Faith, or Works, or Faith and Works?

Faith, or Works, or Faith and Works?

James R. Aist

“…while Paul emphasizes the importance of good works in the life of the believer, he sees them as something that we were saved to do, not something we are saved by doing. And that’s a very important distinction!”

Introduction

Perhaps the single most important doctrine of the Christian church is the doctrine of salvation, for it is what you believe (or, more precisely, in whom you believe!) about salvation that will ultimately determine your eternal destiny, whether it be heaven or hell. There are a number of Bible passages that speak about the relationship of both faith and works to salvation.  Prominent among these are the teachings of Jesus, Paul and James. A cursory reading of them can give the impression that the Bible contradicts itself in this regard. One can find passages that say that salvation comes through faith alone, while other passages seem to suggest that it may be a combination of faith and works that get it done. But, since all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God — i.e., literally “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) – the Bible cannot contradict itself; God is not a liar and He doesn’t make mistakes (Numbers 23:19). So let’s take a closer look and see if we can make sense out of what may appear, at first glance, to be confusion.

Two Kinds of Faith

There are actually two different kinds of faith at work in the world. There is a “natural faith” that everyone is born with. It is part of our human nature, and it helps us to deal with the realities and necessities of the natural world.  We use this kind of faith in our everyday lives. By our natural faith, we believe that if we turn the ignition key, the car will start, and so we do it “on faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that the chair we are about to sit on will be strong enough to support our weight, and so, by faith, we “take a seat.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we put a dollar bill into a change machine, it will return four quarters, and in it goes. We are all very familiar with this natural faith. While natural faith is a necessary part of successful and productive living in this world, it is not perfect, as witnessed by the fact that the car doesn’t always start, the chair doesn’t always hold and the change machine doesn’t always return four quarters.

But there is another kind of faith. This is  “supernatural faith.” No one is born with it, so not everyone has it; it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Supernatural faith enables the “born again” believer to understand spiritual things, qualify for heaven and do good works out of a pure motivation of love and compassion. Contrary to natural faith, supernatural faith, when properly understood and applied, never fails. For a more complete treatment of the meaning of “born again”, click HERE.

If we keep these two different kinds of faith in mind as we examine the relevant Bible passages about faith and works, we will see that the teachings of Jesus, James and Paul are really not contradictory at all, but are, instead, complementary. So, here we go…

Paul’s Teaching

Here are some of Paul’s teachings about faith and works:

  • “…know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God —  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
  • For we maintain that a person is justified by faith, apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
  • You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
  • For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless…” (Romans 4:13-15)
  • “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5).

Based on the above passages, I believe that Paul’s teaching can be summarized accurately as follows: (supernatural) faith (in Jesus Christ and in His finished work on the cross) is what accomplishes salvation; our good works do not add anything to what (supernatural) faith does in this regard. Since we are saved by grace (i.e., the free gift of God), if we try to save ourselves by doing good works, we cancel God’s grace and have no hope of salvation. Paul emphasizes the exclusion of good works from the process of salvation.

But wait, didn’t Paul have something else to say about “good works” in relation to salvation? Indeed he did! Here are just a few examples:

  • “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18).

So we see that, while Paul emphasizes the importance of good works in the life of the believer, he sees them as something that we were saved to do, not something we are saved by doing. And that’s a very important distinction!

James’ Teaching

The teaching of James on faith and works is summarized in James 2:14-26 as follows:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Based on the above passage, I believe that James’ teaching can be summarized in this way: Mere mental agreement (natural faith) that Jesus is the Savior of the world will not save anyone; even the demons believe that. That kind of faith (natural faith) is dead faith. On the other hand, faith that saves (supernatural faith) is accompanied by good works. In fact, the good works are evidence that your faith is supernatural faith, not natural faith. In this way, your supernatural faith and your works are acting together to confirm that your faith is supernatural, genuine and effective. James brings good works into the picture, but not as a means unto salvation. Rather our good works are produced by (supernatural) saving faith and are evidence that our faith is the supernatural kind of faith, not dead and ineffective (natural) faith.

