Here’s some practical and biblical advice about what we can do when we see a Christian friend headed towards divorce or talking about troubles in their marriage.
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Handout / Small Group Questions:
I need you to do a little, mental legwork this morning and recall the last few sermons, because, in truth, they along with today’s is really altogether one sermon. Part of me longs for the days when preachers would be expected to preach for more than an hour at a time, and then got another crack at the topic during the evening service. But, sadly, those days are gone and I’m not a good enough speaker to hold your attention for that long anyway – so we make due.
It’s been a challenge for me to address the beginning of 1 Corinthians 5, and the topic of human sexuality, in a comprehensive manner, because I felt we needed a good introduction to the topic before jumping in. However, leaving weeks in between sermons has its disadvantages in that it’s easy to forget what was already said.
A couple weeks ago I gave the introduction to the sermon as I spoke on Jesus’ response to the Woman Caught in Adultery and the importance of remembering that Jesus amazingly gracious and loving toward those who have broken His law, even with repeated instances of sexual sin. Last week I gave the middle of the sermon as I moved from the forgiveness found in Jesus to the reminder that even though God is gracious, He does have a standard by which He expects humanity to live. Jesus didn’t come to let anyone do whatever they want as long as no one gets hurt, but to save us from our sins and help us live His way instead. We ended last week by making a transition from the introduction to the main topic by talking about the Greek word PORNEIA, the “junk drawer” word used to describe all forms of sexual sin that fall outside of God’s design for humanity.
And now, building off of all that, we move into a bit more meat on the topic, building a theology of human sexuality, based on what God expects of us. It would be easier (and more fun) for me to go on a diatribe against all the ways we get this wrong but that would be forgetting what I said at first; we need to know the authentic article before we can understand the counterfeit. So that’s what I want to do today. Look at the biblical view of human sexuality.
The Big Deal of Sexual Sin
So, why is sexual sin such a big deal? Is it because it’s so damaging and destructive to humanity? Is it the danger of addiction, disease or ruined relationships? Is it because the church is prudish and hates it when people have fun? You’ve probably heard that sexual sin is just like any other sin, that it’s no worse than any other, so why should we spend so much time talking about it… but actually, sexual sin does have a special category in scripture.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
That puts sexual sin into a different category. But why, what makes sexual sin so special?
It comes down to God’s original design for humanity, and the huge importance of marriage in the Bible – the physical union of two people that represents a spiritual union, which in turn, represents a picture of Jesus’ relationship to His church. That’s a big concept, isn’t it?
Let’s take it apart.
We’ll start with the context of the verse we just read. Start at verse 13:
“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
A Mystical Union
First, I want you to notice the interplay between the physical and the spiritual nature of sex. In verse 1 we see “The body”, which is physical. When the Lord saves us, it’s not just a spiritual salvation, but a renewal of our whole being – emotional, spiritual and physical. He saves our heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection demonstrated that after we die, we won’t live in eternity as spiritual beings, but with resurrected, perfect, physical bodies like Jesus had. Therefore, when we get saved we don’t merely turn our hearts over to the Lordship of Jesus, but our bodies as well.
But then it goes deeper in verse 15 and moves from the physical to the spiritual. Our physical bodies, which it says later are similar to the physical “temple of the Holy Spirit”, are also connected spiritually to Jesus. Our bodies are “members of Christ”. Elsewhere, as in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12, Christians are called the “Body of Christ”, basically meaning we are, as individuals and as a church, the eyes, hands, and feet of Jesus in this world. We are, in a real sense, the physical manifestation of the Word of God in this world. Most often, when God wants to do something, He doesn’t do it with a mighty miracle but instead works through the people of His church. It’s just as miraculous, but far more subtle. To be “members of Christ” means we are both spiritually and physically united with Jesus in a very real, very intimate way.
And so, it says, how horrible it would be, how out of place, how ruinous, that someone who’s body is united to Jesus, would unite their body with a prostitute’s? “Never!” Paul shouts!
Two Become One
In verse 16 the argument is made against sexual sin this way: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Our worship of God, the Lordship of Christ, His relationship to the church, and our salvation is all tied to the picture of human marriage and sexuality. You’ll notice that the words “The two will become one flesh” is written is quotes. That’s because it’s a quote from Genesis 2:24. Let’s read the whole of the context there:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:18-25)
This is the first marriage and is the perfect picture of how humanity was intended to exist. Man was created by God and designed to be incomplete without woman. Adam stood in the perfection of creation, in the presence of God, and was incomplete. God showed Adam every animal He had created, lions, bears, dogs, cats, and among them none were found that were a proper helper. And after that great parade, Adam knew it too. I wonder if he, standing in Eden, had then felt a sense of lack; that something was missing.
And so God made for Adam a complement, a helper, a being who would be his equal in dignity and worth. Not another animal, but one like Him – but not exactly like him. Not a copy, but a partner, a companion. Notice how God phrases it, “I will make helper fit for him.” The word “helper” does not imply weaker or stronger. And “fit for him”, doesn’t mean “like him”, but “matching him”, like to opposing puzzle pieces. God didn’t make a clone, but a compliment.
In chapter 1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It required both man and woman to represent God’s image. It even uses the words “male” and “female” not “man” and “woman”, to express the importance of the difference found in both genders.
They, together, as a complimenting pair, would be united spiritually to God and spiritually to one another. And in their sexual union before God, one “fitting” the other, would be the pattern for all human sexual relationships, taking them from two separate beings and creating “one flesh”. From that point on, as physical and spiritual images of God, humans were to grow up, leave their parents, bind themselves to a spouse, and form an exclusive, covenanted, sexual union.
God as Husband, Church as Bride
Let’s take a moment to explore theme that because it’s important. The picture of marriage in scripture is always an exclusive covenant. Why? Because it’s an image of God’s relationship with us.
All through scripture, God’s relationship with His people is framed as the image of a husband and wife. God and Jesus are both represented as husbands and believers as the bride. It’s one of the most important ways that God has given us to understand his relationship with us – which is why, when people start messing with marriage, human sexuality, or gender, it is such a huge problem!
Marriage isn’t something humans came up with to express their love for one another. It’s not a cultural creation meant to celebrate mutual affection and legally unite two people’s finances and tax situation. Marriage was given to us by God as one of the main images by which we would understand how He feels about us, deals with us, and commits to us.
Check out how God speaks to His people in these passages:
- “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name…” (Isa 54:5)
- “…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5),
- “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (Hos 2:19)
- Jesus calls himself a “bridegroom” multiple times (Matthew 9:15; 22:25; John 3:29), and at the very end of the Bible, when Jesus comes again, it says there will be the great “marriage supper of the Lamb” where God presides over a grand wedding and the bride of Christ (the church) presents herself in clothes of “fine linen, bright and pure”. (Revelation 19:6-9)
The love a man has for His wife is only a pale imitation of God’s love for His people. The protective emotions he feels for her, the concern he has for losing her, the betrayal he feels when she cheats on him, the pain he feels when she suffers, the desire to make her life better, to provide for her, to encourage her, to please her, to see her smile, the jealousy he feels, wanting her all to himself; these powerful, overwhelming, primal feelings, are all merely tiny glimpses of how God feels about His people, how Jesus feels about the church.
This is most profoundly pictured in the Old Testament book of Hosea where God calls the prophet to do something very difficult to show the nation what He’s going through. It says in Hosea 1:2,
“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’”
In other words, Hosea’s marriage was to be an image of God and His people.
