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Wordwise Insight, Issue #005 -- homosexuality in the Bible and more
May 14, 2005
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Message outlines you are welcome to use: Faithful Sayings; Where Is Your God? and, 24 Words--Homosexuality as God Sees It

READER Q & A. What is meant by the unpardonable sin? Can Christians commit it?

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. If your pastor has recently resigned, your church should consider the benefits of calling an interim pastor.

NEWS & REVIEWS. An excellent book to add to your library


BIBLE INSIGHTS

FAITHFUL SAYINGS
Five times in his epistles, Paul speaks of a statement he makes as being a "faithful saying" (a sure word). Not that the rest of his message was in doubt. It is simply a way of giving special emphasis to a particular truth. Here are the five:

1) That Christ came to save sinners (I Tim. 1:15)

2) That godliness is profitable both for time and for eternity (I Tim. 4:8-9)

3) That good works should naturally flow from faith (Tit. 3:8)

4) That pastoral ministry is a good work in which to be engaged (I Tim. 3:1)

5) That believers are certain to live and reign with Christ eternally (II Tim. 2:11-13)

WHERE IS YOUR GOD?
The question is asked in Psalm 42:3, "My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?'" (cf. vs. 10). It is somewhat reminiscent of the mockery of Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:43-44). A question such as this may have various emotions in back of it. And they are emotions frequently behind the ridicule of believers today.

1) Certainly there is hatred and scorn behind the words in Psalm 42. These are "enemies" (vs. 10), happy to see the psalmist in distress.

2) There is contempt, and unbelief in the question. They think they are seeing a weak God who cannot help (or no God at all).

3) There is perhaps a measure of superstitious dread and fear involved. There are reports of how the God of Israel has come to their aid in past days, in some spectacular ways. Maybe He will again.

4) There is maybe a hint of regret and disappointment behind their words. Could it be they are reflecting, "If only there were someone who could help us at such times"?

24 WORDS--HOMOSEXUALITY AS GOD SEES IT
While people may continue to debate, and differ on the subject, there is simply no question as to what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. With more than twenty negative terms used to describe it, the biblical perspective is clear.

The only question, then, is whether the Bible is merely a collection of ancient myths and man-made ideas, or whether it is the inspired, infallible Word of the living God. The writers certainly believed they were transmitting the latter. As Paul says, "These things we...speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches" (I Cor. 2:13; cf. II Tim. 3:16-17). So, how does the Bible describe homosexuality?

(Note: At times there are some differences in the translation of Hebrew and Greek words from one Bible version to another. Variations are listed in their place. But whichever version is used, the basic meaning remains.)

The Sin of Sodom (Gen. 19:1-9)
Some seek to limit the wickedness of the men of Sodom to their lack of hospitality. Though other sins were involved too (Ezek. 16:49), Jude makes it plain what God particularly frowned upon.

1) God calls their behaviour sexual immorality (cf. Jude 1:7, "fornication," KJV).

2) God calls it going after strange [alien] flesh (cf. Jude 1:7).

3) God calls the actions of the Sodomites sin (Gen. 13:13).

4) God calls it exceeding wickedness (Gen. 13:13; 19:7).

The Mosaic Covenant
The Law was given by God to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. It contains instruction regarding their religious rituals, and regulations involving Israel's community life. But more importantly, it is an expression of the unchanging moral standard of a holy God.

5) In the Law, God calls homosexuality an abomination [that which is disgusting, detestable] (Lev. 18:22). Note the context, vs. 21-25. This sin is sandwiched between the evils of child sacrifice and bestiality. And it is declared to be punishable by death (Lev. 20:13).

6) God calls it being defiled [morally unclean and polluted] (Lev. 18:24).

7) God calls it iniquity (Lev. 18:25).

8) God calls homosexuals dogs--not "gays" (Deut. 23:18; cf. Rev. 22:15, referring to male prostitutes, and their common mode of sexual relations).

9) God calls the sin sodomy, after the first appearance of the transgression in Scripture (KJV). The Hebrew word used (qadesh), refers to a temple prostitute; translated "perverted person" in the NKJV (Deut. 23:17; I Kgs. 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; II Kgs 23:7).

Romans Chapter One (vs. 18, 21-28)
In this key chapter, a general description of sin is given in vs. 18 which clearly includes the homosexuality discussed in some detail in the context.

10) God calls it ungodliness (vs. 18).

11) God calls it unrighteousness (vs. 18).

12) God calls it uncleanness (vs. 24).

13) God calls it dishonouring the body [treating the body with contempt] (vs. 24).

14) God calls it a display of vile [disgraceful, shameful] passions [affections, KJV] (vs. 26).

