Homosexual Practice? The Biblical Answer
For as long as I can remember, Cliff Richard has been a hero of mine and my family. From the time when we had a black and white TV, Cliff’s ‘Peter Pan’ image and music has entertained and inspired me. Cliff is well known to have a simple clear Christian faith, and a lifestyle seemingly untainted and uncorrupted by the amoral values of the entertainment world. This week, his new biography, My Life, My Way, hit the bookshops and also the news headlines.
In the Church of England Newspaper this week, Matt Cresswell tells us, ‘On homosexual relationships [Cliff] writes: “Same-sex marriages are perhaps a modern example of how things have changed. I think the church must come round and see people as they are now.” Gone are the days when we assumed loving relationships would be solely between men and women. In the end people will be “judged for what they are,”
Now some have criticised me for even addressing this subject today – in our series on “Confessing Christ – Contending for the Faith in the Church of England”. We are all sinners – why keep going on about homosexuality. Well in fact we are not. To my knowledge this is the first time in eleven years we have addressed it directly. We have no choice. The issue is being forced upon us. If we remain silent, then the implication is that we endorse this increasingly popular view.
Dr Lisa Norris writes,
“More than ever, this is now our issue which we must address. It is not an anglo-catholic or liberal or emergent church issue - it is a bona fide evangelical issue. The only possible way Cliff could affirm what he says here is that he has not been given — or been willing to receive — critically important information which would not allow him to make such patently false statements. For the historical record, we have always had men in committed, ‘loving’ same-sex relationships! Paul knew all about them - see Robert Gagnon . So Cliff’s attempts to legitimize same sex civil partnerships or marriage on this basis is vain indeed.
We also have had and presently have bisexual folk who engage in ‘loving relationships’ with people of both genders, sometimes sequentially, other times simultaneously. What about them? They claim they are ‘wired’ this way - just like our gays and lesbians do. What about them and their ‘relationships’? For them, the binary model is just as discriminatory as the heterosexual model is to our same-sex-attracted folk.
But of course, as we have always known and sometimes managed to remember, ‘is’ does not mean ‘ought’. There must be another and adequate basis for deciding that previously immoral behaviours and lifestyles are now good, acceptable and holy.
As we explored last Sunday in the first of this series, the battle ground is not human sexuality but Scripture. As we shall see tonight, it is the very gospel that is at stake. The most important question a person can ever ask is this: “How can I be saved?” The answer we give will depend on our view of Scripture.
Is it the Word of God? infallible? Authoritative in all matters of faith and morality? The position of the Church of England is crystal clear. The 39 Articles reflect the historic doctrinal position of the Church of England. Article 20 states:
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation. (Article 20)
Canon A5 of the Church of England amplifies this unambiguously:
“The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. (Canon A5)
“From Cranmer to Hooker, from the 39 Articles to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the authority of scripture is a defining mark of Anglican identity” (Archbishop Henry Orombi)
When the Church of England has been led by priests who did not believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the impact of the Church declined and the morals of the country degenerated.
“In the middle of the eighteenth century the state of the Church of England was far, far worse than it is today. In the mid-1750s on Easter Day in St Paul’s Cathedral there were a total of six people. Six undergraduates were sent down from Oxford for reading the Bible. The celebrated lawyer, Blackstone, early in the reign of George III went out of curiosity from church to church to hear every clergyman of note in London. He says that he did not hear a single discourse that had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero and that it would have been impossible for him to discover from what he heard whether the preacher was a follower of Confucius, Mohammed, or Christ.
Yet over the next century things changed dramatically so that by the middle of the nineteenth century a third of the clergy in the Church of England, it is estimated, were evangelical, the great missionary societies had been founded, the Clapham Sect was achieving great things, and at least three-quarters of the societies that were trying to ameliorate the situation were of Evangelical foundation.”
