How to be Holier than Jesus

This next group of blog articles are likely to generate some heat. My prayer is that they generate much more light than heat. I’ll be working through some “sacred cows” of the faith that are more cultural and traditional than scriptural.

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We ALL have traditions, but our default is to see what WE do as “following the bible” and what anyone else is doing as “their tradition.” This is one of the reasons I believe church history is *crucial*! It allows us to see where we are in the body of Christ outside of our own culture. In other words, to see what we have taken from culture and inserted into the context of what it means to be “christian”.

To that end, I’ll start off with the first article.. How to Be Holier than Jesus!

Of course, you can’t. If you’re looking for a “how to” on achieving a holiness which surpasses that of Christ, you must be new to this blog. 😉

This article will be focused on how we often exceed biblical guidance by creating rules (often in light of our current cultural mores.)

This week? The Sacred Cow of…. alcohol.

There is a term which I’d like to introduce you to this week; Adiaphora.

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Adiaphora is a greek term meaning “indifferent things”. In church history, this term has been understood as things which scripture neither commands nor forbids.

With that in mind, let’s address alcohol. Is it commanded that we imbibe, or is it commanded that we abstain?

First of all, let’s define “alcohol”. There are some that make the argument that “wine” in scripture is, well, grape juice. This is an untenable position for two primary reasons:

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1. The process of creating unfermented “grape juice” as we know it didn’t exist until the 1800’s when invented by Thomas Welch. Why did Welch invent the process? The temperance (anti-alcohol) movement was all the rage in America during his day and he took that cultural view back into the church and created the process to ensure the actual, alcoholic wine (which had been used in the church for some 1,800 years) was replaced with a non-alcoholic alternative.

2. The occurrences of wine in scripture are clearly referring to a fermented, alcoholic wine (as we will discuss in detail below.)

Those two “logic-based” arguments aside, let’s go straight to scripture where Jesus is directly, inarguably, involved:

1. The Wedding at Cana:

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Jesus performs His very first public miracle creating…. wine. Yes, there is some absolutely glorious symbolism here of His use of “ritualistic cleansing water” and turning it into the very symbol He would later use for His blood, but there’s no getting around the clear scripture in that this was actual, alcoholic wine:

“6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

So how, if this were mere grape juice, would you explain the statement about most people bringing out the “good stuff” first, and then the lesser? You bring out the lesser wine “after the people have drunk freely” and their tastebuds are numbed to the difference. Keep in mind that this was at a 3-day feast.

2. Jesus words in Luke 7 and Matthew 11:

“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
(Luke 7:31-34 ESV)

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

(Matthew 11:16-19 ESV)

So Jesus was drinking something that had people accusing Him of being a drunkard. Would you charge your children with being drunkards for having grape juice in their “sippy cups”?

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So, we have scripture directly speaking to Christ not only creating and imbibing in wine, we have other scripture which speaks of wine as a good thing:

From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
(Psalm 104:13-15 ESV)

See it? God sends wine to gladden the heart of man. God sends it as something good!

In all fairness, I do understand that alcohol, like all good gifts from God is misused to our peril. Like wine, and food, sex is good and ordained by God. But,  effects of their abuse is rampant in our culture. (Alcoholism, Heart Disease, Obesity, etc.) However, the problem (and prohibition) are not of the gifts themselves, but on the abuse and inappropriate use of these gifts! What is forbidden? Drunkenness. Fornication. Adultery.

So, while you may choose any number of reasons to abstain; family history and bad experiences with alcoholism, etc. keep in mind that these arguments come from your social more and not from the pages of scripture. The outcomes you may list as reasons you don’t imbibe in wine are the effects of abuse of God’s good gift and not the good gift itself. And it is absolutely your freedom, in Christ, to NOT drink alcohol, or remain abstinent, or be a vegetarian. It is also the the freedom, in Christ, for others to appropriately enjoy the good gifts of wine, food, and sex!