Jesus’ Teaching

Here are a couple of key Bible passages that represent the teachings of Jesus about faith and works:

  • “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:27-29)
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23)

You may be surprised that there are elements of both Paul’s and James’ teaching to be found here. In the first passage, Jesus states quite simply that the work of God that results in eternal life is to believe in (have supernatural faith in) the one he has sent (i.e., Jesus). This leaves no room for good works, in the usual sense of “works”, in meeting God’s requirement for salvation. That sounds a lot like what Paul was saying. On the other hand, in the second passage, Jesus says that only the one who does the will of my Father will enter the kingdom of heaven. So, here we have supernatural faith that saves and is authenticated by obedience (good works). Isn’t that essentially what James was saying? So, in effect, the teachings of both Paul and James about faith and works echo the teachings of Jesus.

Summary

I would summarize the teachings of Jesus, Paul and James on faith and works as they relate to salvation like this: A special kind of faith, supernatural faith, is required for salvation. It is a faith that is a gift of God and leads to good works. The good works are evidence that one has supernatural “saving faith”, but they do not help one to “earn” eternal life. God requires only that we have (supernatural) saving faith in Jesus Christ to qualify for heaven; the good works will follow naturally after one is saved. In short, both (supernatural) saving faith and good works are necessarily present and manifested in the lives of true believers, but it is the (supernatural) saving faith alone that qualifies them for heaven.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Did Paul Really Have a Thorn in His Flesh?

Did Paul Really Have a Thorn in His Flesh?

James R. Aist

Introduction

Speculation abounds concerning what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) actually was. Could it have been a literal thorn in his physical body, or a kind of demon that followed him around, or a person who doggedly opposed his ministry, or, perhaps, some sort of physical handicap, or none of the above, or something else entirely? At the end of this article I will provide links to a couple of online articles that will go much further into this specific question than I care to, if you want to go there. What I want to focus on here is the specific points of solid information that Paul, himself, provides in his letter concerning his “thorn in the flesh” and then to emphasize and elaborate briefly on the points that Paul was actually making, in the context of this entire passage. It’s important that we do not get so carried away with speculation about what his “thorn in the flesh” was that we lose sight of why Paul shared this personal experience with us in the first place. But first, let’s consider the basic nature of the phrase itself, to get us off on a proper footing.

What Is the Nature of the Phrase “Thorn in the Flesh”

Let’s begin by considering what a ‘colloquialism” is: it is a word, phrase, or expression characteristic of ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing, such as “She’s out” meaning “She is not at home.” “Thorn in the flesh”, then, is a colloquialism used to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble in one’s life. We can get the impression that Paul’s use of the phrase was also colloquial by consulting several Old Testament passages that use a similar phrase to refer to people who were, or would be, an annoyance or hindrance to the Israelites (Numbers 33:55; Joshua 23:13; Ezekiel 2:6; and Ezekiel 28:24). These people were enemies alright, but they were not literal thorns and they were not in the literal flesh of the Israelites! Thus, Paul’s use of the phrase “thorn in the flesh” is not to be understood to refer to a literal thorn or splinter residing in Paul’s physical body. But it does refer to some sort of chronic annoyance or hindrance in Paul’s life.

What Paul Actually Said about His “Thorn in the Flesh”

Here is the passage presented in its entirety, so that we can refer more easily to the relevant points that Paul makes:

“I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Now, so that we can quickly move on to the really important messages that Paul has for us, I’m simply going to enumerate what Paul said about his “thorn in the flesh”:

  • It was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited because of the surpassingly great revelations that he had received from God.
  • It was a “messenger of Satan”.
  • It tormented him.
  • Paul repeatedly asked God to remove it, to no avail.
  • Instead of removing it, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

And that’s all we really know about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” per se. So, let’s leave it at that and move on.

Paul’s Message to Us

Again, allow me to simply enumerate what Paul has for us here, with brief commentaries, so as to let his message points speak clearly to us:

  • It was OK for Paul to ask that this “thorn in the flesh” be taken from him, as God did not admonish Paul for asking. Therefore, we, too, will not be asking amiss if we do the same, if and when we find ourselves in a similar situation.
  • God had a blessing for Paul located, if you will, in the midst of his torment. In the same way, God may embed a blessing for us in the midst of a troublesome or painful situation or experience that He allows us to endure. We would do well to look for the blessing.
  • The “thorn in the flesh” kept Paul from becoming conceited. Likewise, God will probably not hesitate to humble us, if and when we need it. If that happens to us, just remember to trust that God has a good reason for doing it, and don’t get discouraged.
  • When Paul realized that God had a good reason for answering his prayer with a resounding “No”, he learned to rejoice in his dependency on God’s provision of strength and power, rather than to overestimate his own abilities and risk coming up short when put to the test. We can, and should, learn the same lesson by simply meditating on Paul’s account of his “thorn in the flesh.” Just maybe we won’t need a messenger of Satan to torment us!

