Today’s Bible reading begins one of my favorite books of the Bible: Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul begins his Magnum Opus Systematic Theology by laying out the gospel message with a description of man’s descent from the time of Creation to his day — and to our day.
Paul says that God’s wrath is already being revealed against ungodliness because mankind has been able to clearly see God’s revealed glory, and yet refused to acknowledge God’s existence. He wrote this around AD 57. And yet, little has changed.
When the Jewish people cried out to the prophet Samuel for a king (1Samuel 8), he warned them that they didn’t need a king, since God was their king. The people said they wanted to be like other nations and to do that, they needed a king. The people kept asking Samuel for a king until he gave them what they asked
In Romans 1, Paul says that God gave the people what they wanted. And the very thing that they wanted became their judgment.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a
lie,and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
They exchanged the truth of God for a
lie,and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
reasonGod delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Romans 1:22–31 (CSB)
Finally, Paul complete his description of God’s judgment against Fallen Mankind:
Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do
them,but even applaud others who practice them. Romans 1:32 (CSB)
Even in my lifetime, I have witnessed this descent played out in society’s
Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. Romans 1:27 (The Message)
Here in verse 27, Paul is referring to Isaiah’s warning:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (CSB)
You may not have personally participated in, approved, or encouraged other people to commit the sins that Paul spells out so clearly. But Mankind has. And America has. We, believers, are at least partially to blame for society’s sinful demise. We have not been the salt and light that we are called to be. (Matthew 5:13–16)
Believers, we must confess and repent for our own participation in the sins of our culture. And we must beg for God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy for our nation’s sins. Our only hope of avoiding God’s wrath being poured out on us is to repent and pray. (2Chronicles 7:14)
Pray for God to send a spiritual awakening and revival, unlike anything our nation has ever experienced. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict believers of their own sin, as well as our sin of silence while the world has gone to hell around them. Pray that pastors will faithfully speak God’s Word and disciple new (and old) believers in the faith. And pray that believers will hear God’s invitation to seek Him with all that they are.
If we don’t pray, no one will. Lost people definitely won’t do it!
Prayer is our job!
Many of my family members are United Methodists. Many of my friends are United Methodists. Some of my “Facebook Friends” (whom I have never really met) are United Methodists. I was saved during revival services at a small country United Methodist Church. My number one reason for leaving the Denomination and not pursuing vocational ministry in the UMC – aside for obvious theological differences – was I knew that I could not with a good conscience hold to my theological differences with the UMC while drawing a paycheck from the Denomination. Those theological differences are unrelated to this post.
Last week, the United Methodists from around the world met in St. Louis, Missouri to try to make sense of its differences and chart a way forward. At the forefront was the issue of ordination of openly gay clergy and gay marriage. There were several paths they could have chosen, including a “One Church” Plan that would have allowed churches and their clergy, regardless of their position on these issues, to affirm or forbid gay clergy and/or gay marriage.
However, the “Traditional” Plan prevailed. The “Traditional” Plan, backed by a large number of delegates from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, affirms The Book of the Discipline, UMC’s statement of doctrine and practice. The Book of the Discipline states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. Therefore, by default, gay ordination and gay marriage would also be incompatible.
In several Facebook posts, several of my United Methodist Pastor friends have expressed their deep concerns for the future of the second largest denomination in the United States. They are concerned about those on both sides of the issue being hurt by the vote. This morning, one posted a link to an article posted yesterday by another Methodist pastor. In the article, Jason Micheli’s parishioner (the article’s actual content writer) says, “The United Methodist Church’s unfixable rot has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with polity.” The writer lays out his argument that the root of the problem in the UMC is its polity, and as such, the denomination was destined to reach the impasse they currently find themselves in.
While all of these things may be true, I think the article writer – and perhaps most United Methodists – miss is an even deeper issue, which I encountered a few days ago with a “Facebook Friend”. This person shared someone else’s post. Here’s the thread:
“Please don’t say the struggle for LGBTQ rights is dividing the church. No one is being divisive by simply claiming their rights as a human being. What is tearing the church apart is the hypocrisy of those who claim grace for themselves but inflict judgment on everyone else.”