This Church, Christ Church, was founded by Charles Simeon, one of the leaders of the 19th Century evangelical revival. In a day when evangelicals were ridiculed and liberalism dominated, Christ Church stood for the gospel and while many of the surrounding churches have declined or been closed, the Lord has consistently blessed this Church. We stand whole heartedly with those who affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture within the Church of England and beyond in the wider church.
The 1998 Lambeth
statement on Human Sexuality was a defining statement and watershed for
Resolution 1.10 states:
· in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
· while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
· cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
The position of the Church of England is crystal clear. The problem is some of our leaders have been unwilling to act upon it and discipline those who reject it. Here is a time-line of those Chris Sugden calls the ‘Militant Tendency’ of liberalism who have torn apart the fabric of the Anglican Communion.
1943 Lectionary readings touching upon homosexual practice are declared difficult by ECUSA and removed from the lectionary.
1989 Bishop Jack Spong of Newark openly and knowingly ordains a non-celebate homosexual .
1994 Bishop Spong drafts the Koinonia Statement defining homosexuality as morally neutral and affirming support for the ordination of homosexuals.
1997 ECUSA General Convention defeats a motion to endorse the Kuala Lumpur Statement, which affirmed the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality.
July 1998 Lambeth Conference passes Resolution 1.10 reaffirming the biblical teaching on human sexuality.
Autumn 1998 Synod of Diocese of New Westminster in the Church of Canada votes to endorse the blessing of same sex unions.
2002 Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster votes for the third time to endorse the blessing of same sex unions, this time with the support and encouragement of the bishop. Some evangelical leaders, including Jim Packer and David Short (serving in the largest Anglican church in Canada) walk out and declare themselves out of communion with their Bishop.
23 July 2002 Rowan Williams announced as Archbishop of Canterbury despite having admitted that he had knowing ordained a homosexual man.
20 May 2003 The Bishop of Oxford announces that Jeffrey John, an advocate of gay rights and himself a non-practicing homosexual, will be the next Bishop of Reading.
7 June 2003 Gene Robinson, a practicing gay man is elected as bishop of New Hampshire.
August 2003 General Convention of ECUSA votes to confirm Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford Cathedral tells BBC News,
“The Church of England was being hypocritical. In England we do have gay bishops and gay senior people in the churches but we don't say anything about it because we would rather not, you know, say anything in public. I think the American example is of much more openness and honesty and being sensible and not so hypocritical."
April 2004 retired Bishop Otis Charles ‘marries’ his homosexual partner in Pasadena.
September 2004 The Windsor Report reaffirmed Lambeth Resolution 1:10 and also the authority of Scripture as central to Anglican Common Life. The Windsor Report also called for two moratoria – one on public rites of same-sex blessing, and the other on the election to the episcopate living in a same-sex union.
February 2007 The Anglican Communion Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam reaffirmed Lambeth Resolution 1:10 and called on ECUSA to heal the divisions caused by their unilateral actions. The Primates set a deadline of September for ECUSA to respond.
Summer 2007 Before the Primates deadline had expired, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued invitations to the US Bishops who had consecrated Gene Robinson to attend this year’s Lambeth Conference.
November 2007 The Archbishop of Canterbury, presided at a “secret” Eucharist for lesbian and gay clergy in the Church of England. According to the Times Newspaper,
“The meeting was organised by the Clergy Consultation, a support group for gay clergy, ordinands and Anglican monks and nuns. Secrecy was so tight that a list of names attending was sent to Lambeth Palace with orders that it be shredded as soon as he had read it.”
In a joint statement Dr Richard Turnbull, chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council and Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor of Anglican Mainstream, said:
“Every occasion for listening pastorally to people is to be welcomed. “However, the Holy Communion is a fundamental symbol of fellowship and an expression of our unity in Christ.” To offer this to those in gay partnered relationships went contrary to biblical teaching and to the teaching by the bishops themselves in their document Issues in Human Sexuality… “The bishop as upholder of the Apostolic faith is held by all Anglicans to provide a focus of unity. Since the Archbishop has apparently proceeded with this service, this makes it more likely that he will become a focus of division.”
