Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best New Year's Resolution

A popular tradition to start the new year is often to formulate a New Year's resolution of something you would like to do better in the year ahead. Many people resolve to loose weight or exercise more. Some make a commitment to be a better person or to specifically work on a certain character flaw. Most of these resolutions are superficial and do not last past a month or two after being made. In fact, it seems like many of the same resolutions are repeated every year due to the previous year's failures. So what would be a good resolution to make for the new year ahead? How about one that would be of spiritual and eternal significance? Why not resolve to do something that God has commanded all of us to do?

In 1 Corinthians 10, right after instructing the Corinthians to show regard to their weaker brothers in relation to the issue of their conscience with eating meat, Paul says that the real issue should be seeking to glorify God. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If one is seeking to glorify God, he will be mindful of his brother whose conscience may condemn him in eating meat because he could not get past the knowledge that it would have been offered to idols. He would seek to Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God (v. 32) as Paul himself sought to do and not be selfish but look out for the interest of others for the sake of their salvation (v. 33). This principle to do all to the glory of God is not just limited to respecting weaker brothers in the matters of their conscience. It is a summary of what our lives are to consist of. The whatever you do includes everything that you do. From the drinking of orange juice or coffee that you start your day with to the brushing of your teeth right before bed. All of these actions should be performed in a worshipful attitude thanking and praising God for the resources and ability to do them. We should seek to bring glory to God's name in every decision that we make and action that we do. In fact, we were created for the purpose of glorifying God. Christ died for us so that we would live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15). The Westminster Confession summarizes this well when it states that "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan pastor in New England who played a major role in the first Great Awakening, put together his own resolutions for his life. Eventually these resolutions numbered to 70 and they all consisted of what he could do to glorify God. In fact, part of his very first resolution he made was "that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence." Another one of his resolutions was "never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it."

So, while you are pondering what resolution to make this year, why not resolve to do what God has actually called you to do, to do all to the glory of God? Like Edwards, let's seek, by God's grace, to only do what will glorify God's name the most. Let's seek to praise Him in everything that we do and in everything that we say.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Birthday of a King?

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
~Luke 2:6-7

When you think of a king, what typically comes to mind? Do you envision a grand throne surrounded by people who pay homage to the one who sits upon it? Or long purple robes that dazzle with splendor? Perhaps you see a sparkling and golden crown.

The Bible describes and portrays Jesus as a king. When Pilate questioned Jesus as to whether He was the King of the Jews, Jesus responds that My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:33-36). The prophet Isaiah predicted that the government will rest on His shoulders and There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace (Isaiah 9:6,7). However, for a king, Jesus did not have much of a royal birth.

Instead of being born in a palace, Jesus began His earthly life laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. They could not even find enough room for the king in the inn. His first clothing was not purple or majestic but strips of cloth. The first visitors for the king were not important dignitaries or high court officials but simple and dirty shepherds. Such a birth was not fit for a king but more so resembled that of a lamb.

While Jesus is our king, it is also important to remember that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). This king was born to die in the place of sinners who would trust in Him just as the sacrificial lamb was sacrificed to cover man’s sins in the Old Testament. Jesus stated that He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In fact, Jesus’ death occurred the exact hour the Passover Lamb was being sacrificed. His bones were not broken in the crucifixion like the Passover Lamb’s bones were not to be broken with their sacrifice (John 19:31-36; Exodus 12:46).

It is important that as was we celebrate Christ’s birth this Christmas that we do not forget the very purpose that this child was born. If it wasn’t for the purpose of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we would not have a Christmas to celebrate. Let us not forget the cross in our celebration of the manger!

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth,
Born to give us second birth.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up"
~Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were three of the young men who were taken into captivity by King Nebuchanezzar of Babylon's forces when he laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10-17; Daniel 1:2-4). This capture of the capital of the nation of Judah was part of God's purpose to punish His people for their sins of disobedience and idolatry (2 Kings 23:26-27). Daniel recognizes this by describing this capture as being ordained by God. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God (1:2).

These young men that were captured could be described as the "best of the best" and the "brightest of the bright." The group would consist of youths probably around the ages of 14 or 15. They had to be physically fit (without blemish, of good appearance) and intellectual (skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning) (v.4). The goal of the Babylonians was to eradicate any evidence of their former life of Judaism and make them into full-fledged Babylonians. They were taught the literature and language of the Babylonians and even were given new names. Though we know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, their given Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In the Hebrew culture, names were important because they usually revealed something about the person's character, circumstance of their birth, or were in praise to God. In fact, each of these three young men's name said something about the one true God, Yahwah. Hananiah's name meant Yahwah is gracious, Mishael's was Who is what God is?, and Azariah's was Yahweh is a helper. The new Babylonian names they were given replaced the reference to Yahweh in their names with the names of Babylonian gods. Hananiah became Shadrach, meaning command of Aku. Mishael would become known as Meshach, Who is like Aku?. Azariah then was given the name Abed-nego, servant of Nebo (v. 7). While the Babylonians sought to eradicate every trace of their past, they could never take away the faith of these young men.

When King Nebuchadnezzar built a golden statue and commanded everyone to bow down and worship it at the playing of the instruments, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow. The king even stated that any who would be defiant of his command would face the fiery furnace (3:6).

Due to some certain Chaldeans who reported their refusal, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego find themselves called in to stand before the king (vv. 8-13). After inquiring for himself if the accusation against them proved true (v. 14), King Nebuchadnezzar gave them another chance and reminded them of the consequence of their actions (v. 15). They reply with one of the most powerful statements of faith found throughout all of Scripture.

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (vv. 17-18). These three young men refused to bow down to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made inspite of the consequences of being thrown into the fiery furnace. They refused to bow down to any other god than the one true God, regardless whether God would save them or not. The verb able in this verse appears to refer to God's willingness instead of actual literal ability. These men would have certainly not denied God's omnipotence. There is a contrast here between the if God is able and the but if not. The point they were making to the king was that if God decided to deliver them then He would but even if He chose not to, they still would not bow down to the idol that the king had set up. The He will deliver us out of your hand is dependent on the condition of this willing ability. (The and before the He will deliver can also be translated then as a waw in Hebrew carries several different meanings in a narrative to connect and move the story along. It can be translated and, next, then, but and several other choices.) Their worship and commitment to God must have been based on Who He is and not what He would or would not do for them. They refused to turn from God even if He, in His divine providence, decided not to deliver them from the threat that awaited them. They would trust God no matter what the result He planned for them to be.

So often, we base our trust and worship of God on what He might give us or how He might respond to our prayer. This means that we are worshipping not for Who He is but instead based on how He might benefit us. He would not be the end that our worship is centered on but merely the means to an end being what we want. Also, in face of persecution like what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego faced, could we say with them that we would be steadfast in our faith and refuse to bow to any other god (which does not have to be a statue but is anything we give adoration and devotion to that only belongs to God)? Do we waver in our faith and worship of God when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to? Or do we worship Him regardless? Could we say with Job that Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15)? May God give us the unwavering faith that refuses to bow to anyone or anything else, the faith that will trust and worship Him when life doesn't make sense and when we may not understand what He is doing.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Real Question in Our Suffering

“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
~Job 42:2-3

Job was a man who experienced much suffering. In an instant everything he had was taken away from him. One by one, a messenger came to the man to report the loss of his livestock, servants, and even all of his children (Job 1:13-19). The only thing that Job had left was his wife and she did not prove to be much of a comfort during this difficult time. Her counsel to him was to Curse God and die! (2:9). In addition to these great losses, Job was afflicted with dreadful boils that covered his entire body (2:7). The pain became so severe that he used pieces of pottery to scratch himself for relief (2:8).

Most of the book of Job contains the man’s quest to figure out the reason that lay behind his suffering. His desire was to know “why” God brought this intense bout of suffering upon him. He knew that God was in control and just (16:11; 19:5-6) but did not understand the purpose that God had with this specific pain in his life (9:17; 10:2; 13:24). His friends were convinced that the suffering was in response to some sin that Job must have done (4:7-11; 15:17-35; 18:5-21; 20:4-29; 22:5-11). However, Job knew that he had been a man of integrity so that could not be the case (10:7; 12:4; 13:18; 23:11-12; 27:2-6).

God eventually responds to Job’s inquiry, complaints, and pleas but He does not answer Job’s main question (38:1-41:34). Instead, God asks him a series of questions that served to humble Job and remind him that God is God and he is not. Questions such as: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? (38:4) and Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place (38:12). Job cannot claim to know God’s infinite wisdom and ways in regards to the reason God had tried him. He responds to God’s questions by recognizing that God is indeed in control (42:2) and that God was right in His accusation that he was attempting to understand what he did not have knowledge of (42:3) as God had stated when He began addressing Job (38:2). Job was speaking of things he did not know and what surpassed his understanding.

The issue should not have been the “why” for Job’s suffering but instead whether or not Job would still trust God in the midst of the suffering that he did not understand. In fact, unbeknownst to Job, this was the very purpose for his suffering. Satan had challenged God that Job would curse God to His face if God took away His hedge of protection upon him and struck him with physical affliction (1:9-11; 2:4-5). To prove that this would not be the case, God gave Job over into Satan’s hand, while setting the boundaries to what the devil could not do to him (1:12; 2:6). God was shown to be right when Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God (1:22) and In all this Job did not sin with his lips (2:10). He remained faithful throughout the storm without having an explanation for it.

