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6. A New Life of Obedience

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TOGETHER LESSON

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” (Galatians 2:20)

The entire Christian life is to be lived by faith, not works. Other religions force their followers to adhere to a list of rules to stay acceptable. Christians should want to obey God out of love and gratitude for how much God loves us and for Jesus paying the ultimate price for our sins. Yet, we cannot live an obedient Christian life in our own strength. We must live by faith in God’s promises in the Bible. By faith, we trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to obey what God wants for our lives. By faith, we learn to obey Christ and experience a life of freedom and joy.

The Forces Against You

The Bible teaches that in the Christian life, you will face enemies that will try to keep you from being obedient to Christ—the devil, the world and the flesh.

The Devil – Satan (a.k.a known as “the devil”) is a vicious enemy who will aim to keep you away from trusting in Jesus and the promises in God’s Word. His weapons are doubt and discouragement. Do not fear him. Jesus is stronger than he is. (1 John 4:4)

The World – The culture wants to conform you to its way of life. Its aim is to keep you focused on possessions, success and other substitutes for God. Choose not to be conformed to the world but transformed to Jesus’ way of living life. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Flesh – While we as redeemed and forgiven believers have new life in Christ, we retain our old bodies in which sin still dwells (called the “flesh” or “sinful nature”). Though born again of the Spirit, our bodies are not born again, and our souls (mind, emotion, and will) are not instantly transformed. It is through this part of us (the “flesh”) that sin assaults us.

Key Question: How much does the “flesh” improve over time? 0—25—50—75—100%

1. Conflict between the Spirit and the Flesh

The “flesh” does not improve over time. It is in continual conflict with the Spirit living inside of us. As a result, we never outgrow our need to depend 100% on Jesus Christ. Our choices can change over time as we learn to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. For simplicity, we will consider living by the flesh as letting your “self” control that part of your life as opposed to the Spirit controlling it.

Read Galatians 5:16-18. How does Paul describe this continual conflict?

Read Galatians 5:19-26. Contrast evidence of living by the flesh with living by the Spirit.

Self-Control Evidences

Spirit-Control Evidences

Read Colossians 3:5-15. Contrast evidence of the two different ways of living.

Self-Control Evidences

Spirit-Control Evidences

Living by the flesh is pretty ugly, isn’t it? Would you say there is a stark contrast between the two lifestyles? Actually, at any point in your life you will be living by the Spirit in some areas of your life and living by the flesh in other areas. The evidence reveals who you are trusting in—self or Christ. The Christian life is impossible apart from Christ himself. That’s why we are continually exhorted to live by faith in Christ, trusting in his Spirit to enable us to obey him.

Key Question: Which evidences of “self-control” in your life jumped out at you when you listed them above?

Jesus wants you to trust him to live by the Spirit in those areas.

2. Choosing Wisely as You Learn to Obey Christ

Sin is ugly, very ugly! Though we have an indwelling sin nature still with us that is at war against the Spirit, we are not left helpless in the midst of the conflict. God’s empowering presence in us—his Spirit—is a greater power than sin and enables us to win the battle over sin. But, we have a responsibility as well.

Read Galatians 5:16 and Romans 13:14. In order to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, what is our responsibility?

Read Titus 2:11-14. What does God’s grace present in his Word and his Spirit inside us do for us?

Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. Temptation is not sin, but it can lead to sin. What does God promise regarding temptation?

Whether or not we are presently tempted in a given area, we are capable of committing any sin (disobedience to Christ) mentioned in the Bible, given the right set of circumstances, time and temptation. The progression is:

  • A received thought produces familiarity.
  • Continued pondering produces a loss of repugnance and, eventually, curiosity.
  • Desires, sometimes a total surprise, are generated to experiment. The most damaging or dangerous are the ones that blindside you with a desire you didn’t even know would affect you! So, protect yourself at all times through prayer, “Lord, protect me from myself!”
  • Having tried the activity, the flesh (like a goat) can learn to like, and even grow dependent, on any sensual stimulus.

