Sufficiency of the Scriptures (Part #3a)

bible alone

This is part 3a of my series on the sufficiency of the Scriptures as the sole infallible authority for Christian faith and life. Part #1 set the stage. Part #2a and #2b examined what several New Testament books had to say on the matter. This post and the next will take a look at several critical passages in the New Testament on the subject.

Mark 7:1-13

Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem have come down to see Jesus once more (Mk 7:1; see also Mk 3:22-30). It is doubtful they were merely curious about Christ; they likely came specifically to investigate and condemn Him. “The scribes and Pharisees, who had come from Jerusalem, were doubtless sent as spies, to watch and to report in no friendly spirit the proceedings of the great Prophet of Nazareth.”[1]

They soon find something to take issue with; “they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed,” (Mk 7:2). The Pharisees had developed the custom of ritualistic washing before meals, along with many other inventions (Mk 7:3-4). Mark takes pains to mark these customs as the “tradition of the elders.” In their zeal to preserve their Jewishness in a distinctly un-Jewish world, [2] the Pharisees had elevated ritualistic tradition to the same level as the OT law. [3] Edwards remarks that “by Jesus’ day, adherence to the unwritten oral tradition was as important for the Pharisees as was adherence to the Torah itself.”[4]

Here Christ issues His decree on the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Would He approve of the elevation of human tradition? The accusation from the Pharisees is not long in coming; “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (Mk 7:5). Christ does not mince words; he calls them hypocrites and draws from a prophesy of Isaiah to accuse them of false worship!

Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,’ (Mk 7:6b-7).

Our Savior follows up this frank condemnation with a summary statement; “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men,” (Mk 7:8). What follows is a sad and despicable example of how the custom of Corban had been twisted and turned into a prohibition from honoring one’s parents (Mk 7:9-13). Jesus’ concluding remark on the matter is particularly damning; “thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do,” (Mk 7:13).

The word is God is made void by man-made traditions. Scripture is indeed sufficient, and Christ upheld them as the sole authority for faith and life. As David King observed, “if, in their day [Christ and the apostles], there existed alongside Scripture, a legitimate God-given, objective standard of authority such as extra-biblical revelation, it has failed to surface.”[5]

2 Timothy 3:10-17

Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy, encouraging him to persevere in the midst of trials and hardships. Paul related that, though false teachers will come and persecute the brethren, “they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all,” (2 Tim 3:9). Paul reminds Timothy that he is very aware of how Paul has suffered for Christ’s sake during the course of his ministry (2 Tim 3:10-11).

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Tim 3:12-13).

Now, Paul turns to practical application for his apprentice. In the midst of this admittedly dark letter, after reminding Timothy of own trials and tribulations, Paul observes that anybody (including young Timothy) who seeks to live for God will face troubles. What practical advice will Paul give Timothy?

He tells Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,” (2 Tim 3:14). Timothy was schooled in the Scriptures from his grandmother and mother (2 Tim 1:5). He was also instructed at length by Paul (2 Tim 1:13-14) in the Christian faith, which augmented his Jewish upbringing. Paul likewise also instructed Titus in the same manner (Tit 1:9). Therefore, when Paul reminds Timothy to “continue in what you have learned,” he was speaking of his childhood and young adult instruction in the faith.[6] This is a progressive revelation; a devout Jewish upbringing rounded out by instruction from Paul concerning new revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12; Eph 3:1-13).

Paul continues, and reminds Timothy that he has been acquainted with the “sacred writings” since childhood, which make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ (2 Tim 3:15). These “sacred writings” are the Hebrew Scriptures,[7] but the remark about these Scriptures leading to explicit faith in Christ demonstrate that Paul also had the gospel message in view here as a complete revelation.[8] Thus the complete, divine revelation of the Hebrew Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are “sacred.” This accords very well with Paul’s command for those who preach another Gospel to be “accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). Scripture contains absolute, propositional truth which is sacred. Paul commends these Scriptures to Timothy as an anchor in turbulent times.

The Holy Spirit guided Paul to choose his words very deliberately. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” (2 Tim 3:16). The original Greek of theopneustos means “divinely inspired.”[9] This simple passage describes not only the nature of the inspiration of Scripture, but its source.[10]

The context of Paul’s statement (2 Tim 3:14-15) clearly include more than simply the OT Scriptures.[11] “Since the early church viewed the words of Jesus as fully authoritative, it would not have been a large step for Christians to accept the writings of His apostles as equally authoritative with the OT.”[12] Precisely because the Scriptures are divinely inspired, it is profitable to make the man of God complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). What more authority can Scripture ever claim, but that it was literally inspired by God Himself?

The next post will continue our look at some important New Testament passages on the sufficiency of the Scriptures.


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, gen ed., The Pulpit Commentary, 23 vols. (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909). St. Mark Vol. I, 291. See also John D. Grassmick, “Mark,”  vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 132. Grassmick is more charitable and merely stated they came to “investigate” Jesus.

[2] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002), 205. “Rituals concerning cleanness and uncleanness reflect rabbinic developments more than actual Torah prescriptions . . . As Judaism’s encounter with Gentile culture increased in the post-exilic period, however, the question of ritual cleanliness took on new significance as a way of maintaining Jewish purity over against Gentile culture.”

[3] Grassmick, “Mark,” 132-133. “These interpretations, designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish life, were considered as binding as the written Law and were passed on to each generation by faithful Law teachers (scribes).”

[4] Edwards, Mark, 208. See also Emil Shurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, 5 vols. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2012), 1:2.

“The predominance of Pharisaism is that which most distinctly characterized this period. The legalistic tendency inaugurated by Ezra had now assumed dimensions far beyond anything contemplated by its originator. No longer did it suffice to insist on obedience to the commandments of the Scripture Thora. These divine precepts were broken down into an innumerable series of minute and vexatious particulars, the observance of which was enforced as a sacred duty, and even made a condition of salvation. And this exaggeration even made a condition of salvation. And this exaggerated legalism had obtained such an absolute ascendency over the minds of the people, that all other tendencies were put entirely in the background.”

[5] King, Holy Scripture, 42.

[6] William Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce Metzger (Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson, 2000), 562-563.

[7] Thomas D. Lea, 1, 2 Timothy, vol. 34, The New American Commentary, ed. David Dockery (Nashville, TN: B&H, 1992), 234.

[8] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 563-564. “It seems doubtful that Paul would say that the OT by itself could instruct Timothy in a salvation that was by faith in Christ Jesus; this would be anachronistic. . . It may be concluded that the expression ‘sacred writings’ is drawn solely from the vocabulary describing the Hebrew Scripture, but since Paul is thinking about the culmination of the scriptural hope realized through faith in Christ Jesus, he chooses the anarthrous plural construction to develop his argument in the direction of joining the Hebrew Scripture and the gospel.” Emphasis mine.

[9] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). (Oak Harbor: WA, Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[10] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 566.

[11] Ibid, 567-568.

[12] Ibid, 568.

Their Hearts Were Hardened (Mark 6:45-52)

Here, we see the disciples’ complete failure to appreciate or acknowledge who Christ was after the clear and unmistakable miracle of feeding the 5000 (actually, more like 15,000 – 25,000!). There is a limit to how much they could have understood of Christ before His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, but still – why did these many miracles not make them understand?

Amidst the disciples’ confusion, Christ is faced with a large crowd which likewise misapprehends who He is, or more likely, simply doesn’t care. They only want a solution to a political problem, not the Kingdom He was preaching and offering. They wanted no part of this Gospel of repentance and belief (Mk 1:15). As they finished their meal, miraculously provided by Christ, their only thought was to seize Him by force and make Him their King (Jn 6:15). Here we see only one of three instances where Christ retreats alone to pray, disconsolate and beset with a very human need to speak to His Father.hardened-heart

This is a very powerful message of faith; it is about understanding who Christ really is. The disciples were not ready for ministry and had a long road ahead of them, for Scripture tells us they did not apprehend who Christ was “for their heart was hardened,” (Mk 6:52).

Do you have a true and full appreciation and understanding of Jesus Christ today?

I preached this message for teen Sunday School at my church this morning.

Sermon notes – Mark 6:45-52

The Conversion of Zaccheus (by George Whitefield)

This is the full text of a sermon by George Whitefield (1714-1770), that incomparable preacher of the Great Awakening.