Hosea goes and finds a prostitute named Gomer, takes her off the streets, marries her, and has three children with her. But, as predicted, Hosea’s wife cheats on him. She runs away, sells herself into prostitution again, and Hosea is forced to buy her back from her slave owner. After buying her back, he begs her to stay, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
The narrative story is interspersed among prophecies from God, showing His anger, pain, frustration, sadness… but also His desire to get His bride back at any cost! He declares that he has the right to divorce her, to write her off, forget about her and find a new bride, but He refuses to do that because they are married and He loves her! Yes, there would be a cost, and the bride would go through much suffering before it was over, but in the end there would be reconciliation and restoration! Not because she deserved it – far from – but because of the husband’s commitment to the marriage and the great love He has for her. He would do anything to win her back.
My favourite part of the book comes in Hosea 2:13-16. Let me read it to you.
“…I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’…”
There’s no one that can tear the heart out of someone chest like your spouse. The image of marriage here is one where not only does the wife cheat on him, but runs off for no reason and gives herself to man after man, wandering the streets in the most shameless and erotic clothes, partying with every disgusting, deplorable, degenerate man she could find, until she is ruinous to the point where she’s even forgotten her husband’s name. She gets herself in such trouble that she ends up like the prodigal son, except instead, she sells herself as a sexual slave.
And what is the husband’s response? To buy her back at whatever cost so she can be free from danger. And then, amazingly, to “allure her” meaning to re-seduce her, to win her back with romance so she will love Him again! To “speak kindly to her”, literally “speak to her heart”. To give her back her vineyards, and to make her “Valley of Achor”, which means “valley of trouble” into a such a distant memory that she sees it as the “door of hope”. He’s going to show her so much love that it will be like when they were newlyweds!
Why would He do this? Is He a sucker for punishment? Is He in some kind of weird, abusive, co-dependent relationship with humanity that He needs us in order to feel good, no matter how bad we treat Him? Sure, He loves us, but is that the only reason?
No. He does it because He has promised to. He made a covenant with us. He is in an exclusive, covenant, promised, marriage bond with His people, and He will never leave them, divorce them, forsake them, or abandon them. He loved us so much He was willing to trade His Son for us – His adulterous bride. But not only out of love. He redeemed us from slavery by the blood of Jesus because He promised He would always be there for His bride.
A Spiritual Picture
This is why the sacredness of marriage and human sexuality is so important to believers, and why corrupting it is such a big deal. Man and woman, male and female, in the holy, exclusive, covenant bond of marriage, show the image of God and paint a portrait of Jesus’ relationship to the church. It’s a very, very important illustration that God has given us.
When society messes with that image, it messes up the narrative of all that God is trying to teach us through it. God set it up the way He wanted and then made natural and scriptural laws to ensure it remained a strong image for humanity to look at for all time. This is why Christian theologians often argue that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage, polygamous or polyandrous marriage, group marriage, bigamous marriage, open marriage, or whatever else people come up with… because by definition a “marriage” is literally the “union of a man and woman for life”. It can’t be anything else because nothing else fits the description or image God created.
It is our sinful nature to try to improve upon, change, or personalize what God has already settled. We want to make ourselves the special case. We think our feelings, opinions, desires, emotions, or preclusions give us the right to negotiate different versions of what God has set up.
- “My marriage isn’t working out and I have feelings for another person, therefore I have the right to follow my feelings and marry someone else. I can’t be held accountable for how I feel.”
- “My spouse isn’t fulfilling my sexual desires, therefore I have the right to have them satisfied a different way. It’s their fault for not doing it, and God’s fault for not taking away these feelings.”
- “I have a strong biological urge to have sex, therefore I must follow through on that urge, regardless of who it is with. It’s not my fault I have these urges.”
Our feelings have very little to do with it because human sexuality is much bigger than our opinions or urges. God has given the gift of sex to be used one, singular way, because that is the way that gives Him the most glory, teaches us the most about Him, and helps us understand the way of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Messing with God’s plan for marriage and sex messes with God’s image and with the Gospel!
Handout / Small Group Questions:
These examples of knock-off products are pretty funny and easy to spot, but it’s not always so innocent.
High-end art and fashion are constantly having to fight against forgeries. I read this week that fake fashion, which range from illegal knock-offs sold in shady ways to big companies stealing each others’ designs, costs the industry billions of dollars.
Art forgery has a similar problem as artists try to replicate the style of famous artists like Picaso, Monet, and Renoir, and then sell their new paintings for a lot of money. John Myatt, before he was arrested, was able to do it 200 times, even forging the certificates of authenticity, and was so good at it that famous auction houses like Sothebys and Christie’s sold his work for thousands of dollars. The conspiracy ran so deep that the gallery he worked with actually went as far as altering the records of genuine masterpieces so they would more closely match the forgeries.
Experts should have seen the difference sooner. It’s been said a thousand times, but it remains true, that the only way to spot a forgery is to be an expert the real thing. There are innumerable ways to counterfeit art, money, or fashion these days, but there is no way to turn a new painting into a 16th century original.
Canada has one of the most difficult pieces of money to try to counterfeit, so I looked up some of the measures that they have used to make it harder for people to counterfeit. I saw right on the Bank of Canada website under “Counterfeit Prevention” how they keep our money secure. First, it encourages everyone to check the money often. At stores, banks, and in personal transactions, they say people should carefully examine the bills, large or small. But examine them for what? Their next point is to “Know Your Notes” which says, “Security features are helpful only if you use them. To fight counterfeiting, the Bank offers free training materials to help the public, businesses, and police agencies use the security features in genuine bank notes. If you know your notes, you’ll be able to detect a counterfeit at a glance and protect yourself from fraud.”[i]
For example, every bill has a shiny section on the edge that is hard to replicate. It also has fancy squares on the edges that tell machines what denomination it is. They actually have a piece of metal in them too, somewhere. One of the coolest ones is that And, if you shine a light through the little white section under the word Canada, you will see a face appear on the bill and the number completed.
It goes on to tell people that passing counterfeit money is illegal and then tells us what we should do when we are offered a counterfeit bill – and these are great:
First, “Assess the situation to ensure that you are not at risk.” Probably good advice because forgers are usually bad-guys who do bad things.
Next, “Politely refuse the note and explain that you suspect that it may be counterfeit. Ask for another note (and check it too).” That’s good too. I like how the Bank of Canada officially tells people to be polite. So Canadian. “No thank you, I don’t want fake money because not only is it not worth anything, but I could get in trouble for using it. Sorry, may I have the real thing, please?”
Next, “Advise the person to check the note with the local police.” Also good advice. “You should check with the authorities here. Something’s fishy and you’re being misled and misleading others. You’re actions or inactions are harming individuals, businesses, and the economy. Whoever gets caught holding this bill is either going to be in trouble, or will be out of pocket for the cash. Using this money hurts people so you should deal with it soon.”
Finally it says you should “Inform your local police of a possible attempt to pass suspected counterfeit money.” This is a big deal to the government and they want to know about this. Passing along fake money is a serious issue and they are going to use force to make sure it doesn’t happen!
Here’s my point: as big of a deal as fake art, fashion, money and toys are, material things aren’t the only thing this world tries to counterfeit. There are plenty of counterfeit things.