June 2008 Martin Dudley performs a blessing service at St. Bartholomew's Church, London for two male clergy using wording from the Prayer Book Marriage Service. So far there has been no discipline.
During the last decade, since the historic 1998 Lambeth Conference, the onslaught on the official position of the Anglican church has only grown. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been unwilling or unable to discipline those who have abandoned the Scriptures and reject the doctrinal position of the Church of England. This is no longer a matter of individual opinion. This is the institution changing its official position by stealth. Last month’s Lambeth Conference was structured intentionally to avoid the issue, while liberal Bishops who consecrated Gene Robinson were welcomed, conservatives American Bishops were not invited. That is why some 291 Anglican Archbishops and Bishops, representing the majority of Anglicans worldwide, refused to attend and have formed the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. I understand why they did it and I respect them for it. The Apostle John insists,
“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” (2 John 1:9-11)
The apostle Paul similarly insists:
“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)
To the Romans he insists,
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Romans 16:17-18)
The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming a false gospel, have not only consistently defied the Scriptures but also the official position of the Church of England. Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches were welcomed to Lambeth 2008.
Members of the Church of England Evangelical Council, Anglican Mainstream, Reform and Church Society, as well as representatives of the main Anglican mission agencies, have identified instead with the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. We intend to remain faithful to the Scriptures and 39 Articles and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. That is why we published the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.
What makes such a critical moment in the Church of England is because of attempts now being made to officially endorse and impose views which are in direct conflict with the teaching of Scripture. That is why we have given over the sermons today to examine the biblical material pertaining to homosexuality.
We must first examine what God has said on this subject in Scripture and then work out how we respond to both those who engage in homosexual practice and those who support them.
I want to emphasize that this controversy is not about homophobia – it is about the rejection of the supreme authority of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Church of England. Homosexuality is merely the presenting issue. On this subject the Bible is clear and unambiguous. Lets consider the Biblical framework within which to address this issue.
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Genesis affirms men and women as equal in the sight of God, made by him and for him, in his image, male and female. They were given joint responsibility to steward the earth and multiply. Only through procreation could the earth be filled with human beings created in the image of God. While the Bible has much to say about and on behalf of the single, the widow, the orphan and the eunuch, marriage and procreation is the norm – the means by which this command would be fulfilled.
Genesis 2 elaborates more fully on the complementary roles of male and female in marriage:
“ The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him… 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:18, 24-25)
The function of the two, male and female being ‘united’ and the husband and wife becoming ‘one flesh’ provides the only God ordained relationship for fulfilling sex, the natural means of procreation and the context for raising and nurturing children.
This metaphor is taken up in the New Testament by Paul (Ephesians 5:22-33) where the exclusive commitment of Christ and the church is reflected in human marriage.
2. The Fall
In the Fall, one dimension of the rebellion which led to the breakdown of the harmonious relationship between God and humanity, centers on a conflict between men and women. “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
Simon Vibert points out “The most detailed example of the fallenness of human sexuality is found in Genesis 19. So great was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that Abraham’s pleading in prayer did not have the effect of saving the city but only the one righteous family of Lot.”
“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.” (Genesis 19:4-7)
Townsend observes, “Our word ‘sodomy’ owes its origin to this incident.” (See also Isaiah 1:7-17; Ezekiel 16:49-50; Matthew 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-12; 2 Peter 2:6-10; Jude 7).
Please don’t let anyone tell you that Sodom was wiped out for failing to offer hospitality. Jude tells us quite explicitly:
“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)
True, this act was intended to be one of violence but indicates that homosexual behavior was the norm in the city and led to God’s judgment on them. Vibert notes:
“In English usage, ‘sodomy’ refers to anal intercourse…God judges homosexual sex to be abhorrent and worthy of the severest punishment. The sheer fact that the offer of sex with Lot’s daughters did not satisfy, indicates the level to which the people’s sexual depravity had fallen.”