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Salvation, every where through the whole scripture, is said to be the free gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Not only free, because God is a sovereign agent, and therefore may withhold it from, or confer it on, whom he pleaseth; but free, because there is nothing to be found in man, that can any way induce God to be merciful unto him. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole cause of our finding favor in God’s sight: this righteousness apprehended by faith (which is also the gift of God) makes it our own; and this faith, if true, will work by love.

 

These are parts of those glad tidings which are published in the gospel; and of the certainty of them, next to the express word of God, the experience of all such as have been saved, is the best, and, as I take it, the most undoubted proof. That God might teach us every way, he has been pleased to leave upon record many instances of the power of his grace exerted in the salvation of several persons, that we, hearing how he dealt with them, might from thence infer the manner we must expect to be dealt with ourselves, and learn in what way we must look for salvation, if we truly desire to be made partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light.

 

The conversion of the person referred to in the text, I think, will be of no small service to us in this matter, if rightly improved. I would hope, most of you know who the person is, to whom the Lord Jesus speaks; it is the publican Zaccheus, to whose house the blessed Jesus said, salvation came, and whom he pronounces a Son of Abraham.

 

It is my design (God helping) to make some remarks upon his conversion recorded at large in the preceding verses, and then to enforce the latter part of the text, as an encouragement to poor undone sinners to come to Jesus Christ. “For the Son of man is come, to seek and to save that which was lost.”

 

The evangelist Luke introduces the account of this man’s conversion thus, verse 1. “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” The holy Jesus made it his business to go about doing good. As the sun in the firmament is continually spreading his benign, quickening, and cheering influences over the natural; so the Son of righteousness arose with healing under his wings, and was daily and hourly diffusing his gracious influences over the moral world. The preceding chapter acquaints us of a notable miracle wrought by the holy Jesus, on poor blind Bartimeus; and in this, a greater presents itself to our consideration. The evangelist would have us take particular notice of it; for he introduces it with the word “behold:” “and behold, there was a man named Zaccheus, who was the chief among the Publicans, and he was rich.”

 

Well might the evangelist usher in the relation of this man’s conversion with the word “behold!” For, according to human judgment, how many insurmountable obstacles lay in the way of it! Surely no one will say there was any fitness in Zaccheus for salvation; for we are told that he was a Publican, and therefore in all probability a notorious sinner. The Publicans were gatherers of the Roman taxes; they were infamous for their abominable extortion; their very name therefore became so odious, that we find the Pharisees often reproached our Lord, as very wicked, because he was a friend unto and sat down to meat with them. Zaccheus then, being a Publican, was no doubt a sinner; and, being chief among the Publicans, consequently was chief among sinners. Nay, “he was rich.” One inspired apostle has told us, that “not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Another saith, “God has chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith.” And he who was the Maker and Redeemer of the apostles, assures us, “that it is easier for a camel, (or cable-rope) to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Let not therefore the rich glory in the multitude of their riches.

 

But rich as he was, we are told, verse 3 that “he sought to see Jesus.” A wonder indeed! The common people heard our Lord gladly, and the poor received the gospel. The multitude, the ocloS, the mob, the people that know not the law, as the proud high-priests called them, used to follow him on foot into the country, and sometimes stayed with him three days together to hear him preach. But did the rich believe or attend on him? No. Our Lord preached up the doctrine of the cross; he preached too searching for them, and therefore they counted him their enemy, persecuted and spoke all manner of evil against him falsely. Let not the ministers of Christ marvel, if they meet with the like treatment from the rich men of this wicked and adulterous generation. I should think it no scandal (supposing it true) to hear it affirmed, that none but the poor attended my ministry. Their souls are as precious to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the souls of the greatest men. They were the poor that attended him in the days of his flesh: these are they whom he hath chosen to rich in faith, and to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Were the rich in this world’s goods generally to speak well of me, woe be unto me; I should think it a dreadful sign that I was only a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that I spoke peace, peace, when there was no peace, and prophesied smoother things than the gospel would allow of. Hear ye this, O ye rich. Let who will dare to do it, God forbid that I should despise the poor; in doing so, I should reproach my Maker. The poor are dear to my soul; I rejoice to see them fly to the doctrine of Christ, like the doves to their windows. I only pray, that the poor who attend, may be evangelized, and turned into the spirit of the gospel: if so, “Blessed are ye; for yours is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

But we must return to Zaccheus. “He sought to see Jesus.” That is good news. I heartily wish I could say, it was out of a good principle: but, without speaking contrary to that charity which hopes and believeth all things for the best, we may say, that the same principle drew him after Christ, which now draws multitudes (to speak plainly, it may be multitudes of you) to hear a particular preacher, even curiosity: for we are told, that he came not to hear his doctrine, but to view his person, or, to use the words of the evangelist, “to see who he was.” Our Lord’s fame was now spread abroad through all Jerusalem, and all the country round about: some said he was a good man; others, “Nay, but he deceiveth the people.” And therefore curiosity drew out this rich Publican Zaccheus, to see who this person was, of whom he had heard such various accounts. But it seems he could not conveniently get a sight of him for the press, and because he was little of stature. Alas! how many are kept from seeing Christ in glory, by reason of the press! I mean, how many are ashamed of being singularly good, and therefore follow a multitude to do evil, because they have a press or throng of polite acquaintance! And, for fear of being set an nought by those with whom they used to sit at meat, they deny the Lord of glory, and are ashamed to confess him before men. This base, this servile fear of man, is the bane of true Christianity; it brings a dreadful snare upon the soul, and is the ruin of ten thousands: for I am fully persuaded, numbers are rationally convicted of gospel-truths; but, not being able to brook contempt, they will not prosecute their convictions, nor reduce them to practice. Happy those, who in this respect, like Zaccheus, are resolved to overcome all impediments that lie in their way to a sight of Christ; for, finding he could not see Christ because of the press and the littleness of his natural stature, he did not smite upon his breast, and depart, saying, “It is in vain to seek after a sight of him any longer, I can never attain unto it.” No, finding he could not see Christ, if he continued in the midst of, “he ran before the multitude, and climbed up into a sycamore-tree, to see him; for he was to pass that way.”

 

There is no seeing Christ in Glory, unless we run before the multitude, and are willing to be in the number of those despised few, who take the kingdom of God by violence. The broad way, in which so many go, can never be that strait and narrow way which leads to life. Our Lord’s flock was, and always will be, comparatively a little one; and unless we dare to run before the multitude in a holy singularity, and can rejoice in being accounted fools for Christ’s sake, we shall never see Jesus with comfort, when he appears in glory. From mentioning the sycamore-tree, and considering the difficulty with which Zaccheus must climb it, we may farther learn, that those who would see Christ, must undergo other difficulties and hardships, besides contempt. Zaccheus, without doubt, went through both. Did not many, think you, laugh at him as he ran along, and in the language of Michal, Saul’s daughter, cry out, “How glorious did the rich Zaccheus look today, when, forgetting the greatness of his station, he ran before a pitiful, giddy mob, and climbed up a sycamore-tree, to see an enthusiastic preacher!” But Zaccheus cares not for all that; his curiosity was strong: if he could but see who Jesus was, he did not value what scoffers said of him. Thus, and much more will it be with all those who have an effectual desire to see Jesus in heaven: they will go on from strength to strength, break through every difficulty lying in their way, and care not what men or devils say of or do unto them. May the Lord make us all thus minded, for his dear Son’s sake!

 

At length, after taking much pains, and going (as we may well suppose) through much contempt, Zaccheus has climbed the tree; and there he sits, as he thinks, hid in the leaves of it, and watching when he should see Jesus pass by: “For he was to pass by that way.”

 

But sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! Praise, magnify, and adore sovereign, electing, free, preventing love; Jesus the everlasting God, the Prince of peace, who saw Nathanael under the fig-tree, and Zaccheus from eternity, now sees him in the sycamore-tree, and calls him in time.

 

Verse 5. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide at thy house.” Amazing love! Well might Luke usher in the account with “behold!” It is worthy of our highest admiration. When Zaccheus thought of no such thing, nay, thought that Christ Jesus did not know him; behold, Christ does what we never hear he did before or after, I mean, invite himself to the house of Zaccheus, saying, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide at thy house.” Not pray let me abide, but I must abide this day at thy house. He also calls him by name, as though he was well acquainted with him: and indeed well he might; for his name was written in the book of life, he was one of those whom the Father had given him from all eternity: therefore he must abide at his house that day. “For whom he did predestinate, them he also called.”

