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Research Papers

Non-binary: A Christian Response

Recently a post went across my newsfeed. This post was an article written by a high school classmate who was coming out as non-binary. The author of this article proclaims to be a Christian, and encourages intersex, same-sex attracted, and gender dysphoric people to find their identity through expression of LGBTQ+ sexuality/gender as the author is doing. The perspective being propagated asserts that the Bible is not an obstacle to an LGBTQ+ identity or practice, that gender and sex are unrelated/independent of each other, and that to love someone who is LGBTQ+ you must affirm them without hesitation. This is celebrating sin, and finding personal value and identity in sin (rebellion from God) rather than repenting of sin. My classmate sets forth several supports from various scholars and offers interpretations of some relevant biblical texts to support this position. I am concerned for the author based on the position being advocated as well as the numerous Christians who have responded positively and been influenced by this position. I am setting forth to examine this position from a historical, Christian, theological and exegetical perspective seeking to show that this viewpoint is incompatible with a meaningful understanding of the Bible and incompatible with historic and orthodox Christianity. 

In light of the purpose of this writing, my hope is that the Christian would be equipped with confidence in God’s Word; I hope for the Christian to believe the historical position of the Christian faith in the areas of sex and sexuality. I also pray that non-Christian or confused readers would by God’s grace repent of their sin and trust in the risen Savior for their salvation, or, short of this, that they would not pretend to be Christian if they are not. The Lord Jesus articulated the two greatest commands of God’s law as, “love God, and love Neighbor,” (Matthew 22:36-40). My effort in this writing is to do both, but the Scriptures define love, not our emotions. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says, “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.” So a Christian’s first obligation is to love God. Second, they must love their neighbor. But this love cannot be a celebration of things that are detrimental and damning to our neighbor. This is seen in that the Lord Jesus never (not even once), affirmed someone in their sin to continue sinning. The Lord Jesus never affirmed someone finding their identity in something that God had forbidden. 

When beginning to address this topic one must start at the beginning of humanity, looking at the creation of sexuality, marriage, and mankind. God created humans in His image in Genesis 1:27. This means that humanity is supposed to reflect what God is like. Humans do this by being in community as God is in community within the Trinity. Humans also image God by exercising dominion over the world, as God has done, by working for God as his stewards. Another way humans image God is with their moral agency, having the opportunity to make moral decisions with consequences. There are many other significant discussions on the image of God, but relevant to this discussion is that of gender and sex in the image of God. 

In the Genesis account, Adam is found without a suitable mate. He is alone, and none of the animals that God created are suitable to serve as a helper for him. God declared that this was the only “not good” part of His creation and created Eve, to be his wife. Eve was taken from Adam’s side, formed from a rib of Adam, as Adam had been formed from the dust of the earth. Eve is called “woman” because she came from man. Together, the sexes serve together as God’s image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them [plural],” (Genesis 1:27). This is significant because of the distinction. There are very clearly two sexes seen here. And there are two corresponding genders. Walker agrees, “Male and female, according to the biblical portrait, are fixed, bodily realities; meaning they are not interchangeable or eradicable.”

There are also different roles for each sex seen in the Genesis account. Adam works and he leads (1 Corinthians 11:3). Eve, his wife, supports Adam and produces children (1 Timothy 2:15). At the irreducible core of the distinction of the sexes are these roles, which continue throughout the biblical storyline. In the fullness of redemptive history, the union of marriage points to the relationship of Jesus Christ with His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus leads, and does the work necessary for the salvation of the church. The church submits to Christ the Lord, and serves as a “helper.” They do this in preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20). In a spiritual sense, the church is the vessel that “bears fruit” in bringing forth children. The church does this by discipling new believers that are born by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3).

If one is to blur the lines between the distinctions of the sexes they are approaching Christological heresies. This is done when what they say about the sexes is translated to Ephesians 5 and the nature of Christ and the church. If there is no real objective sex or gender then Christ and the church are interchangeable; if this is the case, the gospel is nonsense and there is no true redeemer. Biblically the distinction between gender and sex is completely absent. The author is entirely right that there are different ways for gender to be expressed in different cultures. However, masculinity is masculinity… A scholar, a football star, a soldier, a hunter, a waiter, a chef, a writer, and a painter can all be masculine. Any of these may be valid representations of masculinity, and just because it varies slightly in different societies does not mean that the scholar, the hunter, and the soldier are all different genders or a spectrum of different genders. Jesus Christ is the standard of true masculinity as He sacrificed of Himself for His bride. He leads, makes hard decisions, and subdues all His enemies. Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of His disciples was not taking an effeminate role but being truly masculine in leading His people to serve after Him. 

Often it is alleged that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, or issues of transgenderism. However, Jesus when challenged to address divorce in Matthew 19 actually quotes Genesis. In doing so Jesus affirms the age-old definition of sex/gender and marriage, leaving no room for any perversions. Jesus says, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 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’? (Matthew 19:4b-5). If one holds to the orthodox position that Jesus is, in fact, God in the flesh, the second person of the Trinity, who died for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead on the third day— they are forced to believe Jesus not once took the opportunity to affirm the “unjustly suffering” LGBTQ+ individuals in second temple Jewish society. Instead, Jesus took this opportunity to perpetuate the classical understanding of marriage and sexuality in correcting the unjust practice of no-fault divorce. This despite statements like the following from scholars of this perspective quoted by the author, “On the one hand, if God loves human beings, then God cannot abide the pain of gender dysphoria. It is not real love to allow such harm to take place…” (Michaelson). Answering this, the article says the following, citing two sources that agree, 

“…the Bible obviously never explicitly references being Transgender, but celebrates people who rebelled against their gender roles. Everyone from Deborah the Judge, to Jacob, to even Paul. The only one explicit condemnation being against eunuchs (in Deuteronomy) which is later revoked in both Isaiah and by Jesus himself in Matthew.” (The article from my classmate)

But the author’s exegesis (extracting meaning from the text) is severely lacking here to a frankly stunning degree. I agree that the Bible does not explicitly mention being transgender, and that is because the whole dichotomy between gender and sex integral to this perspective is entirely absent from the Biblical worldview

Esau was a man, and Jacob was a man. Esau liked hunting, and Jacob liked cooking. Esau was hairy and Jacob didn’t have much body hair. This is hardly proof that Jacob was transgender, or even that he was feminine. These are all completely morally insignificant facts that are not presented in a positive or negative light. Their masculinity was expressed in different ways, each masculine. The Bible mentions Jacob with male pronouns (and every other male in the Bible) consistently. Likewise, Deborah is identified as a woman consistently… Not only that, but she tries desperately to not take the role that she was forced into of leading the forces of the Jews into battle (Judges 4). The book of Judges chronicles a dark time in Israel’s history, and the point of the narrative is that the men are being negligent, disobedient, and cowardly. The point is not that Deborah was a man (or defying her God-given gender or sex). 

To twist the words of Jesus, Paul, and Moses as has been done in this article is truly exegetical gymnastics: one tries desperately to make one’s worldview fit into the biblical text. Deuteronomy 23:1 says that men with damaged genitals cannot enter the temple. The author interprets this to mean be a moral prohibition of eunuchs and therefore gender fluid, transexual, or intersex people. The author then understands this prohibition to be later reversed by Jesus who says “there are eunuchs made such for the Kingdom of Heaven.” The article even goes so far as to say that Paul was effeminate and defying gender roles by being a eunuch of sorts by being celibate. However, this Deuteronomy passage is a law of ceremonial purity, not a moral condemnation of eunuchs. Laws like these pertaining to ceremonial purity pointed forward to Christ and His holiness (Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 8).  In Matthew, Jesus talks about those made eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus speaks of those like Paul, who functioned as eunuchs in that they were celibate because of the dedication they gave to the things of God (1 Corinthians 7). Jesus likewise was celibate, and yet Jesus is presented as thoroughly male. Jesus is the Son of man (Daniel 7), the Son of God, with whom the Father is well pleased (Matthew 3:15). Jesus even now is seated at the right hand of the Father, in a resurrected and glorified male body, (Psalm 110:1-2, Acts 2:32-34, John 20:27). To state that celibacy makes Jesus or Paul effeminate is incoherent, intellectually dishonest, exegetically lazy and deceptive. For those looking to better understand the masculinity and the sexuality of Jesus, I cannot more highly recommend Mere Sexuality by Todd Wilson to explore these issues in greater depth.

The diatribe also addresses some of the so-called “clobber texts,” these are the direct and clear portions of scripture that condemn homosexual practice. First, addressing the topic of the destruction of Sodom. This narrative in Genesis 19 details the destruction of a wicked city by God. In the account, two angels come to the city to confirm the wickedness of the inhabitants. After arriving in the city, the men (ALL of them) surround Lot’s house, where the angels are staying for the night. They demand that Lot bring out his visitors so that they can gang rape them. Lot refuses, and incredibly offers his daughters instead (this is not excused or advocated in the text). Before Lot’s daughters can be harmed, the angels miraculously blind the wicked men. The text says the men literally exhausted themselves trying to find the door to rape Lot’s guests. Ironically, the men Lot fends off from the angels accuse Lot of judging them, but this is neither here nor there. The advocated new interpretation says that the crime of these men is that they were inhospitable. Classically, the sin of Sodom has been understood to be, in fact, sodomy. This traditional view results from a face-value reading of Genesis 19 and requires no special hermeneutical tricks other than letting the Bible say what it says. The contrary interpretation is based on poor exegesis of Matthew 10:12-14. Matthew writes of when Jesus sent His disciples to preach the gospel to the surrounding towns. Jesus says that for those who don’t receive the disciples and their message, it will be “better for Sodom than for those on the day of judgment.” Proponents of this view would read into this text that Jesus is responding with indignation against these cities for their lack of hospitality. The assumption then is that it is the same sin committed by these cities as by Sodom… since Sodom is referred to. Therefore, the sin of the Sodomites wasn’t homosexuality or sodomy, but inhospitality. However, this view is entirely novel to the gospels and completely absent from the text of Genesis 19. The point Jesus is making is found in the immediately following passage in Luke’s account (Luke 10:11-14) of the same sending of the disciples. Luke elaborates on the same event giving more detail than Matthew here. Luke tells of Jesus rebuking the cities that He had preached to and performed miracles for that would not repent (turn from their sin). Jesus says that if other famous cities destroyed in the past, Tyre and Sidon, had heard His preaching and seen His miracles they would have repented… This principle is that of “to whom much is given, much will be required,”(Luke 12:48). Jesus is condemning the cities that reject his disciples because they reject the gospel, a chance that Sodom, Tyre and Sidon were never given… a chance to repent and welcome the King, Jesus. The disciples represent Jesus, and the Jewish cities that rejected Christ and His disciples were given more revelation than Sodom, Tyre and Sidon, therefore their guilt was that much worse. 