Like Job, we often spend a great amount of time pondering the reason for our sufferings and trials. We know that God is sovereign and in control but demand to know the “why” the pain is present. Job never received an answer for the reason he suffered but he trusted God regardless. We may never understand some of the things we go through but the real issue should not be the “why” but our faith. Perhaps we should not ask “why am I suffering?” but instead “am I trusting God through my suffering?”

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, September 27, 2010

Be A Berean!

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.~Acts 17:10-12

During his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul faced opposition from the Jews in the city of Thessalonica. Due to their jealousy of the Greeks receiving the Gospel there and joining Paul and Silas, they created a riot that disrupted the city (v. 5). They even attacked a man named Jason whom they assumed was housing Paul and his companions. The group handed many of the believers over to the authorities, accusing them of going against Caesar in proclaiming Jesus as king (vv. 6-8). This persecution led the believers to send Paul and Silas away from there to a place called Berea for their safety. While there, Paul went to the Jewish synagogue to explain from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah that God had promised would come.

Luke in his recording of this incident commends the Jews in Berea for their eagerness in receiving the word that Paul preached. He called them noble minded for this trait. Unlike the Jews in Thessalonica who rejected the message and basically ran Paul out, the Bereans considered what Paul was saying and even checked the Scriptures that he was preaching and teaching from to make sure that what he was saying was true. The Greek word here for examine is often used in the context of someone being evaluated in a judicial trial. Just as the detectives on the popular television show Law and Order labor at thoroughly searching crime scenes and interviewing witnesses to discover the truth of what really happened, these Jews searched the Old Testament prophecies to verify that the claims that Paul made about Jesus being the Messiah were true. In fact, this examination of the Scriptures was done daily. They were constantly evaluating Paul’s message with the truth of Scripture. This eagerness to listen to Paul’s message and to check it with the teaching of Scripture led many of them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In making this statement pertaining to the Berean Jews and how noble they were, Luke presents them as a model for us to follow. We would do well to approach God’s Word eagerly in anticipation for what God is saying; to allow our hearts to be receptive of its truth. We also would do well to emulate their example of searching the Scriptures to verify what we are taught. Knowing that the Bible is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and thus true (John 17:17), we need to evaluate any message we hear in light of what Scripture teaches. We need to make sure that the claims of any teacher or preacher line up with the Scriptures. Are you being a Berean?

Therefore, let this remain as a sure maxim, that no doctrine is worthy to be believed but that which we find to be grounded in the Scriptures.~John Calvin

Love in Christ,

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Disappearance of Depravity

If you would ask someone today whether or not there is some goodness in man, you would probably receive an answer in the affirmative. The response would be the same whether the person was in a liberal church, a conservative church, or no church at all. It is not uncommon to hear people say that "all men are good" or "deep down inside they are a good person." This idea grew popular during the Enlightenment with the emphasis on man's reason. Man became viewed as the center of the universe and capable of just about anything. In fact, many philosophers of that time held a very diminished view of God since they concluded that man could accomplish so much with the power of his reason that he did not need God. However, this view of an innate goodness of man or that everyone has an "island of righteousness" goes back even farther than the Enlightenment. A British monk in the 400s, named Pelagius, also had a very high view of man. He even believed that man was capable of being perfect in and of himself. Again the clear implication of this sort of thinking would mean that man would not need God and was fine on his own. Such a view is antithetical to Scripture.

In contrast, the Bible presents a very low view of man. When God decides to punish humanity with the flood, it is due to man's wickedness which Enlightenment thinkers and Pelagius denied existed in man. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Notice that this wickedness of man was great and not small. In God's view, man was not good but evil at the root of his very being; the heart. His heart did not contain goodness but only evil. This evil was not occasional but continual (literally all the days in the Hebrew). It was not just a few intentions of his heart that were evil but every intention. God later says through the prophet Jeremiah that The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus affirmed the wickedness of man's heart when He stated that It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person (Matthew 15:10). His point was that it is not certain foods that one eats that would make them unclean but instead what they would say since this reflects the thoughts and desires of their heart. Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes through the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:17-19), None of this list of what comes out of the heart could be described as good. In the depths of man's heart, we do not find an "island of righteousness" but an ocean of depravity.

The doctrine described in these verses has been known as "Total Depravity" (the "T" of the TULIP in Reformed Theology). "Deprave" means "To debase, especially morally; corrupt" ( and "total" indicates that this debasement extends to every part of the person. There is not one area of our lives that has not been tarnished by sin due to the Fall. This does not mean that man is as wicked as he could be. Only that man is wicked at the core of his being. In fact, theologian and author R. C. Sproul would rather call the doctrine "Radical Corruption" in order to better communicate this truth.

Enlightenment thinkers and modern day Pelagians may argue that such corruption is due to nurture and not nature. They may claim that man is born basically good but becomes corrupted by the conditioning of society. However, the Bible teaches the opposite. One is born a sinner by nature. David declared that Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive. (Psalm 51:5). Paul tells us that the Ephesians were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:3). This is universal as Paul stated the condition being like the rest of mankind. Man has inherited Adam's sin nature so he is born a sinner. Due to Adam's disobedience, he and the entire human race became slaves to sin. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Since sin is a part of man's innate nature, he cannot help but sin. Jeremiah puts it this way: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:22). Just as it is impossible for an Ethiopian to "choose" to change the color of his skin and a leopard his spots, it is impossible for man to do good because he is accustomed to doing evil due to his sin nature. The only way man could quit doing evil would be for his nature to be changed. Something he can't do himself.

Now the accusation may arise that certainly man does do some good and is not totally evil. Afterall, several unbelievers give generously to the poor and some treat their neighbor better than Christians do. Are these not good things? Wouldn't this rule out the argument that man in his depraved nature is evil continually? However, we are not the standard of what is good to make such judgments. God is the One who determines what is good or evil. When the rich young man approached Jesus seeking the good deed that he must do to have eternal life, Jesus reminded him that the one who determines what is good is God Himself. Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17). He then points to the Law that God gave that reveal His holy standard. While the man thought he had kept the commandments that related to relationships with one's neighbor, it became clear that he was in violation of those that concerned his relationship with God. His refusal to part with his possessions revealed that he had erected another god whom he worshiped in place of the true God. He had clearly fallen short of God's standard by violating the first of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments.

For God, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. God is concerned with the motives that underlie the reason that one does what he does. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). One can do the right thing but if it is done with the wrong motives it is still wrong in God's eyes. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is that You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). If someone does something for any other reason than love for God, then the action would not be viewed as good in God's eyes because it was not done in His honor and out of love for Him. This would make even the most pious acts wrong if they are not done for God. Since man by nature does not seeks for God (Romans 3:11), he would not be doing a "good" deed in honor of God. In fact, quoting from Psalms, Paul states All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). The Psalmist describes no one as doing good. To clairify he states not even one. Man universally does not do good in God's eyes.

The Enlightenment and Pelagian denial of depravity proves detrimental to one's understanding of salvation and evangelism. Ignoring Scripture's teaching on the "total depravity" of man leads to one believing that man is good enough to play an active role in his salvation. Some may erroneously be misled to believe that salvation depends in part on them. If man has the ability to do good on his own and even be perfect as Pelagius claimed, then why would he need God? Furthermore, if man is not viewed as depraved, then the question would arise as to why he even would need to be saved. Man is good in God's eyes so what would be the problem?

This heretical view also greatly effects the way that one evangelizes. Since the perception is that man is able to obey God's commandments on his own, evangelists shift from faithfully teaching and preaching the Bible for God's Spirit to work through His Word to convict and regenerate sinners (Romans 1:16; 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Acts 2:37) to working to manipulate emotions through several different gimmicks just for them to simply raise a hand or say a prayer; promising their salvation based on their actions instead of God's work. This is a shift from the strong biblical preaching of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards to the theatrics and psychological tactics of Charles Finney. This Pelagian style of evangelism has created dozens of self-proclaimed "Christians" who have never been converted or even know that such is necessary because they never heard Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must be born again (John 3:3).

Several theologians have described the current era as the "Pelagian Captivity of the Church" and it appears with the Enlightenment and Pelagian emphasis on man's goodness and ability that they unfortunately might be right. The only thing that can break this type of captivity would be to go back to the Scriptures and boldly proclaim its message that man is by nature a sinner in desperate need of the Savior and whose salvation depends solely and completely on Him.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things to Remember When Experiencing Trials

One thing that we all experience in life are trials. We all have seasons of pain and sometimes go through the “dark night of the soul.” It is easy to develop the wrong perspective in the midst of undergoing a trial. The following are some things to remember during the darkest of times.

1. God is Sovereign and in Control

Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and in full control of all things. The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, / And His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19). There is nothing outside of His control. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21). Even Satan and the forces of evil cannot act without God’s sovereign allowance. Satan could not test Job without God’s permission, and even then, God set the boundaries that the devil could not cross. Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand, only do not put forth your hand on him” (Job 1:12). God told Satan he could do whatever he wanted with what Job owned but that he could not bring about any physical harm upon him. Later, after Satan challenged God again concerning Job’s righteousness, the Lord allowed him to afflict pain on the man but would not let him kill him. So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life (Job 2:6). Jesus also stated to Peter that Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31). The devil had to demand permission to test the disciples. He could not do this without God’s consent. God is also in control of the trial you are going through right now. He either has brought it about or permitted it. Your world may seem to you to be spiraling out of control, but God is still holding it together in His hands.