15) God says it is against nature [His design for human sexuality] (vs. 26).

16) God calls it error (vs. 27)

17) God calls it burning with lust (vs. 27).

18) God calls it shameful [unseemly, KJV] (vs. 27).

19) God says it is the product of a debased [reprobate] mind (vs. 28).

First Corinthians 6:9-11

20) God calls it homosexuality [being "effeminate," KJV; literally, the term used is catamites, referring to boys used and abused as lovers by older men] (vs. 9)

21) God calls homosexuals abusers of themselves (KJV), practicers of "sodomy" (NKJV), "homosexual offenders" (NIV) (vs. 9).

22) God says it is contrary to sound doctrine (I Tim. 1:9-10, where the same word is used as in I Cor. 6:9).

Jude 1:7-8

23) God calls homosexuals dreamers ["filthy dreamers," KJV--those carried away by their sensual imaginings] (vs. 8).

24) God says they are those who defile the flesh (vs. 8). Significantly, Jude tells us the fiery destruction of Sodom pictures the destiny of those practicing this behaviour--"the vengeance of eternal fire [hell]" (vs. 7; cf. I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8).

(And see the use of this text above, in connection with the sin of Sodom, Gen. 19.)

Two further points can be made in conclusion. First, in utter contrast with the above, God's plan and design for marriage was made clear from the beginning. It is to involve the enduring union of a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18, 27; Matt. 19:3-5).

Second, homosexuality is not merely another acceptable lifestyle, nor is it an unalterable condition. The words of Paul, "such were some of you" (I Cor. 6:11) include "homosexuals" and "sodomites" (vs. 9), showing homosexuality is neither genetically inevitable nor permanent. The sodomite can change. Many have done so. There is deliverance and forgiveness in Christ.

That is what the Word of God has to say about homosexuality. And it is why Christians are concerned that this behaviour not be promoted as an acceptable alternative to wholesome marriage between a man and a woman. This cannot be dismissed simply as hatred for homosexuals (gay bashing), or fear of them (homophobia) Many have a loving concern for them with regard to the coming judgment of God upon their sin. It is to warn them away from the path of ruin that God's message about these things is proclaimed.


READER Q & A...

Question: Bill asks: "Can you please define the expression 'blaspheming the Holy Spirit'"? And can a Christian be guilty of doing this?"

Answer: Both Matthew and Mark record Jesus' discussion of this particular offense (Matt. 12:31- 32; Mk. 3:28-30), and the incident which precipitated the Lord's teaching is also recounted by Luke (Lk. 11:15-23). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has been called "the unpardonable sin" as well, on the basis of Jesus' words (Matt. 12:32).

Much has been written on this subject because, as you indicate, it raises a number of critical issues. What is the sin? And can it be committed today? Can a born again Christian commit this sin? And how does its "unpardonable" nature square with verses such as First John 1:7 and 9 which assure us that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin?

"Blasphemy" is a transliteration of the Greek word blasphemia, meaning: to slander, to speak contemptuously--in particular about God. So, what is the context in which Jesus' startling teaching occurs? The Lord had just delivered a demon possessed man, to the amazement of the watching crowd. Many had begun to wonder, "Could this be the Son of David [in other words, the promised Messiah]?" (Matt. 12:22-23). At that the Pharisees saw the possibility of their hold on the people slipping away, and they said sarcastically, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub [Satan], the ruler of the demons" (vs. 24). Mark tells us they also said, "He has Beelzebub" (Mk. 3:22). In other words, Jesus Himself is demon possessed; the spirit at work in Him is the devil.

It is that particular allegation which Christ refers to as blasphemy (slander) against the Holy Spirit. Jesus declares, "'He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation'--because [explains Mark] they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit'" (Mk. 3:29-30).

The power of the Holy Spirit was repeatedly evident in Christ's life and ministry (Lk. 3:21-22; 4:1, 14). And Jesus specifically declared this to be in fulfilment of a messianic prophecy of Isaiah's (Lk. 4:16- 21; cf. Isa. 61:1-2). So, in making their slanderous accusation, the Pharisees were rejecting the evidence before them, and calling the Holy Spirit of God a demon!

Matthew shows how this incident, and the subsequent teaching, come at a decisive point when official rejection of Christ had crystalized. The Jewish leaders have, in fact, begun plotting to destroy Him (Matt. 12:14). Following their open expression of contempt, Jesus begins teaching more in parables. And a new element is introduced: if He is rejected He will depart. Matthew 13 presents one parable after another, designed to show the nature of the kingdom during the absence of the King--what theologians sometimes call the "mystery" form of the kingdom. We are specifically told that the Lord switched to this parabolic method to conceal the truth from those who had hardened their hearts against Him (Matt. 13:10-16).