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Related links:

What was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh? At, “Truth or Tradition?” (click HERE).

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh. Andrew Wommack Ministries. (click HERE).

 

Abortion: A Biblical Perspective

 

Abortion: A Biblical PerspectiveJewish torah scroll in cover

 James R. Aist

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Introduction

Although abortion has important social and political ramifications, to those of us who are born-again Christians, the most basic issues have to do with what God has to say about it. For that information, of course, we turn to the Word of God, the Holy Bible. But, can we find in the Bible the spiritual guidance we seek and get a clear understanding of the moral issues surrounding abortion, as well as God’s opinion of it? Let’s find out.

God Knows When Human Life Begins

Who could possibly answer this question better than the God who created human life, the God of the Bible? What does the Bible have to say about when human life begins?

Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” God knew Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb (i.e., before he was conceived). In the mind of God, Jeremiah existed as a human being even before he was conceived.

Psalm 51:5 – “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Let’s think about that for a moment. Could David have been sinful before he was a human being? Of course not; the curse of original sin applies only to human beings. It follows, then, that if David was sinful from the moment of conception, then he must also have been a human being from the moment of conception.

Luke 1:36 – “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.” Note that, here, the angel of the Lord states that what Elizabeth conceived was already a “son” (i.e., a male human offspring). The implication is that John the Baptist was already a human being at the moment of his conception.

Conclusion: In the mind of God, we exist as human beings even before we are conceived. Moreover, the Bible speaks of the product of human conception as being already “sinful” or a “son”, both of which are distinctively human attributes. Thus, in the Bible, human life is understood to begin at conception, because the God of the Bible says it does.

When Does God’s Plan for Our Life Begin?

Luke 2:21 – “And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” God’s plan for Jesus was already in place before he was conceived, as the name given by the angel, “Jesus”, means “Savior.”

Jeremiah 1:5 – “…before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” God ordained Jeremiah a prophet before he was born.

Isaiah 49:1 – “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” Isaiah received his calling from the Lord before he was born.

Judges 16:17 – “I have been a Nazarite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb.” Samson was dedicated to God as a Nazarite before he was born.

Galatians 1:15 – “… God… set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace…” Paul was set apart, by God, to be an Apostle before he was born.

Conclusion: According to the Bible, God has a plan for our lives before we are born!

Why Does the Bible Condemn Abortion As “Sin”?

First, we must understand that God created us, all of us, in His own image: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them….” (Genesis 1:27). This fact means that we human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation and are the only living beings that bear the very image of God in themselves.

Second, God said that “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6). Abortion is undeniably the “shedding of human blood”, and as such it is an act of utter and total disrespect for the image of God himself, a grave offense to the very being of God.

And third, as the shedding of innocent human blood, abortion is the sin of murder and, therefore, a violation of God’s 6th Commandment, “You shall not murder.”

Conclusion: The Bible condemns abortion as sin, because it is murder.

Is It OK to Be “Pro-choice”?

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

People who are “pro-choice” believe that they are just defending the right of the mother to decide whether her unborn child lives or dies; thus, “pro-choice.” At the same time, they deny that they have any responsibility for the death of the unborn child if the mother decides to abort. This is nonsense. By supporting their so-called  “right to choose”, you are, in effect, implying that you believe either choice, life or death, is equally good and moral, and to the extent that you influence them to agree with you, you share in whatever decision they make. Let’s be honest and realistic for a moment: Every time you say, “It’s a woman’s right to choose”, you’re also saying, “It’s OK to murder babies – either male or female – in the womb.” Do you really believe that a woman has a right to murder another woman in the womb? How does it promote “women’s rights” to deny unborn women the most basic human right of all, the right to live? And, what if the choice were up to you? Would you choose to murder your own baby in your womb? If not, then why would you support someone else choosing to do it? The only way you can avoid a shared responsibility in a decision to abort is to take a stand against abortion, i.e., to be “pro-life.” Does the Bible have anything to say about this point? Indeed it does. The Bible has stern rebukes and dire warnings for those who approve of sin or encourage others to sin (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:22). Thus, anyone, including born-again Christians, who even approves of or encourages the sin of abortion in any way will, someday, have to answer to God for it. If that’s you, then now is the time to repent!