Conclusion: We never outgrow our need to depend 100% upon Jesus Christ. Recognizing this should lead us to have compassion on one another (Galatians 6:1) and to not take risks with sinful behavior!

A habit is easier to maintain than it is to start. Faith can be a habit—a good habit. Make wise decisions to protect yourself:

1) Protect your mind. Desires of the flesh do not go away but are like a fire. They can burn hot or burn down, depend­ing on whether you are feeding them.

2) Don't play with fire. Make policy decisions to keep your distance from what tempts you.

Key Question: What decisions are you making or should you make to protect yourself from what tempts you?

3. The Biblical Way for Dealing with Recognized Sin in Your Life

Most of us cannot go very long without doing something that is a work of the flesh—whether intentional or unintentional. God understands this about us. All sin is covered by Christ’s work on the cross, forgiven before it is every committed. (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14) Living by the Spirit reveals to us through the Word and through prayer what is sin in our lives and helps our repentant hearts follow through with a desire for change. When you recognize sin in your life, use the following process to help you deal with it.

Step 1. View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever it is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).

Step 2. Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your specific sin.

To confess biblically means “to agree with God” about what you and he both know to be true. It is not a formula nor does confession require a mediator. It is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!”

For example: while reading Philippians 4:12, the Spirit convicts you that you have been coveting rather than being content. You agree with God that your coveting doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.

Step 3. Add repentance to your confession.

Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it displeases you, God. Please help me to live differently.” He will certainly do that! That’s how our lives get transformed.

For example: You want to stop coveting and be content and grateful instead. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, by faith I ask your Spirit to nudge me when I want to covet. Replace my coveting with contentment and gratitude.” That is repentance.

Step 4. Follow repentance with dependence.

Depend on the Holy Spirit inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as he desires our obedience from the heart.

For example: Memorize Philippians 4:12-13 and any other scriptures that deal with being thankful for God’s provision. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to covet. Choose to be thankful instead.

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

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PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

The Christian life is to be lived by faith. Christians should want to obey Christ out of love and gratitude for how much God loves us and for Jesus paying the ultimate price for our sins. Yet, we cannot live an obedient Christian life in our own strength. We must live by faith—in God’s promises in the Bible and in the Holy Spirit inside us who helps us obey what God wants for our lives. By faith, we learn to obey Christ and experience a life of freedom and joy.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Review Memory Verse 4 – Hebrews 4:16.
  • Review Memory Verse 5 – John 13:34-35.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Galatians 2:20.

Memory Verse 6

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” (Galatians 2:20)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “A New Life of Obedience”

Do not be discouraged when progress in your Christian walk does not happen as quickly as you want. Christian growth is a lifelong process. God is patient with you and will never take his love away from you. Believe that the Holy Spirit will give you victory any moment you choose to obey him. Continue being obedient, living by faith and trusting in God’s promises even when you are going through trials and temptations. By faith, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome those trials and temptations. As we surrender our lives to him out of obedience, he conforms us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus.

Have you recognized specific sin in your life that you know is ugly in God’s eyes? Follow the steps given to live in freedom from the ugliness in that area of your life. In this way, you will learn obedience to Christ. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you victory in that area.

Step 1. View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “________________” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever your sin is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “________________” (covets, is greedy, gossips, whatever your sin is).

Step 2. Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your specific sin.

Agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Be specific about your sin.

Step 3. Add repentance to your confession.

Say, for example, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it displeases You, God. Please help me to live differently.”

Step 4. Follow repentance with dependence.

Depend on the Holy Spirit inside you for that change to take place. You cannot do it on your own, but he can do it through you. Memorize a Bible verse that encourages you to live differently.

Praise God for how he works in your life in that area!

Getting to Know Christ

Continue reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Also, begin to pray regularly to your Heavenly Father. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 11:1-19. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 11:20-33. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 12:1-27. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 12:28-44. Reflect on what you read—

Day 6 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 13:1-36. Reflect on what you read—

Days 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 7. “Sharing Your New Life with Others.”