2. God has a Purpose in the Pain

Not only is God in control but He also has a plan. He works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). In fact, James instructs us to Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3). We should rejoice in our trials, not on account of the pain, but because there is a purpose in the pain. God uses these trials that He appoints in our lives to strengthen our faith and enable us to persevere to the end. We often learn more and have our faith mature during the valley experiences in our lives than when we are on the mountaintops. Believers have the precious promise that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). While the all things include “ the good, the bad, and the ugly,” the end result is good. The life of Joseph serves as an example of this principle. Joseph experienced a lot of horrible situations in his life. In their jealousy, his brothers put him in a pit and then sold him to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:18-28). Potipher’s wife falsely accused him and he wound up in prison (Genesis 39:6-20). The cupbearer forgets his promise to Joseph to tell the Pharaoh about him after the interpretation of his dream proves true (Genesis 40:23). However, at the end of Joseph’s life, he is able to say to his brothers: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20). God used the wicked act of the brother’s treason to place Joseph in the second highest position in Egypt where he was able to provide for his family in the time of famine. Joseph may not have realized God at work during the time that he spent in the pit, but now he sees how God orchestrated all of these events for His purpose to save His people. You may not realize what God intends to do with the pit that you are currently sitting in. We only see a few feet ahead of us but God knows the entire picture that He is working out. He is in control and has a purpose in the pain.

3. God does What is Right

We may not understand the pain we are experiencing or the reason that God has for it, but we can trust that God knows what He is doing. When he inquired about God sparing the righteous in the city of Sodom, Abraham asks Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice? (Genesis 18:25). He recognized that God is just and therefore will be the perfect judge. God does not make mistakes. Everything He does is perfect and right. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (Romans 9:14). His will is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). His ways may not always make sense to us, but we can be assured that He is doing what is ultimately in our best interest and what will bring Him glory. Keep in mind that we are not just and do not often know what is best for ourselves. Left in control we would drive the car over the ledge, thinking that we were going the right direction the entire time. Praise God that He is in control with the perfect plan and knows what He is doing!

4. God Comforts the Afflicted

Paul describes God as the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God is there to comfort us during the tough times of trial we go through. David referred to God as his shepherd (Psalm 23:1). God protects and provides for His children as a shepherd would for his sheep. God has promised that “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me? (Hebrews 13:5-6). He is the One in whom we can find our help (Psalm 121:1). We have no reason to search for comfort anywhere else since God is all that we need. During this difficult situation that you may be in, know that God is here to comfort you. May you find rest in knowing that He is in control, has a purpose in the pain, does what is right, and comforts those who are hurting.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Missing Our Focus

Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.
~John 6:26-27

The day after Jesus had miraculously fed the 5,000, the crowd that had been there and ate were diligently searching for Him (vv. 22-24). Jesus had snuck away from the crowd when He realized that they intended to make Him king (v. 15) and now with His disciples also gone, they were wondering as to His whereabouts.

When they find Him, Jesus rebukes the crowd for seeking Him for the material benefit of the food that He had provided. The ultimate purpose of the miracle was to point to Who Jesus is. In fact, John refers to Jesus’ miracles as signs. They indicated or “signified” that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah that could give them eternal life. However, the crowd had missed the point and were more focused on the actual sign instead of the One to Whom it pointed. They were more concerned with the food which perishes instead of the food which endures to eternal life. This particular miracle was intended to direct the people to Jesus Himself, the bread of life who can eternally satisfy one’s spiritual hungering and thirsting (v. 35). The bread that they wanted from Jesus would leave them “physically” hungry again but the spiritual bread that He is would never leave them “spiritually” hungry. They missed the spiritual reality of the miracle because they were too caught up with the physical. They were seeking Him because of what He could give and not for Jesus Himself.

God often gives us “signs” in our everyday lives. Every gift that God gives us points to Him and directs us to worship Him. We often, just like the crowd that sought Jesus, get so caught up with the gifts themselves that we lose sight of the Giver that they point to. If we are not careful, we wind up worshiping the gifts and not the Giver. We should not seek God because of the gifts that He gives but instead for Who He is. Attempting to find joy in the gifts will not last and will result in us winding up empty, but rejoicing in God brings eternal joy and satisfaction. Take some time this month to consider the many gifts that God has given you (your family, house, car, job, etc.) and make sure that you are glorifying and praising God for them instead of worshiping them. Do you worship God because of Who He is or the gifts that He gives?

God gives us things, not so that we can make much of them or ourselves, but so that we can use them to make much of God

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Too Busy Not to Pray

But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

~Luke 5:15-16

There are two words in the English language that coupled together make for the perfect excuse for any situation. These two words are "too busy." How often we use these two words! We are "too busy" to do this or to have done that. We were "too busy" to take time today to read and study God's Word. We were "too busy" Sunday to gather with God's people and worship God as well as encouraging one another. If we are not careful, we also can become "too busy" to set aside time to pray. One thing that we notice in reading about the life of Jesus in His earthly ministry, is that He never was too busy to pray.

After reporting on Jesus' healing of a leper, Luke makes a statement describing Jesus' growing popularity. Jesus told the man He healed to tell no one, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing (v. 14). He often told those whom He had healed to keep quiet about it, not because He wanted to keep His Messiahship secret but due to the possible misunderstanding that might arise since the Jews expected a political Messiah who would free them from their Roman oppressors. In fact, at one point Jesus realized that the people wanted to take Him by force to make Him king after they witnessed the miracle of Him feeding the five thousand (John 6:15). Jesus will one day reign on this earth as king but that was not God's purpose in Christ's first advent. However, Luke informs us that the news about Him was spreading. Perhaps this man in his excitement over his healing just could not keep quiet about it and told everyone that he knew about who Jesus is and what He has done.

The word that had been spreading about Jesus led to the growth of the crowds that came to Him. Several places in the gospel accounts we find massive size crowds flocking to Jesus. This led Him sometimes to preach from a boat (Matthew 13:1) or on a mountaintop (Matthew 5:1). Many people were gathering to hear Him since unlike the other rabbis who would piggyback their teachings on the past, citing "rabbi so-and-so said," He taught with His own authority (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:22). Many also came to be healed of their infirmities because they had heard the reports of His miracles and healings. Some may have come to find out more about the man Himself, wondering if He might be the Messiah they had read foretold by the Scriptures. These crowds would have kept Jesus pretty busy as they demanded much of His time. However, Luke informs us that Jesus never became too busy to pray.

After mentioning these growing crowds, Luke quickly points out the importance of prayer in Jesus' life. He states that He would withdraw to desolate places and pray. The tense of the verb withdraw in Greek indicates that this was a continual occurrence in Jesus' life. He did not withdraw one time for one of the crowds but on a regular basis would depart from the growing crowds and find a desolate place to commune with His Heavenly Father. Instead of allowing the crowds to crowd out His time with His Father, He simply would leave the crowds and get away to pray. While the crowds were important, His attention to His Father's will was more important. In fact, just about every major event in Jesus' earthly ministry was preceded by Jesus spending time in intense prayer. It was while Jesus was praying after His baptism that the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove (Luke 3:21-22). He spent the entire night in prayer before He chose His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12-16). It was as He was praying that Jesus became transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared to Him on the mountain (Luke 9:28-31). In the Garden of Gethsemane, right before His arrest and the night before His crucifixion, we witness three prayers by Jesus for God to take away the cup of His wrath that would be poured upon Him but also His submittance to God's will to be done (Matthew 26:36-46/Mark 14:32-42/Luke 22:39-46). Jesus always made time for prayer, even in the midst of a crowd.

We too have crowds of things that demand our time. Our days are full of endless lists of chores and tasks that must be done. It can be overwhelming at times. However, we must be careful not to allow ourselves to get "too busy to pray." Like Jesus, we may have to withdraw from the crowds sometimes to ensure that we spend crucial time in prayer. Martin Luther once got up early one morning and realized that he had so much to do that day that he decided he needed to spend an extra hour in prayer. Thus, he prayed three hours instead of two. May God give us the grace to see that we can never be "too busy to pray" but instead are "too busy not to pray."

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Which Jesus?

Jesus has become a popular figure in American culture. Few people in America today could claim that they never have heard of the man named Jesus. Writers write about him, singers sing about him, and many profess to follow him. He even makes appearances on television shows and movies. He serves as the center of the liturgy in just about every Protestant and Catholic church. However, in my own study of the Gospels which document the life and work of Jesus, it appears that the common perception of Jesus is much different than the Jesus described in God's Word. Many churches and denominations that place Jesus as the center in their worship services and life are not worshiping the same Jesus that we discover in the Bible.