Two key statements recorded in Matthew provide further insight. Jesus says, "If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you [as indicated by the presence of the King]" (Matt. 12:28). That was the real issue, and His enemies knew it--the messianic identity of Jesus. He had come in the power of the Spirit of God, fulfilled one Old Testament prophecy after another, and fully demonstrated to anyone open to consider the evidence that He was (and is) the Christ, the Messiah-king of Israel. But in their rebel unbelief, the rulers of the Jews rejected Him and His authority over them.

The only alternative, if they denied the truth, seemed to be to claim that Jesus' power was evil and satanic. And the verb tense in Mark 3:30 is continuous--literally, they kept on saying He has an unclean spirit. They did so over and over. However, "whoever blasphemes" (Mk. 3:29) uses a Greek verb describing a one time completed action, not something that is repeated. It would seem that vs. 29 is speaking of the inward conclusion, a firm conviction that is established in the heart, while vs. 30 represents the ongoing and outward fruit of such a commitment.

The other key statement regarding this sin is found in Matthew 12:32. Amazingly, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." What is remarkable about that is it seems to exalt one Person of the Trinity above another. So is it all right to slander Jesus, but not to slander the Holy Spirit? And does this mean one Person of the Godhead is worthy of greater honour than another? Or that the Holy Spirit is more important than God the Father, or the Lord Jesus? If so, what do we do with John 5:23, "All should honour the Son just as they honour the Father"? Or what about Colossians 2:9, "In Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"?

The most logical way to resolve these questions is to see the sin as being unique to the days of Christ's humiliation. To many He was the lowly carpenter's son, likely born of an illicit pre-marital relationship between Joseph and Mary (Matt. 13:55; Jn. 8:41). As far as His physical appearance is concerned, there was apparently nothing unusual or remarkable about Him (cf. Isa. 53:2). No halo hovered above His head, as in Mediaeval paintings. So how could this peasant from despised Nazareth (cf. Jn. 1:46) be the Son of God? Remember, those who watched Him during His years of public ministry did not have the empty tomb to consider. Nor did they have all the inspired revelation in the epistles that explains so much. To misjudge Jesus was understandable. But the working of the Holy Spirit in the through Christ was a clear matter of Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes (Isa. 11:1-2; 61:1-2; and see 35:5-6; cf. Matt. 11:2-6).

With that background, let us consider whether this particular sin can be committed today. The sin is not simply a matter of using the name of Jesus as a swear word (which is frequently done in our time), or of speaking disrespectfully of the Holy Spirit. The latter is much more rare, but I have heard His name profaned as well. However, the precise nature of the sin is this: It involved witnesses of Jesus' earthly ministry ascribing His works to the devil, and thus slandering the Holy Spirit who worked through Him.

It certainly cannot be that a born again Christian can commit any unforgivable sin. Otherwise, First John 1:7 and 9 are not speaking the truth. And the "eternal" life which is God's gift is not eternal at all! No Christian has ever or can ever commit an unpardonable sin. And, if the nature of the sin is as described above, it simply cannot be committed today by anyone. Sinners do not see Christ in His humiliation. Nor are they able to pass judgment on the observable works of a Man. Rather, they have before them God's completed revelation, describing exactly who Christ is and what He has done. It is for their refusal to believe God's Word concerning His Son that they will face eternal judgment (I Jn. 5:11-12).

Next month: A teen-ager asks whether it is right for a Christian to play video games that involve combat and killing. What would you tell him?


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) New on the Website!--Interim Pastoral Ministry
Has the pastor of your church recently resigned? As well as beginning the search for a new undershepherd, have you considered the possibility of calling an interim man to minister for a shorter period of time? There are some advantages and benefits to this kind of ministry which need to be considered.

On the Wordwise website is a new article called Interim Pastorates. It describes: Reasons for an Interim Ministry, Rewards of an Interim Ministry (more than a dozen of them), and Requirements of an Interim Ministry. If your congregation is (or is soon to face being) without a pastor, check out this practical material.

2) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

3) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

4) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


VIEWS & REVIEWS

A Great Book! Those who ridicule the Bible often do not know what is in it. And they have little conception of the powerful impact the Bible has made on every aspect of society, down through history. You will be intrigued and excited by the facts, as they are laid out in a book entitled What If the Bible Had Never Been Written (by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, published by Nelson Books, 1998). How has the Bible influenced law, politics, science, literature and more, in a positive way? Discover the answers in this recommended book. (It is a companion to another excellent work from the same authors, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?)


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.

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