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

7. Sharing Your New Life with Others

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TOGETHER LESSON

How did you first hear about Jesus? Someone told you, right? Did you know that you have also been sent by the Lord to reach others with the good news about Jesus? You and I as followers of Jesus Christ have the awesome privilege of sharing the good news of eternal life with others. There is tremendous joy in reaching out to those who do not know Jesus and introducing them to him so they can know him just as you now know him.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 New Living Translation)

Tell the World about Jesus

This amazing task is called the “Great Commission.” It is what Jesus told his followers right before he left earth to go to Heaven. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) When Jesus gave that command to his followers to go and make disciples, it was not to ordained preachers, hired church staff or organizations. He spoke those words to average, every day kind of people like you and I are. “All nations” includes your sphere of influence, wherever that is.

Think of it this way: Imagine you had cancer and were chosen to be part of a special test group for a new cure. The treatment cured all of your cancer completely free of charge. What is the first thing you would do after you were healed? You would want to tell all of the other cancer victims about this great cure! Well, sin is a cancer affecting every single person. And you have been cured—forgiven of your sins—by Jesus Christ. Do you remember how you felt before you believed in Jesus? Maybe you felt lonely, guilty, and without hope. The entire world is lost without Jesus. We are Christ’s ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20) He has selected us to represent him and reach them with his love and forgiveness.

Key Question: Are you willing to be Christ’s ambassador to those in your sphere of influence? If so, tell God right now that you are willing.

1. The Gospel Is Good News

“Jesus Christ laid down his life for you so that he could give his life to you so that he could live his life through you.” (Ian Thomas)

Relating the good news to others takes two basic forms: your walk and your talk. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, others can see Christ by your walk (life). As the quote above says, Jesus living his life through us is one way he draws people to himself.

“In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

But, as we read at the beginning of this lesson, you must also tell the good news of the gospel so others may believe in Christ.

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ coming to earth to save us from our sins. If you have opportunity to tell someone one thing, tell her about Jesus.

  • Tell her that God loves her and wants a relationship with her. But, sin separates her from God’s love.
  • Tell her that Jesus is God, who came to earth as a man, and died for the sins of the world.
  • Tell her that she can be completely forgiven of her sins and receive eternal life with God solely by believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

That is the gospel. Anyone can share it, and everyone needs to hear it. Pray and ask God for an opportunity this week to share the gospel. A famous evangelist once said this, “Take the initiative to share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.”

2. Pray & Watch

You do not need to be an expert in the Bible or have years of experience with Christ to reach others for him. There are several ways you can share Christ on a daily basis.

The first and most important thing to do is to pray: ask your heavenly Father to lead you to someone who is open to hearing more about Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw people to Christ. Pray the following:

“Father, please send the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of ________ to draw her to Jesus and make her into a laborer for the Kingdom.”

Keep on praying that prayer as often as you think about or see that person, envisioning the Holy Spirit going to work in that person’s life, drawing that person to Jesus. Then you can ask the Spirit to open the door to have a conversation with her. Make an intentional date to spend time with her.

When you talk to her, ask good questions to determine if she is interested in spiritual things or whether she has already trusted in Christ as her Savior. For example:

  • What is your faith background?
  • What were you taught about God growing up?
  • Have you had a spiritual experience that shaped your life?
  • Have you ever read or been taught from the Bible?
  • How have spiritual values shaped your life?

You don’t have to make a complete presentation of the Gospel to make an impact for Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone who is open to hearing more about Jesus.

3. Share Your Story

If you trusted Christ recently, you remember what life was like for you before Christ came into your life. How did you feel? What triggered your need for Jesus? What did God use to draw you to him? That may be how God will use you to reach others for Christ.

Once you have established a relationship with a friend, and “earned the right to be heard,” pray for an opportunity to share your story—what Christ has done in your life. Be ready for openings in the conversation where you can share simple statements of what God has done in your life (including your weaknesses and need of him). Allow her a peak into the life you have in Christ. Encourage her trust and create curiosity for more.