So, in clear conscience, enjoy a glass of wine. Enjoy a beer. Follow scriptural command to do so without drunkenness. Or abstain from alcohol. But to put others under law where God has provided this good gift is to create your own law, and impose it on others, including Christ Himself.  You have, in your own estimation, set  yourself up as “holier” than Jesus.

How do we make ourselves “holier” than Jesus? By taking our cultural preferences and mores and teaching them as law where scripture has not.  Look at the cultural “hot button” issues of the time of the American “second great awakening” out of which most modern American evangelical denominations grew and you’ll find the most prevalent: Drinking, smoking, dancing, etc.  We’ll be looking at several of these over the next few weeks!

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Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you are free to partake of the good gifts given to you by God; Wine in moderation to make the heart glad, and sex as ordained in marriage. You are also free to abstain from both! You are neither commanded to DO these things, nor commanded to ABSTAIN from them.  Adiaphora!

Cheers!

guiness

Marc

Teaching my Dog to use His iPhone!

OK, it’s getting a big frustrating.  About a month ago, I bought our family dog, Boomer the Pug, an iPhone.  I’m trying to get him to use it and he’s just not getting it.  I’ve tried everything, treats, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, begging, pleading, ANYTHING.. but he’s just not getting it.   Maybe I’m a bad teacher. Maybe he’s just not very bright.  Maybe it’s the lack of opposable thumbs. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating for both of us… and I spent a lot of good money on that phone!

Absurd?  Of course it is, dogs don’t use iPhones. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE DOGS! To expect a dog to use an iPhone would make me a lunatic, right?

Yet, we do this daily with those around us.  How?

[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)

There are a couple of things I want you to notice here:

1. Paul is speaking in Galatians 5 to a specific group of people, “us”.  Who is “us”?  He defines “us” as those who Christ has set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; 
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

2. Paul then contrasts “us” (those who Christ has set free) with those who Christ has not set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

3. Paul says then sets these behaviors in contrast to each other.  (Flesh and Spirt)

[17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(Galatians 5:17 ESV)

4. And finally, lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit:

[19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)

So, those good things?  The fruits of the spirit? They’re fruits.. OF THE SPIRIT.  They come FROM the Holy Spirit to those who are set free in Christ.  The bad stuff?  Those are works of the flesh.  Do you see it?

Those who have not been set free in Christ will not, in fact CANNOT manifest the fruits of the spirit!

[8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

(Romans 8:1-8 ESV)

Those who are in the flesh will not, in fact CANNOT submit to God’s law. They CANNOT please God.  Get that. It’s crucial. Those things we’re demanding of our kids? Of those around us at work?  If they are not in Christ and set free by the spirt, they are still slaves to the flesh.  We’re demanding something of them which they CANNOT do, and getting frustrated with both them and ourselves when they don’t!

It’s as absurd as trying to teach a Pug to use an iPhone!

What are the implications?  Well, this is a major problem in the modern church.  We start our kids early by teaching them how to be “good”, we tell them to be “nice”.  What is nice?  We tell them to be patient, kind, gentle.. and to exercise self-control. To put others ahead of themselves, to share, to be considerate.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

New guy at church. He hangs around a few services because he likes the sense of community, digs the music, and well, there are some really cute girls.  He gets the message loud and clear: Be happy, be faithful, love each other.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

The problem?

Neither of them have been confronted with the weight of their sin, and been called to repentance and faith in Christ for forgiveness. The Apostle Paul tells us, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that they cannot manifest the very fruit we are demanding of them!

A stunning example of this happened recently when the creator of the most popular christian children’s material in history (Veggie Tales) said the following:

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart.” – Paul Vischer, Creator of Veggie Tales

So, as much as people give me good-natured grief for somehow bringing EVERYTHING back to the gospel, here goes.. I’m bringing iPhone  Training for Dogs back to the gospel….

I’m not concerned about teaching my kids to “be good”, I’m concerned that they’re in Christ.  Because without being freed by Christ, they are unable to do the “good” at all.   Will they sometimes act like little heathens even after they are in Christ? Of course they will, and so will I in this fallen world. But we are freed, in Christ, to please God.

