A comment that I have come up with again and again from proponents of same sex marriage within the church at large is that the protest from Evangelical Christians is due their obsession with sex (and homosexuality in particular). Therefore they need to re-orientate their focus to the things/issues that really matter.
However the Evangelical rejection of same sex marriage and homosexuality is not due to their obsession with sex but rather with their obsession with the Apostolic Gospel, that is the Gospel that was believed and proclaimed by the Apostles – the good news that Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners, and rose physically from the grave on the third day. And from this flows the Biblical conviction that faith in person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the onlymeans given for our salvation and reconciliation with God and that faith in Christ alone is the only grounds for the merits of Christ being imputed to us for our justification.
So what does this have to do with proponents of same sex marriage who are in the church? What is the Evangelical problem?
The problem is due to the very essence of the evangel, of the Gospel.
One of the dangers of false teaching and false teachers within the church is that at face value often what is taught is not wrong in itself. Of course there are false teachers who blatantly preach heresy, who place signs on the front of churches that are blasphemous, but more commonly false teaching is not due to the content of what is said, it is the content that is not said.
With the case of those within the church who are proponents of same sex marriage their message to homosexuals can be summarised with four words:
“Come as you are!”
At one level this is true. All unbelievers are invited to come as they are. Christ invites sinners, who are broken, afraid, shame-filled, sad, fearful to come to him. This invitation from the Lord Jesus Christ is beautiful! We don’t come to him on the mend, we don’t come to him with anything to bring except our sinful selves. It is what grace is all about.
However this truth is not the whole truth. I heard a very godly man say to me at Bible College (Seminary) many years ago:
“A half truth presented as the whole truth is an un-truth”.
This is the case if the Gospel is reduced to merely meaning “Come as you are”. It is an un-truth, for the message of the Gospel is not only those four words, “Come as you are”. If it were the case then one can “Come as they are” and “Stay as they are”. And this is why same sex marriage is a gospel issue. For this is the gospel that is preached by same-sex proponents within the church. A gospel that says “Come as you are, and stay as you are” is not the gospel, it is a gospel without repentance.
A key identifier of Christian orthodoxy is that a sinner is justified by placing their trust or faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is faith alone in Christ alone that saves, but faith is never alone. and this the fruit of this faith in Christ is repentance. In his wonderful wee gem of a book Concise Theology, Jim Packer defines repentance as:
“changing one’s mind so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently. The change is radical, both inwardly and outwardly, mind and judgement, will and affections, behaviour and life-style, motives and purposes, are all involved. Repentance means starting to live a new life.” p.162.
This is why the endorsement of same sex marriage or same sex relationships
by church leaders is actually about the very nature of the gospel. They are preaching a gospel of no repentance, saying in effect, one does not need to repent.
The Apostle Paul when writing to the Christians at Corinth reveals the sort of behaviour that will prevent a person entering the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Holy Scripture is clear that on who is excluded from the Kingdom of God, it is those who are unrepentant, be they sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, the drunk, revilers and swindlers. Therefore for us to conclude that:
1: the non Christian fornicator can become a Christian and keep on fornicating, as long as the person they are fornicating with is in the context of a ‘loving, committed, faithful relationship’…
2.the non Christian alcoholic can keep getting drunk as long as they do it in the context of a faithful, loving and safe environment…
3:the non-Christian thief can keep on stealing as long as they steal in a faithful and safe and harmless environment…
4: the non Christian adulterer can keep on being unfaithful to his wife as long as the relationship he has with his mistress is in the context of a faithful and committed relationship…
is completely unthinkable and totally antithetical to Scripture.
The alcoholic, the thief, the adulterer, and the homosexual can become Christians but they cannot remain that way nor define themselves as being fornicators, alcoholics, thieves or adulterers. Why? Because to become a Christian one must believe and repent. To be a Christian one must “come as they are” and “go differently; go the way the Lord Jesus says”.
I have met people who used to be these things before they came to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus, and they are a wonderful testimony to God’s power to save those who believe but they would never (and have never said to me) “I am now a thieving Christian, or a fornicating Christian, an alcoholic Christian alcoholic or an adulterating Christian.They are new creations!!!
And yet one of the common arguments of those within the church who are proponents of homosexuality say that homosexuals can engage in homosexual sexual expression “as long as it is in the context of a loving, committed and faithful relationship, and of course the ultimate expression of this is marriage”.
I was once asked by a women in another diocese to where I serve whether I think that Homosexuals can be Christians. I answered with an emphatic yes. But I also added this very important qualifier, there must be repentance; and a demonstration of that repentance is that they no longer define themselves by the lifestyle and behaviours that previously would have excluded them from the Kingdom of God. Just as the alcoholic, the thief, the adulterer, and the homosexual can become Christians but cannot remain that way nor define themselves as being fornicators, alcoholics, thieves or adulterers. The same applies to the homosexual person. Why? Because to become a Christian one must believe and repent. To be a Christian one must “come as they are” and “go differently; go the way the Lord Jesus says”.
So for anyone within the church who advocates same sex marriage within the church, the blessing of homosexual relationships, or puts up an utterly ridiculous and blasphemous church sign endorsing homosexualityare proclaiming a false gospel.
I have met people who used to be these things stated in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 before they came to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus, and they are a wonderful testimony to God’s power to save those who believe but they would never (and have never said to me) “I am now a thieving Christian, or a fornicating Christian, an alcoholic Christian alcoholic or an adulterating Christian or a homosexual Christian. They are new creations!!!Have a look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10again. It is quite a list and all Christians are on this list. But the great news is that being on this list does not exclude people from being recipients of God’s grace in the Lord Jesus. And we know this because in the very next verse (v.11) Paul says these beautiful words!
