I mentioned what others have said about Biblical Sexuality Sermon Sunday in a previous post. The church leadership thought it was important to address the issue of biblical sexuality not only for the cultural moment that Canada is facing at the moment, but also because of the matters we are dealing with in our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.
In 2006, a case regarding the clash between sexual and religious freedom came before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At a California high school, gay and lesbian students organized a Day of Silence. Those in support of the movement refrained from speaking in school. The school allowed this to take place without any hindrance.
The next day, Tyler Harper, wore a t-shirt that read, “Be Ashamed, Our School Has Embraced What God Has Condemned.” The back of the shirt said, “Homosexuality Is Shameful, Romans 1:27.” School officials took him out of class and asked him to remove the shirt. The Court of Appeals sided with the school, but Harper’s petition to the Supreme Court eventually overturned the ruling.
In a similar example, although I can’t remember when or where, Christian Students created a poster with the text of Rom 1:18-32, but they left it unattributed. School authorities tore the posters down and destroyed them. They went on to demand that the author report themselves for immediate expulsion. They soon discovered that they had just expelled the Apostle Paul.
The Bible has always been offensive
Scripture frequently critiques cultural norms. When you consider the original context you realize just how polemical it is. It should not shock anyone that the Bible has detractors. The problem nowadays is that people truly have no idea that their position stands in direct contradiction to Scripture.
Why are we taking a one-week break from our series in Nehemiah? We rarely take such measures, but sometimes the cultural moment is too important to ignore.
Bill C-4 has made it a federal offense to practice conversion therapy in Canada. The penalty for conviction can result in up to five years imprisonment. Now, we can be clear that there are many examples of conversion therapy that are horrendous. No one is threatening to return to those approaches. However, the language of the bill defines conversion therapy in such broad terms that some could interpret it as outlawing any teaching of biblical sexuality. Does the Bible teach conversion therapy? It could easily set a precedent for condemning the Bible as hate speech for its condemnation of homosexuality.
This morning’s sermon will clarify the principles that inform any counsel I would give to someone who confessed to experiencing same-sex attraction.
God’s Word on biblical sexuality is under attack from a rebellious world that rejects it and a timid church that is all too often embarrassed by it.
God’s Clear Intention for Biblical Sexuality
Made in the Image of God
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:26–27 ESV
Let’s begin this topic of biblical sexuality where God begins, with a positive note regarding the creation of humans. Since God made both genders in his image, they possess equal dignity and value. Both genders are fully human and both reflect the glory and communicable attributes of God equally. Both genders represent the pinnacle of God’s creation. God calls both genders to take dominion over the earth. There are distinct males and females in every human culture even if their gender expression differs from one another.
Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:28 ESV
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.Genesis 2:23-24 ESV
There are physical distinctions between genders that make the creation of a family possible. God blesses sexual activity in the context of the covenantal commitment of marriage. This passage serves as the foundation for our understanding of sex and marriage (Matt 19:4-6). It is a lifelong commitment that increases our sense of contentment in life. The intimacy enjoyed within the context of marriage goes beyond physical to include emotional and spiritual communion without any sense of shame (Gen 2:25).
The distinctions between men and women also make each of them suited to particular roles within the home that promote the wellbeing of the family and display God’s covenant love and faithfulness (Eph 5:22-31).
How the PCA Has Responded in the Past
The PCA Affirms A Biblical Definition of Marriage
These issues have come before the General Assembly on multiple occasions since I’ve been in ministry. In 2018, the PCA almost unanimously approved making BCO 59-3 constitutional:
“Marriage is only to be between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24-25; Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:2), in accordance with the Word of God. Therefore ministers in the Presbyterian Church in America who solemnize marriages shall only solemnize marriages between one man and one woman.”PCA Book of Church Order 59-3
The PCA Commends the Nashville Statement
At the General Assembly of 2019 the PCA commended as biblically faithful all fourteen articles of the Nashville Statement. Article 1 provides an excellent summary of God’s design:
WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.
WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.Article 1 of the Nashville Statement
The PCA Approved An Excellent Report on Human Sexuality
Also in 2019, the PCA appointed seven men to a provide a Study Committee Report on Human Sexuality. The committee released the report in 2020, but due to COVID restrictions the GA did not meet that year. Last year, the GA overwhelmingly approved the report by a show of hands. Regarding God’s clear intentions, this 60 page report is clear, yet robust, and I heartily commend it to you. It’s Preamble states:
We see many professing Christians and whole denominations surrendering to the sexual revolution. We do not want to be one of them, nor even now in subtle ways to sow the seeds for some future capitulation. As the natural family is a fundamental unit of human society and is the normal means of care and nurture, all sins which threaten, undermine, or marginalize it are both spiritually dangerous and detrimental to human flourishing.
God’s Intentions Are Always Practical
It should not be surprising that God’s intentions for biblical sexuality are very practical. When people live according to these intentions, society improves. On the contrary, when people reject these intentions society breaks down.
During Pride Week in Amsterdam 2017, Royal Dutch Airlines created a social media campaign that portrayed three sets of rainbow colored seat belts. A typical working seat belt has a tongue that inserts into a buckle (sometimes referred to as the male and female ends). In their advertisement, the top row showed two buckles coming together, the middle row showed two tongues, and only the last row showed a typical seat belt configuration. The tagline read, “It doesn’t matter who you click with.”
People were quick to point out that it absolutely matters if you want the seat belt to actually click and function properly in a crash landing!
In a succinct fashion, the Westminster Confession of Faith (24.2) lists four practical benefits that marriage provides:
Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife (Gen. 2:18), for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed (Mal. 2:15); and for preventing of uncleanness (1 Cor. 7:2, 9).Westminster Confession of Faith 24.2
Marriage is good for the husband and wife, every society, the growth of the Church, and the purity of each covenant member.
Our denomination requires the promotion of biblically defined marriages for the good of everyone. A minister in the PCA would have to disregard our standards in order to officiate a wedding that falls outside of the boundaries of Scripture.
› We must treat anything outside of God’s clear design as sinful…
Man’s Confused Perversion of Biblical Sexuality
Sexual sins really begin with a compromised view of marriage. When believers are willing to marry unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14) or flippantly divorce (Matt 5:31-32). The degradation of marriage introduces a variety of sexual sins.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:15–20 ESV
Degrees of Sexual Sin
Herman Bavinck notes, “Sexual sin is especially serious because it defiles the body of Christ.” When a Christian sins against their own body it is extra heinous because of their union with Christ.
- Fornication is sin against our own body and the body of our neighbor.
- Adultery adds sin against our marriage and family.
- Pedophilia and homosexuality are unnatural sins (Lev 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10).
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 1:26-27 ESV
Unnatural Sexual Sin
Fornication and adultery are sexual sins of a natural variety, but here Paul highlights the descent of man into unnatural desires. Homosexuality is implicitly condemned by the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman, but it is also explicitly condemned in Scripture. In fact, there is not a single biblical reference that speaks of homosexuality in a positive way. It is only and always negative.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality (Gen 19:4-5; Jude 7; 2 Pt 2:7). It is labeled an abomination deserving the death penalty for both parties (Lev 18:22; 20:13). In addition to his clear condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27, Paul affirms that the law corrects all kinds of sinners, including “men who practice homosexuality” (“ἀρσενοκοίτης” in 1 Tim 1:10 refers to the aggressive partner and “μαλακός” in 1 Cor 6:9 refers to the effeminate partner). Despite some lofty Roman perspectives on homosexuality, Paul—in line with the Old Testament—condemns the practice without qualification (Beeke). He affirms what all of Scripture teaches regarding biblical sexuality.
It is also heinous and unnatural to desire to have sex with children. Pedophilia not only violates the seventh commandment according to its sexual component, but it also violates the fifth commandment by taking advantage of defenseless children.
Immoral Sexual Desires Are Also Sinful
But let’s take a step back and consider sins of a less heinous degree. Is it a sin to simply confuse gender and identity issues? Do we really even understand “identity” language?