Leviticus 20:13 is expressly more difficult for the new progressive perspective. “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them,”(NASB). This is clarified by a previous verse, Leviticus 18:22, “you shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination.”(ESV) This isn’t obscure. There are not a lot of ways to say this more clearly if you were trying to prohibit homosexual practice. While I am not a Hebrew scholar, it is interesting to note that the word for wife and woman is the same in Hebrew, and must be determined by context. So this could be read as, “you may not sleep with a man as you do your wife.” Likewise, the word for man in both verses is the same word translated as husband, the context must determine the meaning. So likewise Leviticus 20:13 could read, “if a husband lies with a male as with his wife…” However, neither passage has to be translated this way to be clear. Both the ESV and NASB English Bibles sufficiently say what the text says without any ambiguity. The author’s interpretive argument is entirely based on the word “mankind” or “male” in Leviticus 20:13 being ambiguous and/or being in reference to temple prostitutes. However, this word means simply male. Context grants clarity, but the NASB translated it as boy 4 times, and male 54 times (this is just the Old Testament). This online study tool helps show this linking to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew interlinear/concordance. The opposing argument here is less than persuasive. 

Another so-called clobber text is Romans 1:18-32, in which Paul writes about those who rebel against God, and many of the external manifestations this rebellion reveals. Paul says unequivocally, God does not believe in atheists. He says that those who rebel against God will be given over to what they have chosen instead of Him to their own destruction. The critics of the traditional and face-value reading of this text interpret this as either pedophilia, sex slave and master relationships, or cult prostitutes… seemingly anything to get away from what it says. Punt (one of the cited sources) comments “The anti-homosexual use of Romans 1 generally harbours a thinly vieled [sic] heteronormativity…” The hinge that Punt refers to in his work is that of the word nature. He argues that this is speaking of heterosexual people committing homosexual acts contrary to their nature. However, the nature of man that Jesus references in His dealings with marriage (see above) is that of the created order, it is Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, man and woman created in God’s image. Man and woman covenanted in marriage for a one-flesh union, a unique bond of spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual complementarianism that is integral to the created order. So I may be assuming a “heterosexual-normality” to this passage… But so does Paul, and so does Jesus, and so does all of Christendom for 2 millennia. To dismiss this appeal to the created order is not to dismiss my opinion or even that of the historic Christian church, but that of the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 19.

Punt objects to the identification of homosexual acts as sin because it is given as an effect of judgment rather than a cause of judgment in this text. This is an astute observation, 

“In Romans 1, however, homoeroticism is already the consequence of sin, the failure to acknowledge God as God.” (Punt) I agree with Punt here. But this does not negate what has already been established in divine revelation through the Law. This is exactly Paul’s argument, judgment is terrible because not only are you punished, but you keep sinning and you keep sinning in deeper perversion and wickedness. God removes His gracious restraint from you and lets you plunge into the mire that you love instead of Him. This is how the wrath of God is revealed even now against the wicked: God loosening His restraining hand and giving them what they have desired. We serve the creature rather than the creator. Ultimately, the creature we would rather serve is ourselves or at least a god that looks very much like us and likes all the same things we do because it is a god of our own invention. We do this because we hate God (v.30), and instead love self (2 Timothy 3:2) which is a sick inversion of God’s law to love God and love our Neighbor.

The author’s diatribe ultimately does the same thing those “silly” Christians are reportedly doing. The writer accuses Christians of cherry-picking what they want from the story of Sodom, and yet, then in an alternative interpretation of Romans 1:18-32, and Leviticus 20:13 chooses to condemn cult prostitutes, prostitution, and pedophilia. My question is, by what standard are these rejected? This is the logical fallacy of special pleading, where these prohibitions of the Christian ethics are accepted but those against homosexuality are rejected… and why? If one has rejected what Jesus says about marriage, rejects Moses, rejects Paul in favor of one’s own preferences they lose all standing to call anything wrong. The pedophile, the rapist, the incestuous, the animal abuser, or the polygamous can only be different, not wrong. When one loses their objective standard (God’s Word and God’s standard) then they are left with no actual standard other than preference. One may be left with some form of religion, some form of moralism that is extracted from their preferences, but whatever that is, it isn’t Christianity. One is left with another religion altogether, with a different god who is not the true God, and with a savior who offers no salvation.

Briefly, I would recognize that gender dysphoria, same-sex attraction, and intersex people are a reality. I am not an expert on these issues nor do I suffer from these experiences, so I do not want to speak from ignorance. These must be addressed with compassion in a case by case pastoral setting. A broad brush does not work here. But there is a big difference between these people, and the larger transgender movement and the LGBTQ+ community. According to one expert, the percentage of the population that is intersex is 0.018% (Sax). This would amount to an approximate number of intersex people in the US of 58,896. However, according to recent estimates, there are 1.4 million transgender people in the US (Hoffman). This number is quite disproportionate if intersex is to be taken as God’s allowance of transgenderism; The discrepancy is because we are living in a Romans 1 world in a society under the judgment of God. We have been given over to a reprobate mind to do what ought not to be done, and we are collectively rebelling against our creator to serve ourselves instead of the triune God.

Often, one will say that because someone is born gay or born transgender, it is something to be celebrated not suppressed. The author agrees, “So when God fearfully and wonderfully made us, He also made us Trans and/or Gay. It is not a deviation from God’s plan and creation but a fulfillment of it.” However, the message of Christianity is that we live in a broken world because of sin (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:22) while we await the Lord who will make all things new in His consummation and return (Revelation 21:5). We are born inherently under God’s wrath, and born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). This means that we all are born with certain proclivities towards one sin or another, but just because one man is naturally promiscuous, or someone is a liar by nature, or someone is drawn to murder or rape does not excuse these behaviors. The message of Christianity is that Jesus gives new life, and He redeems those who were once homosexuals, drunks, gossips, murderers, and idolaters (1 Corinthians 6:11). He washes His people and makes them new so that their identity is not found in those sins (even though the temptation may remain) but their identity is found in their unity with the risen Savior (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4).

The contrite and broken people suffering from these issues are not condemned by Jesus. They are welcomed and called to new life in Him. Jesus says to the contrite and humble (Psalm 51:17), “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) But the movement of LGBTQ+ is not contrite and humble. In the pride marches and abhorrence to all who dare disagree, the movement is a defiant fist raised towards heaven. The LGBTQ+ movement represents reveling in the things that we know are against God’s law and defying their creator (Romans 1:32). Those who justify homosexuality or any other sin, are not the poor in spirit that Christ speaks of (Matthew 5:3). Paying Jesus lip service is not enough. Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and yet do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Just trying hard to be loving towards a neighbor or God will not save you. Loving God and neighbor is God’s law and, “for by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin,” (Romans 3:20). So even trying to be loving will not save you anymore than trying to be a good person will save you. Jesus is the only one who saves. 

The message of the gospel is that Jesus is King. The Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father after being raised from the dead. Jesus died for the sins of the world, and commands men and women to repent of their sin and trust in Him (Mark 1:15, Acts 17:30-31) because there will come a day when He will return and judge the living and the dead. Regardless of your sexuality, your gender identity, or however you have lived your life, you will stand before His throne and give an account for your life (Hebrews 4:13). Only those who are found in Christ will be declared righteous and forgiven. The rest will bear the just wrath of God against their sin forever, (John 3:36). Paul writes of the gospel saying, 

23 …“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith… so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)

Jesus Christ in His death on the cross satisfied the wrath of God that the sinner deserves, and He offers free redemption for those who repent and trust in Him. If you have read this paper then you have been given much, and much will be required of you… In the name of Jesus Christ, I implore you to repent of your sin and turn to the living God. 

Inviting further dialogue, 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Asher Clark

Addendum

4/28/20

A common response to the the above examination of the sin of Sodom by progressives is an appeal to Ezekiel 16:48-49 (ESV). As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” The argument then is made that the sin of Sodom was that of pride, indulgence, and lack of concern for the poor (not sodomy). However, the Bible is really helpful when we read it, and if one reads the next verse, they see “They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it,”(v. 50). It doesn’t take an attentive eye to recognize the parallel to the passages in Leviticus discussed above. Sodomy, is specifically identified as an “abomination” by God’s law. And let us remember the scene of Genesis 19, where ALL the men of the city gather out front of Lots house to gang rape his guests. Is the argument that this was a one time thing? When one reads the text, it is clear that Lot is scared for the angels if they were to stay in the town square as they suggested. I think it is a reasonable assessment that this was a regular accurance in Sodom. My basis for this is previously in Genesis Sodom is described as wicked (13:13), and the Lord had already declared his judgment upon the city, (18:20).