11 And such were some of you. 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.
What wonderful words!! The sexual immoral, the idolater, the adulterer, those who practice homosexuality, the thief, the greedy, the drunk and so forth can come to the cross of Christ and receive grace, and they are to come as they are. But they cannot remain as they are.
The message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is not merely “Come as you are”; (while true of course, this is incomplete), the true message is rather
“Come as you are and go as the Lord Jesus says”.
Thus if we proclaimed a gospel that says that the sexually immoral, alcoholics, thieves and adulterers could stay as they are and engage in activities and the lifestyle indicative of being a fornicator, alcoholic, and maintain fidelity to Christ, it would be extremely disingenuous on our part and not to mention extremely unloving. We would be endorsing a lifestyle that has eternally disastrous consequences. With homosexuality is it no different even though our culture says it is.
To reduce the Gospel to merely saying “Come as you are” is an untruth, because it is not the message of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an untruth and for any church leader to preach this half truth as if it were the whole truth is the most unloving thing one could do – it is actually an untruth, an untruth that will keep people out of the Kingdom of God.
But what about Jesus?
Proponents of same sex marriage and/or the blessing of same sex relationships often cite the fact that Jesus never talks about homosexuality so can’t we therefore conclude that Jesus did not think it mattered?
Allow me the luxury to cite at length a close friend of mine and fellow Anglican Priest, the Rev David Ould, (who is the Associate Priest at Parammatta Cathedral and I would say one of Australia’s most prolific Anglican bloggers).
“There’s really only One Question that needs to be asked. And it starts like this:
Haven’t you read … ?
Recognise it? I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that of all the questions being bandied about, this one cuts the deepest. The full question, of course, runs like this:
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And there is the bottom line. When those who should know better try and trap Jesus over a marriage-related question He just takes them back to the basics.
- This is what the Scriptures say (specifically Genesis 2).
- This is the way God made us.
- He made us male and female.
- Marriage flows directly from and is an expression of this complementarity of divinely-created male and female order.
- Don’t mess with it.
And it really is that simple. Every question (starting with the direct divorce question He was asked) about marriage can be worked through that framework. The One Question provides the diagnostic to work on all of them.
That means that Jesus’ One Question allows us to ask a related one:
How does Jesus define marriage?
In Matthew 19:4-6, the answer you receive will clarify everything.
Some people will avoid mentioning the male/female thing – just point that out and mention that Jesus seems to think it’s important. Some people will avoid the fact that God made us this way – just point that out and mention that Jesus seems to think it’s important. Some people will even suggest that it still says nothing about homosexuality. I’d just ask them to read it again after asking your original question again. Afterwards you can ask “how does a same-sex marriage fit into Jesus’ model?”
Some will suggest that Jesus didn’t know about modern understandings of homosexual relationships. I’d then be asking some serious questions about just who they think Jesus was and is; divine eternal Son of God or not?
Tragically what this comes down to is a lack of confidence in the Scriptures. It’s sheep who don’t recognise their Shepherd’s voice. It’s students who don’t want to learn from the master. It’s a horrible outworking of years of too many of us paying lip service to the Bible; flipping into it when we have something we like but otherwise setting it aside when another authority (in this case social pressure) competes.
It is, of course, no surprise to anyone that those at the forefront of other revisionist and liberalising theologies (which are all produced by a denigration of Scripture’s authority) are almost always those displaying the same-sex rainbow banner.
Just One Question, friends, but it’s the key question. And ultimately it’s Jesus Himself asking it,
Haven’t you read … ?
When someone who calls themselves a Christian so quickly rejects Jesus’ words then we have real issues and that’s why this whole internal debate is such a big deal for the church. The real issue here isn’t sex or marriage, it’s all about how to read the Bible properly and how to sit under it. When we’ve lost that, then what else do we have?
The flip side, of course, is that for some this One Question will be a wakeup call. The sheep really do know the shepherd’s voice but sometimes they just need to be reminded. I’ve had the joy of sitting down with more than one person over this issue and asking them the One Question and seeing their eyes light up as they understand the clarity with which our Lord and Master has spoken on this question. Not that the other questions raised aren’t important and may or may not need to be dealt with, but there’s something foundational about the One Question because, well, it’s Jesus talking about foundations. Once we see it clearly then everything else is measured relative to Jesus’ clear word”.
I think is really to important to be precise and clear about is repentance, what it is, and what isn’t it and also to be clear about the limits of repentance. Liverpool Bishop JC Ryle, who was a Bishop in the 19thcentury talks of 5 identifying markers of repentance, and I think they are work bringing up.
1 True repentance begins with a knowledge of sin..
- True repentance produces sorrow for sin.
- True Repentance Produces Confession of Sin.
- True repentance produces a breaking off from sin
- True repentance produces a deep hatred of sin.
The problem and confusion we face is that we live in such a emotions based culture, everything is about how one feels, even the language that Christians use is very emotive, (i.e. “I feel that God is telling me this, or I have a sense that the Holy Spirit wants me to…”. Repentance has all these 5 marks. But with our culture it is very easy to slip into the thinking that repentance is merely the first two only, knowledge of sin and feeling sorry for it. One can know their sin, acknowledge it, be sorry about it and still not repent.We all must be like the prodigal son in Luke 15. Now an elucidation of this parable would make this article even longer, but even a cursory read of this parable we see that the younger son has all the marks of repentance.