PART 7 TESTIMONY
PART 7 TESTIMONY
What Should Determine the Way a Believer Should Think, Speak, and Act?
Should Christians follow societal norms or God’s norms in the way they think, speak, and act?
This is the dilemma facing many Christians. We have become born-again. We have received the Holy Spirit into our lives, and subsequently, a new nature. Eventually, we find out that the way we have been thinking about ourselves, about others, and the circumstances of life are diametrically opposed to the way God would have us to think.
Irrespective of God’s Word, we want to continue in our eros romantic, passionate love because we have a desire for it, it brings us pleasure, and maybe even because we consider God’s view on this area of our life as being antiquated. And in whatever form or expression this love takes us, we believe that God will sanction it because it’s between two people or maybe even more than two people, and how could God not sanction love between people, right?
It’s not for me to determine what God should respect concerning what I think, speak, or act. Rather it is up to God to declare to me through His Word and by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit the way I should think, speak and act now that I have become a Christian, a new creature, His adopted son, or daughter.
As was asked in the title of this chapter, what should determine the way a believer should think, speak, and act?
Any idea as to what the answer is to this question? The following verse tells us so.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
This verse tells us that it is Scripture that provides for us the proper perspective as to how we as Christians should think, speak and act. The last part of the words of this verse for instruction in righteousness pertains to our study at hand. These words refer to instruction that produces proper behavior. So, there you have it.
In this regard, let’s take a look at Scriptures from the New Testament and see what God’s Word declares to us concerning those sexual behaviors that He condones and those that He doesn’t.
We’ll begin by going to the book of 1 Corinthians. These initial verses that we will look at seem to clarify two expressions of sexual activity that God approves of and one expression that He doesn’t.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
Some believe that this exhortation had to do with a letter the apostle Paul received from those in the church at Corinth concerning issues relating to marriage. Paul talked about the fact that it was good for a man not to touch a woman, probably for three reasons. One, if he was called to be celibate in the plan of God for a period of time. Second, if there was a desire for the sexual union, then they should not commit fornication (having sex outside of marriage) but get married (having sex within marriage). Third, in God’s eyes, being celibate or getting married is a witness or testimony of God’s approval of each condition.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
The apostle Paul further emphasized the point that if you can’t constrain yourself with the woman you are with, then avoid fornication (immorality), let every single man enter into marriage with the woman he is with, and vice versa.
I think what is being said in these verses would allow us to conclude that God sanctions celibacy according to His plan and will and marriage between a man and a woman. And we could also deduce that fornication is not condoned. This is a start to finding out what sexual practices are approved by God for Christians to engage in and which ones are not.
The next book we will take a look at is the book of Romans.
Suggested Reading: Romans 1:16-33
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
The apostle Paul in his writing to the saints at Rome began his letter by telling them that he longed to visit them and that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (the Good News which relates to the Messiah, to His character, advent, preaching, death, resurrection, and ascension79) in that it is the power (the means) of God unto salvation to those (to save those) who believe.
And then he talked about those who have decided not to respond to the gospel, to whom God has made known to them that He exists, that He is real, being evidenced outwardly through the observation of the created universe and inwardly in their conscience. Yet, they still chose not to worship Him, and neither were they thankful. As they made the decision to disregard Him and live for themselves, they became wise in their own eyes. They considered themselves cultivated, skilled and learned, but sadly, such self-absorption can lead to doing shameful things.
Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
So, God also gave them up (left them to their own self-determination80) to uncleanness (moral and spiritual depravity). Concerning this, He gave two examples of this type of sexual behavior.
Romans 1:26-27 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Some of the unbelieving women were given over to a diseased condition out of which lust sprang to vile (disgraceful) affections (passions). They changed the natural relations with men in marriage to unnatural relations with women to do that, which is against natural laws. Likewise, there were some men who left the natural relations with women to have relations with men, thus engaging in an all-out endeavor to satisfy their [totally depraved natures],81 the result (penalty) of such would be that they would receive evil consequences and punishment from God.
Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Furthermore, we are told that God gave (let them do what they pleased82) them (unbelievers) over to a reprobate mind (a mind that cannot form right judgments83) to do those things which are not convenient (which expressed itself in attitudes and actions that ought not to be done84).
A list of these attitudes and actions is presented in the following verses.
Romans 1:29-31 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
There appears to be only one of these attitudes/actions that is associated with sexual conduct, and that is the word fornication (all sexual contact between the sexes which is beyond the bounds of lawful marriage85). After which, the apostle Paul proclaimed what God’s response was toward those unbelievers, who were habitually entertaining these attitudes and practicing these actions.
