Can We Teach Christian Virtues?

Christian virtues are the qualities and traits of moral excellence and strength that were seen in Jesus Christ and heard in His teaching. In the New Testament, these virtues are identified as “the fruit of the Spirit” in the life of the believer in Christ, manifested “in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9). These virtues are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

First, we teach that Christian virtues in an individual are the result of a life-transforming trust in Jesus Christ as one’s Savior and Lord. From this relationship with Christ, a moral likeness to Christ is formed in us by the Holy Spirit. Still, people need to be taught from Holy Scripture what is morally excellent, and what is sinful. This, too, we teach, so believers in Christ will be able to “approve things that are excellent; . . . being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:10-11 KJV).

Teaching Christian virtues must be more than talking about them, and more than exhorting people to pursue these virtues. To teach Christian virtues, we must also teach by example. These virtues must be seen in the teacher. This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians, “Be . . . followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 KJV).

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