Christians believe that the Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith and life. We believe 2 Timothy 3:15-17 which says that the Bible is
“able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
We believe that God has, in His Word, revealed the best way to live in this world. Most people are aware that He has given us a moral law to guide our lives, like the 10 Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s so much more. He has given us biographies and illustrations about how to live in a complicated world, principles on how to deal with money and possessions, guidance on how to pray and worship, proverbs that teach us how to live wisely and make good choices, psalms that help us deal with loss, hurt and fear, prophecies to give us hope, and instructions for how to arrange the social orders of marriages, families, friendships, churches, businesses, and governments. God has been gracious to give us all we need in order to live wise, godly, holy, productive, kind, lives that protect us from harm, honour Him, and take care of our neighbours.
The problem is that because of our love of sin we are prone to disagree with God’s plan and create counterfeits that seem like a good idea but are, in fact, dangerous deceptions.
Which Path Will You Take?
Most people inherently agree that there are imperially good choices and bad, that there are right paths and wrong ones, but at the same time, we also tend to fight against it, thinking that our feelings and intuitions will guide us. This concept is all over Jesus’ teachings. Turn to Matthew 7:12.
Jesus here gives us what we call “The Golden Rule”. It says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” People often twist this to mean that we can do whatever we want as long as no one gets hurt, but that’s not what it means at all. Keep reading:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
We see here that Jesus isn’t blowing away God’s standards in favour of the simple, “do whatever but don’t hurt anyone”, instead He’s clarifying that the path He demands people follow is actually much narrower than people think. We hear the Golden Rule and think it gives us the freedom to do anything we want, while Jesus makes it clear that living His Gospel and His Way is actually harder and a lot more demanding.
He actually piles up the illustrations to make sure that we don’t understand this. He gives three different pictures of choice. The first is the road. Will you choose the hard, narrow way that leads to life, or the wide and easy way that looks easier, but leads to destruction? One is a clever forgery, designed to look even better than the original, but is actually dangerous. Will you choose the real or the counterfeit?
Who Will You Listen To?
The next choice is found in verses 15-20, where He gives us a choice of who we can listen to:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Jesus says there will be two kinds of teachers in this world – the ones that tell the truth and ones that don’t. The problem is that they both look like sheep. Their messages sound similar enough to the kind the Shepherd gives, but inwardly they are wolves that are trying to mislead the sheep and pull them away from the protection of the shepherd so they can be eaten.
The Bible is full of warnings and teachings about how to tell the difference between true and false teaching – which I won’t get into here – but notice that Jesus analogy switches from sheep and wolves to healthy and unhealthy trees. His teaching is that even though we can’t know for certain the spiritual state of any individual, one thing to look for when trying to find the differences is by looking to see which one bears good fruit.
What does that mean? Well, it’s too huge of a theme to cover here, but in essence, it means that the life and teaching of that individual helps people live lives that show they are touched by God’s blessing.
Galatians 5:19-23 lays down a good list of the kinds of things we are to look for:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Jesus is clear, more than once, that there will be a lot of teachers that are telling counterfeit truths that seem good, seem like something the sheep should be doing, but are in fact dangerous lies.
What Foundation Will You Build On?
Turning back to Matthew 7 we see Jesus’ giving people a third illustration as to the choices we will be given, and that’s the foundation upon which we build our lives. We see it in 7:24-27,
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
In context here, Jesus is differentiating Himself from the religious establishment that has grown up around them and been corrupted by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, but it’s not only those. He’s also drawing a dividing line between Himself and any other foundation. Whether it’s another religion or atheism or agnosticism, the establishments of politics and law, or something in our culture like political correctness or liberalism or conservatism or economics, or beliefs like pantheism or deism, Jesus is saying that there are really only two foundations: the one that stands and the one that falls.
Forever people have been coming up with all kinds of other foundations to build their lives on that are merely dangerous counterfeits of what God has said and Jesus offers. They look and sound good, but they’re no better than a fake 20 dollar bill. Looks good, might get you by for a while, but will fail you in the end.
All of those give a taste of what Jesus offers, and can sound sort of like what Jesus says if you don’t read too closely, but are dangerous foundations created by false teachers to ensnare, control, and distract people from salvation through Jesus Christ. Buddhism, Confucianism, Neopaganism, Islam, Mormonism, and Scientology all have little slices of truth in them but are merely counterfeits.
Jesus is Exclusive
That’s the exclusive claim of Jesus Christ. He is the only gate, the only path, the only good shepherd, the only good gardener, the only solid rock, the only Saviour, the only one who has seen God, the only one who has been to heaven and come to tell people, the only one who conquered death, and the only way to God. He doesn’t give other options.
This is why Christians teachers have fought and died to keep the Bible available to all believers everywhere. Jesus said unequivocally, “If you abide [remain] in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The Apostle John said, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” (2 John 1:9)
This isn’t religion talking. This is a Jesus talking. Christians’ didn’t say this about Jesus, Jesus said it about Himself. We merely believe what He said! Jesus appointed prophets and apostles who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write books of the Bible for us to read so we could know this.
It all comes from God, His Son Jesus, and His Book. We don’t get to make things up. We don’t get to draw other paths, choose other teachers, or make other foundations.
Pressure To Conform
Let me give you a quick example of how this is messed up today. There’s a group of Baptist churches in Texas who have come face to face with the LGBTQ community and have been forced to re-evaluate what they believe about the issue. They started to make motions towards officially accepting gay marriage, and in response, the other churches in the denomination stopped sending them money. It was the right thing to do, but the denominational leadership didn’t think so.
Let me read you a couple of quotes from their press release: “What happens when these churches begin to push for a return to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture?… Once we begin to listen to the voices who wield their power and financial strength in this way, we have begun a slippery slope to fundamentalism and irrelevancy.”[ii]
What does that mean? They were scared these other Baptist churches, who had withheld their money, were going to try to force them to return to believing that the Bible is the final authority for their life, faith, and denomination. How weird is that? A group of Baptist Churches in the Southern United States who is scared of a group that might force them to believe the Bible again. And why? Because then they would slip into “fundamentalism and irrelevancy” – translated: Then the culture won’t like us anymore.
One more quote. When talking about why they thought that it was ok to openly accept the teachings of the LGBTQ community, they said this: “The convention’s express theology of deciding who belongs in God’s kingdom is regressive and does not represent the forward-thinking theology of our Christ where walls are torn down to make room for all people marginalized and Pharisee alike.”
If you know your Bible’s even a little bit, and have been listening at all this morning, it should cause you to pause for a moment that a group of Baptist leaders said this. They were disappointed that a group of churches would not only follow and believe the Bible, but that they would ever draw a line about who is saved and who isn’t. “That kind of thinking”, they say, “is backward, old-school, undeveloped, and regressive. After all, Jesus was a forward thinking theologian who torn down walls, opened up the paths to be wide and easy, and allows people to build on whatever foundation they like! He gathered fruit from all kinds of trees, even took grapes from thorn bushes and figs from thistles. He made room for all people to join his kingdom– even the Pharisees.”
I’m really not sure what Bible they’re reading, but it’s not the same as mine. Jesus had more condemnation for the Pharisees than anyone else! And the Pharisees that did follow Jesus, like Saul, Joseph of Arimathea, and maybe Nicodemus, ended up radically altering their beliefs or completely leaving their positions as Pharisees in order to come in line with Jesus’ exclusive claims.
How does this tie into our study of 1 Corinthians 5? Because there may be no one place that modern society sees this playing out than the area of human sexuality. As you saw in the example of those Baptist churches in Texas, there is a huge temptation today to follow the ways of the world when it comes to human sexuality.