Not Merely A Great Moral Teacher
A popular view of Jesus is to regulate Him to a great moral teacher who provides instructions for how man should live his life. While it is true that much wisdom can be gleaned from Jesus' teachings, the Bible goes so much further in its description of him. The Jesus found in the Bible is so much more than merely a "great moral teacher." He is the Messiah, the "Anointed One, the "Son of God." Anyone who reads the Gospels cannot deny this. Matthew opens up his gospel highlighting Jesus' supernatural birth. He indicates that Jesus was the son of Mary but not Joseph by using the feminine singular pronoun, hes (whom in English) (Matthew 1:16). Had he intended to acknowledge Joseph as Jesus' biological father, he would have used a plural pronoun that would possibly be masculine in gender since the rules of Greek grammar demand that a pronoun match the noun it replaces in both gender and number. He explicitly states that it was before they came together that she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). The angel informed Joseph that the Child who has been conceived in her [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). Matthew identifies Jesus' birth to be the fulfillment of the prophet in Isaiah of a virgin having a son that would be referred to as Immanuel (Matthew 1:22-23) and that he was not knowing her (a euphemism for sexual intercourse) until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). This was no mere man but the Son of God.

The recurring theme in John's Gospel is that Jesus is God. In his opening prologue, he states that the Word was God (John 1:1). Throughout the book, he emphasizes the many "I Am" statements of Jesus (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). The phrase ego eimi (I Am in English) spoken often by Jesus was more than just Him describing Himself. In uttering this phrase, He was indicating that He was God, the great I Am Who revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. God said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am" ('ehyeh 'eser 'ehyeh); and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I Am ('ehyeh) has sent me to you.' " God's name in Hebrew, Yahweh (identified in English translations as LORD), is similar to the verb, hayah (to be), used in this verse. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translates 'ehyeh (I Am) as ego eimi. The Jews of Jesus' day certainly understood this connection as they picked up stones to throw at Him for blasphemy after He declared Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am (ego eimi) (John 8:58-59). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the garden, they fall prostrate when He states I am (ego eimi) (John 18:4-6). This falling was a common occurrence in the Old Testament when anyone found himself in the presence of God. John clearly desires for his readers to walk away from reading his gospel with the knowledge that Jesus is God in the flesh. He even stated that this was his purpose for writing about Jesus. but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31). Someone who follows a Jesus who is only a moral teacher does not follow the true Jesus of the Bible Who is the Son of God.

Not A Crusader for Physical Peace
Another popular conception of Jesus is that He is a pacifist that opposes all war. Followers of this Jesus heavily protest any and every war and demand that they all cease. They become militant and "fight" for the end of war at all cost. However, the Jesus of the Bible does not discuss war much at all and in the few times that He does, He gives a neutral judgment of it. He only tells His disciples the reality that there will be wars and rumors of wars before the time of tribulation that is to come (Matthew 24:6). The only instruction that He gave to His disciples pertaining to this truth is to See that you are not frightened, for these things must take place, but that is not yet the end. He also used war as an example for considering the cost of discipleship and the necessity of giving up oneself to follow Christ (Luke 14:31-33). Again, He makes no judgment call pertaining to war at all. Nowhere does Jesus explicitly state or imply that "all war is sin." Had He done so, He would have called His Father a sinner as the Old Testament portrays God as ordaining (Isaiah 10:5-12), commanding (Numbers 31:1-2; 1 Samuel 15:3), and even fighting wars (Joshua 10:10-11; Judges 7:22). Instead, Jesus' focus was on His Kingdom which He introduced during His first advent and which will be a physical reality when He establishes it upon His return. He told Pilate that My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not from here (John 18:36). He instructed His disciples to pray that God's kingdom would come (Matthew 6:10) and for them to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The focus Jesus had and the focus He commands His followers to have is on the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of Man. A follower of the Jesus found in the Bible, while living in the Kingdom of Man, will be focused on spreading the gospel which serves as the means God uses to bring people into the Kingdom of God. Those who are laboring endlessly to transform society and create a peaceful government in Jesus' name have crafted a Jesus who is focused on the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God as the biblical Jesus.

Not Tolerant and Accepting
Many people view Jesus as being tolerant of any lifestyle and accepting of any path one may take. This conception of Jesus pictures a man holding his arms wide open to welcome any and everyone. The only problem he ever has is with those who are not as tolerant and accepting as he is. These are the ones who are classified as "judgmental." However, such a Jesus cannot be found anywhere in the Gospels. The Jesus described in the Gospel accounts did not tolerate sin but called for everyone to repent of their sin. According to Mark, the first statement that Jesus made in the beginning of His official ministry was The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). Even with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus did not forget about her sin. He did not condemn her for her sin but certainly did not condone it either. Instead, He commanded her to Go. From now on sin no more (John 8:11). Jesus also was not tolerant with the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the Pharisees but constantly pointed it out about them (Matthew 6:5; 23:1-33; Luke 5:29-32; 12:1; 15:1-32; 16:14-15; 18:9-14). This was a group He did not welcome with open arms but instead chastised.

The Jesus found in Scripture is nowhere near as accepting as the more popular Jesus heard around every street corner. He did not accept half-hearted allegiance but demanded that those who would follow Him must deny himself, and take up his cross (Matthew 16:24). He did not accept the rich young man who inquired about how to acquire eternal life because the man would not let go of the wealth that he so tightly held to and worshiped (Matthew 19:16-22/Mark 10:17-22/Luke 18:18-23). Jesus certainly did not accept the practice of the money changers in the Temple when He drove them out with a whip (Matthew 21:12-13/Mark 11:15-17/Luke 19:45/John 2:13-17)! He also did not accept any other avenue to get to God but stated that I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). In the original Greek, each of these nouns (way, truth, and life) have a definite article which makes it clear that Jesus claims that He is the "one" or "only" way, the "one" or "only" truth, and the "one" or "only" life instead of "a" way, "a" truth, and "a" life which would communicate one of many. This means that the Jesus of the Bible does not accept the Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, or one's own righteousness as means to get to God the Father. He is the sole and only way to God.

Not Solely Concerned About Man's Physical Well-Being
Yet another Jesus has as his primary concern the feeding and taking care of the poor. This Jesus instructs his follows to take care of the physical needs of the less fortunate of the world and may not even mention their spiritual condition at all. He mostly talks about the necessity of "making a difference" in the world. While the Jesus revealed in the Bible does care about the poor and calls His followers to do the same (Matthew 19:21; 25:31-45), His primary concern is with their spiritual plight. In His discussion with the woman at the well, Jesus looked past her physical need for literal water and instead told her of her need for the living water that only He could give. Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:13-14). Even after meeting the physical need of the 5,000 around the Sea of Galilee with the miraculous multiplication of bread, Jesus later instructs them to not seek Him for more physical sustenance but instead to look to Him for the spiritual bread that will never wear out. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you (John 6:27).

The Jesus of the Bible's mission was to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and not to meet one's physical needs. Throughout the Gospels we find a seeking Savior who confronts sinners about their sins and calls them to believe and follow Him instead of a social worker going around feeding and clothing the poor. In fact, the salvation of sinners is His namesake. Jesus' name in Aramaic, Yeshua, literally means Yahweh saves or Yahweh is salvation. The angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream concerning Jesus' birth explicitly states salvation as the reason for this name to be given to the baby. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Following a Jesus whose primary concern is anything other than the salvation of lost souls is following a different Jesus than the One presented in the Bible.

The One True Jesus
Only one Jesus saves. He must be recognized as the Son of God who gave His life as a substitute for the sins of those who would believe in Him as described in Scripture. Salvation is only found in the Jesus portrayed in the Bible. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am (ego eimi), you will die in your sins (John 8:24). Any other conception of Jesus is a false one and while he may bring comfort to those who follow him, he does not have the power to save them from God's wrath that is upon them due to their sins (John 3:36; Romans 1:18).

Many may talk about Jesus and even worship him, but the real question is, which Jesus?

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Happened To Christ in "Christ"ianity?

I was reading the opening chapter in Michael Horton's book entitled "Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church," when a statistic he cited took me by surprise. George Barna, the popular Christian pollster, claimed that 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. This amazes me as the evidence for the statistic seems to be lacking by my own observation of the many I have come into contact and rubbed shoulders with, both inside and outside the church. I don't see 86% of Americans portraying fruit that would indicate a genuine conversion. Instead, I view what Paul described the rebellious men, empty talkers, and deceivers (Titus 1:10) that Titus ministered to in Crete as being. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16).

Many professing Christians and churches today see Jesus more as their mascot instead of their Lord. He is regulated to an example of how to live a moral life with no mention of the very purpose for which He came. Some view Jesus as a flag to wave in their "war" against war and poverty. However, these caricatures fall short of the description of Christ in the Bible. Jesus stated that For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus did not come merely to serve as an example but to give up His life in the place of those who would put their faith in Him in order to appease God's wrath on their sins. How many churches today still proclaim the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ unashamedly?

I have been very disheartened in evaluating several profiles of churches in my quest to discover the church that God has prepared me to minister to. A majority of these churches are very "man-centered." They clearly are concerned with what God can give them or how He can best benefit them instead of seeking to glorify Him whether He brings the sunshine or the rain, laughter or the pain. So many churches today seem to paint God as their servant who worships them instead of recognizing that God created them for the very purpose of worshiping and glorifying Him! Many appear to forget that He is the potter and we are the clay. Through several humanitarian and environmental deeds, man is once again building his own tower of Babel to make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4). This is contra to making a name for God by spreading His fame through the preaching of the Gospel where He is glorified. Life is not and cannot be about us but must revolve around Him. One cannot read the Bible without seeing how every event, purpose, and plan all center around God.