 

Here then, as through a glass, we may see the doctrine of free grace evidently exemplified before us. Here was not fitness in Zaccheus. He was a Publican, chief among the Publicans; not only so, but rich, and came to see Christ only out of curiosity: but sovereign grace triumphs over all. And if we do God justice, and are effectually wrought upon, we must acknowledge there was no more fitness in us than in Zaccheus; and, had not Christ prevented us by his call, we had remained dead in trespasses and sins, and alienated from the divine life, even as others. “Jesus looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide at thy house.”

 

With what different emotions of heart may we suppose Zaccheus received this invitation? Think you not that he was surprised to hear Jesus Christ call him by name, and not only so, but invite himself to his house? Surely, thinks Zaccheus, I dream: it cannot be; how should he know me? I never saw him before: besides, I shall undergo much contempt, if I receive him under my rood. Thus, I say, we may suppose Zaccheus thought within himself. But what saith the scripture? “I will make a willing people in the day of my power.” With this outward call, there went an efficacious power from God, which sweetly over-ruled his natural will: and therefore, verse 6, “He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully;” not only into his house, but also into his heart.

 

Thus it is the great God brings home his children. He calls them by name, by his word or providence; he speaks to them also by his spirit. Hereby they are enabled to open their hearts, and are made willing to receive the King of glory. For Zaccheus’s sake, let us not entirely condemn people that come under the word, out of no better principle than curiosity. Who knows but God may call them? It is good to be where the Lord is passing by. May all who are now present out of this principle, hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their souls, and so hear that they ma live! Not that men ought therefore to take encouragement to come out of curiosity. For perhaps a thousand more, at other times, came too see Christ out of curiosity, as well as Zaccheus, who were not effectually called by his grace. I only mention this for the encouragement of my own soul, and the consolation of God’s children, who are too apt to be angry with those who do not attend on the word out of love to God: but let them alone. Brethren, pray for them. How do you know but Jesus Christ may speak to their hearts! A few words from Christ, applied by his spirit, will save their souls. “Zaccheus, says Christ, make haste and come down. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

 

I have observed, in holy scripture, how particularly it is remarked, that persons rejoiced upon believing in Christ. Thus the converted Eunuch went on his way rejoicing; thus the jailer rejoiced with his whole house; thus Zaccheus received Christ joyfully. And well may those rejoice who receive Jesus Christ; for with him they receive righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption. Many have brought up an ill report upon our good land, and would fain persuade people that religion will make them melancholy mad. So far from it, that joy is one ingredient of the kingdom of God in the heart of a believer; “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” To rejoice in the Lord, is a gospel-duty. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” And who can be so joyful, as those who know that their pardon is sealed before they go hence and are no more seen? The godly may, but I cannot see how any ungodly men can, rejoice: they cannot be truly cheerful. What if wicked men may sometimes have laughter amongst them? It is only the laughter of fools; in the midst of it there is heaviness; At the best, it is but like the cracking of thorns under a pot; it makes a blaze, but soon goes out. But, as for the godly, it is not so with them; their joy is solid and lasting. As it is a joy that a stranger intermeddleth not with, so it is a joy that no man taketh from them: it is a joy in God, a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

 

It should seem that Zaccheus was under soul-distress but a little while; perhaps (says Guthrie, in his book entitled, THE TRIAL CONCERNING A SAVING INTEREST IN CHRIST) not above a quarter of an hour. I add, perhaps not so long: for, as one observes, sometimes the Lord Jesus delights to deliver speedily. God is a sovereign agent, and works upon his children in their effectual calling, according to the counsel of his eternal will. It is with the spiritual, as natural birth: all women have not the like pangs; all Christians have not the like degree of conviction. But all agree in this, that all have Jesus Christ formed in their hearts: and those who have not so many trials at first, may be visited with the greater conflicts hereafter; though they never come into bondage again, after they have once received the spirit of adoption. “We have not, (says Paul) received the spirit of bondage again unto fear.” We know not what Zaccheus underwent before he died: however, this one thing I know, he now believed in Christ, and was justified, or acquitted, and looked upon as righteous in God’s sight, though a Publican, chief among the Publicans, not many moments before. And thus it is with all, that, like Zaccheus, receive Jesus Christ by faith into their hearts: the very moment they find rest in him, they are freely justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses; “for by grace are we saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”

 

Say not within yourselves, this is a licentious Antinomian doctrine; for this faith, if true, will work by love, and be productive of the fruits of holiness. See an instance in this convert Zaccheus; no sooner had he received Jesus Christ by faith into his heart, but he evidences it by his works; for, ver. 8, we are told, “Zaccheus stood forth, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give unto the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him four- fold.”

 

Having believed on Jesus in his heart, he now makes confession of him with his mouth to salvation. “Zaccheus stood forth;” he was not ashamed, but stood forth before his brother Publicans; for true faith casts out all servile, sinful fear of man; “and said, Behold, Lord.” It is remarkable, how readily people in scripture have owned the divinity of Christ immediately upon their conversion. Thus the woman at Jacob’s well; “Is not this the Christ?” Thus the man born blind; “Lord, I believe; and worshipped him.” Thus Zaccheus, “Behold, Lord.” An incontestable proof this to me, that those who deny our Lord’s divinity, never effectually felt his power: if they had, they would not speak so lightly of him: they would scorn to deny his eternal power and Godhead. “Zaccheus stood forth, and said, Behold, Lord, the half of m goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.” Noble fruits of a true living faith in the Lord Jesus! Every word calls for our notice. Not some small, not the tenth part, but the HALF. Of what? My goods; things that were valuable. MY goods, his own, not another’s. I give: not, I will give when I die, when I can keep them no longer; but, I give now, even now. Zaccheus would be his own executor. For whilst we have time we should do good. But to whom would he give half of his goods? Not to the rich, not to those who were already clothed in purple and fine linen, of whom he might be recompensed again; but to the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind, from which he could expect no recompense till the resurrection of the dead. “I give to the poor.” But knowing that he must be just before he could be charitable, and conscious to himself that in his public administrations he had wronged many persons, he adds, “And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Hear ye this, all ye that make no conscience of cheating the king of his taxes, or of buying or selling run goods. If ever God gives you true faith, you will never rest, till, like Zaccheus, you have made restitution to the utmost of your power. I suppose, before his conversion, he thought it no harm to cheat thus, no more than you may do now, and pleased himself frequently, to be sure, that he got rich by doing so: but now he is grieved for it at his heart; he confesses his injustice before men, and promises to make ample restitution. Go ye cheating Publicans, learn of Zaccheus; go away and do likewise. If you do not make restitution here, the Lord Jesus shall make you confess your sins before men and angels, and condemn you for it, when he comes in the glory of his Father to judgment hereafter.

 

After all this, with good reason might our Lord say unto him, “This day is salvation come to this house; forasmuch as he also is the son of Abraham;” not so much by a natural as by a spiritual birth. He was made partaker of like precious faith with Abraham: like Abraham he believed on the Lord, and it was accounted to him for righteousness: his faith, like Abraham’s, worked by love; and I doubt not, but he has been long since sitting in Abraham’s harbor.

 

And now, are you not ashamed of yourselves, who speak against the doctrines of grace, especially that doctrine of being justified by faith alone, as though it leaded to licentiousness? What can be more unjust than such a charge? Is not the instance of Zaccheus, a sufficient proof to the contrary? Have I strained it to serve my own turn? God forbid. To the best of my knowledge I have spoken the truth in sincerity, and the truth as it is in Jesus. I do affirm that we are saved by grace, and that we are justified by faith alone: but I do also affirm, that faith must be evidenced by good works, where there is an opportunity of performing them.

 

What therefore has been said of Zaccheus, may serve as a rule, whereby all may judge whether they have faith or not. You say you have faith; but how do you prove it? Did you ever hear the Lord Jesus call you by name? Were you ever made to obey the call? Did you ever, like Zaccheus, receive Jesus Christ joyfully into your hearts? Are you influenced by the faith you say you have, to stand up and confess the Lord Jesus before men? Were you ever made willing to own, and humble yourselves for, your past offenses? Does your faith work by love, so that you conscientiously lay up, according as God has prospered you, for the support of the poor? Do you give alms of all things that you possess? And have you made due restitution to those you have wronged? If so, happy are ye; salvation is come to your souls, you are sons, you are daughters of, you shall shortly be everlastingly blessed with, faithful Abraham. But, if you are not thus minded, do not deceive your own souls. Though you may talk of justification by faith, like angels, it will do you no good; it will only increase your damnation. You hold the truth, but it is in unrighteousness: your faith being without works, is dead: you have the devil, not Abraham, for your father. Unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, with devils and damned spirits shall you dwell for evermore.