However this argument is not required for the sin of Sodom to still be understood as Sodomy. The New Testament writers also understand the sin of this city to primarily be sexual immorality. When Jude is discussing the sons of God and their immorality, he compares them to Sodom. “…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire [see Romans 1], serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)

When these verses are considered in the context of the previously covered passages, the universal witness of the Scriptures is that the primary sin of Sodom was sexual immorality, the act of Sodomy (an abomination before the Lord). This sin was them compounded by their pride and haughty attitude(Ezekiel 16) as they turned up their nose in a pseudo-righteous indignation towards all who would oppose them (Genesis 19:9), just like today.

Works Cited and Referenced

Hoffman, Jan. “Estimate of U.S. Transgender Population Doubles to 1.4 Million Adults.” 

The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 June 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/health/transgender-population.html.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments: ESV

Crossway, 2011.

The Holy Bible: Updated New American Standard Bible: Containing the Old Testament 

and the New Testament. Zondervan Pub. House, 1999.

Little, Becky. “Male, Female or Both? Reactions to Intersex People Through History.” History

Aug. 2019, http://www.history.com/news/intersex-people-casimir-pulaski-thomasine-hall.

Michaelson, Jay. “What Does the Bible Teach About Transgender People?” The Daily Beast, The 

Daily Beast Company, 4 Mar. 2018, 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-transgender-people.

Punt, Jeremy. “Romans 1:18-32 amidst the Gay-Debate: Interpretative Options.” University of 

Stellenbosch, NTSSA Congress, 2007, pp. 1–18.

Sax, Leonard. “How Common Is Intersex? a Response to Anne Fausto-Sterling.” Journal of Sex 

Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2002, 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12476264.

Walker, Andrew T. “Gender and Sexuality.” The Gospel Coalition

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/gender-and-sexuality/.

Wilson, Todd A. Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Human Sexuality

Zondervan, 2017.

Recommended Reading

Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

James White, The Same Sex Controversy

Todd Wilson, Mere Sexuality

Doug Wilson, Father Hunger

Categories
Research Papers

The Authority of the Bible: “Thus Saith the Lord”

When discussing the Bible, the question of authority is a natural and important one. As all matters of ethics, morality, and law, the ultimate question is one of authority; who says? In the rebellion of humanity against the one true God, the redefinition of right and wrong is rampant. People disobey the commands of the one true God, regardless of whether or not they claim to be Christians. Therefore, the issue of authority will always be at the root of discussion on the Bible. One must confess someone to be Lord, it may be Jesus Christ, it may be Caesar, and it may be self in the form of reason or feelings. But you and Jesus cannot both hold the throne. Warfield agrees, “The authority which cannot assure of a hard fact is soon not trusted for a hard doctrine. Sooner or later, in greater or lesser degree, the authority of the Bible in doctrine and life is replaced by or subordinated to that of reason, or of feelings, or of the Christian consciousness…” (181). Humanity, like the days of old, would supplant the one true God, substituting themselves as in the garden of Eden, or substituting a god that looks just like them as with the golden calf. When the golden calf is god or the individual is their own god, suddenly there is no authority to question one’s actions or demand obedience, other than one’s desires. However, just as in the days of old, the Christian answer to the golden calf worshipper and self-idolater alike is, “thus saith the Lord”. The one true God speaks in the Bible, and thus it carries all authority of the triune God speaking in all things.

The authority of the Bible is defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) as follows, 

The Bible speaks authoritatively and so deserves to be believed and obeyed. This authority does not depend on the testimony of any man or church but completely on God, its author, who is himself truth. The Bible therefore is to be accepted as true, because it is the word of God. (1.4)

Thus, when the Bible speaks, it is to be regarded as the very word of God in whatever it says. It is to be believed and obeyed. This authority is based on the one true God who is speaking and commanding, not the human authors, not the preacher, or a book, but God himself. Warfield agrees, “God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them,” (299). The Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura is of relevance here, that is that the Bible is the only final authority in matters of faith and practice. This is again because the Scriptures are definitionally from God, and thus the Protestant confesses that God through the Scriptures is the sole authority to which they bend the knee. “As a final authority, Scripture, being God’s Word, stands alone. Yet, wise people read the Scriptures not alone but with others, including those who have gone on before us,” (Van Dixhoorn, 5). 

This does not mean that Protestants or Christians do not observe other God-ordained authorities, or consult other sources for purposes of interpretation. But at the bottom line, the Scriptures carry more weight of authority than Pope, Caesar, President, Church Fathers, Psychologists, Sociologists, emotion, culture, and preference. The Christian weights every claim to knowledge, every directive of morality, and every authoritative decree against the Scriptures as consulting God himself. Macarthur agrees, 

The only One who has the right to speak to His people authoritatively is God. The Father called sinners out of the darkness of sin and fitted them for the work of His kingdom. Christ purchased the church with His own blood. He is the head of the church, and the head of the church mediates His authority through His Word. And through the Word, the Holy Spirit does His work of sanctification in every believer’s life. The Trinity speaks to the church, accomplishing the work of redemption through the Scriptures, (43).

This argument would be pointless if it could not be defended with the very words of Scripture itself, the final authority being put forth. However, the Biblical justification for this view is plentiful, with the treatment of Scripture by the prophets, the apostles, and Christ himself. The most relevant of such passages is the following quote from the apostle Paul, “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,” (ESV, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul here identifies all of Scripture and attributes it all to the “breathing out” of God. This is the doctrine of inspiration. This is what the New Testament authors and Jesus Himself believed. If all Scripture proceeds from God and God has all authority, then the Scriptures as God’s word have all authority as God speaking. Further, as the Lord Jesus said, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me, ” (Matthew 28:18). And the Apostle Peter testifies, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified,” (Acts 2:36). So ultimately the question of the authority of the Scripture boils down to the authority of God, and further to the authority of the Lord Jesus who has been declared to be Lord of all and seated at the Father’s right hand. Therefore, all attacks on the authority of the Bible are not at the root one of an intellectual nature, or of a lack of understanding, but a rebellion against the Lordship of Christ. Rejection of Biblical authority is seeking to unseat the risen Jesus on the throne, claiming the seat of King of Kings as one’s own.

Common objections to the Bible’s authority are many. 

“I don’t need a book of rules to tell me how to be a good person.” “The Bible is just an old book written by people.” “The Bible has errors in it and is full of contradictions.” “The Bible has changed over time.” “The God of the Bible is evil.” 

These objections can be heard from the common man on the street, the angsty fifteen-year-old, and the Princeton graduate and apostate New Testament scholar alike. But ultimately, each of these has at the root a rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus. The man who thinks he doesn’t need a book of rules to be a good person believes his unwritten book of rules is better. He believes his standard of righteousness to be superior to that of the Lord God. He has placed himself in the place of judge and is attempting to supplant Christ as Lord. Thus, at the root of these objections is rebellion. Sproul agrees, “If we do not believe it, we have sinned. It is not so much an intellectual issue as a moral issue. If the Lord God Almighty opens His mouth, there is no room for debate and no excuse for unbelief. It is the word of God, and everyone is duty bound to submit to its authority,” (13). To presume to place oneself in the seat of judge over the Scriptures is blasphemy. The WCF elaborates, 

The Holy Spirit speaking in the Bible is the supreme judge of all religious controversies, all decisions of religious councils, all the opinions of ancient writers, all human teachings, and every private opinion. We are to be satisfied with the judgment of him who is and can be the only judge. (1.10)

God alone is the judge of all the earth who will do right. God alone is the infallible source of truth with all authority over creation. God alone is truth within His very being. Christ alone is Lord, and there is no other. The eternal Word has spoken through the word of God and demands fealty. Thus, let God be counted as true even if every man is a liar.

The authority of the Bible, therefore, when rightly understood, is as universal as the authority of the Triune God who has spoken through it. Just as there is not an inch of our universe that the Lord does not claim as His own, there is no hearer of God’s word who can rebut, “…that’s not my king.” For, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1). Those in rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus Christ may attempt to claim ignorance or immunity from Him, with no success. For to whom much is given much will be required, (Luke 12:48). There is none without knowledge of God through general revelation (Palm 19, Romans 1). But for those in rebellion who have been granted special revelation in the Scriptures and the preaching of the gospel, their condemnation will be that much more severe, (Luke 10:14).

For the Christian, Jesus Christ is both their “Lord and God,” (John 20:28), and thus His Word likewise commands obedience. The Bible for the Christian is to be regarded just as if Jesus Himself is speaking to us, “exhorting, [and] rebuking, with all authority”, (Titus 2:15). The difference between the response of the Christian and the non-Christian to God’s word is that the Christian has the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God revealing the truths of His word to them. As the WCF states, “…However, we [Christians] are completely persuaded and assured of the infallible truth and divine authority of the Bible only by the inward working of the Holy Spirit, who testifies by and with the word in our hearts,” (1.5). And the Apostle John testifies, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13)

When the authority of the triune God in the Scriptures is considered in our day, there are several hot-topic issues that show a blatant substitute of authority. The issues of the LGBT agenda and abortion are examples of topics that Christians throughout history have had a stance with humble subjection to the plain and authoritative Word of God. In recent history, however, many Christians and non-Christians have deemed the Scriptures to have no weight in speaking to these issues, or worse, they have twisted the word of God to fit their cultural presuppositions. To do this is to place words in Gods’ mouth which He has not said, placing one in the place of a false prophet (Ezekiel 22:28), and bearing God’s name in vain, (Exodus 20:7). This is a fearful place to be, and the Christian church must repent of these things, placing recognition in only the authority of God, as found in the Scriptures.