Conclusion: It is not OK to be “pro-choice”; according to the Bible, it is a sin.

An Appeal for the Rights of the Unborn

If you want to make me cry, then remind me of the accidental traffic death of my daughter, Liesel, when she was only 20 years old. Or, remind me of the accidental drowning deaths of twin toddlers in Knoxville a few days ago. But, if you really want me to weep and mourn deeply, then remind me of the intentional deaths of tens of millions of innocent, helpless, unborn babies, murdered in their mother’s womb, in America since Roe v. Wade. The United States will have no claim whatsoever to any moral high ground concerning anything, unless and until we, as a nation, rise up against this, the most despicable of man’s inhumanity to man, and legally declare it to be what it is: murder of the worst kind. And that’s why we need more and more pro-life justices, judges, governors, legislators, presidents and God-fearing voters to lead the charge against abortion. America, bless God and stand against this national tragedy!

Summary

According to the God of the Bible, human life begins at conception. God has a plan for our lives before we are even conceived, and abortion thwarts the plan of God. We are made in the image of God, and He condemns abortion as sin because it is murder, an act of utter and total disrespect for the image of God himself and a grave offense to the very being of God. And, it is a sin to be “pro-choice”, because a pro-choice position, in effect, approves of and encourages the sin of abortion, even though it is the mother who makes the decision.

You might also want to read this article by John MacArthur (click HERE)

(For more articles on ABORTION, click HERE)

Gay Theology: Did God Really Say, “You must not…”

Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washingto...Gay Theology: Did God Really Say, “You must not…”

by James R. Aist

“But if I were a Christian homosexual, I think this one question would disturb me the most: am I trying to interpret scripture in the light of my proclivity, or should I interpret my proclivity in the light of scripture?” (Morris, 1978)

Introduction

At the heart of the so-called “Gay Theology” is the claim that the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts that occur within the context of loving, committed, enduring homosexual relationships. This, despite the fact that the Bible does appear to condemn all homosexual acts and that the Christian church has steadfastly held this position since Jesus Christ established His church almost 2,000 years ago. In effect, what gay theology is asking, rhetorically, is, “Did God really say that sex within the context of loving, committed, long-term homosexual relationships is wrong?” If the phrase “Did God really say…” sounds familiar to you, it is probably because that is exactly what Satan said to Eve in the Garden of Eden when he was trying to get her to commit the first sin: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). And that is exactly what is happening in the Christian church today, in the form of gay theology. Satan is using gay theology to get Christians who are homosexual to continue to practice homosexuality and feel good about it, rather than repent of it. In this article, I will present some of the most important claims of gay theology, point-by-point, and show why each claim should be summarily rejected by all Christians as false doctrine. In doing so, I will draw heavily on Dallas (1991) and Davies & Rentzel (1993).

Refutation of Gay Theology

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The claims of gay theology can be distilled down to four major points: 1) In Romans 1, Paul could not have been referring to the loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships that we hear about today, because he knew nothing of such relationships; 2) Paul, in Romans 1, was, instead, referring to temple prostitution resulting from idolatry, homosexual acts committed by a heterosexual person, and/or impersonal sex (i.e., sex without love); 3) Because Jesus did not have anything to say about homosexuality, He must have approved of homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships. If He did not approve of them, He would have said so; and 4) Since Jesus emphasized the “law of love”, He must have approved of homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships. Now let’s take a look at these four claims in the light of the biblical witness.