 

But it is time now to enforce the latter part of the text; “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” These words are spoken by our savior in answer to some self-righteous Pharisees, who, instead of rejoicing with the angels in heaven, at the conversion of such a sinner, murmured, “That he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner.” To vindicate his conduct, he tells them, that this was an act agreeable to the design of his coming: “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He might have said, the Son of God. But O the wonderful condescension of our Redeemer! He delights to stile himself the Son of man. He came not only to save, but to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to Jericho to seek and save Zaccheus; for otherwise Zaccheus would never have been saved by him. But from whence came he? Even from heaven, his dwelling-place, to this lower earth, this vale of tears, to seek and save that which was lost; or all that feel themselves lost, and are willing, like Zaccheus, to receive him into their hearts to save them; with how great a salvation? Even from the guilt, and also from the power of their sins; to make them heirs of God, and joint heirs with himself, and partakers of that glory which he enjoyed with the Father before the world began. Thus will the Son of man save that which is lost. He was made the son of man, on purpose that he might save them. He had no other end but this in leaving his father’s throne, in obeying the moral law, and hanging upon the cross: all that was done and suffered, merely to satisfy, and procure a righteousness for poor, lost, undone sinners, and that too without respect of persons. “That which was lost;” all of every nation and language, that feel, bewail, and are truly desirous of being delivered from their lost state, did the Son of man come down to seek and to save: for he is mighty, not only so, but willing, to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him. He will in no wise cast out: for he is the same today, as he was yesterday. He comes now to sinners, as well as formerly; and, I hope, hath sent me out this day to seek, and, under him, to bring home some of you, the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

 

What say you? Shall I go home rejoicing, saying, That many like sheep have went astray, but they have now believed on Jesus Christ, and so returned home to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls? If the Lord would be pleased thus to prosper my handy-work, I care not how many legalists and self-righteous Pharisees murmur against me, for offering salvation to the worst of sinners: for I know the Son of man came to seek and to save them; and the Lord Jesus will now be a guest to the worst Publican, the vilest sinner that is amongst you, if he does but believe on him. Make haste then, O sinners, make haste, and come by faith to Christ. Then, this day, even this hour, nay, this moment, if you believe, Jesus Christ shall come and make his eternal abode in your hearts. Which of you is made willing to receive the King of glory? Which of you obeys his call, as Zaccheus did? Alas! why do you stand still? How know you, whether Jesus Christ may ever call you again? Come then, poor, guilty sinners; come away, poor, lost, undone publicans: make haste, I say, and come away to Jesus Christ. The Lord condescends to invite himself to come under the filthy roofs of the houses of your souls. Do not be afraid of entertaining him; he will fill you with all peace and joy in believing. Do not be ashamed to run before the multitude, and to have all manner of evil spoke against you falsely for his sake: one sight of Christ will make amends for all. Zaccheus was laughed at; and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. But what of that? Zaccheus is now crowned in glory; as you also shall shortly be, if you believe on, and are reproached for Christ’s sake. Do not, therefore, put me off with frivolous excuses: there’s no excuse can be given for your not coming to Christ. You are lost, undone, without him; and if he is not glorified in your salvation, he will be glorified in your destruction; if he does not come and make his abode in your hearts, you must take up an eternal abode with the devil and his angels. O that the Lord would be pleased to pass by some of you at this time! O that he may call you by his Spirit, and make you a willing people in this day of his power! For I know my calling will not do, unless he, by his efficacious grace, compel you to come in. O that you once felt what it is to receive Jesus Christ into your hearts! You would soon, like Zaccheus, give him everything. You do not love Christ, because you do not know him; you do not come to him, because you do not feel your want of him: you are whole, and not broken hearted; you are not sick, at least not sensible of your sickness; and, therefore, no wonder you do not apply to Jesus Christ, that great, that almighty physician. You do not feel yourselves lost, and therefore do not seek to be found in Christ. O that God would wound you with the sword of his Spirit, and cause his arrows of conviction to stick deep in your hearts! O that he would dart a ray of divine light into your souls! For if you do not feel yourselves lost without Christ, you are of all men most miserable: your souls are dead; you are not only an image of hell, but in some degree hell itself: you carry hell about with you, and you know it not. O that I could see some of you sensible of this, and hear you cry out, “Lord, break this hard heart; Lord, deliver me from the body of this death; draw me, Lord, make me willing to come after thee; I am lost; Lord, save me, or I perish!” Was this your case, how soon would the Lord stretch forth his almighty hand, and say, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid? What a wonderful calm would then possess your troubled souls! Your fellowship would then be with the Father and the Son: your life would be hid with Christ in God.

 

Some of you, I hope, have experienced this, and can say, I was lost, but I am found; I was dead, but am alive again: the Son of man came and sought me in the day of his power, and saved my sinful soul. And do you repent that you came to Christ? Has he not been a good master? Is not his presence sweet to your souls? Has he not been faithful to his promise? And have you not found, that even in doing and suffering for him, there is an exceeding present great reward? I am persuaded you will answer, Yes. O then, ye saints, recommend and talk of the love of Christ to others, and tell them, O tell them what great things the Lord has done for you! This may encourage others to come unto him. And who knows but the Lord may make you fishers of men? The story of Zaccheus was left on record for this purpose. No truly convicted soul, after such an instance of divine grace has been laid before him, need despair of mercy. What if you are Publicans? Was not Zaccheus a Publican? What if you are chief among the Publicans? Was not Zaccheus likewise? What if you are rich? Was not Zaccheus rich also? And yet almighty grace made him more than conqueror over all these hindrances. All things are possible to Jesus Christ; nothing is too hard for him: he is the Lord almighty. Our mountains of sins must all fall before this great Zerubbabel. On him God the Father has laid the iniquities of all that shall believe on him; and in his own body he bare them on the tree. There, there, by faith, O mourners in Zion, may you see your Savior hanging with arms stretched out, and hear him, as it were, thus speaking to your souls; “Behold how I have loved you! Behold my hands and my feed! Look, look into my wounded side, and see a heart flaming with love: love stronger than death. Come into my arms, O sinners, come wash your spotted souls in my heart’s blood. See here is a fountain opened for all sin and all uncleanness! See, O guilty souls, how the wrath of God is now abiding upon you: come, haste away, and hide yourselves in the clefts of my wounds; for I am wounded for your transgressions; I am dying that you may live for evermore. Behold, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so am I here lifted up upon a tree. See how I am become a curse for you: the chastisement of your peace is upon me. I am thus scourged, thus wounded, thus crucified, that you by my stripes may be healed. O look unto me, all ye trembling sinners, even to the ends of the earth! Look unto me by faith, and you shall be saved: for I came thus to be obedient even unto death, that I might save that which was lost.”

