Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Promoting the Good
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:4-8ESV
Today we conclude our study of Question 144 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?” The final part of the answer states, “The duties required in the ninth commandment are… love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.” Last time we considered our duty to discourage sinful forms of speech. Today we consider how our lives must promote godliness.
Notice the careful wording of our first duty stated above, “love and care of our own good name.” We are not merely to love and care for our names, as many people in this world do all that they can to get their name out there, or to have their name in the spotlight for as long as possible. No, as Christians, we are to love and care for our own good names. We are to make sure that our reputations are clean, so that we give a good witness of the God who saved us. The Scripture gives us various ways we are to protect our good names as part of our witness to Christ. By:
“Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander,” (1 Pet. 3:16).
“not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God,” (2 Cor. 4:2).
“having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation,” (1 Pet. 2:12).
“sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you,” (Tit. 2:8).
Christians protect their good names by being careful to frame their lives and conversations in a way that honors God and does good to others. This is our first line of defense in protecting our good names: our own godly and sincere words and behavior, or in the words of the Catechism: “keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.” When we keep our words, when we act and speak in a godly way, we establish for ourselves a good name. However, there are times when we must act in a more direct way in order to defend our reputations; as the Catechism says “when need requireth it.” When does need require us to defend our good names?
Here it seems to me we need to remember the ultimate reason we are to be concerned about our own good names. It is not for our personal fame, celebrity, or renown, but in order to exalt and glorify the name of God, whose name we bear as Christians. Thus, when our Lord Jesus was personally slandered and attacked, sometimes He spoke up in defense of His good name, and sometimes He did not. The difference seems to be that when it reflected on the glory and honor of God, the good of others, or the cause of truth, Jesus spoke up. When it was merely for some personal advantage He did not. As seen in the passage below, for the honor of the Father Jesus defended His good name, but not in order to seek His own glory.
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges, (John 8:48-50).
May God grant us the grace and the faith to do likewise!