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The Differing and Complementary Purposes of Men and Women

Notes from a lesson on 1st Timothy 2:11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:11–12, ESV)

Complementarian Position

“The term complementarian is the self-designation of the evangelical constituency that would see God’s created design for men and women as comprising male headship in the created order, reflecting itself in the requirement of a qualified male eldership in the church and the husband’s overarching responsibility in the leadership of the home.” (Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood footnote 18, chapter 8)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

“Just as the Father and Son are equal in deity and are equal in all their attributes, but different in role, so husband and wife are equal in personhood and value, but are different in the roles that God has given them. Just as God the Son is eternally subject to the authority of God the Father, so God has planned that wives would be subject to the authority of their own husbands.”

“No, the idea of headship and submission existed before creation. It began in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The Father has eternally had a leadership role, an authority to initiate and direct, that the Son does not have. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is subject to both the Father and Son and plays yet a different role in creation and in the work of salvation.”

“When did the idea of headship and submission begin then? The idea of headship and submission never began! It has always existed in the eternal nature of God Himself. And in this most basic of all authority relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability (for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in attributes and perfections). It is just there. Authority belongs to the Father not because he is wiser or because He is a more skillful leader, but just because he is the Father.” (Grudem, ibid.)

Egalitarian Position

“Christ did not take upon himself the task of world redemption because he was number two in the Trinity and his boss told him to do so or because he was demoted to a subordinate rank so that he could accomplish a job that no one else wanted to touch.” Furthermore, when the mission of redemption was completed, the Son resumed His former stature and full equality within the Trinity, leaving forever behind the role in which He had to submit Himself in obedience to the Father. As Bilezikian again comments, “Because there was no subordination within the Trinity prior to the Second Person’s incarnation, there will remain no such thing after its completion. If we must talk of subordination it is only a functional or economic subordination that pertains exclusively to Christ’s role in relation to human history.” (Grudem, ibid.)

In this view, there is no inherent masculine authority, and no need for a wife to submit to her husband, except as the husband also submits to his wife and all Christians submit to one another. However, I think validating this position requires the renunciation of an inerrant and throughly inspired Bible, or some novel hermeneutics when interpreting passages like the one we are considering now.

So, are women allowed to lead or teach in a church context? Are women supposed to remain quiet always?

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Is the above teaching culturally bound? That is, was it only for the 1st Century Greco-Roman patriarchal world? Should application be limited to a time and/or place where men might be offended or intimated by feminine leadership (ie. Middle East). Is there something about the created order that should keep women from taking dominant leadership roles in church or in society? Is there theological teaching, perhaps even in a core area such as the Godhead that should guide our opinion? A thorough discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of our study, but I will try to answer the questions I’ve posed briefly.

Context is central to accurate Bible interpretation. One of the contexts we must evaluate is the historical situation of the original text. An important rule of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) is: in order to understand what a particular Bible text means for us today, we must first understand what it meant to the original recipients. What is the historical situation that precipitated Paul’s command for women to remain silent in church? In Corinth it would seem that women were interrupting church gatherings with questions. It is also probable that some were dominating the teaching and worship time, which would certainly be an annoyance regardless of the gender of the disruptive personality.

When it concerns the 1st Timothy 2 passage, men were disrupting the order of the Ephesian church with their anger and debating. Women were causing a distraction by the way they dressed, and inviting cultural disrespect because of the way they conducted themselves in gatherings. Typically in Jewish synagogues, women were separated from the men. This was not the case in Christian house churches It is likely that some women were seen at times to be dominating discussion, or interrupting the flow of worship. They may have been seen as disgraceful because of the perception in a patriarchal culture that women should always be silent and submissive to men. Paul sought to maintain social order to permit the Gospel an unhindered hearing.

So, should women always remain silent in church today? Can and should women teach or preach? Is it acceptable for a woman to be an elder or a senior pastor in a church?

Our culture is not the same as 1st Century Greco-Roman or Jewish culture. Therefore, any practice that is culturally bound is not a practice we are bound to follow. Is it disgraceful in our culture for a woman to speak, teach, lead? The answer is, of course, no. Therefore, we must evaluate whether women remaining quiet in the 1st century house church was intended to be a universal rule.  I don’t believe it to be binding today. Women are free to involve themselves in discussion, or to teach in an appropriate context. However, the passage we are considering goes further. It prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men. This would keep a woman from being and elder or a senior pastor in a church.

Men and women are ontologically equal. This reality is found in the original creation of both in God’s image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV) Jesus supported this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’” (Matthew 19:4, ESV)

When people come to Christ they are reborn and made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Galatians the Apostle Paul writes the following about men and women who are new creations in Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28, ESV)

We are all equal. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. However, equality does not mean uniformity. Men and woman are created differently each with a unique gift, calling and purpose. It is inordinate to believe and live as though this were not reality. We are seeing the bitter fruit of such dysfunctional thinking in our culture today. People are taught to reject the obvious differences between men and women, to consider masculinity and femininity as fluid, to regard gender as a cultural construct rather than a reality grounded in anatomy and DNA. This is what happens when we reject the truth that God is our Creator.