God has spoken. The true and triune God has declared His law and His gospel in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible as God’s Word carries therefore, all authority in all things. All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to the Lord Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is destroying all His enemies, (Psalm 110:1). Regardless of whether one is a Christian or not, the charge of God is to “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way” (Psalm 2:12). All pseudo Lords, false Christs, golden calves and Caesars who claim an authority contrary to the Bible as God’s Word will eventually be crushed. For their striving is vain, (Psalm 2:2). The only appropriate answer to all questions of morality, ethics, and truth, is “thus saith the Lord.” And when the Lord has spoken, He demands obedience.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments. Crossway, 

2011.

MacArthur, John. Final Word: Why We Need the Bible. Reformation Trust, A Division of 

Ligonier Ministries, 2019.

SPROUL, R. C. TRUTHS WE CONFESS. LIGONIER MINISTRIES, 2019.

Van Dixhoorn, Chad. “Sola Scriptura.” Tabletalk, Apr. 2020, pp. 4–6.

Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge, and Cornelius Van Til. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Benediction Classics, 2017.

Westminster Divines. “The Westminster Confession of Faith.” Evangelical Presbyterian Church

2010, 

epc.org/wp-content/uploads/Files/1-Who-We-Are/B-About-The-EPC/WCF-ModernEnglish.pdf.

Categories
Essays

A Brief Examination of Some Canonization Issues

One of the commonly disputed books of the Protestant Canon is that of Hebrews. Hebrews is a fantastic book, serving as an explanation of the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It argues forcefully for the sufficiency of Christ’s work once for all, contrasted to the Mosiac Law and Old Covenant. Hebrews shows the great superiority of the New Covenant administration, mediated by the Lord Jesus Himself, who lives forever to make intercession for His saints. Hebrews quotes and interprets Old Testament Scriptures extensively showing the fulfillment of all in Christ. Hebrews reveals that the Old Covenant administration would soon be ended, which was fulfilled by the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in seventy AD. 

The challenges to the inclusion of this book are essentially based on either the small objection to doctrine, based on a particular interpretation of the so-called “apostasy passages” in chapters six and ten. The argument from some is that elsewhere the New Testament is clear that the Christian cannot lose his salvation, Hebrews appears to contradict this doctrine, and therefore it should be excluded. However, these passages have been interpreted other ways as well, speaking of New Covenant members who were non-elect and therefore never saved but still were members of the visible church. Alternatively, it has been taken to be speaking of Christian Jews that returned to Old Covenant administration and left the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ. Macarthur points out that the language used in chapter six is elsewhere not used at all to speak of salvation, and should not be understood to be salvific. (p. 1835) Sproul et al agree that this is not an obstacle, pointing to three possible interpretations of this text convincingly. (p. 2205)

The larger complaint against this book is the fact that it is anonymous. One is unable to conclusively attribute this book to an Apostle. Historically, Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Luke, and many others have been attributed authorship, but in reality, we cannot know for sure, (Elwell and Yarborough 330). However, often this book was found in the collections of Paul’s writings (Wegner 140), and at times uses similar language as Paul (Elwell and Yarbrough 330). Despite the uncertainty, the content of this book stands as clearly Apostolic. Unger even goes so far as to say, “No book contains grander truth, nor attests itself as being more divinely inspired,”(p. 583, emphasis mine.) The book has historically been treated as authoritative by such figures as Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian (Wegner 140). Hebrews would have to be early in date, between 40-60 AD since it does not reference the fall of Jerusalem, and was referenced by Clement (written in 95). Wegner notes that Hebrews first received acceptance in the Eastern Church. Later at the Council of Carthage, the Western Church formally recognized it as canonical in 419 AD (144-145). 

The great wealth of material in this book which better illuminates the nature of the New Covenant, the high Christological view, and widespread acceptance of this book in the early church testify to the fact that Hebrews should be accepted as canonical and used by Christians for doctrine, reproof, and exhortation.

The validity of Hebrews when contrasted to the Didache, a New Testament era Apocryphal work, is obvious. The Didache is often dated as early as 100 AD (Wegner 137). It is a collection of teachings attributed to the Apostles. It contrasts the way of life and the way of death. Significantly, the Didache quotes to or illudes to many of Christ’s teachings, especially those of His sermon on the mount found in Matthew chapter five. The anonymous author provides instruction for the church in matters like the eucharist, baptism and general church order, complete with written prayers for the blessing of the elements and thanksgiving after the meal. Many of these instructions are actually quite helpful. One could argue for its canonization based on the fact that the author was very clearly familiar with the teachings of the Lord Jesus. The author occasionally elaborates on the Lord’s teachings, like his statement, “do not abort a child or kill babies,” (Owles 4).

The Didache certainly provides a helpful look into the early church’s practice. If the teachings of discerning a false prophet were followed today, many a charlatan would be out of a job. However, the Didache does not claim or evidence divine inspiration or change any major doctrine of Christian theology. 

Historically, men such as Clement, and Origen have attributed this work to be canonical (Wegner 162). However, Owles notes that this book was lost for centuries and was only recovered in the 1800s (p. 1). Considering this, and that only two of the historical fathers considered the Didache authoritative, it can be safely considered to be apocryphal due to low attestation in the early church, lack of positive Apostolic authorship, and lack of widespread use in the church. It can and should be used as a historical witness to early church practice and shows the impact of the Lord Jesus’ teachings on the church.

Works Cited

Elwell, Walter A Ph.d. Encountering the New Testament – a Historical and Theological Survey. Baker 

Publishing Group, 2013.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary: Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time

Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.

Owles, R. Joseph, translator. The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. CreateSpace, 2014.

Sproul, R. C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Reformation Trust, 2015.

Unger, Merrill Frederick. The Hodder Bible Handbook. Hodder and Stoughton, 1984.

Wegner, Paul D. Journey from Texts to Translations – the Origin and Development of the Bible. Baker 

Publishing Group, 2004.

Categories
Essays

The Problematic Theology of Hinds Feet on High Places

The classic allegorical novel Hinds Feet on High Places presents a tale of salvation. The book follows Much-Afraid, the protagonist of the story, in her journey to follow after the “Shepherd” in an allegory of the Christian life. The author enchants the reader with powerful imagery, and emotionally-compelling challenges the heroine overcomes throughout her work. However, underlying this pleasing tale is the theology of the author. Despite the entertaining allegory, the theology of Hinds Feet on High Places merits a significant examination of the Christian reader, as it seems to be at odds with reformed protestant soteriology. The portrayal of the deep things of Christian thought seems to be either careless or malicious, leading to problematic or inaccurate portrayals of some crucial aspects of the historic, protestant Christian faith. Especially for the reformed and evangelical Christian, the theology being advanced by the author is of significant concern.

Though everyone is a theologian, the question is whether they will be a good theologian and have right theology. Since orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, Christian beliefs will always be on display through the Christian because they will act out of what they believe. Subtle teaching of false doctrine or negligent and inadequate teaching of orthodox theology cannot be tolerated because of the effects on the saints, both in thought and action. The defamation of the timeless doctrines of Christendom must not be allowed.

The most significant area of theological difficulty that Hurnard portrays is that of soteriology, the theology of salvation. This precious doctrine of Christianity has been a source of controversy for virtually the entire history of the faith. Especially since the Reformation in the sixteenth century, it has been a source of great contention. Protestants affirm the biblical truth of the five Solas; that is, the five “alones” in soteriology. Protestants confess that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, as told in the Scriptures alone. 

Central to soteriology is the concepts of regeneration (new life) and justification (the basis for the sinner’s forgiveness before God). Berkhof comments on the new life of regeneration, 

The only adequate view is that of the Church of all ages, that the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause of regeneration. This means that the Holy Spirit works directly on the heart of man and changes its spiritual condition. There is no co-operation of the sinner in this work whatsoever. It is the work of the Holy Spirit directly and exclusively. (400)

And further on justification, “Justification is a judicial act of God, in which he declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner,” (436). These precious doctrines are literally bound to the crux of Christian soteriology, without which the preaching of the gospel would be impossible. When Jesus taught on regeneration, he said, “…Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Christian Standard Bible, John 3:3) Without the new life provided by the Spirit of God, sinners would have no ability to have faith in Christ and his work. On justification, David rejoices in God’s work, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Psalm 32:1). Without the justification of the sinner, all would be condemned without hope of anything but judgment. Berkhof agrees, “The person, then, who is justified is not counted a sinner but is counted righteous, and is thus able to stand before God’s judgment seat where sinners can only stumble and fall,” (352).

However, these doctrines are obscure at best in Hurnard’s portrayal. In the beginning of the story, Much-Afraid (the story’s protagonist) initiates her own regeneration. She, unhappy with her life’s circumstances laments to the Shepherd (the Christ figure of the novel) “‘Oh, if only I could escape from this Valley of Humiliation altogether and go to the High Places, completely out of reach of all the Fearings and my other relatives’ …[To which the Shepherd answered her,] ‘I have waited a long time to hear you make that suggestion, Much-Afraid’…” (Hurnard, 7) This is subtle, but surely cannot be identified as anything but Pelagianism or at best Semi-Pelagianism. 

Pelagianism can be described as an ancient heresy, teaching that man is able in their own volition to bring about the new life of regeneration. Berkhof explains, 

“According to the Pelagian conception regeneration is solely an act of the human will, and is practically identified with self-reformation. With some slight differences, this is the view of modern liberal theology. A modification of this view is the Semi-Pelagian and Arminian, who regard it as, at least in part, an act of man, co-operating with divine influences applied through the truth. This is the synergistic view of regeneration.” (400)

Thus, Hurnard is effectively teaching that Much-Afraid, exercising her will, began the process of her own salvation. Jesus, powerless to do so on his own, is relegated to literally waiting for Much-Afraid to suggest Christ save her. The Biblical Christ is an effective savior, of whom Matthew writes, “…he shall save his people from their sins.” (King James Bible, Matthew 1:21, emphasis mine.) But the Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian Christ is one who is irreducibly impotent, one who is unable to affect the salvation of his people without their participation. This teaching in Hurnard’s work is seen with even greater clarity later at the scene of the regeneration of Much-Afraid. 

