Perspectives on Social Ethics: Part IV: Apostolic Perspectives on Social Ethics -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:536 (Oct 1977)
Article: Perspectives on Social Ethics: Part IV: Apostolic Perspectives on Social Ethics
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


Perspectives on Social Ethics:
Part IV:
Apostolic Perspectives on Social Ethics

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last of a series of four articles, first delivered by the author as the Louis S. Bauman Memorial Lectures at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, February 10–13, 1976.]

While the Apostles wrote frequently about the Christian’s relationship to the social institutions of their day, their teaching was more concerned with how to live within the framework of those existing institutions than with how to change them. Remembering that this series is concerned with social ethics and not personal ethics, the subject of the Apostles’ teaching will be considered under three headings: areas for social concern, motives for social concern, and methods to be used.

Areas of Social Concern

Civic Responsibility

The dual citizenship of the believer which the Lord affirmed (Matt 22:21) is reiterated by the Apostle Paul (Phil 3:20). While a citizen of heaven, Paul nonetheless enjoyed and used the privileges of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25–29; 25:10–12).

Obedience to government. Without question, “obedience” is the key word the Apostles use to describe the Christian’s responsibility to civil government. In Romans 13:1–7 Paul commands obedience and submission for several reasons: because authority is ordained of God (v. 1 ); because resistance to government is, in the final analysis, resistance to God (v. 2 ); because government generally opposes evil (v. 4 ); and because man’s conscience tells him to obey

(v. 5). Eight or nine years and several imprisonments later, during which time Paul had ample opportunity to rethink his position, he gave the same advice: “Put them in mind to be subject [this is the same verb as in Rom 13:1], to obey magistrates, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). Mistreatment at the hands of the Roman government was not considered sufficient existential grounds for changing his mind!

About the same time Paul wrote to...

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