Biblical Sexuality

Sexuality has become an interesting topic. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex unions has radically changed the conversation. So many things influence the discussion: culture, politics, philosophy, ethics, and religion just to name a few. From a Christian perspective, I believe the most important lens through which to view this topic is the Bible. With many people attempting to deconstruct sound biblical teaching concerning marriage, it only seems right to expound on the issue at the root of the entire conversation: Homosexuality.

I’d like to start by saying that I have friends who are homosexual. I’ve ministered over the years to many within the homosexual community. This is not an attempt to promote an “us-versus-them” mentality. It is merely a look at biblical sexuality: God’s intent and how we should respond.

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…’ Then the Lord God made a woman…” (Genesis 2:18, 22). There are several truths to be learned from the creation account. First and foremost, God created sexual identity and it can’t be undone inherently, theoretically, psychologically, or any other way. God made Adam who was a man, and Eve who was a woman. Thus sexual identity was established.

Beyond identity, God also created sexual intimacy. God intended sexual intimacy to take place between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. Homosexuality abandons God’s design in several ways. For one, instead of embracing the man-woman design, homosexuality embraces a same-sex preference as an option for sexual intimacy.

What does the Bible say?

  • “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin” (Lev. 18:22). “If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent” (Lev. 20:13).
  • “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies… Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men…” (Rom. 1:25-27).

Every mention of homosexual behavior in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, condemns it without question. The passages aren’t vague in the way that people might have once looked to the Bible to inaccurately uphold slavery. Yet those who advocate for the legitimacy of a homosexual lifestyle have gone to great lengths to call into question every biblical reference. For example, they would argue that the book of Leviticus also condemns eating shellfish or cutting your sideburns. They would say it’s ancient religious law that doesn’t apply to New Testament believers.

First, that is an extremely irresponsible way to read and interpret Scripture. One can’t just ignore these commands as ancient practices no longer relevant for New Testament Christians. That misses one of the most essential understandings of the Old Testament. Specifically, that there is an entire portion of teaching dedicated to ceremonial uncleanness and another section of teaching that speaks specifically to immoral conduct. One is centered on the sacrificial system of the people of Israel. The other is meant for every human being throughout history.

It’s one thing to describe temple rituals. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about God’s moral law (e.g. Ten Commandments). Besides, the New Testament condemns homosexual behavior as well. When it’s talked about in the Old Testament, it’s rooted in the moral law of God. It’s not the same as which foods one was allowed to eat under ancient Jewish dietary laws. Just like the prohibitions in the Old Testament against incest, God’s warning against homosexual behavior is for every age.

Then there are people who challenge New Testament verses by saying that while it seems to reprimand homosexual acts, it’s really talking about male prostitutes, not same-sex monogamous relationships. There’s only one problem, the Greek word used for homosexuality in the New Testament is ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoítēs) and means “partner in homosexual intercourse.” So the conclusion remains: God created human beings as male and female, and meant for sexual intimacy to take place in the context of marriage alone. As a result, the Bible throughout describes any deviation from that design as outside of God’s will for our lives.

Today’s culture hangs so much on sexuality. The world teaches that fulfilling one’s sexual desire is what brings ultimate satisfaction in life. The reality is that no earthly relationship can make one’s life complete. However, there is One who can fulfill our heart’s desire for love and acceptance. Knowing Jesus will never leave us empty. True fulfillment comes by having an authentic relationship with him.

There are many who want to ignore clear biblical teaching on the matter. Some of those people are clergy, who have no problem performing ceremonies for same-sex couples. These people not only ignore the Bible, but also 2000 years of church history. Make no mistake, from the Early Church Fathers to the Reformation and beyond, homosexual behavior has been deemed as against God’s unique sexual design for humanity.

The problem we will run into in the future does not pertain to clear biblical teaching on the subject, but rather to ecclesial and pastoral ethics. Will those who are ordained in the church uphold the biblical views and traditions of the church faithfully? Only time will tell. Regardless, the Bible is clear, without doubt and without reservation, homosexual behavior stands against God’s intent for human sexuality.

(Sources: Philip Yancey article “Homosexuality”; Sam Allberry sermon “Can You Be Both Gay and Christian”; James Emory White sermon notes from the series “Hot Topics” sermon “Homosexuality”)

women ministry

“Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.” ~ Jürgen Moltmann

It’s true; women were the first ones to bring the good news of the empty tomb. Then we have the sermon at Pentecost preached by the Apostle Peter (referencing the prophet Joel): “It shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Acts2:17).