The protagonist had reached the end of her journey only to find out she needed to die. She had to offer up as a sacrifice the human love within her, which had been placed there somehow, by none other than the Shepherd himself. In this disorienting and surprising scene, Hurnard writes, “She knelt there knowing neither despair nor hope. She knew now without a shadow that there would be no Angel to call from heaven to say that the sacrifice need not be made, and this knowledge caused her neither dread nor shrinking,” (108, emphasis mine). Amazingly, the imagery from Abrahams’s sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) is used, with a twist. In the Genesis portrayal of Abraham and his son, a substitute is offered instead of the boy at the command of the Lord at the last moment. This text beautifully illustrates the substitution of Christ for the sinner on the Cross bearing the wrath of God that is owed to them. Of this truth the Apostle Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree,” (Christian Standard Bible, Galatians 3:13). The Apostle Peter agrees, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God,” (1 Peter 3:18). And Christ himself proclaims that he came, “to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).

The beautiful truth of the gospel of Jesus is that Christ took the sinner’s place so that they no longer bear God’s wrath. It is finished, and the debt is paid. Astoundingly, this is seemingly absent from Hurnard’s work. Instead, the sinner Much-Afraid seems to either offer her own sacrificial atonement or be helped by Jesus’ atonement to then do her own. After the sacrifice, in which Much-Afraid literally cries out for the Shepherd to help her, with no seen response, (he is the priest who performs the sacrifice but she doesn’t know), Hurnard writes, “At last, the offering had been made and there was nothing left to be done. When the priest had unbound her she leaned forward over the ashes on the altar and said with complete thanksgiving ‘It is finished’,” (110). The implication of this portrayal is a doctrine of soteriology more in line with the heresy of Pelagianism than historical orthodox Christianity. Much-Afraid is then celebrated as effectively her own savior, paying the price for her own salvation, with Jesus being relegated to an unnecessary assistant. Christianity, however, proclaims that Christ has once for all paid the price for his people in his death, independent of the sinner. Calvin writes, “By locating our righteousness in Christ’s obedience, do we not declare that we are righteous because Christ’s obedience has been assigned to us and received as payment, as if it were our own?” (360).

Theology matters. What one believes about God will be displayed in their lives. For the Christian, there are not many equally valid ways to view the truth of the gospel. Christianity as a worldview is based on objective truth. While Christians can differ on non-essentials, in a differing of opinion at least one person must be wrong. But confessions in the central aspects of the faith, none more essential than how God justifies the wicked through the work of Christ, there must be clarity and unanimity. Hurnard teaches in her novel a doctrine of salvation that merits significant reflection. Upon examination, one can argue quite persuasively that she is teaching a form of Pelagiansm rather than the historic Protestant faith. While one cannot assume the motives of the author, they can make the decision whether their church should be utilizing this work for the edification of the saints or recommending this work. As Paul says, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things,” (Philippians 4:8). It seems that this work does not pass this qualifier, and is, therefore, better not used in efforts to benefit the saints. 

Works Cited

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1939.

Calvin, Jean, and Robert White. Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014.

The Holy Bible: Christian Standard Version. Holman Bible Publishers, 2018.

Hurnard, Hannah. Hinds’ Feet on High Places. Wilder Publications, 2010.

Categories
Essays

Postmodern Philosophy: Compromise in Western Christianity

“…What is truth?” (ESV, John 19:38b). When face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ, this is what Pontius Pilate asked. Today, this question echoes down the halls of seminaries, schools, churches, and para-church ministries. In the twenty-first century, the Western church has in many ways emulated their spiritual forefathers, the nation of Israel. They have mixed with the pagan philosophies and idolatrous nations around them until the result is something indistinguishable from Christianity. 

Postmodernism as a philosophical system rejects all forms of the metanarrative. Kelly and Dew comment, “A metanarrative is an overarching story or worldview, a story that claims to describe the main elements of reality in one big story,” (8). Instead, Postmodernism opts for individualized narratives, and diversity of thought. Truth is relegated to subjective and relativistic understandings. To answer Pilate’s question, the Postmodernist would state that truth is what Pilate determines it is, or what Rome determines it is. Peace is found only if there is no conflict and no metanarrative to encroach on the pluralistic norm. Multitudes of diverse narratives and opinions are valued, if none of those claim any form of superiority to any other narrative. If one’s worldview is kept between their ears, and is nonthreatening, it is accepted. These ideas are incompatible with historic, orthodox Christianity. The Church must continue in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus, emulating the uncompromising, dogmatic, exclusive, absolutism of the Savior. A failure to do so is to risk leaving an entire generation of Christians to die in the wilderness of compromise, as Israel did, and leave the children to clean up our mess. 

As a philosophical system, Postmodernism is firmly committed to a pluralistic worldview. A metanarrative, or overarching universal claim to truth explaining our world, is strictly forbidden. As Woodard notes, “Lyotard [the father of Postmodernism] famously defines the postmodern as ‘incredulity towards metanarratives,’ where metanarratives are understood as totalising stories about history and the goals of the human race that ground and legitimise knowledges and cultural practises [sic].” 

This is because the postmodern worldview sees such claims to an absolute universal truth as oppressive. Such is dismissed as simply an attempt at seizing power. This is made more complicated still by the dismissal of the ability to even trust language. Truth is relegated to the subjective and the relative: to the view of the individual, and the society as a whole. What is valued by Postmodernism is not which claim is true, but the number of claims being made.

A perfect contemporary example is the “coexist” bumper stickers. These virtue-signaling stickers preach pluralism. It is incredulity towards a metanarrative. The “coexist” mantra is recognizing Jesus as Lord, right alongside Caesar, Buddha, Mohammed, and everyone else. How dare the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth say that “Unless you believe I am he, you will die in your sins…” (John 8:24). This ruffles the postmodern feathers, and if there is an unpardonable sin of postmodernism it is to deny the pluralistic norm via a confession of a metanarrative. 

Historic Christianity is incompatible with Postmodernism’s view of the metanarrative because Christianity is objectively true. By definition Christianity is a metanarrative. It is a worldview. Christianity makes claims of historic proportions that have universal implications for humanity. Christianity is exclusive by nature and commands a response from all men. Christianity tells stories of the creation of the world, the fall of humanity into sin, and God’s plan of redemption for mankind in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. Christianity does not stop with claims of historical events but presents the future destiny of all men in either eternal condemnation or eternal life and resurrection. 

As the Lord Jesus said, “…I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6). Jesus presents no other method of salvation and acknowledges no other way to be reconciled to the one true God. This exclusive and offensive nature of Christianity brings much criticism from the culture of today, but to subtract any part of Christianity’s metanarrative leaves one with something that is definitionally no longer Christian. 

Relativism is defined as morality and truth that is determined by the society or tribe in question. Gowans comments, 

The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of persons.

Clearly, this attitude is seen in contemporary culture. One of the ways it is seen most clearly and with most relevance is within the view of religious pluralism. In a national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from 2008, among 2,905 adults, 65% of surveyed Americans (who were part of an established religion) said that many religions lead to eternal life. This is a startling but not surprising statistic. The Emerging Church movement is a postmodern rejection of historic Christianity in favor of a pluralistic and relativistic pseudo-Christian faith. The Emerging Church, firmly grounded in postmodern thought, refuses to be firmly grounded in much else. Their criticism of Christianity is both towards its message and its methods. Duncan comments,

Thus, liberalism said that the Gospel won’t work unless the message is changed. Modern evangelicalism (and not just in its “seeker-sensitive” and postmodern permutations) has often said that the Gospel won’t work unless our methods are changed. But those committed to an “ordinary means” approach to church life and ministry say the Gospel works, and God has given us both the method and the message.

Because of the precommitment to relativism, the methods and message of Christianity must change to agree with the sensibilities of the twenty-first century postmoderns. 

Speaking of the distinguishing characteristics of the Emerging Church, the Ogbomolo Journal of Theology says, “…Acceptance of relativistic view of truth. Relativism embraces a pluralistic understanding of truth as a way out of traditional dogmatic quagmire. It appears the movement is devoid of doctrinal dogmatism, moral certitude, and absolutism, denying constantly the value of correspondence in the theory of truth,” (Adegbola 80).

The documentary American Gospel: Christ Crucified details liberal Christianity and the Emerging Church. In this film leaders and theologians such as Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Tony Jones, John Williamson, and Adam Narloch each dismiss the exclusivity of Jesus of Nazareth as the exclusive, historical savior of the world (Kimber).

The Lord Jesus then is demoted from the way to a way, from offering life eternal to just one path to life eternal, from dying for the sins of the world to dying for nothing. If the Jesus being preached is simply a good teacher or is simply one of many ways up the mountain, he is not the Lord of the Scriptures, nor the Christ of authentic Christianity. Therefore, the conclusion can be drawn that the relativism of Postmodernism and the Postmodern ECM is incompatible with historic orthodox Christianity. 

When the natural conclusions of relativism are followed by liberal denominations, very soon the ethical implications are evident. The Presbtyerian Church United States of America is a large mainline protestant Christian denomination that has long since been liberalized. The online preamble to the PCUSA’s confession of faith states,  “Even though we share these common beliefs, Presbyterians understand that God alone is lord of the conscience, and it is up to each individual to understand what these principles mean in his or her life,” (“Theology”). PCUSA theology echoes a clear subjectivism, noted in Postmodern thought.

