Moral Hedges in an Assembly

This article touches on the dangers of idolatry even in modern society and our attitude to our brethren.

The importance of holiness in the house of God was impressed upon Israel from their earliest days in the wilderness of Sinai. Later in their experience, David wrote, “Holiness becometh thine house, 0 Lord, forever” (Psa 93: 5). God can only dwell in a place where holiness is maintained. Isaiah got a glimpse of the throne of God where he saw and heard seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa 6:3).

Holiness was required when the tabernacle was amongst the children of Israel because God was present in the Holy of Holies. Today, every assembly which desires to have a conscious knowledge of the presence of the Lord must be marked by holiness. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). He also wrote this solemn warning, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (v 17).

The holiness of the One who stood in the midst of the golden candlesticks was impressed upon John when he was in the Isle of Patmos. John described the Lord in the midst of the candlesticks as the One whose eyes were as a flame of fire, seeing everything that went on; whose feet were as fine brass, judging everything that went on, and the One who was the first and the last. The holiness of God is an awesome topic. However, we are encouraged to consider this topic because it is the Lord Himself who dwells in the midst of His people. His presence demands holiness on our part because we have been gathered to Him and we are no longer a part of the world. The practical outworking of holiness demands that moral standards be maintained. Webster defines morals as “conforming to a standard of right and wrong; the characteristics of excellence of practice regarding right and wrong.” Through His Word, God has given us a basis for knowing what is right and wrong and He expects us to maintain a high moral standard. Although the world today fails to practice moral values because it does not accept God’s standards for right and wrong, God expects much more from His people.

The hedge of moral behavior is based on established principles of right and wrong provided by the Word of God. God wants us to live in conformity to His holy will. Paul wrote, “none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” (Rom 14:7), indicating that our moral behavior involves relationships with others. In every assembly where the Lord presences Himself in the midst, He expects the highest moral standards to be maintained. The concept of morality is not confined to actions in one narrow sphere but extends to the attitudes that we have one towards another. We need to study God’s holy standard as it is revealed in His Word to establish a basis for our moral standards. God’s standard is revealed in the ten commandments (Exod 20:1-18). Some may argue that since we live in the day of grace, the law is of not relevant for us. It is true that God has changed the basis whereby we are accepted through the new covenant. He has saved us, not because of our righteousness, but on the righteous basis established by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although our righteousness is not established by keeping the law, we should recognize that the principles of righteousness contained in the ten commandments have not changed. They indicated that idolatry, adultery, lying, covetousness, and other things, are wrong. Although the world accepts many things which God’s law proclaims wrong, God’s holy standards have not changed and He expects righteous living from each of us.

Hedge 1: Avoiding Idolatry

One of the spiritual principles contained in the ten commandments is the withdrawal from all forms of idolatry. John wrote, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1 John. 5:21). God has placed a hedge involving the avoidance of idolatry in any form to keep the hearts of His people. The concept of an idol extends well beyond a physical idol. Idolatry occurs whenever we put something other than God upon the throne that governs our affections. Some have made idols of their homes, their cars, their wives or husbands, their children and of other things to which their hearts have become attached. People of every age have had to battle idolatry. The days in which we live are no exception.

Mount Sinai was a display of God’s attitude toward idolatry. After Moses had gone up into the mountain, the people said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him” (Ex 32: 1). Aaron made a golden calf for them, and they rose up to play and committed immoral acts before it. The scene that greeted Moses when he came down the mountain, moved him to cast down the tables of stone. As a result of the people’s idolatry and sinfulness, three thousand individuals were slain. Paul wrote, “These things happened unto them for ensamples … written for our admonition” (1 Cor 10: 11).

In these days of materialism and prosperity we need to remind ourselves to keep from idols. Today, when most of us have all that we need, we can quickly become cold in heart. When we are lukewarm we feel we don’t need the Lord, nor the meetings and fellowship with the Lord’s people. Very quickly we lose the joy of the Lord. If we allow our hearts to pursue idols, there is a real danger that we will become shipwrecked.

The way to guard against any thing that comes between our souls and the Lord Jesus Christ is to return to our first love. just as the Lord exhorted the church of Ephesus with the words, “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev 2:4), we need to become fully occupied with the one who loved us and gave Himself for us at Calvary. Do we give Him the proper place in our fives and in our local assembly gatherings?

Hedge 2: Right Attitudes Towards Others

The fifth commandment given to Moses stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13). Not only is killing someone wrong in terms of the law, it is also morally wrong before God. This not only applies to criminals in prison but it also applies to those who would terminate the lives of unborn children and to those who would assist other people to end their lives. God places great value upon human life. While we would not take social action against abortion clinics, God expects us to live so that our lives are an example of righteous living, obeying His moral laws.

God observes the attitudes of our hearts from the way in which we interact with each other. James wrote, “From whence come wars and fightings, among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts .. ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:1,2). These were brethren who were not behaving as brethren because they had enmity in their hearts toward each other. God’s standards are such that a person who looks upon another with hatred in his heart is guilty of murder before God.

To be continued.