 

And what say you to this, O sinners? Suppose you saw the King of glory dying, and thus speaking to you; would you believe on him? No, you would not, unless you believe on him now: for though he is dead, he yet speaketh all this in the scripture; nay, in effect, says all this in the words of the text, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” Do not therefore any longer crucify the Lord of glory. Bring those rebels, your sins, which will not have him to reign over them, bring them out to him: though you cannot slay them yourselves, yet he will slay them for you. The power of his death and resurrection is as great now as formerly. Make haste therefore, make haste, O ye publicans and sinners, and give the dear Lord Jesus your hearts, your whole hearts. If you refuse to hearken to this call of the Lord, remember your damnation will be just: I am free from the blood of you all: you must acquit my Master and me at the terrible day of judgment. O that you may know the things that belong to your everlasting peace, before they are eternally hid from your eyes! Let all that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity say, Amen

The Way, the Truth and the Life

It is a common fantasy of sinful men that each person can “find their own path to God.” In this un-Biblical conception of deity, our Heavenly Father is little more than a vague concept to be appropriated by “whosoever will” in whatever fashion tickles one’s particular fancy.  This cannot be farther from the truth. God desires to be worshipped in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Observe Calvin’s remarks on theological pluralism;

They deem it enough that they have some kind of zeal for religion, how preposterous soever it may be, not observing that true religion must be conformable to the will of God as its unerring standard; that he can never deny himself, and is no spectra or phantom, to be metamorphosed at each individual’s caprice. It is easy to see how superstition, with its false glosses, mocks God, while it tries to please him. Usually fastening merely on things on which he has declared he sets no value, it either contemptuously overlooks, or even undisguisedly rejects, the things which he expressly enjoins, or in which we are assured that he takes pleasure. Those, therefore, who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits. Hence that vague and wandering opinion of Deity is declared by an apostle to be ignorance of God: “Howbeit, then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.” And he elsewhere declares, that the Ephesians were “without God” (Eph 2:12) at the time when they wandered without any correct knowledge of him. It makes little difference, at least in this respect, whether you hold the existence of one God, or a plurality of gods, since, in both cases alike, by departing from the true God, you have nothing left but an execrable idol. It remains, therefore, to conclude with Lactantius (Instit. Div. lib 1:2, 6), “No religion is genuine that is not in accordance with truth.”

Our Savior declared unequivocally; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (Jn 14:6). This is not a statement of theological pluralism. It is a statement of fact. We are fallen sinners and God is holy. His very nature cannot tolerate sin. Christ is the perfect sacrifice, who died for our sins.

Salvation consists of repentance of our sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Repentance is a change of mind (1 Thess 1:9). This involves a turn away from sin (Heb 6:1; Rev 9:21) and towards God (Acts 20:21). It is an honest appraisal of our own unfitness in God’s sight and an open acknowledgement of our inability to meet His holy standard on our own.
  • Saving faith is the knowledge of, assent to and unreserved trust in the accomplished redemption of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. This faith involves intellectual understanding (e.g. “Christ is the Son of God!”), emotional understanding (e.g. “Christ died for my sins!”) and voluntary action (“I will trust Christ as my Lord and Savior!”).

The person recognizes and repents of their sin, and places saving faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that if you are not a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God would do His work in your heart, so you might voluntarily turn from your sins and accept Christ as Savior.

Sermon – Herod and John the Baptist

I preached this sermon was preached Sunday morning, 26MAY13, at my church.

An account of the execution of John the Baptist by Herod. This is a sad and fascinating study in contrasts between two very different men. John, who does not hesitate to preach the truth despite the potential cost. Herod, who does not want to execute John, but is not willing to lose face in front of his subordinates. As we take a look at this account, we see in Herod some of our own sins.

Sermon notes – Mark 6:14-29

Sermon – Servants of the Servant (Mk 6:7-13)

Christ’s sends the apostles out on their first solo missionary journey. Told to bring literally nothing more than the clothes on their backs, He taught them a lesson in faith as He continued training them to carry on without Him. This is a sobering and very relevant look at Christian discipleship. This lesson was preached in teen Sunday School at my church.

Sermon notes

What the New Testament Says About Homosexuality

This article is a work in progress. It was originally a paper for Seminary. Much work remains to be done. This article will be updated as new material is added. As it stands now, it is a brief Biblical Theology of homosexuality from the New Testament.

Introduction

The Scriptures expressly state that homosexuality is a sin; however, all-too often this issue is reduced to proof-texting and exhaustive parsing of words in the original languages.[1] While this is certainly necessary and a worthy endeavor, the issue goes far deeper than exegeting words. It goes beyond proof-texting and strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Christian and part of God’s family.

Some unrepentant homosexuals who claim the title of “Christian” justify their behavior on the basis of biology – “God made me this way, so you must accept me.” Such a position is not grounded on faithful exegesis but on a secular benchmark for morality. “The growing attempt to provide a niche for the homosexual lifestyle in society is part of a much bigger problem that reflects the death of moral absolutes.”[2] Scripture teaches a very different paradigm.

At the outset, one thing must be made perfectly clear – homosexuality is but one grievous sin among many which men commit. Running from the issue, or holding homosexuals at arm’s length is not the answer. Jesus Christ is the answer, for this or any other sin men struggle with. Too many Christians have such a visceral reaction to the sin that it impedes evangelism of a group of folks who sorely need the Gospel.

This paper will argue for two basic principles from Scripture regarding homosexuality.

(1) Homosexuality is explicitly characterized as a sin in Scripture.

(2) Scriptures expressly state Christians are to lead holy lives. God has certain standards and expectations of His people – expectations which are rooted in His intrinsic holiness. We are to die to the flesh and grow in Christ (1 Cor 5:17). Christians are commanded to lead holy lives, acceptable before God. This necessarily precludes, by God’s own standard, unrepentant homosexual activity .

The paper will present a Biblical Theology of this issue, following the NT in chronological fashion and tracing the development of these two themes from the Gospels onward.

The author holds several presuppositions from the OT text which cannot be argued for, given the necessary scope of this paper. They are as follows;

(1) God created man and woman in His own image (Gen 1:26-27).

(2) Men and woman were created specifically by God, who gave them the breath of life (Gen 2:7), as His special creatures to have dominion over all others (Gen 1:26b).

(3) God appointed man as a vice-regent or royal steward over His creation (Gen 1:26, 28; 2:5,15) and made woman to be man’s special helper in this appointed task (Gen 2:18, 20b).

(4) The only sanctioned sexual activity for mankind is between one man and one woman in marriage (Gen 2:21-24). This union is a covenant relationship, clearly monogamous, and is rooted in God’s command for men to procreate and subdue the earth (Gen 1:28).[3]

The Gospels

Jesus did not deal with homosexuality specifically, but He did clearly call men to two very specific commands; (1) repentance from sins, and (2) belief in the Gospel (Mk 1:14-15). Christ uttered these words in his initial ministry to the Jews, who were certainly quite familiar with the OT law regarding sexual immorality and righteous living (Lev 18:22; 19:2). Christ certainly did not have half-measures in mind; “repentance and belief cannot be applied to certain areas of life but not to others; rather, they lay claim to the total allegiance of believers.”[4]

Holiness and purity of life are a vital components to lifestyle evangelism (Mt 5:13-16). Christians are to be a light to the world, in the same fashion the Israelites were commanded to be a kingdom of priests, drawing all nations to themselves and ultimately God (Mt 5:13-16; Ex 19:5-6).

The dispensation of the law was still binding at the time Christ spoke those words. Christ called His Jewish listeners to meet this standard; the same one God gave to Moses so long ago. His audience could not fail to recognize that Christ was calling them to repent of their sins, believe He was their Messiah, the fulfillment of the Mosaic law, and draw all nations to God by their own example. The law included clear prohibitions against homosexuality (Lev 18:22). Christ’s admonitions to “let your light so shine before others” (Mt 5:16), when understood in the context of His Jewish audience, clearly prohibited homosexual activity. If they could not fulfill the calling to be a testimony for Him, “they were useless as far as God’s purposes are concerned.”[5]

Christ had the same idea in mind when he identified the two “greatest commandments” which characterized Israel’s responsibility before God. (1) Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37-39; Deut 6:5; Lev 19:34). These two commandments summed up the entire corpus of the Mosaic law (Mt 22:40). Christ was telling the Pharisees that a willing, all-encompassing love for God was essential; He echoed Moses’ words to Israel – God sought a circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:16). This necessarily entailed a whole-hearted commitment to the Mosaic law, including prohibitions against homosexuality and all other forms of immorality.

If Christ, in His early ministry to the Jews, was calling them to repent and conform to the Mosaic law out of love for Him, He surely condemned homosexual behavior.

The Pauline Epistles

Paul was emphatic about both the sin of homosexuality in general and God’s expectation that Christians live holy lives for the God who saved them.

Grace and apostleship in Jesus Christ will bring about obedience for those who are called to faith in Christ (Rom 1:5). Apparently, Christ intends to achieve a specific goal in the lives of the elect – namely, obedience of faith.

Dishonoring of Their Bodies

All men willfully suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness – this makes God very wrathful and angry precisely because natural revelation testifies to His power and glory. Men are left without excuse for rejecting Him (Rom 1:18-20). Nevertheless, men willfully dishonor the God who created them and creation itself. Men imagined God did not exist; they became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened. Their worldly wisdom was really folly and they exchanged worship of the one true God for worldly objects with no power or worth whatsoever (Rom 1:21-23).