- A lot of Churches are falling in line with the understanding of sex and gender.
- The government has passed new laws and even changed the charter of rights and freedoms to accept the new way.
- Businesses that used to believe holding to conservative values would sell more products are embracing alternative sexual lifestyles and dumping any spokespeople that don’t agree.
- Movies and television have made sexual sins like pornography, adultery, and lust, normal and healthy, even going so far as to encourage people to physically harm and dominate each other.
- Educators are now including the new sexuality in their curriculums.
- Psychiatrists and psychologists have changed their definitions of mental illness to come more in line with popular culture’s views.
- Major sports organizations have said they won’t play in certain cities, or allow their teams to compete if they don’t accept LGBTQ values.
- Even pollsters, those who ask questions to thousands of people trying to understand what the nation thinks about certain topics, are having a hard time because people feel so pressured to give the “popular answer” instead of actually stating their own beliefs, that it messes up their data.
Why Are Christians Different?
There’s immense pressure to fall in line with the “new normal”, so why don’t Christians do it? Why do we insist on teachings that are so “backwards, old-school, undeveloped, and regressive”? Our reason is simply this: God has given a singular way for humanity to experience His full blessing when it comes to human sexuality, and everything else is a counterfeit. God has given humanity a singular path to follow, one garden to eat from, one foundation to build our sexuality on, and he’s very clear about it.
There are a lot of different, specific sins that the Bible condemns as outside God’s one way: Adultery, Lust, Crude Talk, Prostitution, Sensual Enticement, Bestiality, Homosexuality, but those words don’t come close to covering all the different ways that humans have conceived to sexually sin and so the word the New Testament most often uses to describe sexual sin is the Greek word PORNEIA, where we get our word “Porn”.
PORNEIA is a sort of junk drawer word that is used to describe anything that falls outside of God’s plan for human sexuality. Our hearts are so hard in this, our flesh so messed up, and there are so many ways that we have conceived to break God’s law, that there is no way for God to give us a full list of ways to go wrong, so He goes the other way – He shows us the right way and then says, “Anything outside of that is sin.”
I want to get into God’s plan for human sexuality next week, but for this week I wanted you to understand one, key point. God sets the standards, and we are to live in them. God has given us sex and gender as a gift, but as with all His gifts, we have corrupted it with sin. God gave us the right way enjoy sex, and we figured out a thousand ways to get it wrong.
What I want you to hear today is this message: Jesus didn’t come to make us free to do whatever we want as long as nobody gets hurt, but instead makes it absolutely clear that following Him and His Word requires an exclusive commitment.
That plays out in a lot of different ways in our lives, but our topic for the next while is human sexuality. God has prescribed one way to enjoy the blessing of sex and gender, and everything else is counterfeit, everything else is PORNEIA. Just because it feels good, feels right, is how we grew up, is agreeable to society, promoted by governments, encouraged by movies, media and experts – doesn’t mean it’s right, holy or good.
I’ll get into more specifics next week, but take time to meditate on this. Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and His Word as authoritative in your life? Are you willing to walk the narrow path, only eat the good fruit, and build on the singular foundation of the words of Jesus Christ, regardless of how you feel or what everyone is saying about human sexuality?
Part two of our series on being in a romantic relationship with a non-believer gives some practical help and hope to those who are bound or married to non-Christians.
How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?
1. Pray for us!
3. Record a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page! (We love this the most!)
5. Buy some cool stuff from our new Merch Store! (And check out our friend Kim’s amazing art while you’re there!)
*Episode Reissued in HD! Let’s talk about what the Bible and experience say about Christians dating non-Christians.
How Can You Help Carnivore Theology?
1. Pray for us!
3. Record a question in your voice on our SpeakPipe page! (We love this the most!)
5. Buy some cool stuff from our new Merch Store! (And check out our friend Kim’s amazing art while you’re there!)
Anyone else surprised by all the rainbows on their Facebook feed? Anyone surprised where they came from? It’s no surprise when Hollywood actors, companies, and Silicon Valley icons jump on the rainbow train, but I’m guessing that it was a bit surprising to see your friends and family members covered in a rainbow hue. Perhaps that led to some conversations about your beliefs. Despite all the other things happening in the world, because of the American Supreme Court’s decision to allow Same-Sex Marriage, homosexuality is almost all anyone is talking about these days.
Homosexuality was once a taboo subject, but it is now everywhere in our culture. 10-15 years ago we started seeing the first gay characters on TV, but now we have shows that have homosexual families as the main characters. Television, YouTube and Netflix have show after show dedicated to the homosexual movie watcher. Many celebrities are “coming out of the closet” and proudly call themselves homosexuals. Schools have signs that say “homophobia free zone” and many businesses in Carleton Place and Ottawa have a rainbow sticker on the front door. On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the approval of the Civil Marriage Act. This is a current, cultural issue.
Not too surprisingly, more and more people who claim to be Christians are coming out as pro-homosexual too. Some because they feel pressure to, others because they know some nice LGBT people and feel they can’t condemn them, some because they have no idea what the Bible says about the subject – and have heard someone saying that the Bible is ok with it, they assume it’s ok with God. Between political pressure, cultural pressure, and biblical ignorance, there are a lot of people who claim to be followers of Jesus who believe the Bible, and are more than willing to support same-sex marriage.
The fact that our surrounding culture has decided that there are only two positions: pro-gay or homophobic, doesn’t help. They’ve decided that to disagree with someone means to hate them – and therefore words like extremist and bigot get thrown at anyone who disagrees with popular opinion. So the pressure to conform is HUGE – and more and more Christians, pastors, churches, and even formerly conservative denominations are changing their historic stance on marriage to conform. Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians… they all have churches and sects that have decided to conform to the new ethic.
I still remember in 2008, reading about when Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson married his partner, telling his churches that he is “doing what God is telling him to do,” even saying at the announcement that he has “always wanted to be a June bride.” He divorced in 2014.
People of the Word
But Christians are people of The Word. We believe that God has revealed Himself, His Law, and His Will, in His Word, the Bible. We are people who believe that God gets to tell us what to do and how to do it, regardless of how we feel or what culture and politics say. We don’t believe we have the right to reinterpret the God’s Word to fit the cultural shifts happening around us. God’s word is declarative, not suggestive. Something to be followed, not something that changes according to the opinion of the day. Christians believe God has given us an immutable, unchangeable, moral law. And so we work hard to read His Word to understand it well, so we can follow it wholeheartedly.
Why? Because we love God and want to obey Him. Because we fear God and don’t want to face His wrath. Because we believe God knows better than we do about how the world works. Because we know that God’s ways are higher than ours and His thoughts are higher than ours. Because we trust God and know He wants the best for us.
Responding to Homosexuality
But following Jesus and God’s Word will, as Christ said it would, rile up our spiritual and worldly enemies, bring us into conflict with others, and lead to attacks and misrepresentation (John 15:18; Matthew 5:11). Which is part of the reason that there is a perception by many people outside the church that we are homophobic, afraid of homosexuals, that we hate them, or believe ourselves to be better than them; that we do not demonstrate the love of Jesus toward the homosexual community. And part of that is, sadly, true. Many believers, talk a lot about love, but have not done well at loving our gay neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31).
So today I want to talk about two things: First, if we are going to be a people that holds the position that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, then we must be people who know from the scriptures what we believe, and why we believe it. Second we need to determine in our own hearts and minds whether we are perpetuating the problem of hating homosexual people.
