Tag Archives: homosexuality

“Do You Not Know That A Little Leaven Leavens The Whole Lump?”: The Results Of Tolerating Sin In The Church

The First Baptist Church in Greenville, SC, made headlines recently with its decision to “allow same-sex couples to marry in the church,” “ordain gay ministers,” and “embrace the complexities of gender identity.”  The senior minister of one of the oldest churches in the city dating back to the early 1800’s explains how they came to this decision:

“What I heard was, ‘We need to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about us,’” says Jim Dant, the 184-year-old church’s senior minister who led the church through its six-month discernment. “There were a few people who said, ‘Are they going to start calling us the gay church in town?’”

The dialogue culminated into a consensus — the kind that, by the earliest tradition of Baptist discernment, resulted in a public affirmation by each present member.

The call wasn’t to render a verdict on whether homosexuality is right or wrong.

Instead, it was the general agreement of a congregation that it could hold divergent personal beliefs but still come together in a desire to worship and serve.

Apparently this had been a long time in the works.  The article outlines the gradual, step-by-step acceptance of this sin by the First Baptist congregation:

Throughout the years, First Baptist has identified itself as a congregation of moderate temperament.

And for years, the LGBT community has worshiped in the church alongside heterosexual peers.

The sentiment throughout much of the church’s recent history, Dant says, was one of general acceptance of the LGBT community, but with an unspoken, de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

When the church recently decided to state its position clearly, it at first was “headed down the road to having a vote with winners and losers.”

Instead, he says, the conversation began as one of discernment with an eye toward reaching a statement of consensus.

Over the course of four Sunday evenings in November, more than 200 people sat in circles of eight and engaged in candid discussions.

Personal convictions varied, Dant says, and members made themselves vulnerable, on all sides, in a spirit of fellowship.

The discussions distilled into a central question: “Can you worship and live with the LGBT community in the church?”

The answer, for the most part, was yes.

The members then affirmed that “being open and welcoming to all people is part of the essential nature of our community of faith.”

The next crucial step, Dant says, was assuring members that no one would try to tell them that their personal convictions were wrong.

The process led to a brief but pointed consensus statement: “In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist Greenville will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In May, members of the congregation during a service were invited to stand to affirm the consensus statement. The vast majority stood. The few who didn’t were then offered the opportunity to stand to agree to remain in fellowship.

By the end, all were standing.

Today, First Baptist can perform same-sex marriages.

And members, no matter their sexual orientation, can serve in leadership roles and can be ordained as ministers.

First Baptist in Greenville reminds me of the church at Corinth two thousand years ago.  They had boastfully allowed an unrepentant sexually immoral person to stay among them rather than mournfully withdrawing fellowship from him.  God inspired the apostle Paul to rebuke them by saying:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. 

Purge the evil person from among you.

— 1 Corinthians 5:1-6, 11, 13b

By allowing for years open fellowship with those in known, unrepentant sin, First Baptist had opened the door for its members to eventually accept the sin and no longer even attempt to put God’s will above their own.

Thus, they intentionally avoided “the call…to render a verdict on whether homosexuality is right or wrong” while claiming, “We need to do the right thing, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about us.”  Never mind that God specifically cites homosexuality as sinful in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10).

Thus, “the dialogue culminated into a consensus…the general agreement of a congregation that it could hold divergent personal beliefs but still come together in a desire to worship and serve.”  Never mind that God specifically commands congregations that “there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Apparently, it’s more important for First Baptist to be popular and accepted by the world than it is by God.  Again, I’m reminded by the divinely inspired words of Paul:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

— Galatians 1:10

Christians, this is what happens when we “tolerate” unrepentant sin among us.  We end up accepting it, and by doing so we become God’s enemy even while we arrogantly and naively still consider ourselves to be his friend (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).

Truly, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump!”

“Be Wise As Serpents…”: Reacting To Persecution Stemming From Same-Sex Marriage

How does God want us to react to growing persecution due to standing for biblical truth regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality?  The sermon I preached yesterday morning addresses some biblical principles which can guide us, especially those of us who are preachers and elderships who are faced with risking litigation if they refuse to officiate or allow church property to host homosexual weddings.

“Be Wise As Serpents…”

June 2015 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  idle words, sinning against God in heaven, degrees of eternal reward and punishment, 1 Corinthian 2:7’s “secret wisdom,” comparison of Sodom and the United States, participation in prayers led by non-Christians, bearing one another’s burdens, asking forgiveness in prayer

Yesterday was the most recent Bible Question & Answer session at the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC.  I really appreciate these questions, those who ask them, and the research required of me to provide biblical answers.  Activities such as these help us all to grow (1 Pet. 3:15).

Please explain “idle words” (Matt. 12:36-37).