It was for this very reason that God gave them over to sexual perversion, the “dishonoring of their bodies before themselves,” (Rom 1:24b). Paul provides specifics about this sexual perversion shortly (v. 26-28), but it is critical to note that God did not impel rebellious sinners to do these evil deeds. He simply removed His divine restraint on man’s sinful, fallen lusts and allowed them to go their own way – “God actively let people go.”[6] Men dishonored their bodies, which Paul repeatedly referred to as a temple of God in other epistles, by abusing them in a fashion dishonoring to God and His image which they bear in the flesh. They reject God and worship the creature more than the creator. “It is not that men grant God a relative honor in their devotion, but none at all. They have wholly rid themselves of Him.”[7]

These “dishonorable passions” (Rom 1:26) God gave them over to clearly included homosexual acts. Both women and men exchanged natural relations for those which are contrary to nature and were “consumed with passion for one another” (Rom 1:27). The basis for the term “dishonorable passions” is that the only natural sexual relationship the Bible recognizes is distinctly heterosexual between married men and women (Gen 2:21-24; Mt 19:4-6).

Once again men were allowed to pursue their sinful desires as the consequence of God’s wrath for their willful rebellion (Rom 1:26); “God simply took His hands off and let willful rejection of Himself produce its ugly results in human life.”[8] God abandoned men to their lusts (Rom 1:28). This removal of divine restraint produced all manner of wicked behavior, homosexuality being only one among many defiling acts (Rom 1:29-31). Attempts by some commentators to claim that Paul merely imposed cultural standards on his audience fail at this point. Paul was not addressing basing his condemnation of homosexual behavior on cultural mores of the time, “he addressed same-sex relations from the transcultural perspective of God’s created order.”[9]

Paul reminds us that men are entirely without excuse and know “God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die,” (Rom 1:32a). All men have God’s law written on their heart (Rom 2:14-15) because they are created in His very image. Yet still, men willfully and intelligently reject God and not only commit such evil acts, but positively approve of them (Rom 1:32b).

Holiness Expected

Christ is the only possible object of saving faith (Acts 4:12). Christians, including those who condone an unrepentant homosexual lifestyle, cannot lay a foundation which is not built upon Christ (1 Cor 3:11). He is the only foundation. Paul went on to state that God’s temple is holy, and Christians are that temple (1 Cor 3:17). This is very important – Christ is the only foundation and Christians have an inherent obligation to live holy lives. “Do you not know that youare God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16). If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy them (1 Cor 3:17). “God in His justice and holiness cannot allow part of His holy work to be damaged without bringing retribution.”[10] Because of what God did for them, Christians are called to conform to God’s standard – not their own. There are consequences for violating this standard.

God’s standard for sexual morality is enforced repeatedly throughout the Pauline Epistles. Any sexual behavior outside the established boundaries is unacceptable in the sight of God. Paul condemned a Corinthian Christian for sexual relations with his mother (1 Cor 5:1). The man was unrepentant and arrogant, and Paul recommended the offender be removed from fellowship (1 Cor 5:2,5). Christians should never even associate with believers involved in sexual immorality of any kind, necessarily including homosexuality (1 Cor 5:11). Paul even ordered the “evil person” be put out from among the fellowship of believers (1 Cor 5:13).

A Christian stands with Christ and judges the entire world at the end of days, including angels! (1 Cor 6:2; 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6). Yet, Paul accused the Corinthians of being incompetent to perform this task because of their sin (1 Cor 6:2). The wicked eill not inherit the Kingdom of God precisely because of their sin (1 Cor 6:9), but the saints were acting no differently. Neither homosexuals or the sexually immoral will ever inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).

A Christian saved by God’s grace belongs to the Lord; his body is not his own (1 Cor 6:13b-20; 2 Cor 6:16-18). “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body,” (1 Cor 16:13b). Paul went on to state plainly “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18a). How can a Christian fulfill the command to “do all to the glory of God” and walk in a manner worthy of Him (1 Cor 10:31; Col 1:10; 2 Thes 2:12) if he dishonors God by abusing the temple of his body by homosexual behavior?

Sanctification cannot come about with unrepentant sin, including homosexuality. Paul wrote we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” (2 Cor 3:18). Sanctification is progressive; “Christlikeness is the goal of the Christian walk.”[11] As one commentator observed, the goal of Christlikeness and the means to Christlikeness mutually inform each other.[12] Homosexuality is in conflict with God’s standard – sanctification cannot occur with the barrier of unrepentant homosexual sin in place.

Christians must give up self-rule, or autonomy, and submit to have God as the authority over their life. Submission to God has necessary implications for lifestyle and holiness. Jesus Christ is Lord, and Christians are His servants (2 Cor 4:5b) This is not popular doctrine; the original sin of Adam and Eve, a desire for autonomy from God and His standards, lives on even today.

Those whom God, in His grace, saves from hell are a new creation. The old nature has passed away (2 Cor 5:17). This new nature, this regeneration should produce a desire for positive change towards God and His standards of holiness. “The new life of devotion to Christ means that one has new attitudes and actions.”[13] Absent a repentant heart and a desire to conform sexual behavior to God’s standards, a man is not regenerated and does not have saving faith in Christ.

Paul continues the theme of holiness demanded of the Christian in the epistle to the Ephesians. A Christian’s election, by God’s grace before the world was even created, is predicated on the expectation that “we should be holy and blameless before him,” (Eph 1:4). Prior to regeneration, men are dead in trespasses and sins in a world energized and influenced by Satan (Eph 2:1-2). God, in His mercy, made some alive in Christ to demonstrate His unending grace (Eph 2:4-7). Paul concludes this passage by reminded Christians of their obligations to God; “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Eph 2:10). Salvation is intended to produce the good works that attest their reality; therefore Christians will prove their faith by works.[14] Shameless homosexuality [AH10] does indeed prove faith, but certainly not faith in Christ. Paul covered precisely the same ground later in the same letter (Eph 4:18-23), and drives the point home unequivocally;

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:20-23).

Christians have an inherent responsibility to conform, to the best of their sinful ability, to the image of the God who created them. “Believers are new people in Christ, and hence they can no longer live as Gentiles live.”[15] There is a command to move towards God and all that entails, not remain separated from Him. Indeed, Christians must imitate God;

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints (Eph 5:1-3).

Homosexuality is incompatible with the basic conception of what it means to be a holy people. Sexual immorality is not proper among the saints. Scripture recognizes no middle ground on this issue. Paul exhorted Christians to “let your manner of life be worthyof the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27a). This is the duty of every Christian, and implicit in this command is the recognition that certain, specific standards exist which are “worthy” of the gospel. Homosexuality and all other manner of sexual immorality are not worthy of God or His holiness.

Christians are to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). Blameless simply means “above reproach.”[16] They must align themselves with God’s values instead of their own, so the world cannot accuse them. They must seek things above, not on things on the earth. Earthly passions, including all sexual immorality, must be put to death. It is because of this sin that the wrath of God is coming upon mankind (Col 3:5-6).

Paul wrote joyfully to the Thessalonians, and wished the Lord would “establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints,” (1 Thess 3:13). The theme of progressive sanctification has re-surfaced; the goal is holiness before God – always looking forward to the glorious appearance of Christ.

Paul, writing to his disciple Timothy, plainly labeled homosexuality as contrary to sound doctrine, which alone is compatible with God (1 Tim 1:10-11). “Paul’s yardstick for measuring what is and is not sound teaching  . . . was the message of God’s great news in Christ.”[17] Any serious Christian would agree that God’s revelation is the only yardstick for holy living.

Paul urged Timothy to soldier on in the faith. He warned Timothy against false teachers and against irrelevant babble and exclaimed, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,” (2 Tim 2:19). If Timothy kept and cleansed himself from what was dishonorable, he would be a vessel to the Lord for honorable use; “set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work,” (2 Tim 2:21b). This holds true for all Christians; to be used by God one must be vessels fit for honorable use. Homosexuality is dishonorable and incompatible with God’s holiness.

The prohibitions against sin are commandments from God, and if Christians love God His commandments are never grievous (1 Jn 5:3, KJV). Paul, in his epistle to Titus, taught him about the role of God’s grace in producing Godly behavior in a Christian’s life (Titus 2:11-14). There are several important principles to glean from this text.