3. The Law of God
In the Mosaic Law, God reveals his perfect moral law and the behavior required of his people. Leviticus contains what is known as the “Holiness Code” (Leviticus 17-26) – “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). People, places and activities are therefore only holy in obedient relationship with God. Chapter 18 contains a long list of prohibited relationships and practices including:
‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. 22 “ ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. 23 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it.” (Leviticus 18:21-23)
Notice in what is a long list of prohibitions, homosexual practice is listed between pagan child sacrifice and having sex with animals. Two chapters later the penalty for homosexual practice is delineated:
‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:13)
While the ceremonial laws and food restrictions are clearly annulled in the New Testament the moral law is not. “For it doesn’t go into your heart but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean).” (Mark 7:13) As we shall see in a moment, Jesus and the Apostles reinforce the abiding permanence of the moral law of God which reflects his holiness and perfect character. The Law of God is unequivocal in prohibiting homosexual practice and describes this behavior as ‘detestable’.
4. The History of Israel
What are we to make of the friendship between David and Jonathan? After David killed Goliath, we read, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1). The two bound themselves in a formal bond of friendship.
Mark Bonnington and Bob Fyall observe, “Scripture does recognize and value strong same sex friendships – Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy. But there is no evidence that these strongly emotional relationships had anything like a homo-erotic element. David does indeed say of Jonathan, “Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.’ And Saul is furious at the ‘shame’ of Jonathan’s friendship for David (1 Samuel 20:30). However the context makes it plain that the shame is political rather than sexual [Saul says to Jonathan] “As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established.” (1 Samuel 20:31)
The friendship of David and Jonathan was close and affectionate. It was platonic and not sexual. To suggest otherwise is to manipulate the text of Scripture and set one passage against another.
5. The View of Jesus
Some people say Jesus never explicitly mentions homosexuality – suggesting that silence is synonymous with approval. This is very dangerous speculation. Jesus upholds the male-female marriage creation order and lays down stricter standards of sexual morality for his disciples, especially on divorce. Robert Gagnon observes, “Jesus appeal to Gen. 1:27 and 2:24 in his discussion of divorce (Mark 10:1-12) confirms his embrace of an exclusively heterosexual model of monogamy.” He goes on to note that Jesus never abrogated the Torah, the Law of Moses, during his earthly ministry. Indeed Jesus insists,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
“Although Jesus does not explicitly refer to same-sex intercourse… implicit references exist. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus interprets his saying about what defiles a person as follows: “for it is from… the human heart that evil intentions come: sexual immoralities (porneiai)… adulteries… licentiousness… All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” No first-century Jew could have spoken of porneiai (plural) without having in mind the list of forbidden sexual offences in Leviticus 18 and 20 (incest, adultery, same-sex intercourse, bestiality).”
Jesus therefore confirmed and reinforced God’s Word revealed in the Old Testament.
6. The Apostolic Witness
God’s moral law as enshrined in the Mosaic Covenant is reiterated in the Epistles. In Acts 15 the Council of Jerusalem declared that Gentiles must also keep the moral law of Moses and “abstain from food polluted by idols, [and] from sexual immorality...” (Acts 15:20-21). There are three passages in which the Epistles explicitly condemn homosexual practice (Romans 1: 24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:10-11)
Let’s look at each briefly.
6.1 Homosexual Behaviour is Perverted (Romans 1:24-32)
It is important to see the logical progression of Paul’s argument:
· The wrath of God is his sustained holy revulsion at unrighteousness and unholiness - ungodly conduct and moral infidelity (Romans 1:18)
· The truth is ‘plain’. In the revelation manifested in the created world, but has been suppressed. Men and women ‘know’ God but do not glorify him or acknowledge him. (Romans 1:19-20)
· The result of this corrupt and vain thinking is idolatry (Romans 1:21-23)
· The suppression of the knowledge of God leads to the worship of creation (Romans 1:24)
· On three occasions Paul uses the phrase “God gave them over” emphasizing, Vibert observes, “a downward spiral of degradation as God allows us to reap the consequences of our sin.” On each occasion, as God gives people over, religious and cultural disintegration occurs – which is proof “that God is judging our worst sin”
6.1.1. Heterosexual relationships are degraded
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” (Romans 1:24)
The first stage in this ‘giving over’ this degradation is the twisting of natural relationships between men and women.