On the issues of Abortion and Homosexuality (the sacraments of postmodern America), the PCUSA says,

When an individual woman faces the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy, the issue is intensely personal, and may manifest itself in ways that do not reflect public rhetoric, or do not fit neatly into medical, legal, or policy guidelines. Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. Human choices should not be made in a moral vacuum, but must be based on Scripture, faith, and Christian ethics. For any choice, we are accountable to God; however, even when we err, God offers to forgive us. (“Abortion”)

While other portions of the denomination’s statement on this issue do leave less room to flip-flop, especially on late-term and elective abortions, this statement advocates a blatant subjectivism, with an underlined relativism which is fundamental to postmodern thought. The relativism of this statement is that it is made in the context of the twenty-first century United States, where daily three thousand babies are murdered by abortion (“How”). This is a fact that many Americans have seemingly become so numb to that the number does not feel real unless compared with something like the tragedy of September eleventh. 

On Homosexuality, the PCUSA takes a much harder stance, showing the influence of the relativism of postmodern thought in this section in their statement of faith,

On Celebrating the Gifts of People of Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in the Life of the Church: Apologizes for the church’s previous unwelcoming stance on LGBTQ parishioners, celebrates LGBTQ church pioneers, and states the church will welcome, lift up, and fight for the human rights of all people created in the eyes of God. (“Sexuality”)

And later in the conclusion, 

 “…Honoring the historic principles of freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture, and mutual forbearance. Permission is granted, but practices [of homosexual marriage] are not to be required.”

Again, the PCUSA appeals to individuals having the absolute autonomy to choose what they would before God. This is absolute subjectivism which only stands against any who have the gall to contradict this metanarrative of celebration and acceptance of perversion. These positions appear common today among liberal, progressive Christians, and opposed to the historic positions of the Church for two millennia. As Wilson notes, “Christians’ views on sexuality go back nearly two millennia and have been embodied in the lives of ordinary believers the world over,” (37). But in the name of a new metanarrative, relativism, and subjectivism (the unholy trinity), the golden calf of this world has been substituted for the biblical Christ. Playing the role of Demas, who loved this world more than the things of God (2 Timothy 4:10), the PCUSA and the denominations of the same opinions have forsaken their Lord to serve gods who are not gods.

The third central tenet of postmodern thought is subjectivism. Subjectivism is related to relativism. Both systems reject objective truth, but relativism argues for culturally determined truth and morality. Subjectivism asserts a personal and subjective view as truth. “That is just their truth,” is a popular subjectivist assertion. Subjectivism is a stealthy assailant of contemporary Christianity, seen sometimes even in Conservative Evangelicalism. Commenting on subjectivism that is central to Postmodernism, Veith says, “The intellect is replaced by the will. Reason is replaced by emotion…” (58). A common manifestation of this parasitical adversary is seen when Christians make decisions against the clear Word of God in the Scriptures, in favor of something revealed to them through prayer. Phrases like, “God has just given me a peace about this,” “I just feel like God is okay with this,” and “For me, this is what God said after I prayed about it,” are all possible indicators of a subjectivist worldview adopted by a Christian. This leaves no room for confrontation or rebuke because the prophetic voice of God in His word through elders, pastors, or fellow saints cannot overcome the subjective experience of the individual. Forke agrees, 

…we are rapidly moving in the direction of a world devoid of the concept of [objective] truth, which will create consternation for the prophetic office, an office dedicated to the proclamation of truth. I further hope to alleviate that consternation by pointing pastors especially to the power of truth to overwhelm even that barrier. (156)

And further, 

During this phase, the prophet of God (i.e., pastors) might expect a voice in the market place as long as he is careful not to make any exclusive claims on truth. It has become common to hear even true prophets of God preface their comments with the qualification, ‘I believe’…as if reference to our personal belief made room for everyone else’s personal belief on equal footing. By saying this, prophets may have found a place at the table in the past, but it will not last. (157)

The effect of this silence of the prophet, the denigration of God’s objective word, and the exaltation of the individual is that the church today is left as Israel in the day of the judges, where, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 17:6).

Two of the most obvious areas of Christianity that have been damaged by this system of thought are that of sexual ethics and the rejection of the objective truth of God’s Word. An example is found on the United Methodist Church website in the FAQ section: “While the church has official statements regarding homosexuality, all members can disagree with the church’s positions and can advocate for change in policy,” (“What”). The author laments the official position of the church (at time of writing one that is biblical and consistent with historic Christianity,) and actually encourages the insubordination and revolt of individual members based on their personal feelings. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America agrees, 

In our Christian freedom, we therefore seek responsible actions that serve others and do so with humility and deep respect for the conscience-bound beliefs of others. We understand that, in this discernment about ethics and church practice, faithful people can and will come to different conclusions about the meaning of Scripture and about what constitutes responsible action. We further believe that this church, on the basis of “the bound conscience,” will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world. (“Human” 19)

Arguably, another form of subjectivism seen in the contemporary church is allowing “Christian freedom” in areas that are not historically understood as nonessentials. Having a stance allowing Christian freedom to drink with temperance or to abstain is an example of a nonessential; allowing members to pursue sexuality that is directly inconsistent with the Scriptures is an example of compromise due to subjectivism. Denominations like the ELCA and UMC arguably are actively encouraging subjective convictions in the area of sexual ethics and perpetuating the problem. This has been a process that for many has caught Christendom off guard in the many manifestations of it seen today.

The antithesis of truth, in terms of human actions, is not falsehood. In fact, quite the opposite holds. As long as we can speak of falsehood, there must be an opposing truth to define it. The enemy of the prophet today is not falsehood but ‘untruth’. We have been ‘untruthed’. Asleep too long in our ivory channels we have awakened to find a strange new world, where the majority of citizens no longer function with truth as a category of their minds. (Forke 158)

Subjectivism is direct defiance against the Lord Jesus who said, “for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth,” (John 18:37). It is defiance that offers no truth to set free the captives of sin and death. 

If the Church is to succeed in her mission to baptize and disciple all nations to obey King Jesus, she must faithfully follow the example of Christ the Lord in all of His offensive consistency. She must commit herself to the one truth of the gospel and refuse to compromise with the secular philosophies of the day. Postmodernism has infiltrated the visible church and welcomed many goats into the sheep pasture. There is much chaff growing up with the wheat. The postmodern abhorrence of the metanarrative, the pluralistic relativism, and subjective rebellion prove to be in irreconcilable conflict with the teachings of Jesus and historic Christianity. 

For those faithful to their Lord, they must not be ashamed to be different or be afraid of contradicting the secular norm. They must stand on the truth of the gospel and proclaim it in public, in their relationships, and in their workplaces. Jesus is King. All attempts to make Christ only one Lord among many, to relegate him to the Sovereign of the Christian community only, or to declare Him the Ruler of the individual Christ follower only must be firmly and consistently refuted. For many, this will mean being ostracized as a zealot. But the Church must remember that they are viewed as extreme by the world just as their extremist founder. Jesus agrees, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” (John 15:18) and “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33b). For the faithful, bearing the reproach of Christ is infinitely more valuable than the praise of the world because the reward is infinite, a crown that never fades. “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32).

Written by Asher Clark, 4/21/2020

Soli Deo Gloria

Works Cited

“Abortion/Reproductive Choice Issues.” Presbyterian Mission Agency, 23 Feb. 2016, www.presbyterianmission.org/blog/2016/02/23/abortion-issues-2/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

Adegbola, Michael Adeyemi. “Evangelical Critique of the Influence of Postmodern Worldview on Biblical Hermeneutics, Christian Theology and the Emerging Church Movement (ECM).” Ogbomoso Journal of Theology, vol. 20, no. 2, 2015, pp. 67–83. Atla Religion Database with AtlaSerials, https://chilib.moody.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,url,uid&db=rfh&AN=ATLAiFZK171218002938&site=eds-live Accessed 7 March 2020.

Duncan, Ligon. “The Ordinary Means of Growth by Ligon Duncan.” Ligonier Ministries, 1 Oct. 2007, www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/ordinary-means-growth/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

E., Kelly Stewart, and James K. Jr. Dew. Understanding Postmodernism: a Christian Perspective. IVP Academic., 2017.

ESV. English Standard Version. The Holy Bible. Crossway, 2019.

Forke, Terry. “Offending a Postmodern World: the Prophet Speaks Truth.” Concordia 

Theological Quarterly, vol. 80, no. 1-2, 1 Jan. 2016, pp. 155–164. Accessed 9 April 2020.

Gowans, Chris, “Moral Relativism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), www.plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/entries/moral-relativism/>. Accessed 30 March 2020.

“How Many Daily Abortions in the U.S.?” Love Will End Abortion, lovewillendabortion.com/how-many-daily-abortions-in-the-u-s/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

“Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” ELCA.org, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, 2009, 

download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/SexualitySS.pdf?_ga=2.115298370.435814058.1586469263-69730073.1586469263. Accessed 9 April 2020.

Kimber, Brandon, director. American Gospel: Christ Crucified. Transition Studios, 2020.

Pew Research Center. “Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Lead to Eternal Life.” Pew 

Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, 31 Dec. 2019, www.pewforum.org/2008/12/18/many-americans-say-other-faiths-can-lead-to-eternal-life/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

“Sexuality and Same-Gender Relationships.” Presbyterian Mission Agency, www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-believe/sexuality-and-same-gender-relationships/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

“Theology.” Presbyterian Mission Agency, www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-believe/theology/. Accessed 30 March 2020.

Veith, Gene Edward. Postmodern Times: a Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and 

Culture. Crossway Books, 1994. 

“What Is the Church’s Position on Homosexuality?” The United Methodist Church, 24 Sept. 

2019, 

www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-the-churchs-position-on-homosexuality. Accessed 9 April 2020.

Wilson, Todd A. Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Human Sexuality

Zondervan, 2017.

Woodard, Ashley. “Jean-François Lyotard.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN  

2161-0002, www.iep.utm.edu/lyotard/. Accessed 25 March 2020.