Most people reject Christianity because they don’t “have a clue” what it is all about, or they misunderstand…and think it is just “religion.” They do not realize they are missing a totally awesome relationship with Jesus! The best way to share…so that they really understand what the Bible says…is to prepare a short version of your own faith story that includes the Gospel message in it—what you heard and believed.

You will get an opportunity to work on your story in the Personal Discovery Guide this week.

4. Ask for a Decision & Lead Her in Prayer

As the Holy Spirit leads, expect God to be working in her heart. Ask one of the following questions:

  • Does this make sense to you?
  • Would you like to accept God’s gift?
  • Would you like to trust in Christ now?

Tell her that she must personally trust in Christ’s death on the cross in order to receive God’s forgiveness for her sins. If she is ready for a decision, pray with her to trust in Christ. A sample prayer is:

“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for all of my sins – past, present, and future. Thank you for giving me eternal life and wanting a relationship with me. I trust in you now as my Savior, and I desire you to be Lord of my life.”

5. The Next Step for Her – Establish Her in Her New Faith

Once a person has come to Christ, now you have the privilege and honor of establishing her in the basics of the Christian faith as you have now been established through this series of lessons. Schedule a time to start going through Graceful Beginnings with her. Soon she will be reaching her peers for Christ, too.

It is also vital that she get immediately “connected” with other Christians, preferably those who will have common interests and have been praying for her along with you. By joining a community of believers, she can learn from other mentors besides you.

6. The Next Step for You

To keep growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ:

  • Join a Bible study or small group where you can enjoy fellowship with others who are also learning more about this new life in Christ.
  • Keep telling others about Jesus and personally discipling them in the basics of the Christian faith using “Graceful Beginnings.”
  • Take the next step of growth through the “Graceful Living” study, available at https://bible.org/series/graceful-living.
  • Look for ways you can serve others in your local church or community.

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

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PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

Christianity is Christ! It's all about a relationship with him. Jesus Christ gave his life for you by grace, so he could give his life to you by grace, so he could live his life through you by grace. Knowing Christ’s love for you and the presence of his life in you should motivate you to “live for him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20) and to serve him through serving others (John 13:1-15; Galatians 5:13-14; Philippians 2:1-4). Both are responses to God’s grace in your life. Another response is letting his life in you overflow to others around you, particularly those who need to know Christ.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Review Memory Verse 4 – Hebrews 4:16.
  • Review Memory Verse 5 – John 13:34-35.
  • Review Memory Verse 6 – Galatians 2:20
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Romans 10:14.

Memory Verse 7

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 New Living Translation)

Note: This week, you will do your reading on Days 1-5 and work on your faith story on Days 6 & 7.

Getting to Know Christ

Finish reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more.

Day 1 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:1-31. Reflect on what you read—

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:32-52. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:53-15:15. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 15:16-47. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 16:1-20. Reflect on what you read—

From This Week’s Reading:

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

Days 6 & 7 Your Faith Story

“People love to hear stories…Telling your faith story is just that: your personal story about your faith. It’s an unobtrusive way to speak about the love of God in your life and the love he has for all people…Your life and story is the best tract to be written!” (The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide for Women in Leadership, “How to Share Your Faith,” page 21)

Use the following prompts to get you started. Then, choose the highlights to make a “Five-Minute Faith Story” that you can easily share when Jesus gives you opportunity.

Before you trusted in Christ

Although the tendency is to spend most of the time on your “before Christ” experience, only give enough information so someone else would know why you needed Christ in your life. Tell what you needed so that someone may identify with you.

Identify what your life was like.

  • What were your attitudes, needs, and/or problems?
  • To what source did you look for security, peace of mind, or happiness?
  • In what ways were your activities unsatisfying?
  • Find 2-3 words to describe what only Christ could fill or do in your life (e.g. loneliness, feelings of insignificance, anger, rejection).

Briefly share a personal example that captures the needs and attitudes from this time of your life as identified above.

