What We Ought To Do

What We Ought To Do


If I had entitled this article “What I ought to do” you might have thought, “If he knows what he ought to do why doesn’t he quit talking about it and just do it?” If I had written “you” instead, some might have decided to bypass this article altogether. But the title reads “we” because both of us need to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit says about our privileges and responsibilities. There are things we should be doing, or doing with greater zeal. So before you turn away, think of this article as a reminder to us both. Peter’s second letter had that character. He was deeply concerned that we not only gain access to the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, but that we have an abundant entrance into it. For that reason he says, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things even though you already know them… to stir you up by way of reminder… (that) you may be able to call these things to mind… stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder”, (2 Pet. 1:12-15; 3:1).

Those of us who have embraced the grace of God may think the idea of being under some obligation(s) smacks of legalism, but “the grace of God also teaches us to deny ungodliness… and to live sensibly..”. (Titus 2:11, 12). Surely those are things we need to be doing. Only if we go beyond the Word of God and add human rules to its teaching could we be rightly accused of legalism. We will seek to stay within the bounds of Scripture; it says clearly that there are things we ought to be doing and rewards at Christ’s judgment seat depend upon our response.

Think of that word “ought” in our title. We tend to use the word in a trivial way, as in “I ought to send Mary a birthday card, she always sends me one.” But that may not mean we will visit the stationery section in the drug store next time we are out, it merely means sending a card would be a nice thing to do if we could get around to it – when we have time, of course. But next year we may repeat this ritual repentance. Note that Peter says we need a sincere mind in order to respond to reminders appropriately.


We must not overlook the fact that “ought” is a contraction, the cramming of two words into one. It thus becomes easier to weaken the strength of any charge given to us. But when the Holy Spirit says we ought to do something, He is not speaking of a mere courtesy but a debt; we “owe it” to do whatever He requires. When people wrong us in some way we may think of what they owe us – an apology. However, if they respond positively to rebuke and repent, the shoe is on the other foot, we owe it to forgive them (Lk. 17:3).

Let us look further at the matter of forgiveness by thinking about the greatest Example: to consider the full repayment of what was due by One who, though rich, became poor in the process. What matchless grace was seen in His life, and what amazing grace was displayed in His death. A fairly recently composed song says: “He paid a debt He did not owe; we owed a debt we could not pay..”. That is borne out by Scripture. Speaking for the Messiah, Isaiah says, “I restored that which I took not away” (Ps. 69:4). The forgiveness we receive is based on the price He paid on the Cross.




Peter once thought the idea that we should be always ready to forgive can be carried too far; he asked if seven times put a cap on it. Our Lord’s reply showed nearly five hundred times would be closer to the mark (Matt. 18: 21, 22). Does not any reluctance on our part to forgive our brethren say that the estimate we have of our past indebtedness is far too low? Can we say we are Christians if not ready to forgive one of our brothers who sins against us? We owe it to be disposed to grant forgiveness – again and again, even if our patience is sorely tried (Lk. 17:1-4).


If the one asking us to forgive him is genuinely sorry for the way he spoke about us or the way he treated us, he is carrying a burden from which we can deliver him. What would motivate us to do so? I am asking this question while assuming that there are a number of his ways that we find somewhat annoying. They are not sins; we put them down to his personality; he is not our type and his background is different to ours. We speak with each other courteously but that is as far as either of us seems to want to take it. We will only find it difficult to respond to his plea if we have allowed those petty differences to lessen our concern for his welfare. We “owe it” to love each other (1 Jn. 4:11).


How are we to respond when people have treated us as enemies? We ought to love, bless, do good to them, and pray for them (Matt. 12:44), acting this way toward them in the hope that they will repent and not in order that we may be shown to be blameless for the breach in fellowship which has occurred, or to see them “eat crow” and humble themselves. Repentance is the first essential step in their restoration to fellowship with God and with us; that is what should really concern us.


There are other things the Scriptures say we ought to do; none of them beyond our ability as the fruit of the Spirit ripens in us: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control” (Gal. 5:22, 23). And we will freely do what we ought to do if we in whom His perfect love has cast out fear (as in terror) are living in the fear of the Lord (reverential, obedient fear). Joseph, ever ready to forgive his brothers, was motivated by this spirit. It is what is due to Christ by all who say they are His disciples.


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Colin Anderson

Bible teacher, with a particular interest in building up new and struggling churches. Commended from Danforth Gospel Hall. Married Joan Michell from Grace Bible Chapel, Timmins, ON in 1960. Worked with Chester Donaldson in the early days of Northland Bible Camp, and with Jim Booker to start Galilee Bible Camp. Taught for three years at a Bible school in Kampala, Uganda (1967-1970). Helped establish Richvale Bible Chapel, Markham Bible Chapel, and Sudbury Bible Fellowship. Currently serving in southwestern Ontario.