The Expository Files


Moral Excellence


Would you hesitate to declare your important beliefs if they were unpopular? If standing for your convictions meant you would have to suffer, would you be bold or silent? When it comes to faith in Christ, Christians ought to be willing to declare their faith. Christians ought not to be so afraid of the enemies of the cross that their faith remains undeclared.

Every day it seems I see or heard something that suggests to me that I really need a lot of "arete".

The Greeks referred to this attitude of living by and declaring one’s convictions, even if unpopular, as “arete”. In the Bible, this word is translated into our English words “integrity”, “virtue” and “moral excellence”. It refers to strength of character; an active quality which requires courage and energy. The Lord tells us to grow in this characteristic, and it is listed right next to the word “faith (see 2 Pet. 1:5-11).

You see, God does not compromise when it comes to righteousness. He can be trusted absolutely because He never lies. Men and women may compromise their convictions under pressure or deny their faith under threat - but not the Lord! Remember the cross He faced! He would not compromise the truth.

Our nation is undergoing a sort of "culture war" and the result it seems is that worthy and honorable principles, ideals , attitudes and beliefs which were at one time more or less typical of most are now on the fringe. There is much in society today to pressure us to deny the Lord. If we refuse, we will be in the minority. We should no longer maintain the illusion that what was once typical still is yet today.

We are not born with this “arete”, or integrity. We must develop it by choosing to live right before God and then following through on that decision. Like the apostles, for example. They had been arrested and stood before the judgment council. The crime? - they were teaching others about Jesus. The council forbade them to do so ever again, and they answered, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). That is moral excellence.

By Jon W. Quinn
The Final Page
From Expository Files 16.7; July 2009