The Gospel itself, as the message of the grace of God (Titus 2:11) teaches Christians to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions – necessarily including homosexuality. It teaches Christians to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while they await Christ’s return (Titus 2:12-13). This upright lifestyle is rooted in God’s holiness and thus, by definition, diametrically opposed to homosexual behavior.

Christ’s sacrifice, sufficient for all but efficient for only those who believe, was made for a specific purpose – to redeem the elect from lawlessness and purify a people for His possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). In a manner characteristic of the covenant with Israel at Sinai (Ex 19:5-6), God is faithful to keep His portion of the agreement. Are Christians?

A holy people was His purpose in paying such a fearful price. Therefore, knowing what all He has done and why He has done it, a Christian who truly loves Christ and looks forward to His return will pay any price to bring his life into conformity with his beloved Lord’s will.[18]

Disregarding God

Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to continue their growth in Christ. The very will of God, to aid them in sanctification, is that they explicitly abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3). “To a Christian the will of God is clear: holiness and sexual immorality are mutually exclusive. No appeal to Christian liberty can justify fornication.”[19] Christians must control their own body, which Paul has repeatedly called the temple of God, in holiness and honor, in a manner unlike those who do not know God (1 Thess 4:4-5).

Paul went on to justify, once again, the reasoning behind the prohibition against sexual immorality – God’s holiness. “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness,” (1 Thess 4:7). Unrepentant sin in a Christian’s life goes against God’s calling for His elect people. “A holy life demonstrates God’s supernatural power at work overcoming what is natural, and it glorifies God.”[20] Sin does not.

This is not a suggestion or merely helpful advice – it is a command from God. Paul minces no words in his conclusion on the matter; “therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you,” (1 Thess 4:8). Sexual purity is nothing more than a practical application of God’s calling to holiness.[21] Paul did not invent this decree; they were the logical consequences of divine revelation. To reject God’s standards for His elect people is to reject God Himself. God gave the Holy Spirit to believers as a helper after Christ’ ascension (Jn 14:16; 17:7-11). Christians will have help in their struggle against sin; but they must have a desire to change. That desire only comes as a product of a regenerated heart in a true follower of Christ.

Other Epistles

James

James does not discuss homosexuality explicitly, but he did demand Christians live holy lives. He called friendship with the world adultery against God. More than mere adultery, they are enemies of God! (Jas 4:4). God is opposed to people who lift themselves up and are filled with pride, but He gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:5-6). Christians cannot be double-minded about sin and worldliness – they must be cleansed inwardly and outwardly (Jas 4:8b). Homosexuality cannot be part of a Christian’s lifestyle; true desire change comes about from a repentant heart. Outward conformity flows naturally from a God-given inward regeneration of the heart.

Peter

Peter gave the most explicit command in the NT for Christians to live holy lives (1 Pet 1:13-16). He called Christians to be serious and prepare their minds for action, looking forward to the return of Christ. “Rather than being controlled by outside circumstances, believers should be directed from within.”[22]

Christians, just like obedient children, should not be conformed to their former passions (Rom 1:24-26). Rather, they must be holy in all their conduct (1 Pet 1:14-15). This echoes the same sentiments Paul wrote to the Romans (Rom 12:2a). There is a very clear command for a lifestyle change as a result of regeneration.

Peter’s justification is found in God’s expectations from OT Israel; “since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy,’” (1 Pet 1:16; Lev 19:2). Again, the same theme is repeated. Christians must imitate God to the best of their fallen ability; the mark they press towards is God’s own standard – complete holiness.

A Christian cannot demonstrate love for his neighbor unless he first loves God with all his heart, soul and might. These two imperatives are the commandments the law and prophets are built upon (Mt 22:34-40). One cannot love God and be engaged in unrepentant homosexual behavior at the same time; sin and holiness are at odds with each other. One is a wicked product of a fallen world, the other an attribute of the Holy God who rules over all creation.

Peter went on to tie the believer’s responsibilities back to the Mosaic Covenant once again;

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet 2:9-10; Ex 19:5-6).

Elsewhere, Peter specifically labeled the homosexual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what would happen to the ungodly (2 Pet 2:6).[23] It is clear Peter was not sympathetic to homosexuality; it is a sin of the ungodly and unregenerate.

John

John was very blunt about the same double-mindedness that James spoke against. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” (1 Jn 1:6). Christians will be known by their fruit. The polar opposites of “darkness” and “light” are used repeatedly throughout Scripture to signify Satan and God, respectively. Somebody who claims Christ but who participates in homosexuality and other lusts of the flesh is a liar. God’s people must walk in the light, and the blood of Christ will cleanse His people from all sin, including homosexuality (1 Jn 1:7).

John wrote that love of the world is the mark of an unregenerate heart (1 Jn 2:15). All sinful desires, lusts of the flesh and the eyes, are from the world (1 Jn 2:16). Elsewhere, Paul clearly identified sexual immorality as a work of the flesh (Gal 5:19). The world, along with all its desires, is perishing but God’s people will stand forever (1 Jn 2:17).

John was not suggesting a Christian will never struggle with sin (1 Jn 1:6), but rather, those who make a deliberate, unrepentant practice of sinning are not God’s children.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (1 Jn 3:8-10).

John is very clear; love for the world and all that entails (including homosexuality), is opposed to God in every respect. Christians still struggle with sin such as homosexuality in this “vile body” (Phil 3:21) but their whole bent of life will be away from sin.[24] A true love for God will produce a desire to keep his commandments (1 Jn 5:2; 2 Jn 6).

Jude

Jude, like Peter, made a specific reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. He wrote of God’s faithfulness to judge and condemn false teachers who “pervert[ed] the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ,” (Jude 4b). These unbelievers, masquerading as Christians, turned God’s marvelous grace into a license to do whatever their sinful lusts desired (Rom 1:24-26; Gal 5:19-21). God, Jude asserted, is always faithful to judge those who rebel against Him (Jude 5-6).

It is in this context, that of the perversion of God’s grace into sensuality, that homosexuality is condemned;

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” (Jude 7).

The wicked sin of homosexuality is an explicit example of who will suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. Not homosexuals only, but all who follow their sinful passions and continue to willfully reject God (Rom 1:18).

Summary

The entire NT testifies to two very basic facts; (1) Christians are called to lead holy lives before God, and (2) Homosexuality is a sin, and therefore incompatible with the holiness of God. The thesis has been demonstrated both by Christ and the written epistles of His disciples throughout the entire NT.

Jesus preached conformity to the Mosaic law, which explicitly condemned homosexual behavior. This conformity to the law, itself based on God’s eternal attribute of holiness, was predicated on an all-encompassing love for Him. The apostles had a unified message on this point which upholds the thesis quite directly. Homosexuality and the holiness of God are mutually exclusive – they cannot co-exist.

One commentator wrote poignantly about the church’s responsibility to the homosexual;

The church does the homosexual no favor when it condones his behavior based on some ingenious interpretation or on some sentimental relationship it has with him. Homosexuals do not deserve a weakened spirituality, much less a sentimental pity. They need raw honesty from the church about their doomed state unless they come to repentance and faith in Christ.[25]

Along with honesty, Christian love is sorely needed. Nobody would advocate ministering to alcoholics by deriding them, barring the church doors to them or calling them “lushes” from the pulpit. Yet, some Christians would not hesitate to shout the word “sodomite” from the pulpit, almost relishing the chance to condemn this particular sin. It does need to be condemned, in no uncertain terms, but if we’re being deliberately spiteful while we’re doing it we achieve precisely nothing.

Homosexuals are not arbitrarily condemned to the flames as an exclusive group; rather, all sinners who continue to willfully reject Christ and prefer self-rule to God’s rule will justly suffer eternal damnation. God, by His grace, softens the hearts of sinners and changes their disposition away from Satan and towards Himself. Homosexuals are no exception, and the Gospel is the only cure for this and any other sin in a fallen world.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Constable, Thomas L. “Thessalonians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Edwards, James R. The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Haas, Guenther. “Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice,” Global Journal of Classical Theology 01:2 (Feb 1999): no page numbers.

Harrison, Everett F. “Romans,” vol. 10, The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.

Hodges, Zane C. “1 John,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Hoehner, Harold W. “Ephesians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Holloman, Henry W. “The Relation of Christlikeness to Spiritual Growth,” Michigan Theological Journal 05:1 (Spring 1994): 57-85.