It is ironic when those who state such a belief will choose to act in a way that corresponds to the purported artificiality of gender. A biological woman begins wearing men’s clothes, taking testosterone, has a mastectomy, all because she feels like a man trapped in a woman’s body. Yet the actions she is taking demonstrate the reality that men and women are indeed different. She simply identifies with being a man. This is a break from reality. Whatever one’s belief or feeling, being a man or a woman is far deeper than clothing, or even anatomy. It is part of the created order: “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” Putting on makeup, wearing women’s clothes, taking estrogen, even having body altering surgery, will not turn a man into a woman. You are what you are in the deepest part of you. Choose to be who God created you to be, not what you feel, or what culture teaches. Find your identity in Christ.

In the passage under consideration Paul theologically validates the prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men, grounding it God’s created order, and by appealing to the consequences evident in the fall of Adam and Eve.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:13–15, ESV)

Two reasons are presented for the prohibition of women taking authority over or teaching men.

  1. Adam was created first.
  2. Eve was deceived, not Adam.

We have to go back to the creation account referenced by Paul in order to understand his theological reasoning. In creating man first, God is not making him more important. In fact, one could easily make the case that God saved the best for last! Woman is the crown of creation. In creating Adam first, God indicated his purpose for men: to lead.  In creating Eve from the side (the rib) of Adam God demonstrates his purpose for woman: to help and to sustain relationships. Men focus on tasks; women focus on relationships. While there are individual differences, this describes the most fundamental difference in God’s purpose for creating two unique genders.

In Genesis one, we are taught that human beings are created male and female, both in God’s image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

Next, it is revealed what human beings were originally created to do on earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

The difference in the way Adam and Eve were created is deeply significant, It signals that men and women will focus on different parts of the divine mandate found in Genesis 1:28. The woman will be more focused on children and sustaining the family, which fulfills God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The man will be more focused on “subdue it (the earth) and have dominion over…every living thing.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)

Eve is created to fulfill God’s stated purpose to give Adam a “helper.” This should not lead us to think woman is inferior to man. In fact the context teaches the opposite. All of the animals were brought to Adam and he named them, but none was found which fit or “corresponded to” him. The animals were inferior and unlike Adam because only he was made in the image of God.

Grammatically the Hebrew word ezer (helper) means someone who helps from a position of strength. In the Old Testament the word is used 17 times to refer to God as our helper, and three times to refer to a military ally. So, the helper is strong not weak. If this were not the case how would they offer any real assistance? 

The helper is equal not inferior. A person who needs help has probably initiated an action (even if inspired to do so by another), which he is unable or unwilling to complete alone. For example, when God is my helper, I may have started to do something and prayed for his assistance. That certainly does not make God inferior to to me in any way. Still, God’s function in a helping act is different than the person whom He is assists. It is supportive. The one needing help is focused on the task, but the helper’s interest and focus is on the person they’re helping. So, this defines the basic difference between men and women and God’s purpose for each gender.

Next, the Apostle Paul indicates that a woman should not teach or command a man due to the fact that Eve was deceived, not Adam. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, ESV)

In chapter three of Genesis tragedy unfolds as the Serpent tempts Eve who succumbs then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who has been watching silently all along. After Adam sins, both their eyes are opened, and they seek to hide from God. The first pair failed in their collective responsibility (to be obedient to God), and perverted their purposes. 

Eve was supposed to help nurture their relationship so that they would be whole and strong to do God’s will. Instead she disobeyed God’s will, then helped Adam to sin. It is Adam who should have focused on doing God’s will, ensuring that they kept His command and pursued His purpose. Instead, he failed to disagree with or correct his wife’s sinful decision — which he clearly knew to be wrong (Genesis 2:17), and was likely responsible for sharing with his wife (Genesis 3:2-3).  

Both the man and the woman were tempted in their area of weakness and succumbed. Further, the consequences pronounced upon their sin are in line with their differing functions in the creation order. According to Robert. D. Culver in his article for Women in Ministry, the traditional curses of Genesis chapter 3:14-19 are not so much curses, as natural results of the fall that must be endured by humankind (Clouse and Clouse, p. 40).  

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:16–19, ESV)

When God pronounced His judgment and the consequences of their sin, it followed a familiar pattern. The result of Eve’s sin is the fall of woman in the area of relationships. The result of  Adam’s sin is the fall of man in the area of achieving the divine mandate itself. 

