Category Archives: Gay Marriage

When J.I. Packer Walked Out

I wanted to repost an article by Sam Storms. My lack of blogging skills has me fumbling around, trying to get this right. I apologize if you see this done in a poor fashion. For me, the message is what I’m trying to focus on. The original article can be found here.

“Why I Walked”

In 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster

authorized its bishop to produce a service for blessing same-sex unions, to be used in any parish of the diocese that requests it. A number of synod members walked out to protest the decision. They declared themselves out of communion with the bishop and the synod, and they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates and bishops for help. (1)

J. I. Packer was one of those who walked out.

When asked why he walked out, he answered, “Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.” In other words, it was Packer’s confidence in the functional, life-directing authority of Scripture that led to this decision.

“My primary authority,” wrote Packer, “is a Bible writer named Paul. For many decades now, I have asked myself at every turn of my theological road: Would Paul be with me in this? What would he say if he were in my shoes? I have never dared to offer a view on anything that I did not have good reason to think he would endorse.”

Here we see that, for Packer, affirming biblical authority is meant not merely to provoke a debate but to give ethical direction to life. Regardless of what personal preferences one might have, irrespective of the cultural trends in play at the time, the Bible is the ethical standard by which Christians such as Packer judge their responsibility.

What’s Really at Stake

Packer then proceeds to exegete Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 as justification for his decision to lodge this protest. There are only two ways in which we might miss Paul’s point and his directives. One is to embrace an artificial interpretation of the text in which Paul is conceived as speaking of something other than same-sex union.

The second approach, notes Packer, “is to let experience judge the Bible.” Experience suggests that homosexual behavior is fulfilling to some; therefore, the Bible’s prohibition of it is wrong. But the appropriate response is that “the Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around,” and “feelings of sexual arousal and attraction, generating a sense of huge significance and need for release in action as they do, cannot be trusted as either a path to wise living or a guide to biblical interpretation.”

What is at stake in such a debate is the nature of the Bible itself. There are, notes Packer, fundamentally two positions that challenge each other:

One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God’s mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon. . . .

The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment’s trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church’s evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society’s continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further.

That this is more than an intellectual battle is seen in the spiritual dangers to which the latter view ultimately leads. Packer believes that to bless homosexual behavior is an explicit deviation from the biblical gospel and the historic Christian creed. The doctrines of creation, sin, regeneration, and sanctification are necessarily distorted in the effort to justify same-sex intimacy.

Worse still, if, as Paul says, those who practice such sexual immorality will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10), it puts the eternal welfare of the individual at stake. Finally, says Packer, “it involves the delusion of looking to God—actually asking him—to sanctify sin by blessing what he condemns. This is irresponsible, irreverent, indeed blasphemous, and utterly unacceptable as church policy. How could I do it?”

Captive to the Word of God

The manner in which Scripture functions as authoritative in Packer’s belief and behavior is best seen in his appeal to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Said the Reformer:

Unless you prove to me by Scripture and plain reason that I am wrong, I cannot and will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe [it endangers the soul]. Here I stand. There is nothing else I can do. God help me. Amen.

“Conscience,” Packer explains, “is that power of the mind over which we have no power, which binds us to believe what we see to be true and do what we see to be right. Captivity of conscience to the Word of God, that is, to the absolutes of God’s authoritative teaching in the Bible, is integral to authentic Christianity.”

He quotes a statement often attributed to Luther (here slightly paraphrased):

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (2)

The issue beneath the issue—namely, the nature and functional influence of biblical authority—is the watershed issue not merely for Anglicanism, but for Christianity as a whole.

The belief that what God has revealed in the written Word is binding on the consciences of all Christians and gives shape to their behavior on every issue, not merely same-sex marriage, is the foundation for Packer’s approach to living the Christian life.