My Bias & Agenda
I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with LGBT people. I don’t think I know any. I want you to know that when I speak of homosexuality, I’m not speaking as someone who is in relationship with anyone who is gay… that I know of. Not on purpose, but simply because it hasn’t happened. Everything that I know about the homosexual culture is based on second hand information from newspapers, articles, books and stories from friends of friends. That’s why I’m going to stick to what the Bible says. I’m not going to give personal commentary, because I don’t have any.
I certainly can’t address everything there is to say about homosexuality in culture, the church, and the scriptures in one sermon, but there are some things that I think we need to know about this topic today. Christians can’t be people who say “God says that homosexuality is wrong” and not be able to turn to the chapter or verse that says so – and then be able to make a coherent argument that intelligently and lovingly explain why it says that.
So what I want to do is take a tour through the bible and look at some of the key scriptures that are in debate among the various groups regarding Homosexuality in the Bible. I hope this will help you understand part of the confusion in the minds of many, and also give you the strength to defend what you believe.
Marriage in Genesis
First Genesis 2:18-25:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
We need to start here by talking about the original, normative order of creation. This is the beginning of humankind, the prototype and model for how it is supposed to be. The first couple was created by God, and the first marriage was presided over by God. He made them male and female, and only together could they represent His image the best. Adam searched all over creation for another mate, and none was found, and turned to God for a proper, equally glorious, yet complimentary being.
This is the normative model, and is the one that is intended by God. This is the most specific reference we have in the Bible for God’s perfect intent for human relationships and sexuality: a husband and wife that go forth, enjoy life together and have children. It is quoted at the beginning of the story of the world, and then again by Jesus in Matthew 19 when He talks about marriage. He adds: “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
When Jesus is asked about divorce, instead of giving a simple yes or no answer, He goes back to the book of Genesis, the original created order, and sets out the standard by which God will judge all sexual matters, and then tells us not to mess with it. This is how the Chrisitian Church should speak about marriage too: One man and one woman becoming one flesh in a loving, committed relationship that produces a loving, committed family that grows in love and obedience to God. God didn’t call it “good” until that was done.
The church has done a very poor job of communicating this over the past century as we have changed marriage to simply being about “two people that love each other”, even giving advice such as: “Find your soul-mate before you get married.” and “Don’t have kids for the first few years so you can enjoy one another.” – assuming that the true joy of marriage only happens with the man and woman. In truth, that’s only part of the package.
Homosexuality breaks this normative model in multiple ways.
- Two people of the same gender cannot fully represent the image of God.
- Two people of the same gender cannot “go forth and multiply”, filling the earth, and making new believers and servants of God.
- Two people of the same gender do not “compliment” one another, being equal but necessarily different in order to create something greater.
The Destruction of Sodom
Next we turn to Genesis 19, the story of the destruction of Sodom. If you don’t know the story, please take a minute to read it. For a long time heinous sexual sins (including homosexuality) were simply called “sodomy”. Because of that some Christians will use this story as God’s number one place of condemnation of homosexuals. “See how much God hates them? He destroyed the whole city because they were practicing homosexuality!”
That’s actually an incorrect interpretation of what happened. In fact Ezekiel 16:49 tells us that there was a list of offences against the city, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” and Jude 7 says nothing of homosexuality in particular, but as only one of the many sexually immoral things they were doing to offend God.
The story of Sodom is similar to that of the world before the Flood. The depravity of the city was so deep that they it was actually normal and acceptable to homosexually gang-rape some new people that came into town. In verse 9 they say, “How dare you judge us! You’re a foreigner who doesn’t know how it goes around here.” Basically saying that they couldn’t care less what God’s people thought or how anyone else would feel, because the city had all decided to accept that behavior as ok. It wasn’t just the one group that was judged, but the whole city. It was only by supernatural intervention that Lot and his family were able to get away. And even after God struck the mob blind, they kept coming at the door trying to please their own selfish desires. They were like animals. This was a spiritually blind city full of deplorable sins of multiple kinds. God did not destroy it only because they practiced homosexuality, but that was certainly one of their sins.
God’s Law for Israel
Next we turn to Leviticus 18:22 (and 20:13). These chapters contain a large portion of the Law of God regarding how His people were supposed to have sex – and it’s very specific. One of the many laws was “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” but if you look up and down either chapter there are a number of unlawful sexual practices, and many of them hold the punishment of death, and are also described as “detestable, perverse, profane, unclean and abominations” to God.
Verses 1-5 are a reminder to Israel that it doesn’t matter what’s going on around them, but that they need follow God’s standard. This was as important then as it is now. I’m not going to read the whole chapter, but let me read this first part:
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:1-5)
This is just as true today. God reminds his people that He sets the standard and no matter where you live, what culture you are surrounded by, or what popular opinion says… His people need to hold to His standard. Then He makes it clear what His standards for sexuality are.
- Verses 6-18 deal with all kinds of incest and unlawful inter-family sexual relationships which are called “depraved”.
- Verse 19 deals with sex during the menstrual cycle… though there is no descriptor here of God’s feelings about it, and we know from Leviticus 15:24 that it was not “punishable”, but caused a person to be ceremonially unclean for 7 days.
- Verse 20 God commands that there be no adultery and calls it “unclean” – and later tells them that adultery would be punished by death.
- Verse 21 deals with killing babies and giving children away to be temple prostitutes, which is called “profane”.
- And verse 23 says that there should be no sex with animals because it is a “perversion”.
One argument that pro-gay people will give is that verse 22 is not about all homosexual sex, and therefore a committed, same-sex relationship is absolutely fine with God. They argue that this passage is talking about having homosexual sex as worship to other gods. But the plain interpretation, and the rest of the context make it clear that it isn’t about religious worship, but within a list of all sorts of sexual sins. “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman.” Simply means that men cannot have sex with men.
It’s not talking about temple prostitutes or idol worship for most of the passage. The whole context is about right sexuality among the Israelite community and the law applies to multiple kinds of sexual sins, not just homosexuality. Interpreting this passage in that way, and accepting “committed homosexual relationships”, forces the interpreter to do the same for the rest of the passage and accept adultery, incest and bestiality under certain circumstances as ok with God too.
Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan
Another thing that pro-homosexual interpreters like to do is try to find LGBT precident in scripture. They figure that if they can find homosexual relationships in scripture, then that means that it must be ok with God. Of course that means they have to forget everything we’ve already covered, but it doesn’t stop them from trying.
One famous passage is the story in Ruth where Naomi leaves Moab after her husband and sons die and tells her daughters-in-law to go home because there is no life for them if they follower her. Ruth, out of love for her mother-in-law “clings” to Naomi, while her other daughter-in-law, Orpah leaves.
Pro-Homosexual interpreters will use the word “cling” as an argument to say that Naomi and Ruth were in a lesbian relationship because it is the same word that is used in Genesis 2 when God says that a man will “leave his father and mother and cling / cleave to his wife.” That is quite a stretch linguistically, and very incompatible with the story line. The whole story revolves around Naomi helping Ruth woo a husband named Boaz.
The word there is the Hebrew word DABAQ meaning “stick to, cling to, or keep close.” It’s the word for what glue does. God uses it to show how the relationship between man and wife should be, but it’s also used for being so thirsty a persons tongue “sticks” to the roof of their mouth (Ps 22:15), and as a condemnation of people that have “sticky fingers” and steal things (Deut 13:17). It’s also used all over scripture to describe someone who is “lovingly devoted to their king or God. (Deut 10:20, 11:22, 2 Sam 20:2, 1 Kings 11:2, Joshua 23:12)
They do the same for the relationship between David and Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 18:3-4 it says
“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
And in David’s song in 2 Samuel 1:26 he says
“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.”