 The woman is told that two major consequences will abide as a result of her sin: 1) the pain of childbirth will be increased, and 2) although her desire will be for her husband he will rule over her. I do not believe the multiplication of pain in bearing children refers to physical birth alone, but to the whole responsibility of the mother in raising children from bearing them in her body to worrying about them the rest of her life. From this we should not to infer that the husband’s responsibility to raise their children is lessened. Rather, the mother will be naturally primary, and her responsibility will be painful at times. The second part of the curse (or result of the fall) is that the woman’s relationship to her husband will become one of subordination. Whereas the intent of God was for the man and woman to rule together, with the woman providing the emotional and relational strength and the man providing the specific direction to achieve God’s purpose, now the man will extend his natural dominance over his wife.

Adam’s consequence for following his wife into sin is complication in achieving the divine mandate to subdue the earth. Now the ground will be cursed and his work will be frustrating and unfulfilling at times. Work itself is not the curse, since in 2:15 God gave Adam responsibility to tend the garden. Instead, the curse makes man’s work in following God’s will and achieving any intended purpose more difficult. This is true because man has chosen independence from God by virtue of putting self will above God’s will. This was Satan’s sin, so man is now deformed into the likeness of God’s supreme enemy. Now there is an ongoing civil war between what the man knows to be right and what he desires to achieve for himself. 

Therefore, in both creation and fall we find support for the complementation view, which agrees with the Apostle Paul’s teaching in our passage that a woman should not be in authority over or teach a man. Eve became dominant in the garden (v, 15b), so a woman taking the position of priority or authority over men in the church could have negative effects. We may avoid repeating original sin by following God’s design for men and women. As Eve was deceived, so women may be inclined to trust their feelings and be led astray as Satan manipulates emotions, or perverts compassion, or offers to give godlike power to overcome insecurity. The man who knows what he should do, yet fails to do it, sins as Adam did. The man who idolizes his wife by putting her feelings, desires and will above God’s becomes an idolator of the first order.

What is a woman in Christ? The New Covenant assures that she is equal to a man in standing and worth. All Christians are viewed as one in Christ. However, although we are one in Christ the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts (I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-5). At the creation, before the fall, both the man and the woman are given the same mandate to accomplish (Genesis 1:28). However, they have different ways of achieving it. In both the natural creation and in Christ’s spiritual re-creation of humankind, there is unity and there is diversity. In answering our question of the role of women in ministry both of these concepts must be taken into account. 

I believe it is obvious that individuals not only possess different natural and spiritual gifts, but there are gifts established through God’s design and creation of man and woman which are typical for each gender. The man is typically gifted to fulfill the role of authoritative leader. The woman is typically gifted to fill the role of supportive or relational leader. Therefore, to be a man or a woman is more than biological: it is spiritual. Only in Christ can fallen men and women fully realize the potential of their gifts, and then only when each seeks to live as God’s new creation in Christ.

There are exceptions. God may sovereignly choose to use any person He wants to accomplish his will and purpose, whether male or female. It is obvious in both Bible and church history that the Lord has raised up strong women leaders such as: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Phoebe, usually in keeping with a woman’s gifting and purpose, but sometimes they as more dominant.

In the Old Testament Deborah was one of the Judges. It is obvious God raised her up as an authoritative leader. However, she sought to encourage the military commander Barak to lead, demonstrating again the gift of being a helper. In the New Testament Priscilla and Aquila were a husband and wife team who assisted Paul in leadership. Priscilla is sometimes named first, which signals she was the more visible (perhaps more dominant and outspoken).

So, should a woman be allowed to lead in any position a man does? The question we should rather ask is, has God called and gifted that particular woman to accomplish the ministry in which she seeks to be involved? If so then let us find the right context and the most supportive environment and position for her to be what God has called her to be: His minister.

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Male or Female Is Reality

You may not realize it, but the current controversy concerning gender, which has expressed itself as a debate over what bathroom a person should be permitted to use, is actually a philosophical and theological issue. In fact, scientific fact is proving to have impact only if interpreted with a subjective bias. It is a fact that someone born with XY chromosomes is male, and a person with XX chromosomes is female. The subjective bias enters when we attempt to look at exceptional cases and apply them as a general rule for everyone. As many as one in one-thousand persons are born with a degree of genetic abnormality, which rarely affects physical characteristics but may arguably impact some behavioral traits. The case is made by LGBT advocates that this is evidence of gender fluidity, and is applied to everyone. The result is, the puzzling separation of gender identity and physical sexual characteristics. In other words, a male who believes he is a female as we’ve seen showcased by the media in Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. The LGBT lobby is promoting this concept successfully.