Notes

(1) This and subsequent excerpts are taken from Packer’s article in Christianity Today, “Why I Walked: Some- times Loving a Denomination Requires You to Fight” (January 1, 2003): 46–50 (emphasis in the original).
(2) The oft-quoted statement reflects Luther’s ideas as expressed by a fictional character named Fritz in a historical novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1864), 276. It also captures the spirit of what Packer believes. See also http://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther.


Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor and professor. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Chosen for Life, Tough Topics, Kept for Jesus, and Packer on the Christian Life.

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2 Corinthians 12.9-21

Title: Called Out to Be Different

Text: 2 Corinthians 12-11-21

CIT: Paul concludes this passage with a review of his apostolic superiority and the sacrifice he has made to bring them the gospel and establish them as a church. His biggest fear is returning to them to find they are still like the world.

CIS: We are reminded of those who serve and sacrifice as God has called. Furthermore, we are reminded that we’ve been called to be distinct and different from the world.

Introduction: In Acts 8.1, we see a young man named Saul who was quickly rising through the ranks of the Sanhedrin. Zealous for his faith and powerful in his position, he traveled near and far to persecute those who were creating a cult religion from his religion. Stamping her out and purifying his religion were his goals. He was faithful, loyal and dedicated. He was also wrong.

Then, something incredible happened to him: he met Jesus and everything about him changed. Faithfulness, loyalty and dedication still characterized his life; however, Jesus had changed his manner. It became most evident in the change of his name. Saul means demanded or desire. Paul means little or small. No longer would Saul make demands as a zealous leader. From now on, he goal for purification of the church would come through different means.

v 9-10; I am reminded this week that the church has been at its strongest when she was weakest in the world. When she has power in the world, when she has influence through numbers, she becomes weak and idle, napping away in the light of God’s love. She is arrogant and haughty. But, when she was reduced to numbers of people who felt the scorn and shame of bearing Christ’s name, then, she was weak and feeble in the eyes of the world, but powerful in her service and sacrifice to God. That is when she became most useful to him.

In today’s passage, Paul repeats much of what he’s said throughout his letter. It’s what you do when you come to the conclusion of your paper or message. Tell them what you are gonna tell them. Then tell them. Then, tell them what you’ve just told them. Here is his conclusion – his epilogue to his foolish speech:

  1. His Claim to Apostolic Superiority
  2. His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice
  3. His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity

1.     His Claim to Apostolic Superiority (11-13)

exp.: rd v 11a; forced means pressed; ‘between a rock and a hard place’; rd 11b; inferior; means to come up short; Romans 3.23; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 2 Cor 11.5 & 9; need; in v 11-13, there are two ways it looks like he comes up short compared with these super apostles:

  1. Is in comparison to their abilities and
  2. In comparison to their abundance provided by the church.

exp.: he then explains to them that they are wrong by both accounts; 1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds) – and 2. He wasn’t a burden to them;

  1. By signs and wonders and power (might deeds); spiritual side (v 12); this is a clear indication that it is God who is working; we have an example in the Exodus (Deu. 26.8) God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; with great deeds of terror and signs and wonders. 6.27: 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” Paul is reminding them God has displayed his power through the Apostle Paul – and they were witnesses to it. 2ndly…
  2. He wasn’t a burden to them; physical side (v 13); Listen, to be in the ministry costs money. There is food, shelter, transportation costs; etc.

ill.: I’ve been blown away at the added expenditures we’ve incurred to send missionaries to our UUPG. What a great reminder that we have others on staff serving for us that we need to care for.

app.: Church, I’m done with this point, but don’t let this teaching moment flee from your minds. Let’s not be like the Corinthians who neglect Paul’s needs. Think of those who serve you and care for them. The UUPG missionaries: We don’t want them to be a burden to the people they serve. Kristin: she ministers to our children and many other children who aren’t members here.

t.s.: Paul opens this section with a reminder of his apostolic superiority, established through his work…2ndly,

