If you ever took a class on expository preaching, you would have heard the line about the preacher who had written a great sermon and now needed a scripture to go along with it. Unfortunately, that scenario gets played out too often. The Scriptures become something to use instead of the Word of God to heed.
The Bible gets especially abused by professing Christians who seek scriptural support for their agenda, and one of the most egregious abuses concerns their utilization of Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
“Christian” apologists for homosexuals and transgenders emphasize the “no male and female” part of that verse. Their claim is that since Christians “are all one in Christ Jesus,” God has demolished the categories of male and female. Sexual categories are irrelevant, so if a person is born female and believes she is really male, what the person feels is more important than what her biology reveals.
Such cherry-picking of Scripture to validate one’s cause reveals naiveté at best and dishonesty at worst. First, the Scriptures affirm the categories of male and female. God created humanity in his image and defined them as male and female (Genesis 1:27). As David writes, from our mothers’ wombs we “are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). Those who refuse to submit to the sex in which they were created are telling God that his work is flawed and they are going to fix it. The creature “corrects” the Creator.
Second, Scripture condemns attempts to invalidate one’s manhood and womanhood. This is why homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testament. Romans 1:26-28 leaves little doubt: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:26–28, ESV).
Third, Galatians 3:28 is not speaking to gender but to status. In Christ Jesus there is nothing that distinguishes one believer from another as far as those things we use for status. A Jew is not superior to a Greek, a free man is not superior to a slave, and a male is not superior to a female. In Christ we all have equal standing. That does not change our ethnicity, social position, or sexuality, but we cannot use our ethnicity, social position, or sexuality to claim a superior position over others.
In Luke 11:28 Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (ESV). We are to conform our will to God’s will, and we do that only as we submit to his Word. God, however, has expressly warned against misusing his Word:
“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2, ESV).
“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32, ESV).
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19, ESV).
Frankly, people who use Galatians 3:28 to affirm what Scripture condemns are guilty of dishonesty. They read into the text what they want it to say, not what the author of the text intended. Forsaking legitimate exegesis, they are guilty of eisegesis of the worst sort. And God will not hold them guiltless, for they have dared to reduce the holy Scriptures to the status of clay, fashioning it after the likeness of their fallenness, and have subsumed God’s will to their own. Claiming that the Bible says what it clearly does not say merely compounds one’s guilt for choosing to condone what God has condemned.
That we live in strange times is akin to saying the sun is bright. Conservative Americans have seen their country’s moral universe turned inside out, especially with the 5-4 edict of the Supreme Court last summer pronouncing same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Not only is same-sex marriage now law, we are seeing that sexual freedom trumps religious freedom. Christian bakers and florists have been targeted by same-sex marriage folk in order to force those Christians to embrace homosexual weddings or face legal retribution. Under threats from the National Football League and big entertainment and big business, the governor of Georgia vetoed a state bill that would have protected ministers from having to perform such weddings. The Wall Street Journal described the bill in this way: “The ‘Free Exercise Protection Act,’ passed earlier this month, allows faith-based organizations to decline services or fire employees over discordant religious beliefs. The bill also aims to protect religious officials from having to perform marriage ceremonies or other services ‘in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion,’ according to the legislation.”
North Carolina’s state legislature passed and its governor signed a law that requires persons to use the restroom of their biological gender. That is hardly radical, is it? The state has come under fire from liberal groups who think that transgender persons should be able to use the rest room of their perceived psychological gender, not biological.
So this is the slide into radical depravity down which western culture is descending and, in truth, should not be unsurprising. The apostle Paul wrote almost two millennia ago: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:24–27).
As sad it is to watch our culture’s collapse into moral degeneracy, not to mention what this will mean for our children and grandchildren, it is beyond sad to watch professing Christians follow the culture. Have breathed the philosophical air of secular education and popular entertainment, many professing Christians, including both younger and older persons, see little, if anything at all, wrong with sexual intimacy (either heterosexual or homosexual) outside of marriage, same-sex unions, or people changing their sexual identification. Others, who are more traditional about such matters, openly and proudly support political candidates who support abortion rights or who boast about their sexual “conquests.”
Why is this? Why do the folk next door who are in church on Sunday follow the popular trends of culture? Many right answers could be offered, but one stands out: the Bible simply is not viewed as authoritative over our lives. It may be “the good Book,” but it is held as a book of general guidelines instead of specific precepts.
It really does not matter how much of the Bible we know, how much we memorize, how many times we read it, or how much we revere it if we do not believe that it is the written Word of God that has authority over our thinking and our actions. Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders of his day could be given to many of our day: “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7–9).
Posted in Church, Faithfulness, gender confusion, Lifestyle, Obedience, Scriptures, Uncategorized | Tagged Christian living, Free Exercise Protection Act, Georgia, Nathan Deal, North Carolina, popular culture |
If ignorance is indeed bliss, then those Americans unaware of this year’s presidential primary are of all people most blessed! One major Democratic candidate could (and probably should) be facing a federal indictment over how top-secret state communications were handled. The other top Democratic candidate is a self-described socialist. Not long ago, he would have been relegated to an asterisk as an inconsequential third-party extremist. This is a different America, indeed.