“Idle” (argos) literally means “free from labor, at leisure; lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform.”  “Idle words” therefore refer to words which we utter lazily, at our leisure, shunning the responsibilities concerning them which God says we have.

God gives us many responsibilities concerning what we speak and how we are to speak it (cf. Matt. 6:9; Eph. 5:4; Matt. 5:33-37; Eph. 4:15, 29; etc.)  When we unrepentantly speak in haste (don’t think before we speak) or don’t care about what we say or how we say it, we are “idle” when it comes to our words and will be condemned accordingly.

The devil sinned against God in heaven by thinking he was more powerful.  Does that mean we could also sin against God by thinking we are more powerful?

The Bible says the sin Satan committed was pride (1 Tim. 3:6).  Pride in the sense that he thought he was more powerful than God?  Perhaps, but the Bible doesn’t clearly state as much (Deut. 29:29).

We will not sin against God in heaven for whatever reason because the righteous are promised ETERNAL life after judgment, without end (Matt. 25:46).  In the new heaven and earth, death/separation from God will be no more (Rev. 21:4; cf. Rom. 6:23).  Nothing unclean will ever enter Heaven (Rev. 21:27; 22:15).

Are there varying degrees of Heaven and Hell?

There’s no biblical evidence that our human spirit will be fundamentally and basically changed after death.  Thus, it’s likely we will be capable of various degrees of satisfaction in eternity, depending upon our capacity for such, since we are capable of different levels of satisfaction in this life.

The Bible implies varying levels of reward for the saved.  Jesus’ parable of the 10 minas teaches such (Luke 19:12ff).  He promised to “repay each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27).  “According to” (kata) implies a norm, a standard by which rewards or punishments are given, signifying a proportionately fair dispersal.  Paul knew he would have both joy and glory for converting souls (1 Thess. 2:19-20), yet he also cautioned us to seek true converts over superficial ones because if one’s converts did not endure, he himself would still be saved while also suffering “loss” of the joy and glory of knowing his work of converting those souls would be fruitful for eternity (1 Cor. 3:10ff; cf. Gal. 4:11).  In other words, the more of our converts who endure and finally arrive in heaven, the greater our joy and reward will be.

In like manner, the Bible also implies varying levels of punishment for the condemned.  Cities in Galilee were told it would be “more tolerable” for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom than for them (Matt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15).  The knowingly disobedient would be punished more than those who were punished because they ignorantly disobeyed (Luke 12:47-48).  Pilate was told that those who had delivered Jesus to him “have the greater sin” (John 19:11), implying a greater punishment.  Willful, unrepentant sinners under the New Covenant would receive a “worse” punishment than unrepentant sinners under the Old Covenant (Heb. 10:26-31).  The “last state” of apostate Christians would be “worse” than it would have been should they had never been converted in the first place (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17).

What is the “secret wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7)?

Not human wisdom (2:6, 8); rather, a mystery hidden from man which God ordained before creation (2:7) in order to glorify those who accept him (cf. 2 Thess. 1:10).  It pertains to things which we cannot perceive on our own which God first prepared (2:9), then revealed via the Spirit to the apostles and prophets (2:10-11; cf. John 16:12-14; Eph. 3:1-5), who received it (2:12) and then spoke/wrote it to us (2:13; cf. Eph. 3:3-4).

What is it?  The inspired New Testament, the gospel (Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Please compare the continuous evil thoughts and actions of Sodom to the current state of affairs in the United States.

To clarify, the population of the world in Noah’s day were the ones of whom it was said that every thought and intention of their heart was evil, not Sodom (Gen. 6:5).

In comparing Sodom to the U.S., we must note several things:

  • Sodom was punished because of ungodliness (2 Pet. 2:6), fornication in the form of homosexuality (Jude 7), and selfish, prideful lack of benevolence to the needy in spite of excess of food and prosperous ease (Ezek. 16:49).
  • Cites who unrepentantly rejected Christ would be in a worse predicament than Sodom on Judgment (Matt. 10:15; 11:23-24).
  • God was willing to spare Sodom if 10-50 righteous people were found within it, possibly .5% of its population at most.
  • The entire male population of the town was willing to commit homosexual rape of strangers (Gen. 19:4).

The overall ungodliness and immorality of America is headed towards the same levels of Sodom…but are we there yet?  Compare…

  • Homosexuality is embraced by many as last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide proves…but are all or even most of the population of the United States in favor of homosexual rape of strangers?
  • It’s probable that more than .5% tops of the U.S. population are righteous or at the very least wanting to be righteous.
  • Christ is generally accepted far more in the U.S. than could have been said of the Galilean cities of his day, of whom it was said were in worse shape than Sodom.
  • The U.S. is prosperous, and we are pridefully selfish with our excess to a degree…but we are also well known for our benevolence toward many domestically and abroad.

If we continue down the road we’re on, we will arrive to where Sodom was perhaps within a generation or three.  Yet even now there is still much positive good in America, and we as Christians can make an impact for even more good.