Christ has not been the only casualty lost in Christianity today. Along with Christ being forgotten and recrafted, the Bible also has been shelved and reworded. Often the Bible is viewed as another "self-help" book that can aid one in living their "best life now." It is treated as being on par with the advice that Dr. Phil and Oprah would give. When one approaches a section in Scripture that makes them feel uncomfortable or reveals a certain sin in their life, instead of asking God for help to change their life, they either dismiss or seek to change the Scriptures. Much of the controversial debates over homosexuality and the like in the church today really are debates over the authority of the Bible. In fact, for some churches it appears that the Bible might be for decoration only since they do not seem to take it seriously or abide by what it says.

This erosion of Christ and God's Word that I am discussing is not limited to one particular denomination or a specific group of individuals. It is not a liberal or conservative issue. In fact, much of this can be seen within the camp of "evangelicalism" as well. Also, as I write this, I am confronted by the fact that I have been guilty of several of these very things I mention certain times in my own Christian life!

I confess that I have painted a very pessimistic view of the current state of the church and most who know me would describe me as an eternal optimist. However, I cannot deny the sad state the church has found itself in. In many ways, the church resembles the world so much that one can scarce view a difference! As a pastor whom God has called to devote his life to preaching and teaching His Word, I am heartbroken at what I observe. Though, praise God there is always hope with Him!

What Can We Do About This?

I think the best way to handle this ongoing problem with a church who has forgotten Whom Christ really is and that often fails to take Him seriously, is the same remedy that Paul prescribed for Titus in Crete. After describing the false teachers in Crete (Titus 1:10-16), Paul instructs: But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The only way to address churches that speak of a Christ but not necessarily the Christ of the gospels is to faithfully teach God's Word. Part of the reason Christ has been drifting out of "Christ"ianity is due to the fact that people have not been taught about Who He really is and the work of redemption He accomplished on the cross. Biblical illiteracy has been increasing at an alarming rate in this country. I don't think that it is a coincidence that this occurs at the same time Christ becomes viewed as more of a great moral teacher instead of the Savior and Lord that He is. We need to get back to the Bible and study Who God is and what He has done. We need to be taught again from God's Word what the gospel really is and the necessity of conversion. This will not be easy as the absolute truths of Scripture have become very unpopular in today's culture. Of course, Jesus' message of being the only way to God and the call to repentance were not popular in His culture so we should not be surprised that things have not changed today. Let's be like Paul and not be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) but boldly proclaim it for the glory of God! Let's focus on theology once again as the reason many lives are messed up right now is due to their theology being messed up. Without a proper view of God, one cannot know how to live a proper life that glorifies Him. May God, using the means of the faithful preaching and teaching of His Word, place and keep Christ in "Christ"ianity!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!
Solus Christus!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Finding Meaning in the Minute (the measurement of size and not time)

Have you ever been reading through your Bible and decided to skip over another long list of unpronounceable names in what seems to be a never ending genealogy or whisk past the excruciating details of how Noah was to build the ark or the specifics of Solomon building the Temple and his palace? Perhaps you have come to one of these sections in your scheduled yearly reading guide through the Bible and are whining and complaining with every begat or cubit by cubit. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that too many of us downplay these portions of Scripture and regulate them into a category of unimportance. However, such a position is mistaken and unbiblical. Paul states that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). This all Scripture would include the genealogy lists and temple building instructions. The question many might be asking is how can these monotonous (at least from their perspective!) sections be useful. I would like to propose two questions to ask in dealing with these portions of Scripture to help us not miss out on their intended meaning. May these aid in your study of God's Word!

Ask It's Purpose in the Context

No genealogy (or any other list in Scripture for that matter) ever appears isolated. Each play a role in the greater narrative in the text or in the author's argument. For instance, the long list of the descendants of Adam in chapter 5 serves a greater purpose than merely keeping a record of all of the sons of the first man throughout the ages. In fact, there may be intended gaps in some of the genealogies as part of the point the author desires to get across. This genealogy tells us several things already touched upon in the narrative in Genesis thus far. The numerous sons and daughters that followed after Adam illustrate man's obedience to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth as God had commanded them (1:28). A similar reason may exist for the genealogy of Noah's sons being given after the flood (10:1-32) since he was given the same command (9:1). The genealogy in chapter 5 also emphasizes one of the tragic results of the Fall being death. At the end of every individual record, with the exception of Enoch whom God took, we find the statement and he died (vv. 5, 8, 11, 14, 20, 27, 31). This statement also emphasizes the truth of God's promise that man would die upon eating the fruit from the tree that He explicitly commanded them not to. From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (2:16-17). The original Hebrew uses a form of the verb for die that communicates that this statement about death is a "a matter of fact" or "without a doubt." While Adam and Eve both died spiritually shortly after the sin in that they became ashamed and were kicked out of the garden, thus being separated from God, they also would die physically. The resounding of this phrase indicates that God kept His word.

Genealogies also show the connections between the different people and events in their lives recorded in the narrative. The genealogy in chapter 5 connects Adam to Noah and then proceeds to describe the situation of the flood. It may also help solve the issue of the identity of the sons of God and daughters of men in 6:1-4. (I take the sons of God to refer to the descendants of Seth and the daughters of men being those whom were descended from Cain based on the contrast of the two genealogies given prior to the recording of this incident as well as all the evidence in the narrative pointing to men and not angels. I am continuing to study this issue and am working on revising and expanding a paper I did in seminary concerning it. Perhaps I will turn it into a blog post sometime if the Lord is willing.) See how much one would miss if he or she decided to just skip over this lengthy genealogy?

Matthew 1:1-17 is another example of a genealogy packed with wonderful insights that would be overlooked if one decided to dismiss it in their study. In opening his gospel, Matthew decides to provide Jesus' genealogy and presents it in such a way to identify Jesus as the Messiah as well as to emphasize God's grace. Matthew specifically traces Jesus back to David and Abraham. In illustrating how Jesus is the son of David, he shows Jesus' credentials to be the Messiah or anointed One that God promised would be in the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:1-5). Tracing Jesus' ancestry back farther from David to Abraham indicates that Jesus can be said to be the son of Abraham, connecting Him to the promise God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Paul later described part of this promise as the gospel since it foretold of God's plan to provide salvation to the Gentiles by grace through faith (Galatians 3:8). Matthew demonstrates God's grace by including five women in this genealogy which is unusual for such lists in that culture. Four of these women were not Jews and had a shady background. Tamar (v. 3) was a Canaanite who had dressed as a prostitute to fool Judah into sleeping with her since he refused to give her his youngest son for her to have children (Genesis 38:6-30). Rahab (v. 5) was a Gentile who had practiced prostitution (Joshua 2:1). Ruth (v. 5) was a Moabitess who had formerly served idols (Ruth 1:1-5,15). Bathsheba (v. 6) was the wife of Uriah the Hittite who had committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11). Matthew clearly alludes to this event with the statement who had been the wife of Uriah (v. 6). The inclusion of these women who typically would have been excluded in these types of lists indicate that no one is excluded from God's offer of salvation regardless of gender, nationality, and sin. Mary (v. 16) serves as the fifth woman mentioned in this genealogy and here Matthew highlights Jesus' virgin birth. In the Greek language, a pronoun matches the noun it replaces in both gender and number. The whom (hes in Greek) is feminine singular, meaning that it refers to Mary alone and not Joseph and Mary together. Matthew is showing that Jesus was born from Mary and not the product of the union between the two. Again, notice what one would miss concerning Jesus from not taking the time to study this genealogy.

Paying attention to context also might help mine some meaning from the numerous details pertaining to the building projects. For instance, the author of Kings appears to be telling us something in his description of both Solomon's work on God's temple and his work on his own palace. He points out that it took Solomon seven years to build the temple for the heavenly King (6:38) but thirteen years to construct the palace for himself as earthly king (7:1). The author makes a contrast between the building of the temple and the palace. 7:1 is connected to 6:38 by a "waw," the Hebrew character for and. The author places emphasis on his house in 7:1 by placing the word before the verb to build. In Hebrew, the subject and direct object typically follow the verb (contra the subject-verb-direct object sequence in English). Anytime the subject or direct object is placed before the verb, it usually indicates that the author wants to emphasize it. If you look at the sizes given for the temple (6:2) and the dimensions of the different parts of the palace, you will notice that Solomon's palace is actually larger than God's temple. In fact, just the house of the forest of Lebanon, one section in the king's palace, is bigger than the Temple as a whole (7:2). What is really interesting is that in light of the size and duration of the two buildings, the author spends more time on the details of the temple compared to the slim twelve verses for Solomon's palace. Could he be indicating the difference of perspective concerning the two buildings between God's view and that of the king? How often do we become preoccupied with building something for our own glory instead of seeking to establish God's glory? What is God's perspective of this? All of this understanding would be lost if one chose not to read through and study these details!

Ask What It Reveals to Us About God

The Bible is God's revelation. It is His revealing of Himself to His creation. We learn Who God is through His written Word. In it we see God's characteristics, attributes, works, and glory. Every narrative and form of teaching points back to Him someway or another. The Bible is basically God's book about God. Knowing the details concerning how God instructed Noah to build the ark or Moses the ark of the covenant may not seem relevant to us unless we would be called to craft similar constructions. However, these details may tell us a few things about God that we might miss if they were dismissed.