6.1.2 Open Homosexuality is practiced
“In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:27)
Paul uses two words ‘unnatural’ and ‘indecent’. Both have the connotation of perversion. What does Paul mean by ‘natural’ (phusis) and ‘unnatural’? Here as in 1 Corinthians 11, it is the rejection of the natural order of God’s creation pattern that warrants condemnation. C.E.B. Cranfield writes, “Paul clearly means ‘in accordance with the intention of the Creator’.
Vibert observes, “What is natural is defined by creation, not by culture. In the context of the condemnation on idolatry and the denial of the knowledge of God, the implication is that perverted sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is creature worship, rather than creator honouring.”
Gagnon reinforces this by highlighting the parallels between Romans 1:23 and Genesis 1:26. In both verses, words such as ‘likeness’, ‘image’, ‘human’, ‘birds’, ‘four footed animals’, and ‘reptiles’ occur. Paul assumes that “both idolatry and same-sex intercourse reject God’s created order.” The word ‘nature’ then refers to the material creation and the “bodily design of human beings… It is the misuse of what God has created, and not the passions and desires per se, that are against nature.”
Paul is indicating that this stage is worse than the previous one because it goes beyond the abuse of natural male-female sexuality. The consequences are devastating.
6.1.3 Society suffers cultural and ethical disintegration
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” (Romans 1:28-29)
The total breakdown of society is the third stage of this ever downward spiral. Vibert rightly observes how in our own country we see the devastating effects of this depravity –
· Gender distinctions being abolished
· Gender roles being attacked
· Gender differences being denied
Please note that he is not distinguishing between stable loving faithful ‘natural’ homosexual relations and ‘unnatural’ homosexual promiscuity. This distinction is a modern invention and simply further evidence of a decadent society. No, in Romans 1, Paul is applying the consistent condemnation of all homosexual practice found in Leviticus. Creation transcends culture, and in this case, condemns it.
6.2 Sound Doctrine leads to Holiness (1 Timothy 1:6-11)
“Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:6-11)
In his pastoral letter to Timothy, Paul uses the term arsenokoitai. As always the context should determine interpretation if there is a variety of meanings. The context in this case is verses 8 and 9. Paul explains that God’s moral law found in Leviticus is abiding and universal. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sin, but the fearful judgment of God and the eternal fires of hell (See also Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 where unrepentant homosexual offenders are listed along with other unrepentant sinners who wil be excluded from the new creation).
6.3 How to Inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-20)
As we look at these verses, observe that four times Paul has to ask the question:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (6:9)
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? (6:15)
“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” (6:16)
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 6:19)
Why does Paul say “Do you not know?” Why does he have to ask these rhetorical questions? Because their behaviour or at the very least their attitude toward the behavior of others is inconsistent with their professed faith. They were either ignorant, deceived or inconsistent. Doesn’t that sound remarkably contemporary? As David Prior observes,
“For all their so-called knowledge, the Christians in Corinth has lost sight of the centrality of Jesus Christ, the controlling power of the Holy Spirit and the transforming experience of having been called and saved by God. They had come to boast in their broadmindedness, in their chosen gurus and in their independence of the apostle himself.”
Then as now the need is for clear convictions. Notice.
The Need for Clear Convictions about the Future
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Paul defines ten types of destructive self centred behaviour that, unless repented of, will lead people to hell. It will not do to make light of one to lighten the others.