From the beginning, the Church of the Nazarene has ordained women. With other churches following suit, there are more women in ministry than ever before. However, there is still opposition to women in ministry by some within the larger evangelical community. Rooted in the age-old complimentarian versus egalitarian debate, this originates with people who believe that scripture opposes women in ministry. So, let’s examine what scripture says.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (1 Cor. 14:34)

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (1 Tim. 2:11-12)

In these verses Paul cannot be, I repeat cannot be, addressing women who were in ministry, but rather those in the congregation who were out of order: women who were disrupting the service of the local church. How do we know this? Simple, there are several women mentioned by Paul who were influential leaders in the early church, and who were also commended by the apostle.

Priscilla (Acts 18:26): Priscilla and her husband Aquila were pastors of a church in Ephesus. They were responsible for teaching the full gospel to Apollos. Priscilla is almost always listed ahead of Aquila when their names are mentioned. This likely indicates that she was the primary teacher and leader in the local church (Acts 18:2, 18; Rom. 16:3, and I Cor. 16:19).

Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3): Paul indicates that these women are “true yokefellows” who labored with him in the advancement of the gospel. When he describes their ministry, Paul uses the same terms he had previously used to describe Timothy and Epaphroditus. For instance, Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche had contended together with him “in the Gospel.” Earlier in the letter, Paul had described Timothy as someone who had served with him “in the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22). Paul also refers to them as his “co-workers.” Earlier, Paul had referred to Epaphroditus as his “co-worker” (Phil. 2:25). So, according to Paul, the ministries of these women were comparable to the ministries of men like Timothy and Epaphroditus.

There are many other instances of women in leadership throughout the scripture. They served in positions such as prophetess, evangelist, judge, pastor, deacon, etc. However, the above mentioned is enough to establish that women were a normal part of church leadership. Not only did women have a place in ministry in the early church, but also Paul expected them to speak. Why else would he have given the directive: But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” (1 Cor. 11:5). A prophesying woman is a speaking woman.

Throughout his letters, Paul not only allowed women to teach in the church, he also praised them for their leadership. With this in mind, how do we interpret the verses that command women to be silent? First of all, we must read those verses in light of what we have just established – that there were women in leadership positions in the early church. In context, we understand that the Corinthian Church was extremely troubled. Much of Paul’s letter was spent correcting various kinds of immoral behavior. Some of these pertained to women.

Also, in the early church, men were often seated on one side, while the women and children were seated on the opposite side. To add to an already difficult situation, the women were commonly uneducated. Therefore, when the church gathered some of the women were tempted to speak across the aisle, asking their husbands the meaning of whatever was being taught. It would be safe to say, even today, if someone was constantly being disruptive in a service, whether male or female, that the leader of the church would need to address the problem.

In writing to Timothy, it’s also imperative to comprehend the context in which the letter was written. In this case false teaching had become problematic. It’s pretty clear that the proponents of much of the false teachings were women. In Ephesus goddess worship was a serious issue; women were often the victims of those who propagated false deities. Regardless of the particulars, in both cases we can identify that Paul is dealing with particular incidents, in specific churches, for very precise reasons.

A more thorough exegetical reading of these passages would lead to an entirely different hermeneutic than that of our complimentarian brothers. That is, “women in ministry” is not the subject of the texts, rather immoral and disruptive behavior is. With that conclusion, it’s wise to understand that many of Paul’s epistles dealt with local problems and his instructions are not meant to be taken as “commandments” across the board for all situations. Rather, his instructions are given as more of a guideline for navigating various scenarios in the local church.

It’s bizarre to me that some groups will allow a woman to go to a foreign mission field and teach men, but will not allow the men at home to be taught by the same woman. It’s even more unusual that these groups will allow women to teach children, and then create an arbitrary age at which the male children can no longer be instructed by a female.

The Lord admonishes us not to examine one another with regard to sex, race, class or culture, but instead to see one another through spiritual eyes (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Gal. 3:28). God wants to use any person who will surrender to the Holy Spirit to minister the Gospel to the fullest extent of their ability. Face it guys, women are amazing leaders… So take your hands off their mouth and your chains off their minds!

(Sources: Jürgen Moltmann)

Dragons

Effective leadership demands time, creativity, patience, and a lot of effort. Working with people can be a joy, but it can also drain you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Even Jesus had to take time away from people in order to refocus on what’s truly important. I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be people among the church who really “get it” and others who never will. The ones who get it are a joy and the ones who don’t are difficult.