The leading Republican candidate has boasted of his adulterous “conquests.” He appeared on the cover of “Playboy” with a model wearing only his tuxedo jacket covering her body. His casino in New Jersey was the first in America to open a strip club. He attempted to displace a widow through eminent domain to build a limousine parking lot for his casino. And he has been personally endorsed by the president of Liberty University, the world’s largest evangelical university. These are strange times, indeed.
The almost universal mantra of Christians who support the leading Republican candidate goes something like this, “We’re electing the Commander-in-Chief, not the Pastor-in-Chief.” If one says that often enough, one can use it to cover a multitude of sins. Indeed, Americans are not voting for the nation’s chief pastor and no candidate is perfect, but does that mean that character, virtue, and vice do not matter?
The Democratic primary is down to two contenders. Both are vocal supporters of abortion and same-sex marriage. How can Christians support such candidates? Again, people say, “My candidate believes in other things that are good. Besides, even though I personally don’t agree with abortion or same-sex marriage, I must not impose my Christianity upon other people.”
Here is the question that Christians must answer: Does the lordship of Christ over their lives matter outside the church? Does the lordship of Christ carry over to decisions we make at our voting precinct?
Let’s be clear: the Bible knows nothing about dichotomizing one’s life into realms of “sacred” and “secular.” For the Christian, all of life is sacred. Nothing exists outside the Lordship of Christ. For those who disagree, think deeply about these stark words of Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:21-23).
To the one who protests that Jesus is referring to “religious” things (the ones condemned speak of their prophesying, exorcising demons, and doing miracles in Christ’s name), think about 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If activities as seemingly banal as eating and drinking are to be done to the glory of God, then surely our vote for leaders of our country ought to be done to the glory of God.
What we must do is think deeply about those for whom we vote. The best candidate may not be a Christian, but at least he should be a person of common decency and virtue, a person who has demonstrated a consistency lifestyle and decision-making that does not blatantly contradict scriptural precepts. Is this person honest? Does he exhibit a concern for others? Has he been faithful in his most intimate relationships with others? How does he treat his opposition – with grace or retribution? Does he exhibit, not merely with words but with life, that there is a just and righteous God who rules over us and to whom we are accountable?
This is the question that we need to answer about our decision: Can I justify to God the reason for my vote? Superficial answers won’t do.
In Luke 19 we find Jesus and his disciples nearing Jerusalem. Because his disciples assumed that the kingdom of God was about to appear, Jesus told them a parable, beginning in this way: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” Jesus was pointing to his death and going to heaven, but he would return one day to establish the consummated kingdom of God.
For those who reject the biblical Christ, this is the bottom line: “I will not have him to reign over me.” The bottom line really is whether we retain our autonomy or surrender it to Jesus.
Many mask their rejection of the rule of Christ by claiming they do follow him, but everybody else who follow the Bible are the ones who misunderstand the real Jesus. The real Jesus, they say, is all about love, and that’s the Jesus they follow. This love is one that allows all things, whether it is same-sex marriage or folks changing their gender or women having the right to abort their unborn baby, etc.
The Bible, of course, calls such things “sin,” but these “Christian” rebels claim that the Bible is simply a manmade book and really doesn’t carry any authority.
Amazingly, many of those who refuse to bow to Christ are in the Christian ministry. With academic degrees and ministerial standing, they undermine the very faith that they claim to follow.
One such minister is in a mainline denomination that endorses same-sex marriage and legalized abortion. Without shame he claims: “I think the Bible is wrong about most everything. It is wrong about evolution, slavery, women, and gays. It has no authority on those topics. I think the Bible is wrong about cosmology, history, our future, Jesus, and God. The texts were all written by human beings without any supernatural or special revelation. Yet I preach in a PC(USA) pulpit.” He mocks, “Run! Flee! Escape while you can into the refreshing waters of pure doctrine!”
To those who leave the denomination because it refuses to address such heresy, he taunts: “We will need plenty more break-offs before we finally give up on the oppressive notion of the Authority of Scripture. The Bible contains no truth outside of what we can discover through public means of inquiry. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy the Bible. It is a marvelous human book. I read it and study it with all the critical means at my disposal. In so doing, I will do my part to undermine its Authority which I think is the next important step for religious freedom.”
And so we learn that his issue is the authority of Scripture. This minister enjoys the prospect of a god of his own creation, a god who basically endorses all that he himself approves, a god who is basically a mirror image of what he conceives as good. No holiness. No righteousness. No divine justice. No fear of God.
This minister and countless others discount the Bible because it doesn’t endorse such a view. It presents a holy God who requires perfection in order to dwell in God’s presence. The Bible takes issue with sin, but the Son of God came to earth to satisfy divine justice for those who will submit to Christ. But that’s the thing — this minister, who happens not to believe in the afterlife, refuses to bow.
But bow he shall, as will all of creation: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11 [ESV]).
I realize now that my feelings were so hurt because my pride was so devastated. A proud heart like mine is shocked and offended at an accusation of imperfection. I want to be liked and admired, but instead, my desperate need for a Savior was shamefully exposed.
But the gospel frees me to receive criticism without anger and indignation. In the reflection of God’s holiness, I realize and embrace that I am much more sinful than my accuser can ever think to express. Even if the specific accusations I receive are without merit, when it comes to my deceitful heart, they don’t know the half of it.