Philosophically this is an ontological issue. Ontology is the study of reality. What is real, and what is the fundamental nature of the real? It is also an issue that concerns epistemology, which is the study of how we know what we (think) we know. More recent philosophy has shown no interest in ontology, preferring to make the case that everything is limited by our epistemology in any case. In fact, since Wittgenstein many have simply given philosophy up as little more than word games. That is to say, if we cannot really know anything for certain, how can we talk about what is real? Everything is what I or we say it is? We tell stories to make sense of reality. These stories are called metanarratives. There is no truth, at least in the traditional sense of absolute truth. There are just stories. When a community agrees to a particular metanarrative, then that story becomes their truth. Do you see why I’m making the case that the current controversy over gender is philosophical?

The progressive/liberal/left believes in and supports the type of thinking I’ve outlined above, which has been labelled “postmodernism”. When I was a young person in church, this was called “relativism,” but we applied it to morality. Now it is being applied to all of reality. In the case of the gender issue, many of those who support transgenderism fail to recognize that a person is fundamentally male or female. Rather, the person is what they say they are. In so doing, they ignore biological reality in favor of personal choice and subjective perception. Now, when I say “they” I am not referring to a person who presents a genuine exception to the biological norm. As mentioned earlier, there are persons who are born with genetic, and even more rarely with physical, abnormalities. Those born with both male and female physical traits are now called “intersex.” These persons must discover for themselves whether male or female best describes them, and how they wish to proceed with their public lives. However, the LGBT community, and those who support their political ideology, promote the idea that this is the case for everyone.

The exception is not the rule. There is actually a fallacy of logic on full display here. My introductory logic text from college, written by Dr. William Kilgore, calls it “Converse Accident.” It is illogical to make the exceptional case into the rule. The left commits this fallacy regularly.

It is a titanic expression of egotism to presume that there is no reality other than the one I, or my community defines and describes. It is arrogance on the highest level to make reality as your community has defined it the rule for everyone else. This is precisely what is occurring in the United States today under the influence and political control of the left. It was reported today that President Obama will mandate all public schools permit a child to use the restroom or locker room of their choice, depending upon their self-identified gender. Nobody else gets a say in this. That is not democracy.

There is an essential reality, though. When a person or community lives in accord with reality, they are healthy and sane. The alternative is what we see increasingly on display in the United States today, unhealthy thinking and moral insanity. There is irony in the rationale used by leaders like President Obama, or the U.S. Supreme Court, when issuing undemocratic directives. They appear to truly believe that they are upholding the civil rights of minority groups. Many people have been persuaded that this is the case, and that is why the normalization of lifestyles and behaviors once considered abnormal, even immoral, continues unabated. However, framing this as a civil rights issue doesn’t change reality. From birth a person is either male or female, regardless of personal feelings, identity or lifestyle choices. This is a scientific, biological reality for the overwhelming majority of persons.

There is also a spiritual reality, which underlies the material one. This is where theology becomes important to this debate. God created persons male or female. That is true even for those who have been born with some degree of biological abnormality. In this life, you are created and born male or female, and you are destined to be either a woman or a man.

Jesus Christ responded to a question about divorce with the following reinforcement of the creation account found in Genesis of the Bible’s Old Testament.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:6–9, ESV)
From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. That is to say from the beginning of the creation of humankind, but it also applies to your creation as a person in the image of God. You are either male or female. This doesn’t depend upon how you feel about yourself. It doesn’t depend upon whether you enjoy activities that our society or culture has typically associated with men or women. It doesn’t depend upon physical characteristics such as body hair or muscular size. You are a man, or you are a woman. God created you to take on that special role and responsibility. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively elsewhere. Here’s a link to a recent Mother’s Day message about what it means to be a woman. How Women Are Like God

There is a great deal of concern expressed over the high suicide rate among the transgendered (and rightly so). Suicide and bullying of transgendered persons are often cited as important reasons for changing our policies and attitudes toward this population of persons. Public acceptance of the transgendered person, it is presumed, would limit suicidal behavior. That is possible. It woudl certainly seem to limit bullying. However, I would like to make the case that the transgendered person is struggling with something deep within themselves: their own identity. For a person born with normal chromosomal and sexual characteristics who feels strongly that they are actually supposed to be the opposite gender, there will always be an internal conflict. This is cognitive dissonance, an ongoing war between what this person is in reality, and what this person is striving to be by choice. That war will not end with surgery, hormonal therapy, or public acceptance. It will not end until the person embraces who they really are biologically and spiritually: a man, or a woman.

There is a way things are supposed to be. However, we are living in a broken world in rebellion against God and his created order. The only way to find health and sanity is to agree with God as he has revealed himself in his inspired book, the Bible. The only way to find life and fulfillment, the only way to discover whom you have been created to be, is to believe in and follow the One who called himself Son of Man, Jesus Christ. He is the perfect human; all that God intends for us to be is found in Jesus.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).
Receive (believe in, fully embrace) Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man, and be what you were created to be.