Pro-gay interpreters point to this passage and say that David and Jonathan were clearly in a homosexual relationship. Why? Because apparently two men can’t possibly be this close of friends and love one another that deeply without having sex? That kind of thinking only comes from our pornified culture.
This has always, historically, been interpreted as a non-sexual, close friendship. There is no sexuality mentioned in the passage, or the context, at all. Here we see Jonathan, the blood successor to the throne, the son of King Saul, pledging his loyalty, not only as a friend, but as a servant. He was taking off his royal clothes, and even his weapons, and handing them over to the new king of Israel. This man was not a sexual partner, but an amazingly loyal friend who not only disobeyed his father the king, but even gave up his birthright to David because he believed God had chosen David instead.
As I said, our hyper-sexualized, macho, pornified culture has no way to process a very close friendship between two men – they simply can’t – and I think that means we’ve lost something as a culture.
Homosexuality Condemned in the New Testament
Ok, so let’s move on to the New Testament. Romans 1:26-27 is very clear… and again, we need the context so we’ll read from verse 21:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
I could preach on this one all day, but I don’t have the time… this is the Bible’s clearest teaching about God’s denunciation of homosexuality between men or women. Homosexuality was just as practiced in Paul’s day as it is in ours. In fact, it was encouraged by many of the pagan religions.
It seems pretty clear from the translation that the interpretation of verses 26-27 should be obvious, but pro-homosexual interpreters say that it’s only a sin when heterosexual people perform homosexual acts… hence… that would be “unnatural” (PARA PHYSIS) for them. The whole point hinging on the fact that God would never condemn anyone for something that comes naturally to them. Which is absurd, considering how naturally so many other sins come to us.
The vast majority of scholars agree that it’s a very weak argument. This is not referring to “unnatural” feelings, but “unnatural” actions… physiological / biological “unnaturalness”. The passage here is saying that sin is anything that is counter to the natural pattern set out by God in nature – including male-male and female-female sexual relationships. Right back to Genesis 2 again.
Sex, Sin, Idolatry and Amazing Grace
But there’s something more to look at here. This is a passage about idolatry. We create idols of self, popularity, success, anger, or even of sex. Sex can be our idol too… and Paul seems to be using homosexual relationships as a point of reference for how rampant the worship of sex had gotten in that culture. It was an extreme example of a pervasive problem – even in the church.
In Corinth, and in Rome, the church was having lots of sin problems, including sexual sin, and Paul was showing them how far mankind had gotten away from God’s original plan.
He’s setting up the argument so that we all know how terribly sinful we are – so that in a couple chapters He can teach us about how amazing God’s gracious loving salvation. It’s a contrast! Look how gross we are, and how loving God is! We are thieves, drunkards, greedy people, those who disobey their parents, and people who worship idols of all kinds – and yet Jesus still died for us and offers us forgiveness.
He does the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6 when he reminds the church about how messed up they were. They were not acting like Christians! Paul points out how bad had it gotten by saying they were suing each other instead of working things out the way Jesus taught them to. Then Paul gives them this reminder in verse 9,
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul implores them to remember that Jesus Christ washed away the sin and the muck from their lives, and the no longer needed to live in it because they had the Spirit of God inside of them! God delights in saving and justifying sinners because He loves us so very much. But he doesn’t want us going back to eat the garbage of the world. And among this list of things that are He mentions that the world is trying to feed them is “sexually immorally” and “homosexuality”.
Now, you may tune out a bit at this next part, but it’s important because you might hear it somewhere. Some people look at the phrase “homosexual offenders” and will disagree with its meaning. And it all revolves around the Greek word ARSENOKOITES.
Advocates for homosexuality will say this word doesn’t apply to homosexuals, but to male prostitutes, boys forced into sexual acts with older men, homosexual rape, or men who share their beds with lots of people. They say it applies to everyone except a committed, homosexual relationship. They do not believe it is interpreted to mean “any man who has sex with any other man.” The real issue here is the word that Paul chose to use.
He basically coined the word himself… something Paul did a lot of in his writings. It is only used twice in the New Testament, and is rarely used outside of it (1 Timothy 1:10). The word itself can be broken into two root words. ARREN – Which is the word for “A Male” and KOITE which is a feminine noun meaning “A bed”, “the marriage bed”, and is also used for “having sexual intercourse”. The same way we would say “did you go to bed with them” and know what we mean, so did the Greeks.
Paul came up with this term to specifically reference to the passage we looked at before Leviticus 18:22, “’Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Paul’s word ARSENOKOITES literally means, “one who beds a male” to specifically reference the Levitical law prohibiting homosexuality. He uses it again in in another list of sins when he is again talking about the Law of the Old Testament.
Paul is clearly tying his made up word to the Levitical law. He is not making homosexuality a worse sin than others, in fact in 1 Timothy he lists it right beside adultery.
All Sexual Immorality is Sin
Our last stop is in Hebrews 13:4,
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
This is where the application comes to all of us, not just homosexuals. God’s standard for human sexuality is this: One woman, one man, becoming one flesh, in the bonds of marriage – and has been this way since the beginning of creation. Anything outside of that is contrary to biblical teaching, and is sin.
When the author of Hebrews uses the words “sexually immoral”, he is using a very important word there. It is the word PORNOS. It is the biblical catch-all, junk-drawer word for all sexual activity outside of one woman, one man, in marriage. It means “fornicator” or “one is has sex outside of God’s law”. The root word is PORNEIA which is basically the word for a person who uses their body sexually for selfish purposes… whether that’s getting money, or simply fulfilling their own lust. Another form of the word is PORNEUO which means to give one’s body over to satisfy the lust of another person. It’s all sin.
- When the counsel of Jerusalem met in Acts 15 to lay down some guidelines for the new churches they said, “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from PORNEIA.”
- When Jesus was contrasting what it means to be truly unclean he said in Matthew 15, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, PORNEIA…”
- And Paul in Ephesians 5:3 told the churches, “But among you there must not be even a hint of PORNEIA…”
The Christian church need to understand this and get this right. Sexual sin is very serious in God’s eyes. Anything outside of a sexual relationship between a man and a women, in marriage, is wrong and condemned in God’s eyes, and will not be blessed. Viewing pornography, reading sexual stories, committing adultery, sexual play before marriage, and homosexuality are all equally wrong according to God and should not be done among Christians.
Everything outside of the blessing of marriage is a perversion of God’s natural order, and will result in judgment. Romans 1 reminds us that as we do this our bodies get degraded, our hearts become darkened, we become dominated by fleshly desires, and we get confused about truth… we then become in bondage to uncontrollable passions. In other words, your sexual sins will chew you up and spit you out. They will damage you body, mind and soul.
God loves us, which is why He tells us to put it in the confines of marriage! Sex is a beautiful, wonderful, pleasurable, gift from God. But it is also very powerful.
When we have sex it is far more than a physical union, it is a spiritual one. (1 Corinthians 6:12-19) We cannot divide the two, body and spirit. Every sexual partner, every sexual action is not merely a physical act, but a spiritual one. We unite ourselves spiritually with the people we use as sexual objects – whether they are real or imaginary. The world tells us that we are merely fulfilling a biological desire, doing something natural, but we are also doing something intensely emotional and spiritual too. And the way God has structured our existence is that when we become “one” with another person sexually, a spiritual bond is created, and that bond stays with us… and it carries into every other relationship – including with God.