How you came to know Christ (point of salvation)

Share when and how you first heard the gospel and/or were exposed to Christianity.

  • What brought you to the place of being willing to listen?
  • Who influenced you?
  • How and when did you decide to follow Jesus?
  • Describe how you felt, what truths you heard, what you thought about them, and how you felt after you made the decision.

Give the gospel in this section. Use 1 or 2 relevant scripture verses.

My life after knowing Jesus

Spend the most time on this.

  • What conditions before Christ has been satisfied by a relationship with him?
  • What does it look like in your life to have a relationship with Christ?
  • How long did it take before you noticed changes?
  • What are your blessings?
  • Where do you struggle?
  • How do you depend on him through those struggles?
  • What difference does having him in your life make during those times?
  • Emphasize what you have learned about God’s grace to you.

Briefly share a personal illustration that shows the wonderful difference that Christ has made in your life.

Wrap up by inviting the listener to trust in Christ as you did so she can experience a new life of freedom and joy!

NEXT TOGETHER TIME: Share your faith story with your Graceful Beginnings leader and listen to hers. Ask Jesus to give you opportunity to share your story with others in your life as well.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

Acknowledgements & References

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The information in this Graceful Beginnings guide for new believers in Christ has been adapted from the following sources:

  1. Getting Started in Extreme Living by Bert Harned and Larry Chapman, accessed at www.extremelivingguide.com
  2. Graceful Living by Melanie Newton, accessed at www.melanienewton.com/GracefulLiving.html
  3. New Believers Guide accessed at www.godlife.com/new-believers-guide
  4. New Believer Study Guide available from Fellowship Bible Church, Waco TX, accessed at www.fellowshipbcwaco.org
  5. Bridges on the Journey by The Navigators

Is God Real? Evidence for God from Objective Moral Truth

There are several compelling arguments for the existence of God, and many of them are rooted in science (i.e. the Cosmological Argument) or philosophy (i.e. the Transcendental Argument). Sometimes these disciplines are foreign to our everyday experience, however, and not many of us are prepared to debate (or even describe) scientific details or esoteric philosophical concepts, especially as they might be related to God’s existence. Another set of evidences may be far easier to assess and communicate. Is God real? The presence of objective moral truth validates the existence of God and this evidence may be much easier to communicate to others.

We live in a world filled with moral truths and most of us, whether we are aware of it or not, believe these truths are more than a matter of personal opinion, evolutionary development or social convention. “Torturing babies for fun” is (and has been) morally repugnant regardless of the time in history, place on the planet, or identity of any particular people group. Moral truths of this nature transcend and precede us. We don’t invent or construct them, we discover them. Transcendent, objective moral truths such as these form the foundation of the Axiological Argument for the existence of God. “Axio” means the “study of values” and the Axiological Argument uses the existence of objective values or “mores” to prove the existence of God:

(1) There is an Objective (Transcendent) Moral Law
(2) Every Law Has a Law Giver
(3) Therefore, There is an Objective (Transcendent) Law Giver
(4) The Objective (Transcendent) Law Giver is God

If objective, transcendent moral truths exist, an objective, transcendent moral truth giver is the most reasonable inference.

Living in a world filled with moral choices, we often confuse description with prescription. It’s one thing to describe “what is”, but it’s another thing to prescribe “what ought to be”. Humans are good at the former, but have been historically uneven with the latter. Individuals and groups often allow their own selfish interests to color the way they evaluate moral truth. When this happens, we sometimes come to very different conclusions about the “rightness” of our beliefs or actions. When we disagree about the moral value of a particular action, we usually try to convince the other side to accept our position. But why would this be necessary if all moral truths come from individuals or groups? If humans are the source of moral truth, why should we consider one group’s values to be any better than another? When we argue for what “ought to be” we’re not simply asking someone to accept our subjective opinion; were asking them to see the “rightness” of the objective moral truth we happen to hold.