Claim # 1: In Romans 1, Paul could not have been referring to the loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships that we hear about today, because he knew nothing of them. Response # 1: The Apostle Paul (5-64 A.D.) was a well-educated Jew (Acts 22:3) and a citizen of the Roman Empire (Acts 22:27), traveled extensively in Greece and Italy, and would certainly have been aware of loving, lasting, committed same-sex relationships occurring both before and during his lifetime, as the following historical facts would suggest: 1) In the early Roman Imperial period, some male couples were celebrating traditional marriage rites in the presence of friends. Same-sex weddings were reported by sources that mocked them; the feelings of the participants were not recorded. Both Martial and Juvenal referred to marriage between men as something that occurred not infrequently, although they disapproved of it; 2) The Roman Emperor Nero (54 A.D.) celebrated two public weddings with men, once taking the role of the bride (with a freedman Pythagoras), and once the groom (with Sporus); there may have been a third in which he was the bride. These wedding ceremonies included traditional elements such as a dowry and the wearing of the Roman bridal veil; and 3) Same-sex unions were well known in Ancient Greece and Rome. These same-sex unions continued until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century (Click HERE, HERE and HERE). So, despite Paul’s apparent knowledge of the existence of such homosexual relationships —  loving, lasting, and committed —  he did not endorse them as morally acceptable; rather, he consistently condemned all homo-sexual relations as sinful. Response # 2: For this claim to be true, the Holy Spirit would have had to be either tragically forgetful or grossly incompetent by allowing Paul to omit from his teaching on homosexuality that homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships are the exception and, therefore, to be allowed. Secondly, God would have had to let this oversight go uncorrected for 1,900 years, all the while leaving the loving homosexual couples to live in terror of going to hell, unnecessarily. I don’t know what god you believe in, but the God of the Bible is not incompetent, forgetful, or cruel! Response # 3: Jesus promised that, “…the Advocate,the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26). In this prophetic promise, “all things” would have included the exception that homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships are to be allowed, if God had meant for Jesus to sanction them. Instead, what Paul did was just the opposite: writing after Jesus had returned to the Father, he very specifically and unequivocally condemned all homosexual behavior as sin. This was in keeping with Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit “… will remind you of everything I have said to you.”, because Jesus had said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matthew 15:19-20), where the Greek word used here for “sexual immorality” (porniea) refers to all sexual sins, including homosexuality. Response # 4: Even if Paul himself had not known about loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships, God’s Holy Spirit knew about them all along — even to the present day – and yet He did not enlighten and inspire Paul to include an exception for them. So we see that Claim # 1 is nothing more than a fanciful assumption, and one cannot prove a point by appealing to an assumption!

Claim # 2: Paul, in Romans 1, was referring only to temple prostitution resulting from idolatry, homosexual acts committed by a naturally heterosexual person, and/or impersonal sex (i.e., sex without love). Response # 1: If we take a closer look at Paul’s condemnation of homosexual behavior, we find that the Greek word translated “homosexual offenders” (1 Corinthians 6:9) or “perverts” (1 Timothy 1:10) is “arsenokoites”. When this Greek word is broken down into its component parts, its etymology (i.e., derivation) expressed in English is “male-bed-person”, which clearly indicates that, in Paul’s writings, “arsenokoites” refers to “a man who goes to bed with another man to have sex with him”, without reference to the motive, sexual orientation or nature of their relationship. In other words, “arsenokoites” refers to all occasions of homosexual behavior, including loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships. And this has been the accepted meaning of “arsenokoites” from the time of ancient Greek literature. Furthermore, if there was any exception intended, then Paul, writing under the inspiration and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, would surely have mentioned it in these passages. But he did not. Response # 2: If we read Romans 1 carefully and critically, and without reading anything into it, we see that Paul refers to homosexual desires and behavior as “vile affections”, “against nature”, and “unseemly” in and of themselves. There is not even a hint that he might have been referring exclusively to temple prostitution, homosexual acts committed by a naturally heterosexual person, and/or impersonal sex (i.e., sex without love). To suggest otherwise is nothing more than an assumption without any scriptural basis in the context of Romans 1. Response # 3: The Apostle Paul was, himself, a highly educated, well-informed and zealous proponent of Judaism (Acts 22:3). It is a documented, historical fact that among the religious Jews there has been, and still is, an unusually low incidence of homosexual behavior, relative to other people groups (Whitehead and Whitehead, 2012). Homosexuality as a component of temple idol worship has long since disappeared from the religious landscape, and yet homosexuality among religious Jews still occurs at an unusually low rate. These facts, taken together, clearly indicate that Judaism has, from its earliest days to the present, considered homosexual behavior to be sinful in and of itself, as a natural reading of the relevant Old Testament passages indicates. And that explains why homosexual behavior was and is taboo across the Jewish culture, and not just as it was manifested in temple idol worship; Judaism has always considered homosexual behavior to be sin. So, when Paul discussed homosexual behavior in the New Testament, he was teaching from his historical, Jewish understanding of the sinful nature of homosexual acts per se, as well as from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So we see that Claim # 2 is nothing more than a fanciful assumption, and one cannot prove a point by appealing to an assumption!