Identity and Purpose: Male or Female

“He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Jesus speaking in Matthew 19:4-5)

God made you either a male or a female. Your physical body demonstrates this clearly. If you are male, you have male body parts. If you are female, you have female body parts. Biologically, if you are male you have XY chromosomes. If you are female, you have an XX chromosmes.

This is a fallen world. As a result, deformities and abnormalities exist. Some studies indicate that there may be as many as one in 1,000 babies born with some type of genetic abnormality. This may or may not result in a physical deformity. In rare instances a person may be born with both male and female body parts. These are exceptions, not the norm. However, Jesus’ authoritative and inspired teaching about sexuality and gender apply, even to those who have to deal with such a challenge. 

Jesus’ teaching should be a comfort to anyone who must deal with gender confusion. You are either a male or a female. God has created you, in spite of any apparent contradictions that arise in a fallen world, apart from God’s immediate care and control. You don’t have to live apart from God’s care and control, though. Affirm that Jesus is Lord, and believe his teaching. Give your life to him. Recieve his Spirit and be transformed from the inside out.

Once in the care and control of God, once filled with his Holy Spirit, you will be convicted of the truth. Follow those convictions; they are Jesus Christ’s teaching being made real to you. You are a male, and Christ will work by his Spirit to make you a man of God. You are a female, and Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, will raise you up to be a woman of God.

Your identity is in Christ, not the world. The world is deceieved by the god it has chosen to believe in, and that god is a liar, a thief and a murderer (John 8:44, 10:10). “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). If you look to the world, if you listen to the prevailing voices in our culture today, you are going to be deluded into belieiving in a distorted image of personhood and humanity. If you identify with anyone or anything in the world, you will be kept from realizing your true identity.

You have been created in the image of God. In this fallen world, the divine image in you is damaged; it is broken. Jesus Christ is one with God, and he became a human being to restore the image of God in us. The natural tendency of every human being in this fallen world is to sin. Sin is falling short of God’s design and standard for human life. It is logical that apart from God we cannot be what he wants us to be. How would we know? Why would we care? Apart from God, I just make it up as I go. I choose my own identity, follow my own path. The problem with that approach to life is, human beings are created for the purpose of fellowship with, and service to, their loving Creator. Apart from that purpose, we are lost.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” and “the exact representation of his (God’s) nature” (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the only one who can restore the broken image of God in you. He will not do that without your permission. You see, as a person made in God’s image, you have something that only persons possess, something that proves you are made in God’s image. You have free will. God will not violate your free will, not even to keep you from living a self-destructive life, not even to keep you from being ultimately destroyed in hell. Will you give Jesus that permission?

In fact, the reason the world is fallen, deceived and headed for destruction is due to human beings rejecting God’s care and control over them. God gave us the earth (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 115:16), we turned away from him and chose to believe the Father of Lies, who is also “the spirit now at work in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). That is how Satan became god of this world. Human beings believed him and gave up their rights to him. You don’t have to continue to believe his lies, however. 

The lie we are being told today sounds like good news: “You can be whatever you want to be.” The trouble with this truism is, it dooms those who believe it to failure. Why? Most adults, if they are honest with themselves, realize it just isn’t true. Perhaps as a youth you were told this and believed it. You wanted to be a professional athlete or singer or actor. You tried. You tried out. You were rejected. You aren’t talented enough, or attractive enough according to cultural standards. You were disillusioned. That’s not bad when you’ve been living an illusion, so long as you realize you can do many great things. However, many experience more than disappointment; they fall into depression.

Another result of believing this lie extends to sexuality and gender. “You can be whatever you want to be.” So, in some places children are now being taught to choose their gender. This in spite of the fact that the American College of Pediatricians has called the practice child abuse. “The American College of Pediatricians urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex… Facts – not ideology – determine reality.” Nonetheless, it is gaining support as the result of a militant group that fervently believes the lie, and is transforming our culture accordingly.

Then there’s this principle, which on the surface seems reasonable: “Be true to your feelings.” The problem with this principle is, feelings may decieve and be deceived. Feelings are dynamic, even erratic. Making decsions, especially life-altering ones, based upon feelings is, at best, unwise. I’ve heard children express a desire to be the gender opposite their own biological sex. I’ve heard the same child express a desire to be a dog. It is interesting that, biologically speaking, the regions of the brain that generate emotion develop very early, logic and reason come later. It is inherently childish and foolish to rely on feelings to determine reality, or identity. Better to discover the facts and follow the evidence.

Here’s a better principle for you to live by: “God made me for a purpose.” And here is something you can believe in and not be disappointed: “I can be whatever God created me to be.” God created you for a purpose. Spend your life discovering and accompishing that.