That is why adultery severs the bond of marriage. The person is no longer of one flesh and spirit with their spouse, but they are physically and spiritually divided.
This issue is not about being homophobic, but being hypocritical. Somehow we believe that being in an active homosexual relationship is worse somehow than the heterosexual couple that is unmarried and sleeping together, or going home and viewing pornography on the internet, or watching sexuality on TV, or fanaticizing about the guy or girl at work. It’s not. We believe somehow that the practicing lesbians are sinning more than the married man who flirts with his secretary, or the wife who reads 50 Shades of Grey… they’re not. Sexual sin is sexual sin. Sexual sin in all its forms is idolatry and wrong.
So how should Christians respond to the wave of LGBT support we are seeing in so many places?
First we need to evaluate our own lives for sexual sin. Jesus says that we need to examine the log in our own eye before we take the splinter from someone else’s – and wow, does the church ever have a log in its eye when it comes to sexual sin. Lust, adultery and pornography are HUGE problems in the Christian church – and are at the same “sin level” as homosexuality. I’m watching pastors and Christians explode their marriages all the time. This is a gospel issue. We need Jesus as much as anyone, and need to get right with Him. We have some major repenting to do about our own sexual sins before we go about condemning others.
Second, we need to evaluate our attitudes and actions for how we use our words and the jokes we make – and repent if we have been callous or unloving towards the LGBT community. Some Christians are quite cruel in their words about these people, and we need to repent and ask forgiveness of God and our homosexual neighbours.
Third, we need to evaluate whether our church is a place where a person can come, with any kind of sin problem, sexual or otherwise, and if it is a place where they can talk about it without being judged, condemned and hurt. Can we love the person, care for them, and adequately counsel them in regards to their sin? We all want to be part of a church that loves us despite our failures, and wants to help us grow closer to Jesus – so let us do the same for others.
In the previous sermon we spent time going through Mark 10:32-45 and talking about God’s view of how the world works, and how it flies in the face of our individualistic mindset. We are told all the time that we need to “stand up for our rights”, “assert ourselves”, “show our independence”, “be our own highest authority”, and ultimately “set our own rules because we are our own god”.
Individualism is the rule of the day. Anyone can be whoever they want to be, everyone is special, and no one needs to bend for anyone else. Obviously this can’t work out in reality, but it doesn’t keep people from trying.
Bruce Jenner and Transgenderism
Perhaps the greatest, and most glaring recent example of an individual’s power to make their own decisions today is that more and more people are starting to believe that something as binary and static, formerly unchangeable and absolutely inarguable, has become… fluid… changeable… based on opinion.
What I’m talking about is gender. More and more people are starting to believe that the gender they were given at birth, doesn’t really determine what gender they really are. You can have male anatomy, and still feel like (and be called) a female – and vice verca. This was most recently made popular by the famous American, Olympic Gold medal winning athlete, making a very public transition from the man known as Bruce Jenner into the woman known as Caitlyn Jenner.
This is a growing issue in Canada too. Perhaps you remember the story that made news a while back about the 23 year old model that might have won Miss Universe Canada, but was disqualified because she used to be a man – even though she changed her body and legal status to be officially(?) female. And just a couple of years ago, a bill came across the House of Commons that made it formally illegal for a person to be discriminated against based on being transgendered. This isn’t just something that’s happening in the shadows, but is making national headlines now.
This opened up a can of worms for a lot of people who are worried that this basically eliminates things like men’s and women’s public washrooms, since anyone can decide what gender they are at any time. They can be born as a man, dress in slacks, but self-identify as a female, and therefore use the “women’s bathroom”. It’s all very confusing.
I don’t pretend to understand all of what’s going on there, nor do I fully grasp the psychological and legal intricacies of the transgender movement. I certainly agree that we shouldn’t target people who have gender dysphoria or gender confusion. These people are clearly hurting and in a great state of confusion, and they need our love, not our malice or unkindness.
But this kind of thinking does give us a great example of the western people think about individualism: “I am my own god and I can determine everything that is right for me – even changing my own gender, if I choose to believe that God gave me the wrong one.” But it doesn’t have to be gender, it can be almost anything that we believe we are solely in control over, and that we have the only right to determine what is best for. Our money, time, relationships, religion, activities, hobbies, internet usage, sexual habits, career, vacation, charitable giving, tithe, eating habits – anything. The question isn’t whether we believe we individualists who believe we are our own gods, but what areas of our life we believe that we are gods of.
As I said last week, God’s answer to individualism, as we find it in scripture, is submission to the authorities that God has given us. And just as a review, the five arenas that God tells us to submit are First to God, then to Government and Church Leaders, Wives are to Submit to Husbands and Children to Parents, then there is the mutual submission we are to have for one another. That is the God-given structure that we are to be living by in this world, and when we do, we are not only obeying God, but are worshipping him – and, I believe, save ourselves a lot of grief.
Examples of Mutual Submission
I promised that, because we didn’t have time last week, I would spend some time this week talking about how mutual submission works practically, and I’m sure that will give us a lot to talk about. If you recall, I said that Mutual Submission is all over scripture. It’s basically the default-position for Christians: When in doubt, put yourself last – and it’s not just a matter of humility before others, but ultimately out of obedience and love for God and thanksgiving and reverence for Christ.
- Ephesians 5:21 says we should be “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
- 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
- Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
And remember, this all comes from what Jesus said in Mark 10:42-45,
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This thinking kills the individualistic, me-centred, selfish, “my way first” mentality. But how does it work out practically. Here’s a few examples of how mutual submission works – and these are equally for married couples as they are for church relationships, the only thing that changes is the intimacy level:
1. By Being Accountable to One Another
The first way that we mutually submit to one another is to readily practice being accountable to one another. In other words, allowing other people to speak into our lives, giving us encouragement and correction, when we need it. We make ourselves part of the Christian community by joining a church, growing in relationship to the other believers there, being honest with our troubles and struggles, and then being open to listening to what those people have to say to us.
Our first instinct, driven by fear, is to hide ourselves from others – pretend to be something we’re not. Our second instinct, driven by individualism, is to believe that we are better than others, and that they have nothing to say that can help us. Our third instinct is to think that we are worse than everyone else and that we have nothing to offer to others because we are such a mess ourselves. All three of these are wrong.
We need to take the risk to start relationships, or we run the greater risk of falling into error and having no one around to pull us out. We need to repent of our belief that we are better than others, because that’s pride and it separates us from God’s will. And we also need to understand that just because we are messed up doesn’t stop us from coming alongside other messed up people who need our help.
The Bible is extremely clear that it is the responsibility of every Christian to not only worship alongside other believers, but to be actively engaged in helping one another grow closer to Jesus.
- James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
- Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
- Jesus makes it abundantly clear in Luke 17:3 where He says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him…”
A note on this one: this also means we keep one another’s confidences. We don’t spread gossip and slander about people, especially when they have come to us and obeyed God in confessing their sins to us, asking for help.
2. Serving One Another
Another way we show mutual submission toward one another is serving each other. Simply taking the time to do something for someone else, putting their needs before our own, is a way of showing love for them – which is showing love for God. Jesus was the perfect and ultimate example of this, as He loved and served so many people in His earthly ministry – and ultimately by putting humanity’s needs before His own and dying for our sins.