2.     His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice (14-18)

exp.: rd v 13a; This is the third (time) I have prepared to come to you. Really? We actually have no record of this other visit in Acts. And this has led some scholars to say that what Paul means is that this is the 3rd time he has readied or prepared himself to come for another visit. But this doesn’t line up with 13.1-2; read; I can see how someone might take 12.14 and make it fit that way, but 13.1-2 takes too much work to change. I think it’s best understood as Paul wrote literally: This is the 3rd time I’m coming to you; as I did when present on my 2nd visit;

One more word about this: we don’t have to have a record of this 2nd visit outside of this letter. After all, we didn’t have many of the events Paul describes in chapter 11 – concerning his suffering. My guess is that Paul made a quick, painful visit to Corinth while he was serving in Ephesus on his 3rd MJ.

exp.: Then Paul gets to the heart of the matter; rd 14b: And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. The word burden has the connotation of weighing down; as in a beast of burden whose load is so heavy, it cannot carry it; however, the etymology of the this word shows that it eventually come to mean in Paul’s day, a financial burden – having such a debt to carry that it weighs one down. And You see this financial meaning illustrated as he continues in 14c; For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

He explains this more fully in v 15a; spend and be entirely spent; exhaust; then, he asks a series of rhetorical questions:

  1. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 15b
  2. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? v17
  3. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? v18

ill.: Its as if Paul is saying: I have sacrificed so much for you and will sacrifice more – how can you not see that? This is exactly what Paul says Christ did in 8.9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. He was spent out entirely on our behalf.

app.: Can we stop and rest on this truth for a moment? Apostolic Sacrifice is often overlooked. Those who have been called and commissioned to serve are often taken advantage of and then discarded when the church is done with them.

Ill.: Please allow me a bit of transparency and honesty here. When I took my 1st pastorate in Wyoming, my greatest fear in following this call was that I would give all of my life in service to the church – spending my strength and energy, the vitality of youth, only to be discarded when I was older and weaker. At times that still takes over my thoughts: that I would sacrifice for you in so many ways while I am younger and stronger – then, when my energy would get lower and my mind not as sharp; when the church would be strong and healthy, you would forget those years of service and cast me aside for some younger, smarter, more talented preacher.

App.: but I am reminded often of my hero: Jesus. Think about the Calling of Christ – Sent by the Father; He humbled himself and was obedient to the will of the Father; abandoned by the very ones who called him Lord, he died on a criminal’s cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb; He is the picture of sacrifice on so many levels. He is Paul’s hero, too – the man he has attempted to pattern his life after.

t.s.: His Claim to Apostolic Superiority; His Courage in Apostolic Sacrifice; and finally

3.     His Concerns in Apostolic Sincerity (19-21)

exp.: He genuinely loves them! He has sacrificed for them; He has demonstrated his calling and commission before them through signs and wonders. Now, he asks them another question: rd v 19a; Lit.: defense in the Gk is the word from which we get apology. Don’t confuse them – he’s not using apology like we think of as “I’m sorry”. An apology is a defense for why you believe what you believe. But he clarifies: that is not what I’m doing here! Rd 19b; κατέναντι θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν· Lit.: over and against (position or place) as in the opposite side; i.e: before God in Christ we speak. Rd 19c; and why? To build you up – like a house; οἰκοδομή – to build a house.

ill.: We’re not trying to defend ourselves for what we’ve done. No, we’ve done what we’ve done because we are building a house here – and you are that house. So we see his sincerity, now look at his concerns: rd v 20-21;

exp.: what a word for us today… my concern is that the church will be acting like the world! In

  • Quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder
  • Impurity
  • Sexual Immorality – πορνεία; All forms of sexual misconduct – adultery; Fornication; Incest – 1 Cor 5; And homosexuality.
  • Sensuality
  • Practice – same word we have for the Book of Acts: The Acts of the Apostles.

app.: The church is not to ACT like the World! We are to act – practice Christianity. We repent of murder and impurity and sexual immorality and sensuality. It does not matter if the 5 Supreme Court Justices make a law saying that marriage is contrary to God’s Law. We obey God’s law. I declare publicly that I will not perform nor sanction homosexual marriages. Nor will I condone the killing of unborn babies – even if it is the law of the land. And furthermore – I will continue to proclaim this Word – that we has a church have a responsibility to abide by it’s laws over and above the laws established by 5 misguided justices.