“No one’s being divisive by pointing out a denomination’s written statement of doctrine and practice and calling those paid by that denomination to adhere to it. No one’s being divisive to say the Bible is still authoritative. John Wesley held a high view of the Bible and based his own ethics and behavior on all of it.”
My Facebook friend’s response:
“Scripture does not condemn Homosexuality.
Policies are not scripture or the Church.”
“Which Bible are you reading? I know which one you aren’t reading.
It shouldn’t be too much to expect organizational employees to faithfully represent the organization, regardless of the organization – McDonald’s, Starbucks, UMC, IBM, etc. – if they wish to keep a paycheck. The Book of the Discipline is what the UMC has codified. Those drawing a paycheck should faithfully represent the UMC, or find another organization they can faithfully represent.
This is reason #1 I did not pursue ministry in the UMC.”
– End of Thread –
The problem with the UMC which has brought division is not the “hypocrisy of those who claim grace for themselves but inflict judgment on everyone else.” The problem with the UMC is that they can’t agree on the place of the Bible in the Denomination’s theology and practice. Therefore, they can’t define sin in an objective way, because they don’t have an objective source. From the reaction I have seen in the press and on social media, it would appear that “sin” would be to act in an “unchristlike” way: judgmental, intolerant, and
And therein lies the problem.
Those on both sides of the gay ordination/gay marriage issue claim the other side is being “unchristlike“. But how can someone actually define “unchristlike” apart from a Biblical standpoint? After all, everything we know about Jesus Christ and what He was like is in the Bible. Jesus had some very divisive things to say to a lot of people as He called out their sin. And those He reached out to in mercy and grace, He told to repent of their behaviorand sin no longer.
There can be no objective definition of “Christlike“/”unchristlike“, “sin“, “repentance“, and “reaching the world with the gospel” apart from the Bible.
And until the United Methodist Church decides the place and authority of the Bible, there can be no definition of “unity” or any of these crucial and highly relevant words.
Until good people are more concerned with fidelity to the Bible and historic, Christian teachings on homosexuality – consistent for nearly two centuries – than with their concern for “friends on both sides of the issue who are hurt by the vote”, the future of the United Methodist Church is bleak.
Methodist friends, you have passed a historic vote to stand firm on your position stated clearly in The Book of the Discipline. The only two choices you have is to remain true to Biblical truth (as you voted last week) or bend to the modern morays of the Sexual Revolution. I’m not saying that homosexuals and those ordaining them and/or performing homosexual marriages are evil. But the Bible unequivocally denounces homosexual behavior.
Yes, this is a very provocative title, and an interesting and informative read by Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition. (If you know me, you know that I reject both of these views on the grounds of Biblical Theology.)
News of Phil Robertson’s “indefinite suspension” from the A&E Network’s immensely popular Duck Dynasty has exploded across the social media in the past 24 hours. As I am typing this post the three top ten trending terms on Twitter are #Duck Dynasty, A&E and Phil Robertson.
In case you missed it, Phil Robertson made some comments in an interview with GQ Magazine, expressing his personal thoughts on sexual expression outside the confines of monogamous marriage as well as other behaviors spelled out in 1Corinthians 6:9-11. Yes, some of his remarks could be considered “crude”, but that’s the way Phil talks and he has used the exact same anatomical terms on the show when he was explaining the “birds and the bees” to his grandchildren. And for what it’s worth, GQ Magazine is not known as a “family friendly” magazine. GQ’s subscription page has the byline, “It’s how sophisticated gentlemen keep up with style and fashion.” The magazine is not “pornographic” like many other “men’s magazines”, however, it is designed to be read by men; Phil Robertson’s choice of words is not out of line. (Note: Before his suspension, Phil issued a statement regarding his remarks, reiterating his religious beliefs and how they relate to his interaction with those who see things differently than him.)
