richard P. Catholicism vol I. Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1980.
  189. 6. Werth, Alvin OFM, A M Cap, and Clement S Muskowich, Ph D. Papal
  190.     Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family- From Leo XIII to Pious XII.
  191.     Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1955.
  196. KINGDOM:
  198. Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their
  199. synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all
  200. manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
  202. Matthew 6:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy
  203. Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall
  204. reward thee openly.
  205. .
  206.  Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where
  207. moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
  208.  Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where
  209. neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break
  210. through nor steal:
  211.  Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be
  212. also.
  215. Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
  216. teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the
  217. kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the
  218. people.
  220. Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right
  221. hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for
  222. you from the foundation of the world:
  225. Matthew 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the
  226. children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked
  227. one
  229. Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good
  230. pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  234.  John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my
  235. kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I
  236. should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from
  237. hence.
  240. Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness,
  241. and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
  242.  Colossians 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood,
  243.  even the forgiveness of sins:
  244.  Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the
  245. firstborn of every creature:
  248. 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work,
  249. and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory
  250. for ever and ever. Amen.
  252. James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the
  253. poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he
  254. hath promised to them that love him?
  256. The Call to Conversion (Repentance)
  260. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and
  261. forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God
  262. leadeth thee to repentance?
  264.  Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven
  265. over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just
  266. persons, which need no repentance
  269. Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks,
  270. repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
  272. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and
  273. forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God
  274. leadeth thee to repentance?
  276. Faith
  278. Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:
  279. for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,
  280. ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it
  281. shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
  283. Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying
  284. their hearts by faith.
  286.  Colossians 2:5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with
  287. you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the
  288. stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
  291. Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine,
  292. nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is
  293. made weak.
  294.  Romans 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.
  295. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he
  296. alloweth.
  297.  Romans 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he
  298. eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
  300. Hebrews 11:7 (English-KJV)
  302. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared
  303. an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became
  304. heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
  306. Call to Discipleship
  308. Matthew 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two
  309. brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net
  310. into the sea: for they were fishers.
  311.  Matthew 4:19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you
  312. fishers of men.
  313.  Matthew 4:20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed
  314. him.
  316.  Jude 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy
  317. of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
  318.  Jude 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
  319.  Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the
  320. fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
  322. Law
  324. Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath
  325. made me free from the law of sin and death.
  326.  Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak
  327. through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
  328. flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
  329.  Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in
  330. us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
  333.  Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we
  334. might be justified by faith.
  335.  Galatians 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under
  336. a schoolmaster.
  337.  Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in
  338. Christ Jesus.
  340. LOVE
  342. 1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of
  343. angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a
  344. tinkling cymbal.
  346. 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these
  347. three; but the greatest of these is charity
  350. Disciples in the world
  352. Marraige
  353. Justice
  355. Matthew 25:31-46 (Isaiah 58)
  357. 1 John 3:10 (English-KJV)
  358. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth
  359. not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
  361. Hebrews 1:9 (English-KJV)
  362. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath
  363. anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
  365.  2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of
  366. temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be
  367. punished:
  369. Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest
  370. up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the
  371. righteous judgment of God;
  372.  Romans 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
  373.  Romans 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek
  374. for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
  375.  Romans 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the
  376. truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
  377.  Romans 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that
  378. doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
  379.  Romans 2:10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh
  380. good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
  381.  Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
  383. 1 John 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one
  384. that doeth righteousness is born of him.
  386. The atonement
  388. 1 Peter 2:24 (English-KJV)
  390. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins,
  391. should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
  395. "The Law discloses the divine will." (McBrien 203)Helwig
  396. 62 Paraphrase: Jesus' message had to do with the power and compassion of God and
  397. the response in which God's compassion can redeem people from sin's suffering.
  398. (Hellwig 62)
  399. 84 paraphrase he deliberately shares the hardships of the oppressed.
  401. 89 "The preaching and personal stance of Jesus certainly invited people to live beyond
  402. fear, beyond selfish disregard for others, beyond greed and lust for personal power."
  403. 90 paraphrase Jesus called for a the people to turn toward a  obligation to social justice
  404. and away from fear, selfishness, and greed.
  406. 99 "The death of Jesus is a reorientation of human freedom toward God"
  407. 140 "The Eucharist . . . makes them a witness people . . . with a missionary thrust . . . to
  408. draw others into transformed relationships . . . that move toward the welcoming of the
  409. reign of God."
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