Those who never seem to get it are often well-meaning people, but they also become major distractions to pastors and in many cases sap the vitality out of the church. These people aren’t intentionally destructive. To the contrary, often they’re zealous Christians and lifelong members, they’re simply stuck in a place of spiritual immaturity and lack self-awareness. However, if we’re honest, we often wish these pillars had joined the church down the street.

Marshall Shelley refers to people who regularly stand opposed to leadership as “Well-Intentioned Dragons.” Again they are often sincere, well-meaning saints, yet they leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t consider themselves difficult people. They don’t sit up at night thinking of new ways to be disagreeable, nonetheless they are constantly undermining the ministry of the church. They’re not naturally rebellious or pathological. They’re loyal church members, convinced that they are serving God. Yet, most of the time they end up doing more harm than good.

Dragons drive pastors up the wall, and many times they push them out of ministry altogether. Some dragons are openly critical. They constantly accuse others of being too spiritual, not spiritual enough, too controlling, too laid back, too close-minded, too liberal, too structured, too disorganized, or ulterior in their motives. I’ve been accused of every one of these at some point over the course of my ministry. These criticisms are painful, because they are largely unanswerable. When dealing with the accusations of dragons, it becomes almost impossible to maintain a spirit of peace. They make it difficult to disagree without being disagreeable.

I realize that criticism is part of life and that it comes with the territory. However, my heart is to unify people. As children of light, we should endeavor to be the very best at what we do. We are called to make positive investments in the lives of people. Yet in my estimation, dragons do not want light, they do not want instruction, and they do not want help. What they want is power, control, and influence. They have issues that are deep-rooted and stem from a place of profound insecurity. They are not happy with themselves, so how could they possibly be happy with anyone else?

The following is a message received from a devoted church member to their pastor after a council meeting where one person did not get their way and lashed out at the pastor and others in the meeting:


“Good morning Pastor, I hope that your week has been a pleasant one and last night’s meeting was the exception. I recognize that some decisions are based on what is best for the church, not for a specific group. In every organization it is the responsibility of leadership to make organizational and structural decisions for the entire group… And in every organization there seems to be individuals who would strip leadership of that responsibility and take every decision with which they don’t agree personally.

Over the years, regardless of what church I’ve served in, I’ve discovered that: (1) Christian maturity certainly isn’t based on age or years within the church; (2) Every decision made by the pastor or the leaders is going to be challenged by someone, most often by people who try to win others over to their way of thinking (they never take into consideration that they could possibly be wrong); (3) Regardless of mouthing “this is God’s house and ministry,” a lot of people have a problem realizing it isn’t about them; (4) A lot of people who are in one position for a long time take ownership of it in the worst way, neglecting prayerfully seeking God and conveniently failing to consider that His direction may not be theirs; (5) Everyone has an opinion, but some of us forget that God doesn’t need our input to move His agenda forward; (6) There are people who will, with disguised glee, sit back and relish seeing something fall apart because it didn’t go their way.

The list goes on and on and the pastoral team has to deal with attitudes and pettiness on a recurring basis. I’ve always thanked God that He calls pastors because if we look at the job description from a natural, rather than a spiritual perspective, there would be few takers. Thank God that your strength and satisfaction isn’t based on parishioners’ opinions but on doing His will. I want you to know that there are some of us who get it, really get it. There are souls out there who need Him and we need to put ourselves aside if we are to be used by Him to reach them. I will be there to support the new team as it continues to expand into an inclusive service-based ministry rather than an exclusive club. Thank you for being a strong, committed, spirit-filled man of God. You have my ongoing prayers and my appreciation!”


Wow! Let me repeat, some people really get it and some people never will. Regardless, I still feel that we are called to minister to the dragons among us. They are people who are usually wounded, have a low self-image, and need love more than anyone realizes. I hope to always be faithful in going the extra mile to reach out to those who are wounded and need healing. At the same time we must never allow these dragons to control and potentially highjack the will of God for the ministry of the church.

Think of it this way, where there is light, there will always be bugs. We are in the light business because the gospel is the light of Jesus Christ in a dark world. Let’s continue to spread the light of Jesus Christ and minister to those in need without being distracted by scaly-winged, sharp-clawed, fire-breathing people who wreak discord without even realizing it. Pray for them. Try your best to be a dragon-tamer, not a dragon-slayer. May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you every day as you encounter people with the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Sources: Marshall Shelley; Louis McBurney; Harry Ironside)

Back Camera

We live in a culture that is attempting to redefine many things. At the top of the list is marriage. Let me start by saying I don’t believe marriage can be redefined. It has been traditionally established as a sacred union, unique in nature. Nonetheless, a lot of energy has gone into trying. To be clear, this blog is not about the homosexual lifestyle. It is not about sexual orientation or preference. It is about an ancient, biblical, sacramental rite.