But only if we are far more evangelistic than we currently are.

Is it proper for a member of the church to participate in a prayer led by a non-member?  If I pray along with that non-member, does my “Amen” validate that prayer led by that non-member before God?

God does not hear the prayers of alien sinners (Is. 59:2), save for those who are searching for the truth with honest hearts (Matt. 5:6; Acts 10:1-4; 11:13-14; Luke 8:15).  “Amen” (“so be it”) by definition shows verbal approval, so does God want us showing approval of error?  (Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11)

That said, many factors make each individual case in which this situation occurs a matter of personal judgment:

  • In some cases we know the hearts of an individual (Mark 7:20-23), yet in others we don’t (1 Tim. 5:24).  Can we in every case know if the non-Christian who’s leading the prayer is closed-minded to the gospel, or like Cornelius whose prayers outside of Christ were heard because he obviously was open to the truth?
  • If we bow our head during a public prayer led by someone not a member of the church, are we giving them and our brethren the impression that we endorse their prayer and thus consider them to be in Christ even though they’re denomination?  Would that be a stumbling block to weaker brethren, leading them to become more ecumenical?  (Rom. 14:21)
  • Children are not members of the church, yet they are not sinners either if they’ve not yet become accountable.  We are to train them how to pray (Eph. 6:4), allowing them to pray verbally themselves as a teaching tool.  We would hinder our efforts to teach them if they noticed we openly weren’t praying alongside them.

One would be wise to consider each of these and other elements and whether they truly play a factor in each individual situation, and then make a personal judgment accordingly and individually, keeping it between you and God (Rom. 14:22).  If you have any doubts whatsoever, then abstain because whatever violates your conscience is sin (Rom. 14:23).

Saying “Amen” itself doesn’t validate a prayer before God.  Rather, whether the prayer is in complete accordance with his will does that (Col. 3:17).

If what is being prayed by the non-Christian is completely scriptural, and if you’ve taken into account the previously-discussed factors and made the personal, private judgment that it’s okay to make it your own prayer to God…then your prayer would be valid before God, not because of the “Amen” per se, but because what was prayed is scriptural and you made it your own prayer.

To what extent are we to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)?  Does this verse teach humility (v. 3)?  Does this verse teach us to still bear others’ burdens when they are the result of the person’s transgression (v. 1)?  If yes, we have a great need for love and humility when carrying out this command.

The father in the parable of the prodigal son unhesitatingly and compassionately took back his wayward yet penitent son and comforted him (Luke 15:20-32).  When we do the same, we help bear that person’s burdens.

God providentially both blesses and corrects the unjust (Matt. 5:45; Ps. 119:67).  In like manner, we bear the burdens of the one who is overtaken in transgression by no only correcting them (v. 1), but also by patiently comforting and encouraging them (v. 10: cf. 1 Thess. 5:11, 14-15).  Doing so requries much love for the one caught in transgression and for our brethren and fellow man in general (1 John 3:11, 14, 16-17).

The one who limits their interaction with a brother or sister caught in transgression to nothing more than correction or gossip loves themselves only…but not their brethren and certainly not God!!

To love others and help them shoulder their burdens requires much humility, a willingness to recognize that we are sinners who need each other’s help also (cf. Matt. 7:12), exactly what Galatians 6:3 is talking about.

Also, note that “bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) is baros in the Greek, which Thayer defines as “heaviness, weight, burden, trouble.”  Yet, “for each will have to bear his own load (Gal. 6:5) is phortion in the Greek, which Strong defines as “a burden which must be carried by the individual, i.e. as something personal and hence is not transferrable, i.e. it cannot ‘be shifted’ to someone else.”

Thus, Christians must bear each other’s sorrows over sins and misfortunes (Gal. 6:2)…yet each of us must still bear and fulfill our own individual responsibilities (Gal. 6:5).  Balance is required (Matt. 23:23).  We must never try to completely take the problems of another away from them or shoulder all of their responsibilities.  It can’t be done, and trying to do it will hinder them from becoming stronger (Heb. 12:5-11).  Yet we must also not have the mindset of “They laid their bed, now let them sleep in it!”, an attitude that joyfully takes heart in their hardships and selfishly refuses to try to help.

There also comes a time to walk away, yet with love (Tit. 3:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).

When do we ask for forgiveness in our private prayers (1 John 1:9)?  Should we ask at the beginning of our prayer, or does it matter when we ask?

The model prayer which places forgiveness toward the end of the prayer is meant to be a model, not an exact replica to be repeated verbatim (Matt. 6:7-13).  David requested forgiveness right at the start of one of his prayers (Ps. 51:1-2).

Thus, it matters not when in the prayer the Christian asks for forgiveness, only that he asks…and with a penitent heart (cf. Acts 8:22).