Categories
Sermons

Christ and Him Crucified

In honor of Good Friday, I decided to post a sermon I wrote in November, originally delivered to the overnight guests at Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago Illinois,

Soli Deo Gloria

A king was betrayed by one of his closest friends. He was sold for the price of a slave; he was given over to wicked men who sought his death. Three courts tried this man, each found him guilty though he had done no wrong. He was beaten bloody. His beard was ripped from his face. He was whipped until his organs were visible through the strips of flesh torn from his back. He was mocked, and stripped of his clothes, humiliated and forced to walk before the mobs naked. He was beaten to the point where blood loss and infection would have claimed his life if his tormentors relented. His tormentors, however, did not relent. They twisted together thorns into the form of a crown, and pushed it down onto his scalp, forcing the thorns over his head, until blood dripped down into his eyes, making it hard for him to see. 

They forced him to carry the instrument of his death. He trudged through the streets until he collapsed under the weight of the cross. They held him down and forced large iron spikes through his hands and feet, to pin him to the stake. They constructed a sign naming him as the King and gambled for his clothes as he hung on the cross. As his mother watched in horror and helplessness, they ridiculed him and joked at the mangled body hanging on the tree. This cruel invention required that for every breath, the victim must pull himself up to allow his chest to expand enough to breathe. The victim would pull his tattered back against the splintered rough wood, and push up against the nails driven through his feet, and pull with the nail-pierced hands for every breath. Typically this torturous death took days. This King, the Lord Jesus, died in 6 hours. He cried out in victory and he laid down his life. 

This horrid and brutal picture is not one that is pleasant to observe. Yet it is one we must understand. We must understand the work God has done; We must understand the offer that God extends, even to us as enemies. John 3:16 says that God loved the world, SO MUCH, that he sent his Son. That whoever believes in him may not die but have eternal life. Romans 5:8 tells us that God shows his love in that he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus, while we were still sinners, while we were enemies of God, to die on our behalf. You who hear me, are a sinner. We all have broken God’s law, we have rebelled against our creator, and apart from Christ, you stand as an enemy of God. You stand as a rebel, rightly deserving of his wrath. The scriptures speak of the wrath of God in the imagery of a cup of wine. The wine which the wicked will drink of for eternity in the torment of hell. But the incredible news of the gospel is that King Jesus died for sinners. The enemies of God can be forgiven and declared innocent. They can die to their old life and be made new, given a new life with God that lasts forever. 

Point 1: Jesus Was Found Guilty so that We Can Be Found Innocent.

  1. The Trial of Pilate, Herod, and the Synagogue.

We will look first at the trial of Christ, starting in Mark 14:53,

The gospel accounts tell us how, after Christ’s betrayal and arrest, he was taken to the house of the high priest, the religious leader of the Jewish people, and examined. They found him guilty, though he had done no wrong. We see this in Mark 14:53, 

And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands. (KJV)

According to the law of God in Deuteronomy, a charge needed to be established on two or more witnesses. The Pharisees had determined that Jesus must die, and they had committed to this because his claims to deity. Several times by now, they had attempted to kill him. So now by the cover of night, they arrested him and brought him to the high priest’s house to hold a trial, which is a complete mockery. They hire false witnesses, but even these cannot agree on the charges they make towards Christ. Jesus is silent before them and does not defend himself. They ask if Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, and Jesus answers that he is. In fact, he says, I AM. This “I AM” is the personal name of God given in the OT, YHWH, which Jesus is claiming here. This is an explicit claim to deity. 

The priests hear this and accuse him of blasphemy. Now it is worth noting that if what Jesus just said is false, then it is blasphemy. But it is not false. Jesus is God. As John says in John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word(Jesus), and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus has demonstrated his power as God, and the Pharisees are more concerned about keeping their status than obeying the God they profess to serve. They charge him falsely, and they declare him to be guilty though he is innocent. They declare Jesus to be guilty, though he is innocent. As such, he is treated as though he is guilty. He is beaten, he is dragged before the Roman governor to be put to death. Pilate the governor also tries him. We read of this in John 18:37,

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. (KJV)

So Pilate is the Roman governor over this region, which Israel is a part of. He is the highest earthly authority in the area. Pilate would have to approve of the execution the Pharisees are desiring. Pilate, however, says he finds no fault in him. He declares him innocent, though at the pressure of the people and the religious leaders, he also treats him as guilty. Notice this other character, Barabas. Apparently, the Romans and the Jews had some sort of arrangement where someone on death row would be released on their holiday of the Passover. Pilate, who doesn’t want to execute Jesus, poses a question to the Jews. “Do you want me to release Jesus, or Barabas?” Barabas was a robber, and scholars comment on this word to say that he is likely a revolutionary, a rebel, and maybe a murderer or an assassin. He is a bad dude. He deserves to be on death row. Yet the Jewish leaders are so rabbid with hate for Christ that they would rather see Jesus die, and a murderer set free, than to see justice. Jesus is treated as though guilty, and Barabas, is treated as though innocent. Remember this, it is important. 

Pilate sends Jesus to stand before Herod, the King of the region of Galilee, where Jesus is from, as seen in Luke’s gospel account. Apparently he is hoping to be free of having to make this decision. Luke tells us that Herod and Pilate both found no fault in Christ.

They found nothing in him deserving of condemnation. He was innocent. Yet he is treated as guilty. He is sent back from Herod to Pilate. Pilate has the conversation with Jesus we already read in John 18. The charge the Pharisees give to Pilate is that Jesus has claimed to be a king, as Pilate would not care about the charge of blasphemy they have brought before the high priest. Jesus does not deny that he is a king. Still, he is clear his kingdom is not one of violence and warfare, with which Pilate is worried. It is a spiritual kingdom. But the Pharisees threatened Pilate that if he released Jesus (who claimed to be a king), he is not a friend of Caesar. This political pressure proves too much for the governor. He brings Jesus before them, the King of the Jews and says, 

“… “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” His disciple Judas had sold him into the hands of the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews, his own people. The Jewish leaders brought him to the Romans, and collectively they declared him who was innocent to be guilty. They treated him as such, delivering him up to die the death of a criminal.

  1. The Fulfillment of the Scriptures 

Why did this happen? Was this an accident? Something the Lord Jesus did not foresee? Was it merely a chance that put him at odds with the religious elite and caused him to be condemned? 

No.

It was the eternal plan of the Triune God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit planned and ordained all of this, from eternity past to redeem the people of God. 

Throughout the Scriptures are prophecies in which the all-knowing God shows us a glimpse of his plan, which he would undoubtedly bring to pass.

The Prophet Isaiah says the following in chapter 53 verse 7-10

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; [though] he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (KJV)

Christ was convicted unjustly according to the Scriptures. He suffered to fulfill the perfect trustworthiness of God’s word and his plans.

  1. The Justification of Believers

Now friends, here comes the crux of this teaching. If you forget everything else I say, remember this. Jesus was convicted unjustly. He was treated as though he was guilty, even though he was innocent. And this happened so that those who trust in him may receive the opposite. As Barabbas, they may be treated as innocent, though they are guilty. Those who repent of their sin and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ – though they are guilty, are treated as though they are innocent. 

One day every one of us will stand before the righteous judge of all the earth, and those that have placed their faith in Christ by God’s kindness, will be declared innocent – although they are guilty. Then those declared as innocent, are treated by God as though they are righteous, having the perfect life of the Lord Jesus Christ, credited to them. 

To illustrate this, think of a bank account, one that is $3 Million “in the red.” 

It is negative. Not only do you not have any money, you owe 3 million dollars to the bank before you would even be able to say, “I have no money.” Then someone puts 6 million dollars in the account. You are no longer in the red, and you no longer have simply no money or no debt. You have 3 million dollars to your name. That is the picture here. But how can this happen?

Proverbs 17:15 explains, 

“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are [an] abomination to the LORD.” 

So how can God justify, (or declare as innocent those who are wicked, you and I)? How can he do that if those who do clear the guilty are disgusting and vile to Him?? 

Romans 3:22-26 answers these questions.

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

God can be BOTH just and justifier, meaning he can be good, fair, upholding his justice, and declare innocent the guilty – because Jesus is a propitiation, this is a long word used in seminaries and not one we think with often, but its meaning is quite simple. Propitiation means the satisfaction of justice resulting from a crime. I have a friend back home who was going to sell me his car. Unfortunately, one day, as he was driving home from work, he dropped something on the floor, and as we reached over to get it, the driver in front of him slammed on the breaks. My friend crashed into the bumper; unfortunately the other driver was driving a very nice, brand new expensive SUV. My friend’s little, used Saturn was totaled. But following this incident, my friend who didn’t have car insurance, had to agree with this other driver a sum of money (which to my understanding was quite large) to satisfy the offense that my friend had done in hitting his bumper. He had to pay a propitiation. He had to satisfy the standard of justice following his offense. 

Jesus being declared guilty and treated as guilty though he was innocent satisfied God’s wrath. We, as sinners, deserve the wrath of God. But for those who turn to Christ, there is no more wrath. There’s none at all! The just anger God displays towards sin is satisfied in Jesus! 

 Instead, for the Christian, when God looks to them, they are declared to be innocent, though they are guilty. 

Thus God shows his righteousness. He is both just – and the justifier of the wicked. Jesus was declared guilty and treated as a criminal. The Christian is declared innocent and treated as innocent. 

It is this beautiful reality with which the church has sung for centuries,

“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow!”

Point 2: Jesus Was Crucified, That We May Die In Him

Let us turn back to John 19, picking up in verse 16,

Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS…..

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. …After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Jesus was crucified. He died. Following his unjust trial, he was treated as a criminal and killed in the way reserved for the most horrendous criminals. He himself drank of the bitter wine of the wrath of God on the cross. I described this process briefly already. 

The Persians invented this cruel and horrible execution in 300 BC. And yet we see prophesied in Psalm 22:16-18 the exact verbiage of the crucifixion, describing Christ’s death. 