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Who knowing (in their conscience) the judgment of God (the grand rule of right which God has revealed to every man86), that they who are habitually practicing these things will receive punishment from his hand.87 We are not told what these consequences or judgments from God are, but what we have been made aware of is that these will be imposed on those who engage in such sexual actions, i.e., fornication, homosexuality, and lesbianism.
Does this proclamation on consequence and judgment hold true only for unbelievers? If someone becomes saved, does this mean that these attitudes and actions are sanctioned by God? Just keep on keeping on, and we’ll find out.
The next section of Scriptures we will look at will confirm two sexual actions that are condoned by God and two sexual actions that are not.
Please go to the book of 1 Timothy.
Suggested Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
The apostle Paul is talking about the possibility that if someone desire (seeks after) the office of a bishop (pastor), he desires a good work (an honorable office). As to this leadership office, there is much debate today as to what qualifies someone to be a pastor. In this particular book of the Bible, there is presented one divine skill associated with this office along with other qualifications. One of the qualifications pertaining to this office leadership gift concerns a sexual relationship that is condoned by God. Any idea which one this is?
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
One of the qualifications for someone seeking the office of pastor is that he must be the husband of one wife. This is not to say that a single person cannot seek the leadership office of the pastor. Does this mean that if he were divorced, he would be unable to seek this office? Validly divorced people who remarried were considered married to one spouse.88 The keywords just mentioned are validly divorced.
There are two main issues at stake here. Some would say that the word husband clearly indicates that a pastor can only be a male. This is a study in and of itself. I have addressed this perception in a different study entitled, “Who Says Women Can’t Lead? - We have been told from the pulpit that only men have been called to the leadership positions of the church. - Uncovered truths and new translations have challenged this perspective.”
The next issue to address is, what do the words of one wife mean? These words refer to the marital conditions that must be met for someone to be considered for this office. What are they, you ask? Those marital conditions that are allowed and those that are not allowed are listed below. Let’s take a look at them.
Marital conditions that are allowed for a born-again Christian to seek the office of pastor.
- If a Christian is married to an unbeliever, and the unbeliever chooses to leave the marriage,
then the believer is allowed to divorce and remarry. 1 Corinthians 7:15
- If a Christian is married to either a believer or unbeliever, who decides to engage in an extramarital affair, then the Christian is allowed to divorce and remarry. Matthew 19:9
- If the husband or wife dies, then the Christian is allowed to remarry. Romans 7:2
- If a Christian is married to a believer and the believer chooses to leave the marriage (separation, not divorce) while remaining unmarried without engaging in an extramarital affair, then the Christian is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to their spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
Marital conditions that are not allowed for a born-again Christian to seek the office of pastor.
- If the Christian seeks a divorce when their believing spouse chooses to leave the marriage
(separation) while remaining unmarried without engaging in an extramarital affair. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
What else could we assume from the qualification of being the husband of one wife? We could deduce that marriage is between one man and one woman. This would, therefore, not condone the practice of polygamy or marriage between people of the same gender.
With that said, the literal name of the sexual practice we will take a look at next is not found in Scripture. However, there are examples of it in the Old and New Testaments. Any idea what this could be referring to? Let’s begin by taking a look at the words used to describe it, along with those people who would be considered as engaged in such from the Old Testament.
Please go to the book of Leviticus.
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 18:1-16
Usually, when I do a study on most biblical topics that pertain to the Church Age, the age during which we Christians currently live, I don’t use Scriptures from the Old Testament to support a New Testament perspective on doctrine. However, in this instance, because there are such limited examples of this sexual practice, I have decided to have us take a look at how the Jews under Moses’ guidance viewed this. What is this sexual practice? Read on.
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
The Lord (Yahweh) is instructing Moses to convey His thoughts on the sexual practice of incest to the children of Israel. Believe it or not, the transliteration of the Hebrew or Greek word for incest appears nowhere in the Old or New Testaments. When we think of incest today, probably many of us think of sexual relations between a brother and sister or even cousins. However, what we are about to find out, at least as far as the Old Testament goes, is that this involved more family members than first thought. Because I could find very little about this in the New Testament, why not at least take a look at what sexual relations were considered as incestual in the Old Testament.
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.
The words that are used in this context for incest are near of kin. Generally speaking, these words included the extended family as well as the immediate family.89 Below are the many verses that pertain to the instances where sexual relations would be considered incest. Let’s read them over, and then I will provide a clearer summary as to who was involved.
7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.
9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.
10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.
11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.
13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.
14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.
15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.