You will hear people say “well we are all greedy aren’t we…” as if that means homosexual practice can’t be so bad either. If I can be greedy and go to heaven then why can’t they? My question to you is “can you?” Can you be so sure? Can you be so complacent? The text gives no warrant for complacency – just the reverse. The word Paul uses for “greedy” originates from the grappling hook sailors used to hook another ship with and pull it close. Greediness, as a way of life has the idea of grabbing or holding on and not letting go. Are you hooked by any of these practices? Are you addicted to any of them?
If so, then repent, for you have no assurance of eternal life. Paul uses two words to describe homosexual acts. Malakoi (meaning ‘soft ones’) and arsenokoitai (compound of two words for ‘male’ and ‘bed’) – or ‘lying with a male’. The latter clearly reflects closely the language of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in the Greek Septuagint. Jewish Rabbinic texts use these words to describe homosexual intercourse. Paul is therefore not being homophobic but entirely consistent with the plain teaching of Scripture. What is shaping your view of the future? The need for clear convictions about the future.
The Need of Clear Convictions about the Past
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
David Prior says, “Nothing on earth could have produced such a transformation in this motley collection of Christians, to whom he is so deeply devoted…” were it not for the grace of God revealed in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses three metaphors to explain the saving work of Christ. Each verb – ‘washed’, ‘sanctified’ and ‘justified’ - is in the aorist tense meaning ‘once for all’ and each is preceded by the strong adjective ‘but’ – so Paul is saying
But you were washed - meaning they have been cleansed from the defilement of sin.
But you were justified – meaning God has declared us, because of Jesus death in our place, in a right and faithful relationship with him.
But you were sanctified – meaning God has brought them into his Holy family.
Prior paraphrases, “You were like that, but now you have washed yourselves; you were like that, but now you have been given different and special work to do; you were like that, but now it is all a thing of the past and you are the royal sons of a royal king” – so start acting like it! Prior says, “The whole weight of the God the Holy Trinity lies behind that conviction… To have – and to be controlled by – such Christ-centred convictions both about the future and about the past is essential to a healthy body life in the local church and to the individual believers own spiritual health.”
Which leads us to:
The Need for Clear Convictions about the Present
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (6:18-20)
Again, don’t let anyone tell you that all sin is the same. It is not. Sexual sin is of a different order. It is more serious for the very reasons given here. Prior writes, “The theme remains sexual ethics, but Paul moves from aspects of church discipline and the immorality of certain behavior into a masterly presentation of the beauty of sexual holiness. Negative injunctions about sexual practices have their place; warnings about the consequences of disobedience are necessary. But the most attractive aspect of a truly biblical sexuality is its power to provide what Os Guinness has called ‘both the basis and the balance of human love – its height, its depth, its realism and its romanticism.” Let me ask you, do you like your body? Do you ever thank God that he made you the way you are?
In verses 6:13-20, notes Prior, “Paul makes five powerful statements about the body and then concludes with his tour de force: You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (19-20).” Remember, “Paul is talking about our own physical bodies... (Os Guinness) It is our bodies… which are instruments either for evil or for good. It is our bodies that Paul urges us to present to God as a living sacrifice. Obedience or disobedience are expressed in our bodies or they are expressed nowhere. Obedience for the Christian is a body activity. God does not address us purely as minds or emotions or wills, but as people with bodies…” Here are those five statements:
1. The purpose of the body in the Lord (6:13)
“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (6:13).
Your body has a purpose – to glorify God.
2. The resurrection of the body in the Lord (6:14)
“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” (6:14). Your body is going to be resurrected after you die. To eternal life or eternal damnation. It will become immortal but you will still be recognizable. Our bodies are not dispensable or disposable. They are the raw material of a more glorious future in Christ.
3. The interaction of the body with the Lord (6:15-17)
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!... But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (6:15, 17)
Our bodies are literally the limbs of Christ. We are his body on earth. The imagery here is of marriage. Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24. The oneness of married life is an illustration of the oneness between Jesus and his followers. It should therefore be inconceivable that we would profane Jesus through immorality.