But let’s remember the context: Paul is talking to the church, telling them to act like Christians. And, for those who don’t act like Christians – they will not be accepted in the church. The world is going to act like the world. We, however, have been called to come out from among them and be different.

ill.: Friday, when the SCOTUS issued its decision on homosexual marriage, I felt strongly that I should make a statement as pastor and for my congregation. I cannot begin to fully express my deepest disappointment, in spite of the fact that I was already pretty sure it was coming, when 5 non-elected individuals decided to redefine what marriage has meant for 5,000 years. This is what I wrote:

As a disciple of Christ who has established God’s Word as my standard, I cannot agree with the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of United States. The marriage of a man and a woman was instituted and sanctioned by God in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither the state nor the nation has the right to redefine that standard of one man and one woman being joined together in holy matrimony. The marriage bond itself was created to be a picture of the gospel and of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.

It appears now that the law of the land will be to recognize homosexual unions as the new standard for marriage. However, as believers, we must obey God rather than mankind. Regardless of the SCOTUS redefinition of marriage, as followers of Christ, we should proclaim the traditional definition of marriage as given by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God endorse same-sex marriage. In fact, there are multiple passages that condemn homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

The message of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter how sin is redefined, it doesn’t take away the need for forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we would be doomed to live out our lives blindly – following our own passions and pleasures. But God, in his infinite mercy, was gracious to us and not only showed us our sin, but offered us a way to find forgiveness from our sin. If we remove the need for forgiveness, then there is no hope and no Good News in our message for a lost world.

Therefore, we will show the grace and love of God to others, while taking a stand for traditional marriage, by openly proclaiming His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. While it is true that we disagree with others about same-sex marriage, we understand they need to be shown the same unconditional love that Christ has given us.

Application:

  1. We don’t respond as the world does.
  2. We take care of those who take care of us.
  3. We make every attempt to keep the church pure.
  4. We show the love of Christ in all matters.
  5. We stand for the Truth and on God’s Word no matter what anyone else does. We’ve been called out to be different and to be distinct.

Conclusion:

How do we know if we’re doing this? Paul tells us in the next chapter, as he concludes this letter (and we’ll look at this in greater detail next week) to examine yourselves: see if you past the test. Are you in Christ, is Christ in you?

Invitation:

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Church Discipline, Evangelism, Gay Marriage, Homosexuality

Statement from Dr. Fred Smith in reaction to the US Supreme Court ruling on marriage:

As a disciple of Christ who has established God’s Word as my standard, I cannot agree with the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of United States. The marriage of a man and a woman was instituted and sanctioned by God in the first two chapters of Genesis. Neither the state nor the nation has the right to redefine that standard of one man and one woman being joined together in holy matrimony. The marriage bond itself was created to be a picture of the gospel and of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.

It appears now that the law of the land will be to recognize homosexual unions as the new standard for marriage. However, as believers, we must obey God rather than mankind. Regardless of the SCOTUS redefinition of marriage, as followers of Christ, we should proclaim the traditional definition of marriage as given by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God endorse same-sex marriage. In fact, there are multiple passages that condemn homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

The message of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. No matter how sin is redefined, it doesn’t take away the need for forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we would be doomed to live out our lives blindly – following our own passions and pleasures. But God, in his infinite mercy, was gracious to us and not only showed us our sin, but offered us a way to find forgiveness from our sin. If we remove the need for forgiveness, then there is no hope and no Good News in our message for a lost world.

Therefore, we will show the grace and love of God to others, while taking a stand for traditional marriage, by openly proclaiming His message of repentance and the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus. While it is true that we disagree with others about same-sex marriage, we understand they need to be shown the same unconditional love that Christ has given us.

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Filed under Gay Marriage, Genesis, Happenings, Homosexuality, Scripture