When a group of societies come together to discuss the moral value of a particular action (as is often the case at meetings of the United Nations), they are appealing to a standard transcending the group in an effort to convince any one member of the group. When one nation asks another to conform to some form of moral behavior, it’s not saying, “Do it our way,” it’s saying, “Do the right thing.” Our appeal to a particular behavior isn’t based solely on our collective, subjective opinion; it’s based on an appeal to objective moral values transcending our opinion. We can argue about the identity of these values, but we must accept the transcendent foundation of these moral truths if we ever hope to persuade others to embrace them. Nations may dislike one another and resist the subjective values held by other groups. That’s why we argue for the transcendent moral value of an action, rather than appealing to a subjective national opinion.

If transcendent moral truths exist, from where do they come? In the next few blogs at ColdCaseChristianity.com, we’ll examine the possible alternatives and make a case for God’s existence along the way. Is God real? The evidence from the existence of objective moral truth points to God as the most reasonable explanation.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Theology Proper (God)

15. God Conquers Drifting (Judges 20:12-21:25)

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Judges: A Drifting People, A Delivering God (part fifteen)

Judges records our delivering God rescuing His drifting people…over and over and over again. As the series draws to a close, we see Israel recommitting herself to holy living. This will require a difficult, honest examination of their own lives and relationships. It will also involve loving correction of others in order to protect the community's holiness. Where there is unrepentant sin, it must be dealt with from a position of brokenness. The community of saints today should not be so different. We must help one another identify any slow drift away from the Lord before we drift too far.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Church Discipline, Discipleship, Discipline, Failure, Relationships, Spiritual Life

希伯來書第11章對你適切嗎?(希伯來書11:1-6)

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11:1 信就是對所望之事的肯定2,是對未見之事的確認 311:2 古人因着信得了 神的稱讚。11:3 我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉 神命令生序;以致所看見的是出自所看不見的。4 11:4 亞伯5 因着信獻祭與 神,比該隱所獻的更大,因此便得了為義的稱讚,就是神以他禮物作的稱讚。他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。11:5 以諾因着信被接去,不至於見死;人也找不着他,因為 神已經把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已經得了 討神喜悅的稱讚。11:6 人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人6。(希伯來書11:1-6)

引言

我記得數年前我讀過一本有關基督徒婚姻的書7(從人的角度寫的書),當中有一章是關於丈夫和妻子之間的性關係,盡我所能記起,這章的開始是這樣的:「我預期很多男士會先翻到這章……」我記得當時我不禁笑了起來,因為我也沒有按這書各章建議的順序跳到這章。

我也知道一個不吸引的標題,不能贏取「第十一章」應有的讀者來閱讀這篇文章。在面對經濟衰退的時期,相信有可觀的人數以「第十一章」作為他們面對經濟困境的解決方法 – 我指的是別的文章。也許我可以誇口地說,第十一章可能是那些對將來充滿恐懼和憂慮不安的人,首先翻開來看的章節。這章經文通常被稱為「信心巨廊」,這名稱十分適切。在這章裡,我們被提醒那些忠於神的男女被激勵走那信心的路,沒有因面對外在壓力的日子而崩潰,因此我殷切地希望你們容忍我,並且審察希伯來書第11章對你是否適切。

希伯來書第11章為甚麼重要?

希伯來書第11章對於原來的收信人是重要的教導。那些聖徒極喜愛舊約聖經和舊約的聖人,這11章裡,他們會發現那些信心的偉人是因他們的信心而得救,而非因為遵守律法或舊約的獻祭制度;故此在這章經文裡,你會發現作者並沒有引用和這兩方面相關的經文。

希伯來書第11章對今天的我們來說,也是十分重要的。這章對全卷書信的論點,扮演了重要的角色。簡單來說,第1-10章是描述主耶穌的神性和人性,我們的主是至高無上,足以成為大祭司。在第1-10章的真理是我們信心的基礎,有這樣的一位救主,不單這生,我們可以永遠完全信靠祂。希伯來書的作者在第12-13章向讀者作出特別的勸勉以先,他在第11章稍作停頓來列出舊約無數憑著信而活的例子。舊約的信心偉人因信而得救,故此他們憑信而活。他們因此得到神的接納認可,也以此得以親近神。