Lightner, Robert P. “Philippians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Litfin, A. Duane. “1 Timothy,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Litfin, A. Duane. “Titus,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Lowery, David K. “2 Corinthians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Malik, David E. “The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27,” Bibliotheca Sacra 150:599 (Jul 1993): 327-340.

Matthews, Kenneth A. “Genesis 1-11:26,” vol. 1a, The New American Commentary, ed. Roy Clendenen. Nashville: B&H, 1996.

Montoya, Alex D. “Homosexuality and The Church,” The Masters Seminary Journal 11:2 (Fall 2000): 155-168.

Raymer, Roger M. “1 Peter,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Toussaint, Stanley. Behold the King. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1980.

Witmer, John A. “Romans,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Wood, A. Skevington. “Ephesians,” vol. 11, The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.


[1]. For an analysis of common pro-homosexual exegesis of Scripture, see Guenther Haas, “Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice,” Global Journal of Classical Theology 01:2 (Feb 1999), no page numbers.

[2]. Sherwood O. Cole, “Biology, Homosexuality and the Biblical Doctrine of Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra 157:627 (Jul 2000), 350.

[3]. Kenneth A. Matthews, “Genesis 1-11:26,” vol. 1a, The New American Commentary, ed. Roy Clendenen (Nashville, TN: B&H, 1996), 222-225.

[4]. James R. Edwards, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 46.

[5]. Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1980), 98.

[6]. John A. Witmer, “Romans,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 443.

[7]. Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” vol. 10, The Expositors Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 25.

[8]. Ibid, 24.

[9]. David E. Malik, “The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27,” Bibliotheca Sacra 150:599 (Jul 1993), 340.

[10]. W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthains,” vol. 10, The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 208.

[11]. David K. Lowery, “2 Corinthians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 562.

[12]. Henry W. Holloman, “The Relation of Christlikeness to Spiritual Growth,” Michigan Theological Journal 05:1 (Spring 1994), 58.

[13]. Ibid, 568.

[14]. A Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” vol. 11, The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 36.

[15]. Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 637.

[16]. Robert P. Lightner, “Philippians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victory, 1983), 656.

[17]. A. Duane Litfin, “1 Timothy,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 733.

[18]. A. Duane Litfin, “Titus,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 765.

[19]. Thomas L. Constable, “Thessalonians,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 701.

[20]. Ibid, 702.

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. Roger M. Raymer, “1 Peter,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 843.

[23]. It is beyond the scope of this paper to engage the more liberal charge that homosexuality was not the sin of that wicked city. The author will assume, for the purposes of this NT study, that homosexuality was the defining sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.

[24]. Zane C. Hodges, “1 John,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 894.

[25] Alex D. Montoya, “Homosexuality And The Church,” The Masters Seminary Journal 11:2 (Fall 2000), 166

Intellectual and Moral Cowardice?

I purchased a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion the other day. I teach an apologetics class at my church, and I wanted to actually read what one of the so-called “Four Horseman of New Atheism” has to say on the matter. My wife was horrified when I opened the package and held the tome aloft – she accused me of enriching a Godless heretic who seems content to remain on a path leading inevitably to the fires of hell. I suppose she has a point, so I retreated to pragmaticism – how can I know what the man says unless I buy the book? My wife reluctantly agreed but was still suspicious, and ordered me to banish the text to a faraway bookshelf, far from the reaches of our children.

Reading the first few chapters, I stumbled across a disturbing passage written by a well-meaning but ill-informed Christian to Albert Einstein. The missive was a response to a paper Einstein wrote in 1940 about why he did not believe in God. Dawkins evidenced contempt and scorn for this little letter, and I must agree he is justified in doing so. Here it is;[1]

We respect your learning, Dr. Einstein; but there is one thing you do not seem to have learned: that God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain. As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith, not knowledge. Every thinking person, perhaps, is assailed at times with religious doubt. My own faith has wavered many a time. But I never told anyone of my spiritual aberrations for two reasons: (1) I feared that I might, by mere suggestion, disturb and damage the life and hopes of some fellow being; (2) because I agree with the writer who said, “There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another’s faith.” … I hope, Dr Einstein, that you were misquoted and that you will yet say something more pleasing to the vast number of the American people who delight to do you honor.

This is a sad, pitiful little letter. Dawkins observed, “every sentence drips with intellectual and moral cowardice.”[2] What struck me was the astounding Biblical illiteracy displayed by the writer. We often look back on the pre-1960s era as a better, more noble time – a time when Christian values flourished and God was worshipped in spirit and in truth. People knew their Bibles, preachers stood for the truth, and everything was simply grand! This illusion is shattered by this letter, which could have been penned by the average Christian today. Dawkins hit the nail right on the head – it literally oozes with intellectual and moral cowardice.

God is a spirit and cannot be found through the telescope or microscope, no more than human thought or emotion can be found by analyzing the brain.

What about the glories of God in general revelation? Has the writer never read Psalm 8, where David extolls the glory of God and marvels that He condescended to even notice man and care for him? Or has he ever contemplated David’s statement from Psalm 19:1; “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Has the author never considered that all common blessings which God bestows on the just and unjust alike, this common grace, testifies to the glory of God? Christians can look round about them and see evidence for God everywhere; indeed, God’s common grace common to all testifies to both His existence and character (Acts 14:14-17).

Paul observed that his readers presumed “on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance,” (Rom 2:4). This statement is even more powerful because it directly follows his masterful exposition of man’s true state before God – all men are in willful rebellion and utterly without excuse (Rom 1:18-32). This principle is not confined to the New Testament; God’s humbling of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4) over his refusal to give glory to God for Babylon’s successes is the most definitive example of common grace I’ve read in Scripture. Likewise, in Hosea, God equates Israel with an adultress who leaves her husband for the promise of trinkets and luxury in the arms of another lover. “And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal,” (Hos 2:8).

The longsuffering and grace of God is truly impossible to fathom – and we haven’t even reached the Gospel yet! We’re just looking out at the world and making some random observations from Scripture on God’s goodness toward mankind in general!

“But wait,” the chorus cries, “you’re in ministry. It’s your job to know things like this!”

Wrong. Dead wrong. The man who penned this unfortunate letter typifies the average Christian from nearly 80 years ago. He is a window into the state of Biblical literacy during the halcyon days of Roosevelt, Churchill and The Maltese Falcon. I fear, however, that the average Christian in these days of Obama, Cameron and No Strings Attached lags far behind even this poor example.

I agree with the writer who said, “There is a mean streak in anyone who will destroy another’s faith

The watchword of Christian apologetics is 1 Pet 3:15b, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This command is prefaced by a vital precondition that too many Christians hew off; perhaps considering it irrelevant, which itself is a rather damning testimony to serious Christianity. The preface is “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,” (1 Pet 3:15a).

The letter writer, along with the seeming majority of contemporary Christian apologists, misses the point that there is one, single objective truth – God is real. In our quest for tolerance, too many well-meaning Christians embrace de facto religious pluralism out of a fear not to “offend anybody.” If Christ is truly sanctified in our hearts as Lord, the practical outworking of this sanctification is a willingness to stand in the gap and proclaim, “Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.” That a man, 80 years ago, would display an unwillingness to “offend” someone by proclaiming God is real and all pretenders are false is sad. Things have not improved since then.

Dawkins is quite right to sneer contemptuously at this silly, sad dispatch from days gone by. It is intellectually and morally cowardly. However, how many Christians today would write a similar letter? How many believers are too unenlightened about their faith to fashion a response to a “God doesn’t exist” challenge? How many Christians are too timid or wary to take a stand for the Truth, however small and seemingly “insignificant” it may be?

The feeble recourse of referring all “deeper” questions to our Pastors seems noble, but is ultimately pitiful and betrays a startlingly dangerous spiritual apathy. Knowing our faith is the responsibility of every believer. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Eph 2:10). We were each individually redeemed for a purpose – a specific purpose. Part of our reasonable service is to sanctify Christ in our hearts so that we may be able to give an answer for the hope that is within us, wherever we may be in the world and whenever the opportunity arises. It is not simply the Pastor’s job to be Biblically literate – it is every Christian’s job.

God chose to allow sinful men and women like you and me to participate in His unfolding plan to redeem His creation; how seriously do we take this privilege?


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York, NY: Mariner, 2008), 38.

[2] Ibid.