“For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” 

God foretold through the Psalms 1000 years before Christ that he would be crucified, 700 years before this method of execution was invented. He died just according to the scriptures, as God said, and as God had planned. We see this as it says Christ gave up the ghost or gave up his Spirit. This term is significant because Christ died in about 6 hours, while this execution would usually take days. It would drag on so long that the soldiers would break the legs of the condemned so they could no longer push themselves up to breathe, and they would suffocate. Jesus said earlier in the gospels that nobody could take his life from him, but that he would lay down his life, which we see here. He gives up his Spirit and dies. 

As horrid as this death is, this great suffering of Jesus, as he was treated as though guilty, we must remember what is happening. Isaiah 53:3-4, 10 tells us the following,

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Verse 10 – It pleased the Lord to CRUSH him. 

 Why? 

It pleased the LORD to crush him because he is bearing the sin of the world. My sin. He is suffering as the wicked deserve so that I can be declared as righteous and treated as innocent. Christ bore our griefs, he was smitten of God, he was wounded for our sin, and only by his stripes may we be healed. He died. Jesus, the unmade maker, the creator of the heavens, and the earth. The eternal Son of God. The second person of the Holy Trinity took upon himself the wrath of God and died. Skeptics like to call this “divine child abuse,” which shows me that they don’t understand what has happened at all. Christ chose to come. God the Son and God the Father planned for Christ to come and offer his life for sinners. He is not some helpless victim with no say in this. He willingly submitted to the plan of God out of love for his people. He died for them. He died in my place. In your place Christian. You who would repent and believe in him, in your place. He calls those who would follow him to die to themselves and follow him. 

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said the following,

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. “

And Matthew 10:18 says, 

“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

Do you consider yourself a follower of Jesus? Hear me, the words here are powerful. Christ is not offering you your “best life now” and a Ferrari, he says, “Come and die. And if you aren’t willing, then don’t come.”

Jesus died that we may in him die too. Look back on your life, if you claim Christ, is there a time in your life you can point to and say, “That man is dead.” Or are you the same person you have always been…

Is there a difference? I am not a perfect man, but when I look back on my life and on my years of wickedness and sin before Christ, I am disgusted. That man is worthy of death. But I am not that man anymore. He is dead. Those who follow Christ must be willing to die to themselves. They must be willing to not be who they are anymore. They must be willing to give up their desires and yield to Christ as Lord. 

Paul the Apostle, a follower of Jesus and biblical author says it like this in Galatians 2:20,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:”

Jesus died. He died that we may follow in his death. The wicked and sinful rebel must die. He must perish spiritually now as you repent and turn to Christ, or he must die in the fires of hell for all eternity under the wrath of God for sin. If you claim to be a Christian, is your life “Christ’s life?” 

Is that man who you were, dead?

Christ says, come to him and die. The “old man” must be replaced with the new man, and the Christian must die to self and live for God. That means your life cannot be about you, but God. Everything you do must be about Christ. 

The Lord Jesus Christ is God. He always has been, and always will be. As such He did not stay dead after he was crucified. Jesus was in the grave for three days, and then resurrected by the power of God. 

Conclusion:

Christ was found guilty, though he was innocent. The religious authorities, the secular government, and God the Father, the King of the Universe, each condemned Him as guilty. He was condemned that sinners may be found innocent though they are guilty. Those who repent and turn to the Lord Jesus are declared righteous, and hidden in Christ, spared from all the wrath of God they deserve. 

Christ died that we may die too. He calls his followers to pick up their cross and follow him. We die to self in no longer living our lives for ourselves but living for God. Our old man is crucified with Christ.

Christian, I challenge you to examine yourself. Where do you see the claws of the “old man,” who you used to be, trying to gain a foothold into your life? What part of yourself must you recognize as contrary to the Lord, and nail to the Cross of Christ? 

Is it a sexual sin? Do you claim to be a Christian while sleeping with whoever you want? Are you commiting acts of homosexuality contrary to the design for which God made you? Are you using women as an object to be consumed instead of enjoying sex in the context of marrital fidelity as designed by God? Do you claim to love God while watching porn, that he hates? 

Are you hateful? Are you conducting yourself with anger and hate towards others, refusing to forgive them while at the same time demanding that God forgive you?

Are you a thief? Do you convince yourself that you deserve to have things that God has not given you; do you take from others things which have been given to them?

Are you a slave to substance? Are you controlled by drugs or alcohol instead of by the Holy Spirit of God?

Let these things be crucified with Christ. That man is dead. 

To you who are not a Christian. Know this, God says you have enough evidence to know He exists. He says you don’t have an excuse to deny Him. You are standing before the just ruler of the heavens and the earth as a rebel, as a sinner who has broken His law. You are guilty. But Jesus, the second person of the triune God, came to earth. He was tried under Pilate and found guilty and sentenced to death. He was crucified and in everything fulfilled the scriptures. He died the death not that he deserved, but that sinners like you and me deserved. He was raised from the dead and vindicated as the Son of God. He now reigns as Lord of all at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He commands men to repent, and believe the gospel. 

He calls you now. He calls you to repent. He commands you to turn from your sin. He commands you to come die, die to yourself, and be born again with the new life that is only available in Christ. 

 Apart from him, if you continue in the path you are on, you will stand before the just and righteous ruler of the heavens and the earth as a lawbreaker. Apart from being found in Christ and forgiven based on His satisfaction of God’s wrath, you will be found guilty. Apart from Christ on the day of judgment, you will be found guilty and you will be treated as guilty. You will stand under the wrath of God for eternity in hell. Turn and repent. Place your trust in Christ to be forgiven of your sins. Believe in him, and be born again. 

 Jesus suffered the wrath of the Holy God Almighty. And Friend Jesus doesn’t just give you a blank slate. He clothes you in the righteousness that he earned. Jesus doesn’t just forgive you and then tell you to do your best and be good from now on. He credits to the account of the sinner with his righteousness. In Christ, God looks to you and sees the righteousness, the good works, and the perfect life of Jesus covering you. In Christ, you aren’t just forgiven; you are forgiven and declared not simply innocent but righteous. And you are treated as though you were righteous. In Christ, you are adopted and called Gods Son by his grace.

Repent friend. Turn to him now while he can be found. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

Heb. 13:20-21 – Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

November 19, 2019

Categories
Essays

Biblical Human Sexuality

By Asher Clark – 04/06/20

Christian convictions on sexuality are essential because faithfulness is essential. The Church is salt and light, as “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion…and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”(2 Corinthians 10:5). The Lord Jesus commanded His followers to teach the nations to obey all He had taught (Matthew 28:18-20). These principles are not exclusive to the realm of sexuality, but faithfulness defends what is attacked.

Integral to the image of God described in Genesis 1:26-28 is sex. Wilson comments, “The Bible says having sexed bodies is essential to our identity…” (68). The human race was made for community as a reflection of the Triune God-head. Biblical marriage was created, as Wilson notes, to image fidelity, exclusivity, one-flesh unity, permanence, and complementary nature (Chapter 4). These realities spectacularly point to our Lord and His marriage to the Church. He is faithful, the bride compliments Him as a help-mate suitable, the relationship is exclusive, the Church is saved through unity to Christ in His death and resurrection, and this covenant is permanent and unalterable. 

Jesus defines marriage just as Genesis does in Matthew 19. Jesus says marriage is between a man and a woman, it is for life, and it is a one-flesh union. This statement leaves one with no room for homosexuality, transgenderism, masturbation, polygamy, divorce, or any other distortion from God’s design. If one would reject what He says, so be it. Jesus changes nothing that was in place from the beginning, rather He affirms it.

For Christians, Paul states clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 that those who live in unrepentant sexual sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. There is no room for unrepentant sexual sin any more than there is for unrepentant murder, gossip, or thievery. The Christian cannot say “my body, my choice” on these issues, because they’re definitionally not their own. Jesus has purchased the saints with His own blood, and the body of the Christian is “for the Lord” in all areas of life. The Christian, whether previously a murderer, an adulterer, or a homosexual, is no longer identified by these sins. He is washed in the blood of Jesus and called to live as holy. 

The Lord Jesus is a perfect example of the truth and mercy these issues require. However, mercy does not affirm someone heading to hell; truth does not serve as a baseball bat to bludgeon the penitent. The same-sex attracted Christian is to be treated differently based on their repentance or lack thereof. The bruised reed must not be broken, but the prideful sinner must not be allowed to self justify. Jesus taught that sin begins in the heart, lust brings guilt of adultery. Hatred brings the condemnation of murder. The condemnation of the law of God is a necessary prerequisite to the cleansing grace of Christ. The sinner of any kind must, “Continue repenting of all sin and sinful desires and continue trusting in Christ alone for [their] salvation.” (Moore).

Works Referenced and Cited

Hill, Wesley. “Is Being Gay Sanctifiable?” Spiritual Friendship, 26 Feb. 2014, spiritualfriendship.org/2014/02/26/is-being-gay-sanctifiable/.

Holy Bible: English Standard Version (ESV). Crossway Books, 2011.

Moore, Jared. “Is Being Gay Sanctifiable? A Response to Wesley Hill.” The Aquila Report, 11 Mar. 2014, www.theaquilareport.com/is-being-gay-sanctifiable/.

Nordling, Cherith Fee. “The Human Person in the Christian Story.” The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology, edited by Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Trier, University Press, 2007, pp. 65–78.

Rigney, Joe. “C.S. Lewis and the Role of the Physical Body in Prayer.” Crossway Articles, 23 Apr. 2018, www.crossway.org/articles/cs-lewis-and-the-role-of-the-physical-body-in-prayer/.

Wilson, Todd A. Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Human Sexuality

Zondervan, 2017.