Many Christians are in an uproar, claiming they will boycott the network and “Liking” various “We Support Phil” and “We Stand with Phil” pages on Facebook. I have “liked” a few of the pages as well.
As I sat down to write a response this morning, I came across this article written by a friend, Scott Prickett. Scott speaks as a Christian lawyer regarding the separate issues of our Constitution’s freedom of speech and religion on one hand, and the Bible’s descriptions of morality on the other hand.
The issue isn’t free speech and the censorship of Phil Robertson.
A&E is free to make the decisions they have made. And the viewing public is free to support – or not support – A&E because of their decision by how we spend or don’t spend in buying DD merchandise. I’m sure that according to contractual arrangements, more profits from the merchandise goes to A&E than the Robertson family.
A few years ago, Natalie Mains, lead singer of the “Dixie Chicks” said she was ashamed she was from the same state as President Bush. She exercised her freedom of speech. In response, many Americans exercised their “freedom of the purse” and many radio stations, especially in Texas, exercised their freedom of airplay. I don’t know (or care) what happened to the group, but their music is rarely played, they’re rarely on TV, and I’m confident that they were deeply affected financially.
Last year, GLAAD boycotted Chic fil-A because the CEO commented that he supports traditional marriage, implying that he doesn’t support “nontraditional marriage”. Sales spiked and it proved to be the least-effective boycott in the history of mankind.
The free market has a way of utilizing its own “free speech”.
I expect that A&E will regret their decision. But whether they do or don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when lost people act like lost people.
Christians need to be careful of how we express our concerns. Some of the posts I have seen on Facebook are downright hateful and vengeful. This is out of character of how the Bible tells us to to act.
Phil’s teenage granddaughter, Sadie Robertson Tweeted, “Prayer is the best conversation of the day. It’s better to go to God before taking it to someone else.” Such wisdom from a teenager!
I have a quick question
Have you prayed for the executives at GQ and A&E as well as the critics at GLAAD and the LGBTQ community as much as you have expressed your angst with your family and friends? I must confess that I haven’t.
Yes, we must be careful how we express our concerns (Colossians 4:6). The lost (and the fence-sitting world) are watching.
What do you think?
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The author goes into great detail, spanning some seven pages of text, to argue that premarital sex is not a sin. He says that the Greek word we use to translate fornication does not mean premarital sex. He says that the Biblical references that speak of fornication actually address rape, adultery, and prostitution. He concludes,
Since the most important law in Christianity is the Law of Love this must apply to sex too. Don’t use people. Don’t hurt people. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t lead them to think you feel one way when you really don’t just to get sex. Don’t view them as an object. Don’t push them to do something they may not be ready for. Sex must be mutual. …
The author’s conclusion insists that, as long as sex is expressed in a loving context, and as long as it’s consenting adults and nobody gets hurt, premarital sex is not a sin. I beg to differ, however.
The author uses several “manners and customs” resources written from a rabbinic perspective, to make his point. However, he does not address the concept of how words and customs change over time (see Note 2 below). Also, he never cites lexical (Hebrew or Greek dictionaries) resources (see my notes below); and this is unfortunate. He is correct in pointing out cultural differences between Biblical times and modern times. However, he does not address the fact that modern (especially Western) conventions of courtship and post-teen marriage was unknown in the Old and New Testament times. Therefore there would be no need to address the modern concept of premarital sex in the Old Testament or New Testament. In other words, in Biblical Times, about the time they reached puberty, young men and women would enter betrothal, leading to marriage. Also, verses like Genesis 24:67 describe that marriage occurred with act of intercourse; in other words there was no courtship or prearrangement at all. The author speaks of how the Bible treats multiple wives and concubines, however he fails to differentiate between those things described (i.e., the things that happened) and those things prescribed (i.e., the way things are supposed to happen) in Scripture.
For example, in the story of Abraham, we are told that Abraham had intercourse with Hagar (described), though God did not prescribe that Abraham to do it. In the case of Solomon, we are told that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3 described), yet God distinctly tells the Hebrews to not marry foreign wives (Exodus 34:16 prescribed). In fact, we are told that his downfall was that over time, Solomon’s wives distracted him into following their gods (1Kings 11:4 described).