So as you go into your world today, don’t get frustrated that those in the flesh produce the fruits of the flesh.  Be aware that demanding that they manifest the very fruits of the Spirit is something they are entirely incapable of doing.  They’re still slaves. Their problem is that they aren’t in Christ.. and that’s something you can (and are commanded) to engage. Gospel much?

Marc

Post Chik-fil-A: A call to Repentance (There is no “us” and “them”)

Purpose:

I’ve noticed lately that in the conversation regarding “same-sex marriage” and homosexuality in general, that there has been much heat and very little light.  The recent Chik-fil-A discussion has shown me that most folks aren’t particularly interested in honest dialogue, but in scoring points for their side, even (and often) at the cost of truthfulness.   Being “pro-family” isn’t the gospel. Being “anti-gay marriage” isn’t the gospel. And some of the activities I’ve seen have drawn lines political lines in the sand which have made it extremely difficult to accomplish our mission of  gospel proclamation.

With that, I’m going to write what I know may be a dangerous blog post. It may hurt me professionally, may cost me some friends on both sides of the fence, and will almost certainly be taken out of context.  Why risk it?  Because I see the biblical position on this issue horribly misrepresented, and am saddened to hear many Christian youth woefully unprepared to even engage the subject.  I write as a Christian, to other Christians here.  I am writing to an audience who believes in objective, external truth as revealed in the bible.  If you do not hold the bible as authoritative and inerrant, or if you are a relativist, even the most accurate exegesis of scripture will conflict with your worldview.  If, after I present the biblical position you find you disagree with what I’ve written, ask yourself honestly if the disagreement is with what is in the text, or is it simply not what you want to believe.

As I write, please hear my heart. I hate no one.  I look down on no one.  I know my own sinful heart and work to remove the beam from my own eye as I attempt to faithfully and accurately present the truth of scripture.  You aren’t going to find anything hateful as I address this issue. My goal is to speak as clearly and as accurately as possible on this sensitive and emotional issue.  The church has often interacted with an inexcusable lack of respect and civility with the homosexual community, and for that, I truly apologize.  It is my earnest desire to address this issue with love, grace, civility and truthfulness.  There is no “us” and “them”.  We are one, united under a command to repent and believe.  The call to repentance for some will be from pride, and for confusing our political agendas with our mission to preach the gospel of repentance to all men.  For others, it will be a call to repent of the sin of homosexuality after a clear presentation of God’s word in this blog.   And so… my prayer.

Prayer:

My prayer is that the light of God’s word would illuminate this subject. I pray that Christians would obey the clear commands in scripture to be both well studied in the word, and to love neighbor as self.  I pray that the Lord would use my very limited abilities to lay out a simple presentation for youth who are unprepared to engage this subject biblically.  I pray that I never allow my pride to ignore the plank in my own eye, or to see my sins as less offensive to God than those of other men; Even if theirs are sins which are less acceptable in the church.  I pray for those who struggle with homosexuality. If you gain nothing else from this blog, get this… there is grace for you.

Prohibition:

The following are texts which explicitly prohibit homosexuality.  There are other passages of scripture (such as the account of Lot in Gen19) which are often debated (i.e. the sin in Gen19 is rape and not homosexuality). However, for our purposes, we will deal with texts which explicitly speak of the act of homosexuality being a sin:

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” – Leviticus 18:22

 

“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. – Leviticus 20:13

 

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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 6:9-11

 

 We also know that the 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 the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” – 1 Timothy 1: 9-11

As you can see, both the old and new testaments explicitly teach against homosexuality, labeling it “detestable”, “contrary to sound doctrine”, and that those practicing homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Faced with such direct teaching, those who would maintain the supremacy of the bible and yet defend homosexuality must build their case either outside of scripture, or by denying that these passages apply to them.

Often, a simple appeal to emotion is used, but to put it bluntly, our emotion is to be submitted to the authority and teaching of scripture, not the other way around.