God designed and created the universe, and that includes our planet and our amazing bodies. Therefore, there is a way things are supposed to be. It is my responsibility to live according to God’s purpose and design for my body and life. The Bible contains God’s revelation, and the Spirit of God will enable me to understand it if I approach him with a willingness to learn and do his will. Everything I’ve written today comes from the Bible

You must realize that clinging to the values you’ve received and opinions you’ve derived from the world puts you at odds with the Lord. In fact, the Bible uses stronger language than that. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). I invite you to turn away from the world and toward God. Change your thinking; change your ways. Follow Jesus Christ and his teaching, and that includes his teaching about gender and identity.

Open your heart and invite the Spirit of Jesus to enter. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and be at peace with God and yourself. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). In Christ, there is neither male nor female, only children of God. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Homosexuality and the Bible

It is obvious to me when reading the online comments of several professed Christians that culture is having a greater influence upon their thinking than the inspired Scripture. And it is equally obvious by references these people make to the Bible that many don’t really pay attention to what it very plainly says.. Rather, they rely on others who have read key passages to (re)interpret what it says about homosexuality. Additionally, I see increasing instances of people disrespecting the Apostle Paul and discounting what he wrote as irrelevant for a 21st century context. What is even worse is the assertion that Paul is teaching a different Gospel than Jesus! Because if you can dismiss the Apostle Paul, then you’re left with a much depleted New Testament, and a far less defined Gospel.

I’m not going to make the attempt at the moment to defend Paul. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then you dismiss Paul at your own risk. Jesus Christ himself appeared to Paul in the road to Damascus, and called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. That means he’s the key communicator for the overwhelming majority of us. Further, Paul started churches and set precedent for how churches should be formed, which arguably continues to bear fruit today. See, I couldn’t leave it alone! I will proceed with the same faith passed down to the saints from the beginning: the Gospel distilled and proclaimed by Paul, Peter, John and at least four other New Testament writers.

But, just to make a point, let’s start with Jesus, whom many make the case never addressed homosexuality. Actually, Jesus taught about something more important than sexual choice, he taught about God’s design for gender and human relationships. Most importantly for this discussion, Jesus affirmed Old Testament teaching about marriage.

Matthew 19:3-6
“And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

The one flesh relationship that Jesus affirms is part of God’s design in creation. In fact, the Lord quotes from the creation account in Genesis (2:24) in his reply to the Pharisees. I think Jesus might say the same thing to us today regarding the issue of marriage: “Have you not read…?” God intentionally designed and created two different genders, male and female. Sex is part of God’s design and the physical connecting link between the man and woman who commit themselves to each other in marriage. It is also the procreative tool to bring about new life. When a man and a woman join together by covenant and in sexual union, they become one physically, emotionally and even spiritually. The one flesh relationship God designed is impossible between two people of the same gender. This should be anatomically obvious to anyone who considers it.

It has become culturally acceptable for men and women to act like the opposite gender, and even to have themselves surgically and chemically altered to resemble the opposite gender. However, God’s design is deeper than that. We are living in a fallen world and there are some who are born with characteristics of both genders, and others who never feel comfortable living out their genetic gender. “God created them male and female.” Each one of us is created to be either male or female, outside and inside. Perhaps the person born with both characteristics is a good illustration of the “inside” gender idea. That individual must chose to live as a male or a female and will choose what they are inside as opposed to living according to their ambivalent or confusing anatomy.

You are either male or female. God designed you to be that gender. Physically and emotionally and spiritually you will become more and more a man or more and more a woman.

It is not God’s will for everyone to marry. Observe what the Lord taught us about divorce. The disciples were surprised about his strict interpretation.

Matthew 19:10-12
“The disciples said to him, If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
A eunuch cannot have sexual intercourse with a woman. Some men are born this way, some were conscripted and surgically altered as children, and others may choose to remained celibate.

There is a pattern and a principle here. If you are a man and are not attracted to women, or if you are attracted to other men instead, then it is incumbent upon you to remain celibate, not to presume that God made you to be a homosexual. We are living in a fallen world and I have no doubt but that there are complex factors at work in the lives of those who have same sex attraction. However, sex is not the answer to same sex attraction. You may genuinely love someone of the same gender. Good! But sex is not love. You find yourself in the same position as the eunuchs Jesus taught about above, and the same situation as any unmarried person with heterosexual attraction. You can abstain. Nothing bad will happen if you do not act out on your sexual attraction and desire. However, it will be very bad if you determine to identify with homosexuality and act against God’s design for male and female.

Let’s look at what Paul had to say in his letter to the Romans. This is an important inspired document. It was written to the capital city for the entire Roman empire. Paul distilled the Gospel and presented it very clearly in Romans. The epistle starts with a presentation about the world’s number one problem: sin. This is a longer passage, but read it carefully. I want you to understand the flow of the Apostle’s inspired reasoning.