Timothy Keller tweeted that the denomination should do a “major study” before amending the BCO with words like “identify” and “identity” in order to make sure we are conveying biblical truth (11/23/21). Ironically, he tweeted this after co-authoring a report that includes the word “identity” 74 times! It is disingenuous to suggest that the language is confusing now. And the concept is thoroughly biblical: 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; Rom 6:8-11; 8:15-16; 1 Cor 6:19-20.
The Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality includes Statement 9 on Identity. In light of our union with Christ, we should never “juxtapose identities rooted in sinful desires alongside the term ‘Christian’” which “undermines the spiritual reality that we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).”
The gospel promise of “such were some of you” means there is no such thing as a gay Christian or a lesbian Christian, any more than there is a Christian adulterer or a Christian drunkard.Joel Beeke, Systematic Theology Vol. 2
PCA Overtures 23 & 37 Address This Improper Use of Language
According to Overtures 23 & 37, the use of this kind of language (i.e., gay/homosexual Christian) is disqualifying for church office. The report goes on to state that we should not “police every use of the term [gay].” Rather, we should patiently encourage them in the process of their sanctification to “leave behind identity language rooted in sinful desires.”
If we were to ask each author of that report if they think it is appropriate to police language that comes from the pulpit, I believe they would unanimously affirm such a practice. In fact, it is the duty of elders to guard the pulpit. Therefore, suggesting a person is disqualified from office because of their immature use of language, is exactly what officers should be doing.
Transgenderism is the assertion that someone’s personal gender is different than their biological sex at birth. The second statement of the AIC on the “Image of God” reads:
As a God of order and design, God opposes the confusion of man as woman and woman as man (1 Cor. 11:14-15). While situations involving such confusion can be heartbreaking and complex, men and women should be helped to live in accordance with their biological sex.
The Overtures Are Consistent of Statements We Have Already Affirmed
Article 7 of the Nashville Statement:
WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.Nashville Statement, Article 7
What about sins that remain only a desire?
Again, the AIC report is helpful. Statement 4 on “Desire”:
We affirm not only that our inclination toward sin is a result of the Fall, but that our fallen desires are in themselves sinful (Rom 6:11-12; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11). The desire for an illicit end—whether in sexual desire for a person of the same sex or in sexual desire disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage—is itself an illicit desire. Therefore, the experience of same-sex attraction is not morally neutral; the attraction is an expression of original or indwelling sin that must be repented of and put to death (Rom. 8:13).PCA AIC Report on Human Sexuality, Statement 4
Statement 5 on “Concupiscence”:
We affirm that impure thoughts and desires arising in us prior to and apart from a conscious act of the will are still sin. We reject the Roman Catholic understanding of concupiscence whereby disordered desires that afflict us due to the Fall do not become sin without a consenting act of the will. These desires within us are not mere weaknesses or inclinations to sin but are themselves idolatrous and sinful.PCA AIC Report on Human Sexuality, Statement 5
The Westminster Larger Catechism Q.139
This question is clear that sexual sins are both external as well as internal.
The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections.Westminster Larger Catechism Q.139
› This brings us to our conclusion…
God’s Challenging Solution
The first and primary point of response to anything less than biblical sexuality is a proper view of the gospel:
- Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! When you trust in Jesus, your faith binds you to Christ and that union becomes your greatest identity marker.
- Repent of any perverse thought, desire, or action! Turn away from your sins. Don’t only repent of any past actions, but repent of your present desires.
- Make progress in your sanctification which involves the mortification of your old man with his sinful actions and desires and the vivification of your new man with his passion to glorify God in everything that he thinks, says, and does. Flee sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Tim 2:22). Live in light of your justification, sanctification, and cleansing (1 Cor 6:9-11). Practice self-control (Gal 5:22-23; 2 Tim 1:7).
- Seek to correct any confusion regarding God’s intention and unashamedly proclaim God’s design for biblical sexuality as the best path for humanity.