I’d like you to ask yourself this honest question; Do you believe we are to obey every aspect of OT law? Wearing only single fiber clothing?  Not cutting the edges of our beards? Not eating pork? Probably not.  Most of us would agree that not all aspects of the law are binding in that regard. But why not?  Conversely, who of us would say that all of the law is to be discarded; Love your neighbor as yourself, do not steal, do not lie? I can’t imagine anyone is ready to throw all of the law out either.  So, then, how do we determine which laws we follow and which we are no longer bound to?  And why are we no longer bound to it?  In short, how would you respond to the objection below?

Common objections by category:

Format:  I’ve organized my thoughts in a way that I believe will help identify, understand, and respond to the most common objections to the historic view that homosexuality is condemned in scripture.  First, I’ve posted my purpose, my prayer, and scriptures which specifically prohibits homosexual behavior.  I will now work through common objections. These objections typically state the condemnation of homosexuality was only for a particular people, a particular place, or a particular period and are no longer binding.  I’ll address each individually and finish with a discussion of the law, it’s permanence, and a promise.

People:

The argument here is typically that the law was only for “them”, and not for us as New Testament/Christian believers.  We clearly see that the law is not a single, monolithic, body. Rather, it is broken into the three categories above.  What did Jesus himself teach regarding the law?

“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)

As you can see, the law will remain.  Unless you believe that we are to adhere to every aspect of OT Law, we must take a closer look at what  Jesus expressly overturned under His new covenant, what He leaves unchanged, and what He raises the bar on:

1. Ceremonial Law: These laws are no longer applicable, as they have been fulfilled in Christ. Examples of these are:

a. Food (Mark 7:19)

b. Unclean People (The leper in Mark 1:41)

c. A bleeding woman (Mark 5:27)

d. A dead child (Mark 5:41)

And finally,  Jesus ends the ceremonial law once and for all by doing what no earthly priest could ever do; He sat down, at the right hand of the father.  In language that no Old Testament Jew could ever miss, Jesus, the spotless lamb, is sacrificed once and for all.  The foreshadows are gone, the types and shadows are complete. Jesus has fulfilled the ceremonial law.

2. Civil: Jesus ultimately ended the separation of Jew and Gentile as he tore the temple veil. The NT sends the adoption theme to all men everywhere, Samaritan, and gentile alike.  These laws still teach us through principle, but are no longer binding.

3. Moral: Jesus not only holds this in place, but raises the bar to show the ultimate standard of these laws:

           “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

            “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

            “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.        

(Matthew 5:21-48 ESV)

To speak specifically to the fact that the moral law contained within the holiness code was not simply for national/ethnic Israel, consider the following:

Leviticus 18:24-30 teaches that divine judgment had come upon the nations who previously dwelled in the land.  These were nations that did not have the law of God given in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Clearly, the prohibition of homosexuality wasn’t only a Jewish matter, it was something that transcended ethnic boundaries.

Therefore, to attempt to lump “the law” into one basket, and then claim that we are inconsistent if we don’t follow all cleanliness or civil laws (such as those in the figure below), is inaccurate.   It is a fundamental misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of the law.  We do not follow (and are not bound by) the ceremonial laws, since Christ has fulfilled them completely.  We are also not bound by the civil laws, though we do gain value in understanding their underlying principles.

Summary:  The ceremonial code has been fulfilled in Christ, the civil code is an example in principle, and the moral code is applicable to all men.

Place:

To believe that the moral law is applicable only to a certain locale is an absurdly weak argument.  Would he say that it would be acceptable (for anyone, Jew or Gentile) to sell one’s daughter into harlotry while residing in Los Angeles? Practice incest in Canada? Obviously not. These actions are abhorrent to God regardless of their location. So much so, in fact that Leviticus teaches us that these practices are so horrid that they defile the land itself (Lev 19:29, 20:19-22).  Clearly, the Levitical prohibitions on homosexuality are not limited to either the land, or to those who lived in the land.  They also pre-date the giving of the ceremonial or civil laws, as shown by those engaging in this practice before Israel entered into the land being held accountable and punished for their behaviors.