The wording of these verses could be confusing as to who is who. So, according to UBS [United Bible Society] Old Testament Handbook, incest could involve sexual relations of a son with his own mother; a son with his stepmother; a brother with his sister; a brother with his stepsister; a father with his son’s or daughter’s daughter (a grandchild); a son with his father’s or mother’s sister; a son with his father’s brother’s wife; a father with his son’s wife; and a son with his brother’s wife. Whew.
With this in mind, how do the New Testament Scriptures define incest?
Are the descriptions of what constitutes incest under Moses and the Jews the same for believers in the New Testament?
Are there any examples of incest in the New Testament?
There might be one that is found in the book of 1 Corinthians. Let’s turn there.
1 Corinthians 5:1
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
Here is an example of a man having been found out to have had sexual relations with his father’s wife, who was actually his stepmother. At this time, I’m sure the Jewish faith would consider this as incest, and it probably would be looked upon as such in the same manner by the New Testament church unless Scripture declared otherwise. The consequence of this offense was that certain ones in the church met together and decided to impose censure on this believer, thus removing him from fellowship for a fixed period of time.
I assume that the reason he was not excommunicated was that he probably repented of this sin when he was brought before those of the assembly who were in charge of hearing such matters. And presumably, when the allotted time for him to be reinstated to fellowship was up that there would probably be those believers who could testify on his behalf as to whether or not he was continuing to engage in such sexual activity.
In the United States, laws regarding incest (i.e., sexual activity between family members or close relatives) vary considerably between jurisdictions. In all that two states (and the special case of Ohio, which “targets only parental figures”), incest between consenting adults is criminalized. In New Jersey and Rhode Island, incest between consenting adults (16 or over for Rhode Island, 18 or over for New Jersey) is not a criminal offense, though marriage is not allowed in either state.90
I don’t believe there are any other examples of incest in the New Testament. As we have just been made aware, there is a lack of consensus by the states as to whether this act is considered criminal. However, what we do know is that every state has concluded that anyone involved in such a relationship is not allowed to get married. And furthermore, scripturally speaking, any incestual sexual relationship would be classified as committing fornication.
So, how should we as Christians regard incest? I believe it should be regarded by us as a behavior that is not condoned.
Are there any other Scriptures that mention sexual relations with which Christians should not be involved?
Let’s go forward to the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The apostle Paul declares a truth, which is not a surprise according to the Christian faith, that the unrighteous (the unsaved) shall not inherit (enter into) the Kingdom of God. And for whatever reason, perhaps because at the time, certain sins were considered acceptable in society and even esteemed as a means to worship or to satisfy some false deity, anyone who would commit such would not enter into God’s Kingdom. Some of the sins mentioned, which are sexual in the description, are as follows.
- Fornicators – Those who have sex outside of marriage.
- Adultery – Sex with someone who is not your husband or wife.
- Effeminate or the abusers of themselves with mankind - the passive and active partners ... in male homosexual [relations] (Barrett);91 men who submit to or who practice homosexuality.92
And after he mentioned these various behaviors, he said to the believers at Corinth that such were some of their actions that they themselves were involved in, but at salvation, three things happened to them which changed their lives forever.
- They were washed.
They were baptized into the Christian faith, being identified with Christ in His death and burial, which separated them from sin’s power; and having been identified with Him in His resurrection, they became new creations walking in newness of life by the same power that raised Him from the dead.
- They were sanctified.
They were separated from common, earthly, or sinful uses, to be wholly employed in the service of the true God.93
- They were justified.
They were accepted as righteous by having entered into a new relationship with God.
And now that they were born-again, they had a new standing before God and the opportunity by means of the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to no longer continue in these actions. So, these Scriptures further confirm that a Christian should not be involved with fornication, adultery, and homosexuality.
The next sexual practice we will consider took place at what was called the temple of Aphrodite. I’m sure you could make an educated guess as to what I am talking about. This is found in the book of 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 6:15
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
Evidently, there were some believers at the church of Corinth who was engaging in sex with prostitutes. At one temple alone, called the temple of Aphrodite, there were said to be over 1,000 female prostitutes working there. The apostle Paul’s response to this was to remind them that their spiritual connection with Christ belongs not merely to the [soul] but also to the [body] so that we are flesh of His flesh.94 He then said to them, shall I take a member (a part of Christ in vital union with him95) and engage this same body with a harlot (prostitute) and not affect my spiritual condition? He emphatically concluded his remarks by saying, God forbid (let it not be so). This verse clearly tells us that prostitution is not a sexual avenue that a Christian should be participating in.