Another important description/prescription can be seen in the Old Testament descriptions of polygamy, and the New Testament prescriptions that church elders and deacons must be a “one-woman man” (1Timothy 3:2, 12).
The author is correct in pointing out that the term fornication includes rape, adultery and prostitution and that most of the OT “fornication” passages refer to those definitions. However, the New Testament Greek word (from which we also get pornography) includes all sorts of sexual immorality, not excluding premarital sex. He also neglects to address another Greek word used in the New Testament to describe sexual sin: licentiousness. Between these two Greek words, pretty much all non-marital sexual activity is covered.
Finally, in a most offensive, presumptive comment, the author reveals his bias:
Many of the sexually repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still being followed today. These teachings are based on oppressive Christian traditions that have no biblical basis other than ignorance.
In contrast to the authors comments, the New Testament is very “un-oppressive” and has a great deal of descriptions and prescriptions painting women in a very positive light, as they are given new freedoms in the New Covenant (Galatians 3:28). Women are the first people to see the Empty Tomb (Luke 23:55). Women are very active in the early church. Acts 2:17-19 — quoting Joel 2 — even says that with the Holy Spirit’s anointing, women would prophesy). Also, Romans 16 mentions the deaconess, Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and the apostle, Junia (a legitimate translation of Greek in Romans 16:7). Any “oppressive” Christian traditions do not find their foundation in the inspired, progressive Biblical revelation.
We often come to wrong conclusions because we ask the wrong questions. “Is premarital sex sinful?” is one of those wrong questions. If the Greek word for fornication means “sexual immorality”, we must ask, “Does premarital sex fall under the category of sexually immorality?” Corollary questions are, “What is sexually moral?” and “What is prescribed (not just described) in Scripture?”
The foundational question we should ask is, “Biblically speaking, what is the purpose of sex?” I think it’s safe to say that the first Biblical purpose of sex is procreation Genesis 1:22), though it is not limited to just procreation. Paul says that sexual oneness is a mysterious model of Jesus and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32) Thus, Paul’s prescription for Believers seeking to obediently follow Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit is: Celibacy outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage. (Galatians 5:16–17)
Paul acknowledges that we have sexual desires, but says that there is a proper context for expressing those desires. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV) Note that Paul prescribes a one-man, one-woman marriage union.
In relation to the paragraph above, the right question is, “What is right about premarital sex?” Does premarital sex model the mysterious union between Jesus and the church? It does not. God’s prescription of the “Law of Love” does not negate the law of God’s righteousness. Biblically based sexual expression is within the confines of God’s righteousness. And God prescribes it as “very good”. (Genesis 1:31, 2:24) Paul goes on to say that married couples should regularly engage in this pleasurable activity. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
So to answer the question, “Is premarital sex sinful?” the Biblical answer is, “Yes. Sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is sin.”
1. πορνεία [porneia /por·ni·ah/] n f. From 4203; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4518; 26 occurrences; AV translates as “fornication” 26 times. 1 illicit sexual intercourse. 1A adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. 1B sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18. 1C sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)
2. Later Judaism shows how the use of porneía broadens out to include not only fornication or adultery but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage, and sexual intercourse in general. (Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1985 : 919. Print.)
3. πορνεύω [porneuo /porn·yoo·o/] v. From 4204; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4519; Eight occurrences; AV translates as “commit fornication” seven times, and “commit” once. 1 to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another. 2 to give one’s self to unlawful sexual intercourse. 2A to commit fornication. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)
4. ἀσέλγεια (sensuality/licentiousness)
In some languages the equivalent of ‘licentious behavior’ would be ‘to live like a dog’ or ‘to act like a goat’ or ‘to be a rooster,’ in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior. (Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 770.)
New Testament Prescriptions Regarding “Fornication”
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (Galatians 5:19 ESV)
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV)
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