Summary: The moral code is applicale in all places. 

Period:

Frequently, those who advocate the bible’s acceptance of homosexuality will argue their position by pointing out things that are contained in the book of Leviticus which are no longer practiced, or simply ignored, by those who profess to follow the God of the Bible.  From this, it is often deduced that the book of Leviticus is no longer applicable to our contemporary situation.  Those who advocate the compatibility of homosexualty and Christianity readily turn to Leviticus and then challenge their challengers with a  “what about this passage” approach to obedience.

A few examples of this approach would be illustrative at this point. Scanzoni and Mollenkott have accused those who oppose their por-homo position with script inconsistency:

“Consistency and fairness would seem to dictate that if the Holiness Code is to be invoked against 20th century homosexual,  it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, (etc.)”

As pointed out previously, this is a clear confusion of the categories of the law.  If you do not understand that the eating of steak (which was a ceremonial law and fulfilled in Christ), or the wearing of mixed fabrics (civil law which was for national Israel), you can easily be tripped up by the seeming “inconsistency” of the modern church.  The problem with this argument is that even if (and we have clearly pointed out that they are not) all these laws were valid, and being violated, it would not make a valid defense for biblical support of homosexuality.  In short, the argument looks like this:

1. You say homosexuality is prohibited in the bible.

2. So is (insert other law here), which you violate.

3. Therefore, Levitical laws are no longer binding.

You see the problem, right?

1. The same Levitical laws prohibit laws which nobody would throw out (incest, bestiality, stealing, lying, etc.)

2. At best, for the pro-homosexual argument, we have a common hypocrisy, which does not negate the validity of the law itself.

This is the argument of a child;  We’re not supposed to hit people. Dad hit someone. Therefore, hitting is OK.   Homosexuality is prohibited, so is cutting your hair. You cut your hair, so both are OK.  Even if both laws were equally applicable (which they are not), a shared hypocrisy would not validate a clear violation of those laws.

Summary: The moral code is applicable in all periods.

Permanence

The non-binding laws were exclusively ‘ceremonial’. They regulated the Israelite sacrificial system and matters such as ceremonial cleanliness.  Although they hold forth moral duties, they were typical of Christ’s sacrifice and since he has fulfilled all they typified, they are abrogated and non-binding to those who follow Christ.  These laws regarding ritual purity and separation differ from the civil law in that they were not for a well-ordered society, rather they were necessary solely because of a Holy God dwelling in the tabernacle and among the people.  For that reason, they dealt with food (Lev 11), childbirth (Lev 12), disease, infection (Lev 13-14), and bodily discharges (Lev 15).  We also see ceremonial laws as having to judicial penalty. They simply made the guilty party “unclean” (often until the end of the day).  These were not universally binding. For example, unclean animals or dead animals (both “unclean” could be sold to travellers or foreigners.)

Laws concerning everyday civil matters in the Israelite community are binding in their underlying principles, as we have discussed.

The only laws that are, without exception, ever-binding are the moral code.

Summary: The moral code is applicable for all time.

Promise:

I have laid out, as clearly as possible, the orthodox biblical position on homosexuality.  It’s clearly not politically correct, and may even ben wrongly branded as “hate speech” in some countries.  For that I make no apology.  However, I will interact with those struggling in this sin with dignity and with love as they are also made in the image of God.  If you are struggling with homosexuality, you are no more a sinner than I am as I struggle with my sins.  But a sinner you are, and repent you must.  But know that you are never, ever beyond grace:

            And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

 

The word is clear, the sin is evident, and the grace is sufficient for those who would repent, in faith believing.

As always, I’m always here to answer e-mails.

Next week: Examples of actual arguments you may encounter, and how to respond to them biblically.

Marc

Note: While not directly quoted or footnoted, this blog contains material from Dr. James White’s “The Same Sex Controversy”, which I recommend:  http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=50