But these gestures don’t have to be huge, and there’s no static way to do it. Yes, we’re all supposed to be hospitable to one another, but that doesn’t mean we all have to it the same way. Some will write cards, others make food, others visit, others teach, others contribute financialy, others clean… we work and love as a team, as a family.
Romans 12:6-10 says it this way,
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
3. In Sharing
Along that same line of thinking, another way to show mutual submission is to share resources. Take something we have and give it to someone who needs it more. That could be our time, money, possessions, or homes. We put our self-interest second, and do without for a time, so that someone can have something they need.
We already talked about stewardship before, but consider that whenever we give something away to someone in need, we are in fact saying, “I am choosing to go without because I believe that person’s needs are more important than my own, their joy is more important than my own, their comfort is more important than my own, their family is just as important as my family, so I want them to have the same opportunity I have.” Sharing and giving are a way to submit ourselves to others.
- Hebrews 13:16 tells Christians, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
- Jesus gave a promise and a warning that we must share when He said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
- And in Matthew 10:42 Jesus makes sure we know that even our smallest gifts given to other believers are seen by God and credited to us, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
4. In How We Dress
Last week we talked about Crop Top Day, so it sort of fits that we would talk about how we dress as a way to mutually submit to one another. One of the thing that bugged me about Crop Top Day was not only that it showed no regard for authority, but no regard for others. How their actions affected others didn’t seem to enter into their thinking.
What about the young men and young women struggling with lustful thoughts? What about the young women who struggle with body image issues? What about the teachers who just wanted to teach their classes, but were forced to contend with hundreds of defiant students, breaking the school rules all day long? What about the principal who now had to field dozens of phone calls about a private conversation he had with a student? What about the children who weren’t allowed to dress that way, but participated anyway? What about the parents of the other students?
Now, believe it or not, I can sympathize with these young women, and the issues that they brought up through Crop Top Day. They are sick of living in a world where every time they look at the clothes in their closet, they have to worry about what they will look like that day, who they will be judged by, how much skin they can/must show, whether they’ll be sexualized by all the animalistic, porn-fueled, drooling males out there… it must be exhausting trying to decide what to wear in the morning. Plus, when it gets warm in the classroom, it’s fairly natural to wear less fabric so one can feel cooler. I get it.
But we have to realize, even in the church (and this applies to both men and women), that what we wear does affect people, and God does have a say in what we wear. It is not a single-person decision, but one in which we submit to God first, and then submit ourselves to others, dressing so that we can love our neighbour in the best way possible – whether that’s the neighbour in the desk next to us, the house next to ours, the car parked next to ours, or the pew next to us.
So, we must ask ourselves – both men and women – a lot of questions: Is the look I’m projecting (and the smell I’m producing too – let’s not forget about cologne) obedient and honouring to God, and loving and respectful to others. Is it “modest”, does it show “self-control” and “humility” (1 Tim 2:9)? Am I wearing it for the glory of God? Is this an attempt to compete with others or to puff up my pride? Am I being sensitive to the weaknesses of others?
This isn’t about getting our own way, and having our own style. It’s about loving God and submitting to others, even when that means we don’t get to wear what we want to wear.
5. Overlooking One Another’s Foibles
Another way that we show humility and mutual submission to one another is to choose to overlook and work with one another’s foibles. “Foibles” is a great word. It’s not really used to describe a person’s sins, but their weak points. It’s used by swordsmen to describe the weakest part of the blade of the sword, from the mid-point to the tip. Swords are still dangerous, but like anything, they have a weak-point, and a good swordsman knows what it is and deals with it accordingly.
Similarly, when used to describe someone, it speaks of that person’s weak points, an eccentricity in their character, a limitation or a flaw that they have. We’re not really talking about sin, but perhaps an area of weakness that the person is tempted in most, or something built into their genetics or their personality that they have little or no control over, but it causes inconveniences or annoyances for others.
There’s a million of these, so I can’t list them all, but I promise you that your friends and your spouse can list yours fairly quickly. You may dislike how a person dresses, or their strange way of talking, their inability to show up on time – or their pathological need to always do everything perfectly. Some may drink wine with dinner, others have dietary restrictions. Some have a hard time hearing, while others seem to shout every word they say – or talk very quietly all the time. Some people stutter, others talk like they swallowed a thesaurus, some people love puns. Some are afraid of technology, others get distracted by too many things going on.
Some are more serious. There are people with physical handicaps, learning disabilities, addictions, psychoses, struggle with depression, irrational fears, emotional scars, and more.
For example, I know I’m weird and that you guys put up with a lot. I’m a biblical theologian who loves watching My Little Pony with my four kids. I struggle with occasional bouts of depression and have at least some level of social anxiety disorder. I can talk for days about some subjects, but can’t start a conversation to save my life. I’m in a position where I need to be social, but I find going to parties, meeting new people, and having to make small talk basically paralytic. I have weird eating habits that change constantly. I love reading classics and writing books, but also popcorn movies, loud music and pinball.
I know all my quirks and foibles cause no end of problem for people – but I’m not alone because I know everyone here has their own. And what’s amazing is that Jesus loves us anyway, and that He’s given us a church to be a part of that is supposed to love us too!
Actually, the scriptures are very clear that when it comes to our differences, we need to be willing to give each other a LOT of grace – in marriage and in the church. Let me return to Luke 17:3-4 and finish what Jesus said there.
- He said, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
- Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Might I suggest that we might gain a new respect for a person, and learn something about submission, if we are willing to walk a mile in their shoes.
- Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
What a great way to respond to someone’s foibles. Let’s ask ourselves, How would I want to be treated if I was in the same position as them, came from the same culture, struggling with the same issue, faced with the same upbringing, dealing with the same difficulties? How would I want people to treat me?
How to Learn to Submit
So let me close this way: Many of us struggle in the area of submitting to God, to God’s appointed authorities, and to one another – so how can we cultivate the humility we need in order to learn to submit.
First, we need to realize that we are sinners in need of a Saviour.
- Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
- David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17)
- “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18)
- James said, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10).
As long as we think we can save ourselves, exalt ourselves, heal ourselves, then we will never be able to submit to anyone else. As long as we think we are greater and smarter than anyone else, then we will never ask for help. And we need Jesus.
Realizing we need Jesus means, second, realizing that we can’t do this on our own. We need to be close to Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit in order to have the humility necessary to obey God. So we need to read about Jesus, talk to Jesus, and listen to Jesus every day. He is our example, our motivation, and our source of strength. As Ephesians 5:21 said, it is our reverence for Christ that is our ultimate motive for submitting to Him and one another. And as we submit in reverence to Jesus, God starts to form our characters to look more like Christ’s.
Third, we have to realize that God’s plan of authority and submission isn’t meant to frustrate us, or take things away, but to be a blessing and a protection to us, because He loves us. Children are protected by their parents, wives are protected by their husbands, citizens are protected by their governments, churches are protected by their elders, and they are all protected by God.
We must realize that when we resist God’s plan for how the world is supposed to work, we are not only resisting God’s purpose, but also God’s protection for our lives. None of us are greater than anyone else, but instead, we need to realize that God has created us to need one another – and that we each have a role to play so this world can operate properly. When we get outside of God’s authority structure – when we are not under godly authority – that’s when our lives go off the rails. And God has given us what we need in order to have the guidelines, the proper tracks to run on, because He loves us.