God is a God of detail. He cares not only that something is done but that it is done right and according to His specifications. We see this in the meticulous instructions God gives pertaining to the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10-22) and everything else related to the tabernacle (Exodus 25:23-27:21). God did not say to Moses "You must build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle" and then leave Moses to do it his way. No, instead He told him not only to do it but how He wanted it to be done. God is concerned in not just that we do something He commands but how we do it. It is never about us and what we want but about God and what He desires. The specifics given with these building projects indicate that God has standards that ought to be followed. The Law provides the specifics of God's standards of holiness and in turn reveals how much we all fall short of them. Thus we are shown to be sinners in need of a Savior because we cannot meet God's standards on our own within ourselves. Here are some crucial understandings about God that we can glean from these details.

Asking this question also would help us guard against the common "man-centered" mindset we often bring to the text. Several times the first things we ask when approaching God's Word is "what's in it for me?" or "what can I get out of this?" The better question would be to ask, "what can I learn about God?" In fact, such a question would be more beneficial in that the more we learn about God and His holiness, the more we realize how much we are not living the holy lives He calls us to live. The more we learn about what glorifies God, the more we realize just how much we fall short of that glory. In focusing on what we can learn about God, we get a better picture of our sin and how desperately we need Him in order to live for Him.

In addressing this question, I want to caution you against finding Jesus in every part of the Temple. Several well meaning Bible students have postulated that certain parts of the Temple were foreshadowings or types of Christ in the Old Testament. While it may be true that God in His providence instructed the Temple and tabernacle to be constructed in a certain way to point to the coming Messiah, one must be careful to claim specifics without any biblical warrant to do so. Certainly, the entire sacrificial system points to the necessity of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God as the New Testament authors clearly affirm. However, these authors do not specify certain parts of the Temple as being symbolic of Jesus. Unless God indicates to us elsewhere in Scripture that such and such piece of the Temple represented Christ, we cannot claim that it does with specificity and authority. To do so would be to add to the teaching of Scripture.

As you can see, these gruesome genealogies and daunting details are much more important than you may have realized. To ignore or neglect them would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The next time you come across these passages, instead of fretting over them, why not take the time to examine them in light of their context and focus on what they may teach you about God? You may discover a rich truth in them that you would have missed otherwise. May we not be afraid to glean the genealogies and delve into the details!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Bible on Homosexuality

DISCLAIMER: I am always open to comments on any of my public work that seek to complement or criticize, especially if one believes that I have erred in my exegesis or exposition. However, with this being such a heated topic that typically spawns emotionally charged and harsh responses, I ask that if you desire to criticize, please adhere to the following considerations:
1) I ask that your response be limited to what the Bible teaches concerning the topic. As stated in my introduction, I am primarily interested in what the Bible says about homosexuality as for me this settles the issue.
2) I ask that your response be respectful of me as well as anyone else who has taken the time to comment on this post. Please only comment with the attitude and words that would glorify God. If you are truly seeking to glorify God in your response, you will be sure to answer in a loving and respectful way. Too many unloving words have been said with this issue and I in no way want to be responsible for anymore. Such attacks on people are not a biblical way of handling disputes and do not honor God.

One of today's current hot button topics is the issue of homosexuality. Just the mention of the word generates debate. The issue cannot be avoided as references to it are found in almost every newspaper and in several television shows and movies. States are wrestling over whether a homosexual relationship constitutes a marriage with all the rights and privileges that one entails. The people of California decided that it doesn't while the legislature of Washington D.C. recently stated that it does. The debate is also occurring in the church. Two popular Christian recording artists (Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp) have both recently admitted to being in a homosexual relationship while trying to reconcile it with their faith. Several denominations question whether the lifestyle even is a sin and thus whether it should effect the role one plays in the leadership of the church. Most recently, a branch of the Episcopal Church has ordained their second openly gay bishop. My own beloved denomination, the Church of the Brethren, is currently waffling on the issue and after acknowledging that the denomination is not "of one mind" concerning this, have agreed to a two year study period. The mind that is needed on this issue, as well as every issue that we face in life, is that of the Bible's. The question that everyone should be asking is not "what is your position?" but instead "what is the Bible's position on this matter?"

My sole goal in this article is to understand Scripture's teaching on the topic of homosexuality. I am not concerned with the perspective of psychology or sociology. Being convicted that the Bible serves as the Word of God that should form people's worldview, govern their lives, and is sufficient for every topic that they need to know pertaining to their life, I view what it says concerning the issue as settling the debate. This understanding has been known since the Reformation as sola Scriptura. Anyone who follows the common presuppositions that guide my approach to God's Word should come out to the same place. These presuppositions are: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Scriptures. What I mean by inspiration is that though the words of Scripture were written by men, these men were moved by the Holy Spirit in such a way not to compromise their style or personality in writing and yet record God's very words (2 Peter 1:21). This is why Paul can describe Scripture as God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), because it is God's very words communicated through the medium of man. Due to this point, Scripture may also be described as being without any errors (inerrant) and also cannot fail in bringing about its intended purpose (infallible). However, this inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility would be limited to the original autographs of the Scriptures themselves and not necessarily to the copies and translations of them. For the reasons why I hold to these presuppositions, please see my earlier blog entry, "Why I Believe the Bible." These presuppositions led me to view Scripture to be God's objective and authoritative Word. Our goal as students of Scripture then is to seek to understand the meaning that He has inspired the original author to write. The best way to do this is the analyze the historical and literary context of what is written as well as the grammar and parts of speech used. Such an approach is often referred to as a "literal, grammatical, historical" hermeneutic (a fancy name for the science of interpretation). This will be the approach used in the evaluation of the selected texts in hopes of understanding the meaning that God has intended to communicate. Much of the passages cited are my personal translation from the original Hebrew and Greek.

You will notice that I also refer to homosexuality as a lifestyle. This is due to my understanding that it is not something one is born with but a choice that participants are often forced into by certain circumstances or events in their lives. Many people have wound up in a homosexual lifestyle after being molested at a young age by a male relative, going without a strong father figure, or for ladies after several failed relationships with men. (This of course does not mean that anyone who has ever experienced any of these issues will become a homosexual just as the fact that one who has had an alcoholic or abusive father does not necessarily indicate that they will turn out to be such themselves. However, many homosexuals can identify similar instances to those mentioned here in their past.) No medical evidence has been sufficient to substantiate the claim that homosexuality is genetic and a condition one may be born with. Furthermore, as will be seen with this study, Scripture appears to identify homosexuality as a sinful lifestyle and not a sexual orientation originating from birth.

I do not intend to upset or diminish anyone who currently is or who knows someone involved in a homosexual lifestyle or who may be struggling with homosexual desires. I have had friends who are homosexual and have appreciated their personalities and character. Just as a mother loves her child who is addicted to drugs but cannot affirm his addiction because of how much she knows it harms him, I could show compassion to them but could not and cannot affirm their lifestyle. While you will see why I understand the lifestyle to be a sin, I recognize that I am no less of a sinner in my own life. I confess that the church has not always dealt with the issue appropriately and seek to make no excuses or justification for the times that the church has failed to speak the truth in love in confronting the issue. I only desire to communicate the plain truth of Scripture.

Homosexuality in the Old Testament

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 defines what God constitutes as a marriage. Notice you have a man being joined to his wife. One man and one woman both rules out polygamy and so-called "same-sex marriage" (I refer to it as "so-called" because according to God such a union does not constitute a marriage in any means. His definition of marriage is found here in this verse). The heterosexual union that God defines is part of His plan to aid in the man's role to serve and glorify Him. In v. 18, God states that it is not good for man to be alone. This observation leads God to seek to make a helper corresponding to him. After bringing the animals to the man, none of them could be found to be such a helper (vv. 19-20). So God puts the first man, Adam, to sleep and crafts a woman out of his rib (vv. 21-22). Both Adam's declaration that this one is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (v. 23) and God's establishment of the close union between the two (v. 24) indicate that the woman served as the help corresponding to him that God decided was necessary for the man. God did not take Adam's rib and make another man but a woman to be this helper that corresponds to him. God's intention for a marriage commitment clearly is that between one man and one woman. Furthermore, one of the responsibilities that God gives to this couple are to Be fruitful and multiply (1:28), an impossibility for a homosexual couple to carry out for obvious reasons.

I did a blog previously arguing and articulating how this definition of marriage can be found consistently throughout Scripture. This was in response to a popular Newsweek article that claimed to provide the religous case for gay marriage. The issue over "so-called" same-sex marriage is not one over homosexual rights. In fact, homosexuals have the same rights pertaining to marriage as anyone else in America. I have the right to marry any woman of my own choosing within the confines of what defines a marriage. I cannot choose to marry my cat because that does not constitute a marriage. Likewise, I cannot choose to marry a child or two women. What homosexual activists are fighting for with "so-called" same-sex marriage is not marriage at all but something different. God has established and defined marriage as recorded here in Genesis and man has no right to change that.