4. The habitation of the body by the Lord (6:19)
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (6:19). “Paul’s fourth plea for Christ-centred purity” uses the imagery of the Temple. Our bodies are literally temples of the Holy Spirit. And the fifth image summarises and reinforces the previous four.
5. The redemption of the body by the Lord (6:20)
“You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (6:19-20)
Prior writes, “Paul’s final plea for purity is based on the cost of redeeming our bodies… Before they began to experience the freedom for which Christ had set them free, the Corinthians were in the most servile bondage. They were slaves to themselves, their self-centred desires, self indulgence and bodily passions. Then came a master with the resources to sdet them completely free. He paid the necessary ransom. They had been set free from the futility and of their previous manner of life. Their bodies were no longer like chunks of flash up for sale to the highest bidder in the slave market, or available to a cult prostitute for a fee. They had been bought with a price and they belonged to a new master. His orders now mattered, not their own fancies or foibles. He now intended every physical faculty they had within them to express the glory of God.”
In this passage, “we are urged to learn from the Spirit of God what it means to glorify God in our bodies; not to pander to them, make excuses for them, or be flippant about the many powerful temptations to abuse them. Paul forthrightly commands the Corinthians to flee two sins; immorality (6:18) and idolatry (10:14).” We do not have “to be citizens of Corinth… to discover the practical wisdom of running away from temptation when the odds are stacked too high against” us… Paul’s last word on the subject is far more challenging and positive “glorify God in your body”
To summarise this sweeping overview of the Bible, we can be firm and clear in our convictions. Because on this question the Bible is unambiguous. From Creation, the Fall, the Law of God, The History of Israel, the view of Jesus to the Apostolic witness, homosexual practice is a sin requiring repentance, without which there can be no salvation.
But the good news is – God can forgive. God can heal. God can deliver - through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the good news. Paul writes to former homosexually active Corinthians,
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
This is not something on which bible loving Christians can simply agree to disagree. It is not merely a question of interpretation. The authority of scripture, the nature of the church, the basis of family life, indeed the very gospel and people’s eternal salvation is at stake.
There are simply no Jewish or Christian scriptures or early writings of the Church Fathers which even tolerate homosexual practice, let alone approve of it. And this remains the official position of the Church of England. So if you care about the Church of England, if you regard yourself as a member of the Church of England, then I urge you to endorse the Jerusalem Declaration – for it expresses all that is best and worth preserving in Anglicanism.
On Wednesday 25th September there will be a Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship meeting at St Saviour’s Guildford about the Jerusalem Declaration, when Right Revd Michael Nazir Ali and Stephen Hofmeyr QC will be speaking on why GAFCON was necessary and where next?
On Saturday 11th October we will be hosting an all day conference at which Canon Dr Chris Sugden and Stephen Hofmeyr will be speaking on GAFCON and the Future of the Church of England. During the day there will also be space for small group discussions and prayer. It will be one of the most important and defining events in the history of this Church.
As to the future and what will happen next, we are in God’s hands. But burying our heads in the sand and hoping it will all go away will not do any good. We cannot go back to the way things were. In the days to come I will still enjoy listening to Cliff Richard’s timeless songs and melodies. But on the question of eternal life, you had better believe the Bible instead.
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served …or the gods … in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
 See Lisa Nolland http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/category/lisas-lookout
 Jonathan Flketcher, Back to the Future, 2007 Reform Conference
 I am indebted to Simon Vibert for his excellent resource, Conduct which Honours God, Fellowship of Word and Spirit (Orthos booklet 20, 2003)
 Christopher Townsend, Homosexuality: Finding the Way of Truth and Love: Cambridge Paper, 3, 2, (June 1994)
 Mark Bonnington & Bob Fyall, Homosexuality and the Bible (Grove Biblical Series, 1, 1996)
 Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001), p. 187.
 Ibid. p. 191.
 Vibert, op. cit., p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 21.
 Townsend, op. cit., p. 2.
 This and previous quotes taken from David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians (IVP)