By Chris Philbeck
As I write this column, I’m in the middle of a message series called, “Truth Over Trend” (series title not original to me). The specific topics are gender identity, same-sex relationships, deconstruction of the Christian faith, and having the courage to speak up for biblical truth. You’d have to have your head buried in the sand not to realize the seriousness of these issues in our world and culture, and the impact they have on our local communities and families.
Writing the first two messages on gender identity and same-sex relationships reminded me of an important truth about preaching the Bible. We can sometimes make the mistake of treating the Bible like a reference book or religious encyclopedia. That can happen when we ask, “What does the Bible say about (fill in the blank).” But the Bible is much more than a reference book or religious encyclopedia. It’s the revelation of God to man that reveals the story of God, the character of God, the heart of God, the power of God, the desire of God, the will of God, and so much more.
So, rather than asking, for example, “What does the Bible say about same-sex relationships?” we need to ask, “What does the Bible say about everything?” and let that become the foundation of our preaching.
The ‘Clobber-Passages’ Perspective
When it comes to same-sex relationships, most Bible students are familiar with a list of Scriptures that have come to be known as the “clobber passages,” for example, Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-10. I want to be clear that I believe the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That means I believe each of these “clobber passages” is important and relevant when it comes to the question of same-sex relationships.
In fact, I would recommend Kevin DeYoung’s book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality or Preston Sprinkle’s People to Be Loved (Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue) to help you in your understanding of these passages, including the criticisms.
But when we approach the issue of same-sex relationships with a “What does the Bible say about everything?” perspective, we not only have the benefit of passages that speak to same-sex relationships, but also the benefit of passages that speak to everything God says about human sexuality. So, we don’t focus solely on verses that speak against same-sex relationship, but also verses that speak for biblical sexuality.
The Whole-Counsel-of-God Perspective
Let’s look at a couple examples of preaching from this perspective. Genesis 1:27-28a shares not only the truth that God made us to be sexual creatures, but also God’s natural order and pattern for sexuality. A chapter later, in Genesis 2:20b-25, you see God’s creative design for men and women to experience companionship, complementarity, and intimacy. That’s one example of broadening the question to, “What does the Bible say about everything?”
Another example is the clear New Testament teaching about sexual immorality which, in the original language of the New Testament, is the Greek word porneia. A literal definition of that word is “illicit sexual activity,” which is any sexual activity that occurs outside of the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. So, it includes, but is not limited to, same-sex relationships.
The word porneia is used 25 times in the New Testament. Examples include: “The body . . . is not meant for sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:13); “Flee from sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3); and “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3).
In studying this word porneia (sexual immorality), we learn, or are reminded, that all sexual sin is offensive to God whether it’s homosexual sin or heterosexual sin. Critics of a biblical perspective of same-sex relationships will sometimes say that Christians are hypocrites because they are selective in their condemnation of sin. And sometimes they are right. The Bible celebrates the sexual expression between husbands and wives because that sexual expression is a gift from God. But outside of that, there are no other examples or expressions of sex that are condoned by God, again, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Preaching has always been challenging, but it has become even more so in the modern world as culture moves further away from God in new and disturbing ways. But every time I read Psalm 19:7-11, I’m reminded of the sufficiency of the Scriptures for whatever issue or challenge we face. I see that sufficiency in the different names David used to describe God’s Word: “The law of the Lord,” “The statutes of the Lord,” “The precepts of the Lord,” “The commands of the Lord,” and “The fear of the Lord.” As we embrace the high calling of preaching, let’s embrace the whole counsel of God’s Word by sharing everything it reveals for life and living. We can do that when we ask this question: What does the Bible say about everything?