They had not yet lied down when the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every end, and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them." And Lot went out to them at the doorway and shut the door behind him. And he said, "Please my brothers, do not do evil. Now behold I have two daughters who have not known a man. Please let me bring these to you and do to them what is good in your eyes, only to these men do nothing in the matter because they have come under the shadow of my roof." And they said, "Stand aside." They said, "this one came as a sojourner and he is acting like a judge; now we will do more evil to you than them." And they pushed against the man, against Lot, hard and came near to breaking the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot to them into the house and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great and they wearied to find the doorway. Genesis 19:4-11

Genesis 19:1-29 describes the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. While not the only sin of the cities, a major one was homosexuality as witnessed in the narrative itself. The men of the city came with the intention to have sex with the two angels who must have appeared as men. They called out to Lot and asked, Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them (v. 5). The Hebrew word for "know" often is used to connote sexual relations as can be seen in its use in Genesis 4:1 when Adam "knowing" Eve resulted in the birth of Cain. Clearly, Adam had to do more than just know who Eve was or be cognate of her existence for her to conceive. The same verb is used in v. 8 here when Lot describes his two daughters as having not known a man. This has to have a sexual connotation because it would not make sense for these two to have gone through their lives without ever meeting a man, especially since they might have been engaged (v. 14)1 These men wanted to have sex with the angels. Lot described their intended actions as evil (v. 7). They were so perverse that they even bypassed the offer of Lot's two virgin daughters (which was discrediting to Lot who obviously desired to protect the angels more than his own daughters) (vv. 8-9). The angels had to strike the men blind to make them stop their attempt to barge into the door to get them (vv. 10-11). The wickedness of the city was so great that God decided to destroy it (vv. 12-13). Ezekiel 16:49-50 points out some of the wicked sins of the city: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed an abomination before Me. Though homosexuality is not mentioned in this list of atrocities, Jude in the New Testament clearly identifies it as one. In listing the judgment that all those faced who had apostatized (a complete falling away from the faith and outright rejection of it) throughout biblical history, the author includes the angels who left their domain just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these [the angels] indulged in gross immorality and went after different flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire (Jude 7). I am not completely sure what the event with the angels mentioned here is referring to. Some try to connect it with the incident of the Sons of God marrying the daughters of man in Genesis 6 but that doesn't fit the context of that chapter. However, it does seem clear that whatever these angels did, the people of Sodom were similar by participating in gross immorality and going after different flesh. This would make sense to be referring to homosexuality which would have men going after different flesh than normal and would be immoral as the other Scriptures dealing with homosexuality show. Furthermore, the common terms, "sodomy" and "sodomite," used to refer to homosexual activity or one who performs such activity, originate from the name of the city of Sodom.

Leviticus 18:22 simply states as part of the Law the prohibition that You shall not lie in bed with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 20:13 also condemns the practice of homosexuality and prescribes death as the punishment for such a sin: And a man who lies with a male in bed as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. The author emphasizes the fact that this act is detestable to God in 20:13 by highlighting the word, abomination, in the original Hebrew. The standard in the Hebrew language is to place the verb before the subject and then to have the direct object after the subject (contra our English style to always place the subject directly before the verb). Here the direct object, abomination, precedes the verb, to do or make, drawing attention to God's hatred of this practice.

The main point of Leviticus can be summarized by God's statement, For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45). All of the dietary, ritual, and purity laws and prohibitions serve the very purpose of the people separating themselves from the sinful practices of the other nations to be "set apart" (the basic meaning of "holy") for service to God. For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44). This is the explicit reason given for the list of sexual prohibitions in chapter 18 of which homosexuality is a part. Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled (Leviticus 18:24). The verb translated as defile literally means to be or become unclean. A holy God cannot have an unholy people. (This point established in this book has wonderful implications for the necessity of a perfect sacrifice needed for God's people to be viewed as holy in the eyes of such a holy God.)

The main issue pertaining to these verses concern their application to the church today. We no longer follow the prohibitions of men shaving their beards, women leaving the city during their period, and the strict dietary instructions of what should be eaten and what should not. Jesus stated that He did not come to abolish the Law but instead to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He even declared all foods clean as Mark points out upon His declaration that it is what comes out of one's mouth that makes him unclean and not what goes in (Mark 7:19). However, Jesus never addressed any of the sexual sins mentioned in both chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus as not making one unclean. Perhaps the reason that these practices make one unclean is due to the fact that they are a sin against God's standard of proper sexual relationships. The purpose of the Law was to set the standard and reveal man's sins as he fell short of God's standard due to his depraved nature (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-8). While we are not described as still being under the Law and all of those rituals, the underlying principles that God based His Law on have not changed from the very beginning. Murder was a sin before God established the Law as is seen with God's confronting of Cain due to his slaying of Abel (Genesis 4:6-12). Likewise, lying and adultery are still considered sins even though we are not under the Law. In Hebrews 13:4, notice that the author does not say that defiling the marriage bed is wrong because it is one of the "Ten Commandments" but because it is an offense to God who will judge those who go against this principle. While homosexuality, as well as many of the other sins commanded against in the Law, may no longer result in stoning due to us not being under the Law (praise God for His grace shown at the cross!) I see no evidence that God no longer considers such a relationship as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), especially when it is explicitly referred to in the New Testament as a sin. In fact, almost all of the other sexual sins listed in the context of the two verses referenced would still be regarded as a sin and disgraceful in God's eyes. Certainly, no one would try to argue that incest (18:6-18; 20:10-12, 17, 19-21), adultery (18:20), and bestiality (18:23; 20:15-16) are now viewed as appropriate in God's sight and thus affirmed. Yet, to be consistent, to claim that homosexuality is now acceptable contra to these statements, one would also have to say that incest, adultery, and bestiality are as well. According to God, all of these are sins and should not be practiced.

While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came to your house that we may know him." Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No my fellows, please do not do evil; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do the good in your eyes. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight.
Judges 19:22-26

Judges 19:22-30 describes a scene very similar to that which occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah although with a much more gruesome ending. An old man takes in a Levite for the night and during their evening feast, the men of the city come to the house demanding for the guest to come out so that they can have sex with him. Bring out the man who came into your house that we may know him (v. 22). The owner of the house even described the action they desired as evil and an act of folly (v. 23). Here the Hebrew verb for know must again carry a sexual connotation. Having a desire to become acquainted with this man surely would not be described as evil or an act of folly. The word for folly literally means senselessness and is used especially to refer to disgraceful sins. Just as Lot offered his daughters to the wicked men of his city, this man gave his daughter and the concubine of the guest to the wicked ones of this city. Unfortunately, their sexual appetite was so strong that they went ahead and raped the concubine all night and all morning (v. 25), eventually leading to her death (vv. 27-28). This is a very gruesome picture along with many others throughout the book of judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). In fact, the author introduces this narrative with the reminder that Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel (Judges 19:1). The homosexual desire led to rape when the people could not get their way.

While many may dismiss these as being in the Old Testament, this in no way invalidates them as God's principles have not changed in any way with the cross and the dawning of the church age. The New Testament also has several clear statements concerning the issue. All of which unambiguously identify homosexuality as a sin.

Homosexuality in the New Testament

Because of this God gave them over into disgraceful passions, for their females exchanged the natural relation into that which is against nature, and in the same way also males abandoned the natural relation of the female, they were inflamed in their desire for one another, male with male doing the shameless deed and receiving from in themselves the penalty that was due of their error.
Romans 1:26-27

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes the wrath of God being against the ungodly who suppress the truth of what God has made known to them about Himself through creation (vv. 18-20). Though they know of God's existence due to the evidence of His fingerprints in what He has created, they failed to glorify Him or give Him thanks (v. 21). They chose to worship created images instead (vv. 22-23). Paul here is referring to the sinful practices of the Gentiles as he makes his case that all have sinned and thus are under God's righteous wrath. He later points out to the Jews that they practice the same things and are also sinners deserving of God's judgment (2:1-11). As a result of worshiping something in place of God, Paul says three times that God gave them over to various sins (vv. 24, 26, 28). The term in Greek for to give over often is used in legal matters to describe someone turning another in to the authorities or to a judge. Paul uses it for the divine justice demonstrated in the practice of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. God's judgment upon this group is to allow them to revel in their sins to their own degradation. In a sense, God abandons them because they have abandoned Him.2 One of these sins God hands them over to appears to be homosexuality.

Verse 24 seems to introduce the topic of homosexuality in this passage with vv. 26-27 expanding on it. The impurity their hearts are given over to for the purpose of the dishonoring of their bodies would fit a description of homosexuality, especially if Paul would have the impurities of the holiness code of Leviticus in mind. After reiterating the point that this judgment originates in their sin of worshiping created things rather than the God who created them (v. 25), Paul elaborates on what God has given the people over to. In vv. 26-27 we find an inescapable reference to homosexuality.

Paul describes women as switching a natural relation in for an unnatural one. While the relation may not be explicitly defined in v. 26, the connection and explanation given for the men who in the same way abandon the natural relation of the woman in v. 27 indicates the reference being a sexual one. Men instead of having the proper relation with women are described as being inflamed in their desire for one another, male with male. The fact that Paul mentions lesbianism coupled alongside of the male homosexual relationship means that he did not intend to limit the latter case to pederasity, an erotic relationship between an older man and a young boy common in ancient Greek practice. This situation could certainly be included but Paul appears to indicate a more general male-male relationship. Interestingly, Paul in these verses uses the less common Greek words of thleis (female) and arseues (male) instead of the usual gune (woman or wife) and andros (man or husband). Typically, the apostle uses the latter two to refer to the different gender relations throughout his writings.3 The only other case where he uses thleis and arseues is in Galatians 3:28. By choosing these two words over the other two, he might intend to point back to Genesis 1:27 where it states male and female He created them. In fact, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) uses these two words to translate the Hebrew words for male and female. In such a connection, Paul indicates that this type of relationship is against God's created order.

