Sunday, November 26, 2006

The biblical view of homosexuality (Part 2)

[All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible]

Let’s see if I can pull all this together:

Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites—the children of Abraham—were God’s people. God revealed Himself to them and spoke through their prophets (who, in turn, recorded the Old Testament Scriptures). From the beginning, however, God’s intention was that Abraham’s offspring would encompass “a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5, 6), not just Israel. Jesus said, “God so loved the world [i.e. humanity], that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus] that whoever believes in Him shall not perish [experience eternal, spiritual death], but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Under the New Covenant, God’s people are those “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7:9) who through faith in Jesus Christ “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). What Israel was, in the Old Testament, the Church is now. And by “Church”, I do not mean a particular denomination, but a people: the “children of God”, “believers” in Jesus, those who have been “born again”—in other words, true Christians.

So, about the Episcopal Church controversy: homosexuality (both the “orientation” and the practice and lifestyle) is totally inappropriate for Christians. It is clearly against God’s will as expressed in the Scriptures. The Christian is to resist sin and, if he or she “falls” and commits sin, to repent of [i.e. turn from] the sin, not embrace it and celebrate it as a lifestyle. To embrace the lifestyle is to prove oneself not a child of God, and therefore, not a Christian (remember 1 John 3:10, above).

I believe unrepentant sin—in this case, a homosexual lifestyle—would justify excommunication from church membership, according to the words of Jesus (Matthew 18:15-18):

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector [i.e. pagans, excluded from the community of faith].”

It follows, therefore, that a leader of the church should not be involved in an unrepentant, sinful lifestyle. The apostle Paul lists the qualifications for those who would serve as leaders (elder/bishop) in the church (1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:7-9):

“An overseer [bishop/elder]…must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

“For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

(Note: The Christian pastor/elder/bishop is not at liberty to reject any of the Bible’s teaching but, rather, he must know, believe, teach and defend it faithfully. Plus, in what sense can one be “Christian” and reject Christian teaching?)

I think I know most of the arguments, from within the church, against the view I’ve presented. It is said that the writers of Scripture were 1) not addressing committed, monogamous gay and lesbian relationships, 2) were only condemning heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts, and 3) did not know about sexual orientation or the biological basis for homosexuality.

To answer, briefly:

“Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

“All Scripture is inspired by God [literally, “God-breathed”]” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The writers of Scripture wrote what God the Holy Spirit led them to write. Surely God knew what He was talking about when He led these men to write what they wrote. If one is going to argue from Scripture, one has to know and believe that the Scriptures are the “Word of God written” (a phrase from the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith). I think the plain, ordinary meaning of the words show that “committed, monogamous” relationships are included in the scriptural denunciations of homosexuality. There is absolutely nothing positive written about homosexual activity. And, certainly, there is no verse supporting same-sex relationships.

As far as homosexuality having a biological basis, or, as I’ve heard said, “I was born this way”. This seems to be another way of saying, “If you have a problem with my homosexuality, blame God; He did it.” First, as far as I’ve heard, there is no conclusive scientific data supporting such a view. Other scientists can produce data supporting the opposite conclusion. So, I’m not convinced. Scripturally, the best answer seems to be James 1:13-15:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’ [“God made me this way.”]; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone [Don’t blame it on God.]. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust [The fault lies within.]. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

Theologically, feelings of same-sex attraction from a young age only prove what the Bible says: We are born sinners.

“By a man [Adam] came death” (1 Corinthians 15:21).

“In Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

We’re all tempted, although we don’t all experience the same temptations. However, we should resist wrong, not give in to it.

The best news is that change is possible for the homosexual person. Following 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which I quoted above, the apostle Paul goes on to state this wonderful fact about some of the people at Corinth (verse 11):

“Such [fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, etc.] were some of you; but you were washed [made clean], but you were sanctified [set apart from sin unto God], but you were justified [declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

And again,

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Change is possible, but only in Jesus Christ. The “Spirit of Christ”—the Holy Spirit—the third Person in the Trinity comes to live inside when we are “born of God”. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the Christian the power to say “No!” to the flesh. For some, total change is immediate. For others, it’s a gradual process as, little by little, sinful habits disappear with the Spirit’s help. For still others, they struggle the rest of their lives. But, that’s alright. To struggle means you want to be free, it means there’s a fight going on. The alternative to struggle is surrender to sin. The child of God—the Christian—will never surrender in the struggle against personal sin. He or she dare not. Hell is real.

Well, I’m sure I gave you more than you asked for. But I hope this helps explain more fully the biblical position and why some of us are so opposed to some recent developments in this country, Canada and Europe. Our pastor said that love means caring enough about someone to tell them when they’re wrong. “Tolerance” is not loving when what we tolerate is endangering someone else. What’s at stake, as I see it, is the eternal destiny of people who've given up the fight against homosexual temptation. God does not issue idle threats:

“Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters [anything that controls our lives, other than God, is our idol] and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

I don’t want anyone to miss God’s heaven.

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