Claim # 3: Because Jesus did not have anything to say about homosexuality, He must have approved of homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships. If He did not approve of them, He would have said so. Response #1: Wherever the Bible says that the practice of homosexuality is sin, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) & God the Holy Spirit (the one, triune God) are talking. Therefore, Jesus said everything the Bible says about homosexuality: Genesis 19:5 with Jude 1:7; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Judges 19:22-25; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; and I Timothy 1:10. While the Bible does not record Jesus singling out homosexual acts per se, as sexual sins, one of His teachings, as recorded by Matthew and Mark, implies that He did consider them to be sin: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matthew 15:19-20) and “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23). The Greek word translated “sexual immorality” in both accounts is “porneia”, which, according to Strong’s Concordance, refers to all forms of illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality and incest. It would be presumptuous, at best, to conclude that, out of all the sexual sins that this Greek word refers to, Jesus meant to exclude homosexual acts. If He had meant to exclude homosexual acts from the list, He could have said something like “…sexual immorality (“porneia”), except homosexuality (“arsenokoites”),…”, but He didn’t. The implication, from the context, is that He meant to include homosexual acts among the sins to which He was referring. If this implication is not correct, then Jesus — the man who is also the Divine Son of the all-knowing God — did not say what He meant and therefore mislead His hearers! I would suggest that if you believe that about Jesus, then you may just believe in a “different Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4). Response # 2: Paul declared that “the wicked”, including unrepentant “homosexual offenders”, “…will not inherit the kingdom of God…” (I Corinthians 6:9-10), and went on to say that “the wicked” were all washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (I Corinthians 6:11). So think about it: if God really made some people homosexual, approved of homosexual behavior, and wanted them to remain gay, then why did He change them in the name (“name”: literally, power and authority) of the Lord Jesus Christ? I think you and I both know why He changed them. And if Jesus approved of homosexual behavior and wanted them to remain gay, how could they have been changed by His own power and authority? Obviously, Jesus also wanted them to be changed. Why? Because the homosexual offenders were wicked (I Corinthians 6:11)! Response # 3: This claim presumes that the recorded words of Jesus are more authoritative than the words of Scripture elsewhere and that Jesus does not agree with what the other writers of the Bible have to say about homosexuality. But it is the Holy Spirit of God who inspired all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), including epistles like Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy, where homosexual behavior is specifically and directly addressed and condemned as sin. And, the role of the Holy Spirit in us is conviction of sin, not denial of sin.  Moreover, Jesus and the Holy Spirit co-exist in the Godhead — in fact, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9 )  and have been in perfect and eternal communion and harmony all along. Therefore, we can be confident that Jesus agrees with everything the Holy Spirit revealed in the Bible about moral issues, including homosexuality. In fact, the entire Bible is the inspired (God-breathed) word of God, Who exists in three persons – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus said everything the Bible says about homosexuality. Response # 4: The Bible does not record all that Jesus did (John 20:30) and it does not claim to have recorded all that He said. An assumption based on the lack of a specific reference to homosexual sins in particular cannot be used to prove a point.  So we see that Claim # 3 is nothing more than a fanciful assumption, and one cannot prove a point by appealing to an assumption!