Paul's description of this relationship as against nature may indicate that homosexuality is not something one is born with. If it was, then it could be described as natural for that person. The passions and desire must then develop in another matter. This does not necessarily mean that the practice may not feel natural for the person involved as any habit may begin to feel as part of one's nature over time.4 The desire to drink does not feel strange to an alcoholic as the habit has become a part of his nature. The same could be said with a smoker as well pertaining to cigarettes.

The penalty mentioned that those who practice this relationship receive is not specified. It could refer to the practice itself as divine punishment for the original rejection of God. The error could refer back to this suppression of truth and exchange of the glory of God for the glory of man. Another possibility would be that the penalty refers to the spread of sexual diseases such as AIDS that plague the homosexual community with the error then being the homosexual relationships God gave them over to. While the referent may be unclear, Paul's characterization of homosexuality is not. He views it as a sinful passion that is unnatural and a shameless deed.5

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate nor homosexuals nor thieves nor greedy, no drunkards, no revilers, no swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And these were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Homosexuality is also mentioned in a list of vices Paul gives in I Corinthians 6:9-10 of characteristics of the unrighteous who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The apostle is chastising the church for taking each other to the secular courts to settle their issues instead of working them out among themselves. Does any of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? (v. 1). Paul tells them of the foolishness of having those who are unsaved evaluate their disagreements (vv. 2-6). As part of this point of how foolish going to the secular courts to be judged by unbelievers are, Paul reminds them of what characterizes such a group and how such things prevent this group from entering God's kingdom. This should not be whom they would want to go to in order to settle their disputes. Two words in this list may pertain to the current discussion on homosexuality but they are not without much dispute concerning their meaning. The two words in Greek are malakos (translated as effeminate in NASB) and apsenokoites (translated as homosexuals in NASB).

The term malakos literally means soft and carries this connotation in its other three New Testament occurrences.6 The gospel writers use it to describe the clothing of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25. However, here in 1 Corinthians it does not refer to clothing but a sinful practice that characterizes one's life. The major question then concerns how Paul uses the term. Unfortunately, Paul never uses the term again in any of the letters that we possess for us to have any point of comparison in other contexts. The identification of the word next to apsenokoites which will be discussed shortly has led many translators to render the term as effeminate. The idea then would be that it refers to the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. While this is a possibility, it is not conclusive without any other evidence to back up the claim. It could be just as easily connected to the word that precedes it (aduterers) or stand on its own like several of the other characteristics in the list. However, apsenokoites definitely appears to refer to homosexuality.

One lexicon translates apsenokoites as one who has intercourse with a man as with a woman.7 What makes this word puzzling is the fact that no record of the word exists prior to its use here in 1 Corinthians and later in 1 Timothy 1:10. Scholars have not found it used anywhere before these letters, even in works outside of Scripture. This may indicate that Paul created this word to describe a specific group. The word is a compound word consisting of the two words apsenos (male) and koiten (bed). Just as English has often taken two separate words and combined them into one (such as airport, backhand, and sunshine), Paul might have done the same with the two words mentioned. These two words are both used in the Septuagint's translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 that were examined earlier.8 In fact, the two words are used side by side in 20:13 (kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos, And whomever lies with a male in bed as with a woman). Paul might have taken the two words and decided to combine them to refer to the males who lie in bed as with a woman as Leviticus prohibited. If this is the case, then homosexuals are clearly referred to in this list.

There are two things to notice concerning the place of this word in this list and with reference to the following verse. While homosexuality (arsenokoites) is identified as a characteristic of the unrighteous, it is not singled out as a greater sin than adultery or drunkenness or idolatry. It is given just as much weight as the other sins. In God's eyes, sin is sin, regardless of what specific sin it may be. While certain sins may have graver consequences than others, no sin itself is identified as greater, with maybe the possible exception of the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:31-32. Also, Christ has the power to change people who are characterized by such things mentioned in this list. In v. 11, Paul mentions that and these were some of you, referring to the believers he is addressing, recognizing that many of them used to have been characterized by such sins. But the power of Christ changed that as He has washed them, sanctified them, and justified them. In the original Greek, each of these verbs are coupled with a but that might indicate the contrast of the present state of the Christians from the unrighteous they once resembled. All of these verbs are salvific terms. Through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, God has the power to save and change any sinner, whether they be an adulterer, idolater, homosexual, or frequent liar.

This is one of my favorite verses to use when discussing the Bible's teaching on homosexuality because it not only shows that it is a sin of equal weight to others but also because it shows that God has the power to deliver someone from this sin as He does all other sins. Far too often the church has been guilty of forgetting about communicating this important truth, especially to the homosexuals that may pay a visit on Sunday morning or whom we encounter throughout the week. The good news of the gospel is the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ and should be told to all regardless of their sins.

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 1:8-11

Here in 1 Timothy 1:9-10, Paul gives another vice list. This time the list serves to illustrate the purpose of the Law. After warning Timothy about those who desire to be teachers of the Law but who do not have a proper understanding of it (vv. 6-7), he explains the purpose of the Law to possibly combat this group's wayward teaching on the subject. This group might have been following the popular error of the Judaizers who insisted that the Gentile converts had to become circumcised according to the prescription of the Law and also live according to its rules and regulations. He reminds Timothy that the Law was given for the sake of revealing man's sin and unrighteousness (Romans 7:7-13) by listing several groups of sins that mirror the ten commandments. It was not made for a righteous person but those in this list that the Law shows are unrighteous because they fall short of God's standards. One of the sins in this list is the exact same noun previously examined in the list in 1 Corinthians, arsenokoites, identifying homosexuality as referred in the holiness code in Leviticus.9 Also, like the passage in 1 Corinthians, Paul does not leave the vice list without providing hope afterwards. He shares how God saved him although he once was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor (vv. 12-13). Furthermore, he gives the trustworthy statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost (v. 15). Praise God that He has the power to save sinners through Jesus' death on the cross!

Jesus and Homosexuality

A major claim by proponents for the acceptance of homosexuality is Jesus' silence on the issue. It is true that Jesus never explicitly condemns homosexuality or homosexual behavior. However, that does not necessarily mean that He condones it. In fact, Jesus also never mentioned bestiality and pedophilia and that certainly does not indicate that He believed them to be okay. Such a claim is an argument of silence and does not carry any weight. While Jesus may never have spoken directly to the subject of homosexuality, He clearly affirms a heterosexual relationship as the norm and purpose of a marriage relationship. In Matthew 19:1-12, Jesus is asked a question pertaining to divorce. The Pharisees wanted to trap him by getting him to take one of the sides in the current debate at the time over what Deuteronomy 24:1 meant with the statement, he has found some indecency in her as a reason for divorce. Instead of taking a side with one of the rabbis, He affirmed God's original intention for marriage. By quoting Genesis 1:27 (v. 4) and 2:24 (v. 5), He supported a union between one man and one woman. Jesus did not amend these two statements of Scripture or alter them in any way. In fact, the statements are basically word for word identical to that of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). The evidence that we have for Jesus in relation to homosexuality is that He supported a heterosexual union in marriage and agreed with the Old Testament condemnation of sexual sin (Matthew 5:27-30).


The Bible's position on the matter of homosexuality is clear and consistent. Solid exegesis of Scripture reveals homosexuality to be a sin that veers from God's intended fulfilling relationship between a man and a woman. One has to work hard to dismiss or get around several of the passages examined in this article. For the denominations that are debating this issue of homosexuality, the real issue lies in the authority of Scripture and whether the denomination will take a stand with God's Word or seek to affirm what He has not. Instead of spending so much time, energy, and resources on debating what God has already decided and communicated, we would do better to discuss how best we can reach out to those in the homosexual community and share the love of Christ with them and the good news of the gospel. People need to hear what God's Word says on the issue and as a dear brother of mine whom God has delivered from homosexuality put it, let them know that "the grass is greener on the other side."

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!


1 It is unclear whether the Hebrew participle in v. 14 for take should be translated with a present or future tense. So these sons in law might either refer to the fiances of these daughters or be the husbands of other daughters of Lot.

2 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 1508.

3 Granted, the reason for Paul's numerous usage of gune (woman/wife) and andros (man/husband) in his writings stems from their occurrences in his discussions of marriage relationships since the two terms both can refer to the respective position of wife and husband. However, it still is significant that he does not use these two terms to refer to man and woman here in this passage as they can be used to convey a more general sense but instead uses two terms which are limited to refer to male and female.

4 Brethren Revival Fellowship, God Speaks About the Homosexual Issue (Ephrata, PA: Brethren Revival Fellowship, 2010) 10.

5 The Greek word used for passion in v. 26 is always used by Paul to describe a sinful passion (Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5).

6 F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983) 121.

7 Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (From B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100) (New York: Scribner's, 1900) 1.253.

8 Leviticus 18:20: kai meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gunaikos; Leviticus 20:13: kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos; Andreas J. Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004) 216.

9 On a side note: The fact that the only two occurrences of this Greek word are found in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy with the evidence suggesting that Paul coined the term, more support is lent to the traditional understanding of the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles in light of the denial by many modern critical scholars.