Romans 1:18-27
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

I left the verse numbers so that you can find what I comment on.

First, God’s righteous anger is demonstrated against all sin (v. 18), not just sexual sins, and not just certain sexual sins. People who live sinful lifestyles suppress the truth (v. 18)—sin as defined by God in the Bible, and clearly in this Epistle to the Romans. To suppress means they try to hold the truth down, cover it up and keep people from hearing it, or argue against it. People suppress the truth with words and with their actions and lifestyle choices. That describes a variety of ways advocates energetically defend homosexuality and same sex marriage today. It has been cast as a civil right, and same sex marriage is “marriage equality.” Who wants to deny someone equal rights? Do you want to be on the wrong side of history? In one sense we’re all on the wrong side of history, until Christ returns and establishes righteousness and justice on the earth.

Because many Christians oppose homosexuality and support traditional marriage, a number of outspoken LGBT groups express outrage, sometimes even hatred. Apparently Christians don’t have the right to speak or exercise freedom of conscience. Activists shout down and attempt exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinion about homosexuality. Do you need reminding about the Atlanta fire chief who was dismissed for at statement in support of traditional marriage, or of how national Christian speaker Louie Giglio was pressured by the gay lobby to turn down an invitation to pray at Obama’s inauguration because of something he said in a sermon against homosexuality many years earlier. And do you remember the Chik fil’ A brouhaha and boycott? All because the mild mannered founder supported traditional marriage. Suppressers are not supporters of free speech… unless they are the ones speaking.

Everyone is accountable to God because God has revealed himself in some way to everyone, both in their conscience and in creation (vv. 19-20). Suppression of the truth continues: Is it any wonder that many who reject God embrace a worldview that teaches everything came from nothing as the result of pure chance, and “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no good, nothing but pointless indifference” (Dawkins). Every living thing is the product of the blind force of natural selection. This certainly leaves a gaping hole, through which any random idea or set of values can come, and indeed have come. If you begin with the provable assumption that the world is designed, created by an intelligent mind, then the next step is to understand the design and discover how you fit into it.

Even though we have all seen evidence of God in ourselves and in the created order, we all rebel and refuse to acknowledge Him in our thinking (v. 21). There is a biblical Proverb that says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him,and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). No, we put God out of our minds and think and do whatever we please. We think we are so wise! Further, we are ungrateful for all that the good and loving Creator has provided and done. The result is idolatry. We idolize things, people, and most of all, self (vv. 21-24).

Now let’s focus on those last two verses, which clearly describe homosexuality, even though they do not use that term. In fact, that has been an argument used by the pro homosexuals who try to use the Bible to buttress their position, or disabuse it in a continued effort to suppress what it says. The argument goes like this: The word “homosexual” is never actually used, so what we call homosexuality is not wrong. Actually, more descriptive and graphic words are used to describe and define the behavior. We often use the English word “homosexual” to gather these ideas together.

The Apostle Paul observes the ancient world and states (Romans 1:26-27 again),
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Once someone gets to the place where they choose an active lifestyle of sin, rebellion and perversion, it is the because they have stopped responding to God who has been convicting their conscience about right and wrong. Eventually, the person who chooses such a lifestyle hardens their heart to the point that they no longer respond to God’s urging. So, he gives them up to their desires (v. 26). Among these may be a burning desire to do sexual things with the same gender. Women are said to exchange natural sex with a husband for disordered sex with other women. Men are said to burn in their passion for other men. I believe that this is an expression of self-love and selfish idolatry.

I have come to believe that, at it’s root, homosexuality is an attempt to love and worship the self. A gay man sees another like himself, projects himself onto that person and makes love to them, and in so doing loves himself. This is partly what sex is, a means of obtaining acceptance and love. The perversion with homosexuality is the inability or unwillingness to completely love the other. I’m not saying that a lesbian couple cannot love one another (not sex, but compassion), but I am saying that the sexual side of homosexual relationships is very self-involved. The homosexual may project onto someone who is very much like themselves, someone who has similar physical features, and then show affection to that person and try to become physically intimate with them in an attempt to love themselves. In a different case a homosexual may project themselves onto an ideal person, someone they wish they were like, and make them the object of affection, in which case they are compensating for what they feel they lack. Now, this is my theory; you may criticize or jettison it as you’d like. I’m trying to understand homosexuality as it relates to sex itself.

The Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 5:28-29: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it….” It is evident, then, that sex is a means of self-love. The man and woman become one flesh, and when they have intercourse, they are expressing love each for the other and for the self as they identify with the other. The problem with homosexuality is both, that it cannot result in a one flesh relationship, and that it is expressing love for what amounts to an ideal image in the mirror of another just like me or like I want to be.

