Ethical Imperatives for Disciples of Jesus Christ -- By: Thomas A. Bland

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 11:1 (Fall 1993)
Article: Ethical Imperatives for Disciples of Jesus Christ
Author: Thomas A. Bland

Ethical Imperatives for Disciples of Jesus Christ

Thomas A. Bland

Professor of Christian Ethics and Sociology
Faculty Lecture
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
October 27, 1992

The most essential presupposition in the Christian life is the Lordship-discipleship relationship. Consequently, this relationship is the most important differentia of Christian ethics. Apart from the new birth this relationship does not exist. Apart from an unconditional response of a person to Jesus’ invitation to come to him, to follow him, to learn from him, to abide in him, to obey him and to serve him, there can be no discipleship.

The Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel in the New Testament present Jesus as one who invites persons to make reflective and sustained commitments to become his disciples. You and I have chosen to enter into the discipleship-lordship relationship. “And he [Jesus] said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).

“Jesus Christ is Lord” is the oldest confession of faith among Christians. To affirm our faith that Jesus Christ is Lord is to say that his way is our self-chosen way, his will is our peace, and his commands are ours to obey with joy.

Christ’s word of judgment and grace is delivered to us in Luke 6:46–49.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

Jesus Christ the Lord exercises the prerogative to speak in the imperative mode. His is the right to command. Ours is the privilege to obey. The purpose of this lecture is to specify, describe, and consider major ethical imperatives of Jesus. The goal is to challenge late twentieth-century disciples to express more adequately in thought, words, and actions our loving responses to these imperatives. Character and conduct are the primary subject matter of ethics. Christian character and Christian conduct are the principal subject matter of Christian ethics.

In today’s presentation I invite your attention to four ethical imperatives for disciples of Jesus Christ. These four are: (1) our respons...

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