Claim # 4: Since Jesus emphasized the “law of love”, He must have approved of homosexual acts within the context of loving, committed and enduring homosexual relationships. This claim assumes that the presence of caring and committed love in a relationship sanctifies any and all kinds of lovemaking in that relationship. This is, in fact and unfortunately, the prevailing view in our secular culture. But is this secular view compatible with the biblical view? Response # 1: If this claim is true, then, to be consistent and fair, Jesus would also approve of such sexual sins as fornication, adultery and incest, since all of these relationships can, and often do, involve love, apart from lovemaking. But the Bible condemns all of these other sexual behaviors as sin, despite the presence of love in such relationships. There is no rational basis for claiming that homosexual relationships are the exception. Response # 2: Nowhere in the Bible is it recorded that Jesus even hinted that a motive of love can justify any kind of sinful behavior, including homosexual behavior. Rather, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey Him (John 14:23) and that if we do not love Him, we will not obey him (John 14:24). And since Jesus did, in fact, agree with all that the Bible says about homosexuality (see responses to Claim # 3), to obey Him includes abstention from homosexual acts and to not obey Him includes refusing to abstain from homosexual acts. Jesus did not come to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins. So we see that Claim # 4 is nothing more than a fanciful assumption, and one cannot prove a point by appealing to an assumption!

Perhaps the most powerful argument against the homosexual lifestyle is theological, based on Genesis 1:27,
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Those who live homosexually blaspheme the image of God, for this is a heterosexual image. “How can male and female have anything to do with the image of God?” you may ask, since God is not a sexual being. Here’s how: God is the creator of human life; that is part of His “image” (i.e., who He is). So, in order for us to be created in that aspect of the “image of God”, He created us male and female, so that we could participate with Him in the creation of human life through heterosexual acts. Homosexual acts cannot create human life and, therefore, blaspheme the image of God in us.

I would guess that very few Christians are aware that the Bible has stern rebukes and dire warnings for those who approve of sin or encourage others to sin, but it does (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:22). Thus, anyone, including born-again Christians, who even approves of or encourages the sins of homosexuality will, someday, have to answer to God for it. If that’s you, then now is the time to repent!

Challenges:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

If you are interested in exploring gay theology and its refutations in more detail, then I recommend that you check out the references and links listed at the end of this post. And, if you are a homosexual Christian who is unwilling to repent of (turn away from) your homosexual behavior, or if you are a heterosexual Christian who approves of or encourages homosexual behavior in any way, I hope that you will be willing to read, carefully and thoughtfully, the following Bible passages and re-think that:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15)

“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:6)

” … find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:10-12)

” … offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

” … the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Psalm 1:5)

“He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the Devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)

Do It Yourself

Here’s how to do a study of the Hebrew and Greek root words used in the Bible to express God’s views on homosexuality, without being a Hebrew or Greek scholar yourself: 1) find online and open “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” at “Bible Study Tools” (click HERE); 2) follow the instructions given in the introductory pane; 3) check the “Strong’s Numbers” box at the top right of your reading pane to view the Hebrew and Greek lexicons using Strong’s Concordance numbers; 4) enter, in turn, the following Bible verses — Genesis 19:5 with Jude 1:7; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; and I Timothy 1:10 — and click on the respective highlighted words (hyperlinks) to access the appropriate lexicon and read the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words given in English. You can toggle between the King James Version (KJV) and the New American Standard (NAS) version. You will find, as expected, that wherever homosexual behavior is mentioned, it is consistently condemned as sin, abomination, per-version, etc. And understand that later English versions of the Bible, such as the NIV and NAS, consulted the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, rather than relying on the KJV. The claim of gay activists, that the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior, is nothing but pure fantasy and wishful thinking, as you can see for yourself.

(For more articles on HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)

References Cited:

Whitehead, N. and B. Whitehead. 2012. What do different cultures tell us about homosexuality? (click HERE)

Dallas, J. 1991. Desires in Conflict. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. pp. 267-282.

Davies, B. & L. Rentzel. 1993. Coming Out of Homosexuality. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. pp. 183-189.

Morris, P.D. 1978. Shadow of Sodom. Facing the Facts of Homosexuality. Tyndall House. 164 pp.

Recommended Links for further study:

Allen, J. 2014. The Apostle Paul and Homosexuality—Answering Homosexual Objections (Part 1) (click HERE)

Allen, J. 2014. The Apostle Paul and Homosexuality—Answering Homosexual Objections (Part 2) (Click HERE)

Pro-Gay Theology Overview (click HERE)

Gay Revisionist Theology: Did God Really Say…? (click HERE)