We have one more Scripture section to look at, which will address a sexual practice that was mentioned in the article on Roman Sexual Morality but not elaborated on. Do you have any idea as to what sexual practice this is? Please stay in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 6:9
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
There are some examples of this sexual practice in the Old Testament Scriptures. In the article on Roman Sexual Morality that we looked at in an earlier chapter, we found that this action was considered as being generally acceptable during Roman times, especially when committed on those who were of a lower social class. Do you remember what sexual practice this referred to?
The sexual practice we are talking about is called rape. In today’s society, this word can mean sexual assault, forced stripping, or forced public nakedness. The online dictionary describes rape as unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body [parts], or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.96
While I couldn’t find a storied example of such in the New Testament, some scholars believe that the Greek words arsenokoitai (abusers of themselves with mankind) and malakoi (effeminate) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are specifically speaking out against these predatory practices of sexual abuse where a dominant, high-status man (viewed as masculine by patriarchal society) would sexually abuse a young boy or slave (seen as “effeminate” because of their lesser power in their patriarchal society97). Based on the acceptability of this action at this time, it would seem plausible that these two words, besides implying the sexual practice of pedophilia, could also refer to the predatory sexual abuse known as rape.
Scripture certainly has helped us in learning about what sexual practices God condones and which ones He does not. And so, here are the summarized findings.
1. Christians that are married and/or those who remain celibate can be a part of God’s plan.
2. Marriage between a man and a woman is encouraged, especially if there is a desire to engage in sexual relations.
3. Fornication (having sex outside of marriage), lesbianism or homosexuality (sex with
someone of the same gender), incest (sex with someone of the immediate or extended family), adultery (sex with someone other than one’s husband or wife), prostitution (sex with someone who sells their body for pleasure), rape (forcible sexual assault), pedophilia (sex with a child), and polygamy (having more than one wife) are considered as actions that are not condoned by God.
After reading this summary, you might respond by saying, doesn’t God support a loving relationship between two people? If you are talking about Christians who are married, male and female, the answer is yes.
What unbelievers do with their bodies in any realm, who operate in their sin nature, is considered works of the flesh. Some works are considered good or moral, while others are considered immoral or sinful. This is determined by societal norms. Neither work has any redemptive qualities in God’s eyes. God’s desire for them is that they get saved and learn how to walk in their new nature.
Let me say this another way as pertaining to the perception that God supports a loving relationship between two people. Having sexual eros relationships between two people, who are not saved, you could say, is like any other eros relationship involving two people who are not saved. They will love each other with eros love, but not God’s agape love. So, with two unbelievers, or even believers who are operating in eros love is not the same as two believers operating in agape love. Operating in eros love is operating in the sin nature. Operating in agape love is walking in the new divine nature.
So, I believe this answers the comment made by a member of the Christian megachurch when he said, any relationship that I have with a man is part of God’s plan and that it would be full of love, equal to any other.98 What we have learned is that neither is this erost ype of love a part of God’s plan, and neither is it full of love equal to God’s agape love between two Christians.
When there is a lack of clear teaching from the pulpit on any biblical topic or issue, then there will be confusion as to what the Word of God says about it. This will result in human perception based on societal norms becoming the standard for the members of a church to adhere to.
There are many Christians, like me at one time, whose sin nature continued to rule their lives after salvation. Whatever inclinations, passions, or propensities they gravitated toward before they were saved, they were still gravitating toward after they were saved. With these thoughts in mind, here’s the million-dollar question.
How do Christians learn how to no longer be in subjection to the cravings and desires of their flesh (sin nature)?
As I was preparing to talk about this in the next chapter, something happened which changed my mind. It had to do with another comment that I heard while watching TV. It was by a different Christian male who apparently was running for the highest political office in the land. He mentioned that he was married to another male. But this was not the end of this proclamation. He added that he felt justified as a Christian to have made this decision before God for a particular reason.
In the next chapter, let’s take a look at what the reason was that he believed caused his decision to be sanctioned by God and see if Scripture supported his claims. After we take a look at this, we will attempt to answer the question posed beforehand. How does a Christian learn how to no longer be in subjection to the cravings and desires of his/her flesh?
79 Barnes’ Notes.
80 Robertson’s New Testament.
82 Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown.
83 The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.
84 Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament.
85 Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
86 Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
87 Barnes’ Notes.
88 IVP Bible Background Commentary.
89 UBS Old Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 01 April 2019 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
90 “Laws regarding incest,” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_regarding_incest>.
91 UBS New Testament.
92 UBS New Testament.
93 Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
94 Calvin's Commentaries.
95 Robertson’s New Testament.
97 “JOSEPH - Male sexual abuse survivor,” ˂www.ashleyeaster.com/blog/male-sexual-abuse-survivor-in-the-bible>.
98 Sex Abuse & Gay Conversion Therapy.
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