Marriage in the Catholic Church is the covenantal relationship by which a man and a woman form a partnership that binds together every aspect of their life. By its nature, marriage is a union established for the well being of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. Although Protestants don’t officially consider marriage a “sacrament”, there is no denying that it’s sacramental in nature.

It’s only logical that a Christian conversation about marriage would start with dialogue about God’s unique design. To discover God’s design we should always start with scripture. Scripture is where God has revealed his will for those who desire a relationship with him. The ancient practice of marriage is not something we invented, and therefore not something we have the right to redefine. The foundation for this sacramental rite is discovered in Genesis 2.

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’… Then the Lord God made a woman… and he brought her to the man… That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18, 22, 24, NIV)

The above passage reveals God’s creative design for marriage. It’s straightforward, yet has deep implications. In Matthew 19 Jesus validates the first marriage, and every marriage since, declaring that God has joined members of the opposite sex together in a covenantal relationship unlike any other. Thus, both Testaments provide scriptural support pertaining to God’s intent for marriage.

God created sexual identity; in doing so he made human beings male and female, then brought them together in sacred union. God also created sexual intimacy, not just identity, but intimacy. Within that framework, God intended for the expression of sexual intimacy to take place between a man and a woman in the confines of marriage.

Both genders reflect God’s image. As they join in holy union they fulfill one another emotionally, physically, and spiritually, which means marriage is more than a contract. It’s more than filing tax returns, buying a house, and applying for health insurance. It’s more than a consumer relationship, where the main focus is how it benefits you. It is the foundational building block of human society. Biblically speaking, homosexual marriage doesn’t exist. So even if you do have a loving, exclusive relationship with someone of the same sex, it still opposes God’s unique design for marriage.

Some would argue that regardless of where you might stand on the issue, that gay marriage should be endorsed as a basic civil right. They argue that any pledge of commitment between two people can only be a positive move societally. However, I’m afraid that misses the point, because the issue is not about civil unions. It’s about marriage. Even more it’s about an agenda that wants to redefine marriage, which biblically speaking, you just can’t do.

Marriage isn’t something we make up as we go. God did it and we can’t undo it. With that said, we live in a culture that is reducing the idea of marriage to something far less meaningful. It’s more about personal benefits than living in a covenantal relationship. As a Christian, I can’t endorse it. As someone who believes the heart of God for humanity is revealed in scripture, I simply cannot call something marriage that God clearly doesn’t.

Some would argue that in the context of the current conversation the word “marriage” has already been culturally redefined. Christians are being forced to think about the issue from a new perspective. Things have become so diluted that the word “marriage” certainly doesn’t mean what it once did.

There is another phrase, however. One that I think really gets at the heart of the matter: Holy Matrimony. This is the biblical idea of what marriage really is about anyway. Holy matrimony is sacramental, set apart, unlike anything else. It has deep theological implications that have translated into every culture since the beginning of time. Not only does this traditional understanding transcend ethnicity and culture, it also transcends religion. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all have a male-female view of holy matrimony.

At this point the redefinition of marriage isn’t just about acceptance, but the desire to force others to affirm something that directly opposes God’s design. Those whose agenda has been to advocate for the legitimacy of homosexual marriage have gone to great lengths to discredit every biblical reference. The reason is because they know they can’t have it both ways; the bible simply doesn’t support gay marriage.

You can ignore 2000 years of church history if you like. You can try to discredit every biblical reference. You can attempt to redefine marriage to suit your personal views. But is doesn’t change anything. The conclusion remains: God has spoken. He created human beings as male and female. The bible teaches that any departure from that design is outside of God’s will for our lives.

To understand God’s original design all we have to do is start in the beginning. So, there’s really no ground for redefining marriage. Call same-sex unions something else. Don’t allow the courts, culture, or popular opinion to highjack something that God created, and certainly don’t try to force a secular view of a sacramental rite on the Church. Call it what you want, but you can’t call it marriage. You can’t call it biblical, covenantal, or sacramental; and you certainly can’t call it holy.

(Sources: Code of Canon Law at Vatican.va, Compelling Truth, Jonathan Pokluda of The Porch, James White of Church & Culture, Edith Humphrey of Christianity Today, Wikipedia: Sacrament of Marriage)