Whatever the root and reason for homosexuality, it is inherently unfulfilling. The homosexual receives in her/his own body the due penalty for their error (v. 27). Same sex marriage, social acceptance, or pleasurable sexual experiences: none of these will fill the emptiness. Homosexual activity merely exacerbates the loneliness and inevitably results in pain, loss, depression, isolation, despair. Whatever the psychological, emotional and physical consequences of homosexual behavior, it is sin. All sin separates from God, and without God we are all empty and headed for destruction.

There are two other New Testament passages of Scripture about homosexual behavior and relationships. Like the passage above, homosexuality is not treated alone. It is listed alongside other sins.
The Apostle Paul indicates that the Law should be taught or preached to those who are acting lawlessly so that they will be given an opportunity to realize that they are wrong.

1 Timothy 1:8-11
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
The word for immoral is “pornos” in Greek and likely refers to the sexually immoral, of which the next word is an example. In the NASB, the Greek word “arsenokoites” is translated “homosexual.” In the NRSV and the NKJV it is rendered “sodomites.” It is a highly descriptive term that refers to more than mere same sex attraction; rather, it speaks of men actually having anal intercourse with other men. We get the English word “coitus” from one of the two words this Greek term has joined together. “Male” and “intercourse.” Please notice, homosexual conduct is treated no differently than any other sinful lifestyle choice on the list, from murderers and kidnappers to the profane or perjurers (liars).

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
The key teaching in this passage is that all sin separates people from obtaining eternal life with God in His Kingdom. The two terms that refer to those who actively practice homosexuality are very graphic and refer to the active and passive male partners in homosexual sex. Those who are involved in such activity are included in the larger list of people who are living other sinful lifestyles, such as, fornication (heterosexual sex outside of marriage) and adultery.

So, there it is, a concise overview of what the New Testament (and Old Testament as Jesus taught it) teaches about homosexuality. This is why I am opposed to it. I don’t hate professed homosexuals, any more than I hate people caught up in other sinful lifestyle choices. I don’t believe I am any better without Christ. But I am in Christ, and he has given me life. I want everyone to receive what I have, but to do that you’ll have to have a change of heart and mind about many things, not just homosexuality.

Bullying

I hate bullying. Bullying takes on many forms. Bullies are everywhere. When someone has power—physical, financial, social— and uses it to persecute and harm those whom they dislike, that’s bullying.

 

I was bullied in school. It started with fights in seventh grade. I beat two kids who threatened and challenged me, but they had a bigger friend. He wasn’t that much bigger, but for some reason I was scared of him. He wanted to fight and constantly harassed me. I didn’t want a beating, so I ran, and ran, and ran. It was miserable. Fear was the dominant emotion for me in eighth grade. I rode my bike to school instead of the bus. School was about four miles from my house. It was a lonely ride back an forth every day.

 

Today bullying has expanded and exploded. Now we hear not only about kids, but adults bullying too. Bullies use social media, texting, and sexting. It is incredibly foolish to send a naked picture of yourself to someone; they may later use it for revenge. People have committed suicide because they cannot take the bullying any longer. This all makes me very sad.

 

Bullying is not isolated to individuals. Powerful political lobbies and wealthy media empires bully people who do not agree with their viewpoint. The dismissal of Phil Robertson from the Duck Dynasty program on A & E is a recent example of the relentless efforts of the gay lobby to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Louie Giglio was pressured to step down from praying at President Obama’s inauguration for the same reason. I was encouraged to see that Greg Laurie courageously and courteously stood up to the bullies refusing to step down from his invitation to call upon God at the National Day of Prayer.

 

People who are openly gay have been persecuted and bullied for many years, so this phenomena is not isolated to the LGBT lobby. In fact, homosexuals have been excluded, excoriated, and even beaten by bullies. While motivation behind the infamous Matthew Sheppard episode has been called into question by a well researched book recently (The Book of Matt), there have been other legitimate cases where gays have been victims of death threats, violence and murder simply because of their professed sexual orientation. This is evil. This is wrong.

 

The real battle is not gay versus straight, but love versus hate. The cornerstone of a civilized society is mutual respect. Regardless of my disagreement with your lifestyle choice, I can choose to grant you the respect due any other human being created in the image of God. Mutual respect can be stated concisely in the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. Feel free to disagree with someone, but let your argument be with their ideas and practices. If I am secure and believe firmly in my values and ideals, I will not be threatened by those who disagree. In fact, I will welcome healthy debate as a means of sharpening my defense of cherished ideas, making me a better person. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

 

The role of power is to uphold what is right and defend the weak. Bullying misuses power and exploits the weak. When you are in possession of economic, political, intellectual or physical power, it is important to look out not only for your own interests but for the interests of others. Love your neighbor as yourself. This will prevent you or I from becoming bullies.