希伯來書第11章對今天的讀者十分重要,因為它道出憑信而活是怎樣的。如作者所言,這些信心偉人雖然死了,但他們今天仍繼續向我們說話。8 我們若聽從他們,對我們會有好處。

關於第11章的觀察

觀察 1:這章的主題是信。「信」(或是同字根的字),在羅馬書和希伯來書中經常出現。在這兩卷書中共出現了36次,比起其它的舊約或新約的書卷為多。「信」這字單在希伯來書第11章便已經出現24次,當中「因著信」這片語從希伯來書11:3開始出現,全章經文出現了19次。

第11章為信下了定義,而作者透過無數舊約的例子,更精確地闡明信是甚麼。這章的重點並不是信的來源,而是在現實生活中活出信。在這裡,信並不是單純的信念,而是行為(基於信念所產生的行為);作者並非勸勉讀者回想信,而是勸勉讀者要以神所賜的信 9而活。作者在這裡所述說的信並不是最初得救的信,而是信心的生命。

觀察 2憑信而活的例子是按時序排列。初讀這經文時,我們或許會忽略了這一點,但卻會逐漸清晰。第一個信的例子是和宇宙萬物的創造有關。那即是說,作者從創世記1:1節創世開始,接著是亞伯(創世記第4),繼而是以諾(創世記第5)、揶亞(創世記第6-9)、亞伯拉罕的事蹟(創世記11-22)、以撒、雅各和約瑟,這些都是記載在創世記的人物;另外摩西和喇合也是加以詳細記述的最後兩個例子。作者列出信的例子,似是從創世記直至舊約時期的終結。

觀察 3作者刻意讀者注意在律法頒以前(或在律法以外)信表現。誠然,作者的例子涵蓋了整個舊約時期,但大部份有詳細描述的例子全是出於舊約早期(即創世記或出埃及記),而出於舊約後期的例子,只作簡潔的交待或在11:32-38以「名單」形式出現。我們知道亞伯、以諾、挪亞和亞伯拉罕都是活在神在西乃山給以色列人頒佈律法以前的世代,因此,他們的義明顯並非守律法的義。

就是有關摩西的記載(他是在第11章除亞伯拉罕以外最突出的人物),也都和律法連不上關係。若我們細心留意經文,便能察覺這一點。當作者談及摩西父母的信心時,明顯是講論在摩西出生時,他的父母把他收藏三個月;而論及摩西的信,重點是他拒絕稱為法老女兒之子,從而與神受苦的百姓認同。10 經文亦記載了摩西守逾越節、離開埃及和過紅海,不過這些都是以色列人還未到達西乃山、在神頒佈律法以先的事蹟。

那麼,經文的重點是甚麼呢?那就是在舊約和新約,義都是藉著信,不是出於行為。我們不可忽略這封書信的其中一部份希伯來收信人,正打算回轉猶太教、回轉舊約、回轉到舊約時代的祭司和獻祭制度;仿似那舊制度勝過基督灑寶血所立的新約和基督的大祭司身份。希伯來書第十一章給予猶太教和舊約引人的地方重錘一擊。既然舊約聖徒沒有一個是因守律法而被稱義,那麼守舊約律法又如何能夠勝過新約透過信基督而稱義呢?這章所列舉的舊約英雄,名單中的每一位都是因著信而被稱義,沒有一個是靠守律法的。這些舊約英雄不單有信心,並且是信心的偉人。故此,在這章中,「因著信」出現了十九次。

這讓我記起羅馬書在第四章以前,保羅展現所有人都是失喪的罪人,無法靠自己的行為稱義,人的終極是那永遠的審判;他接著帶出福音,並宣告基督透過把自己獻上作為贖罪祭,成就了人守律法所不能達到的,因此人透過信基督得救,那並非是靠行為可得。保羅的希伯來讀者或會存疑:「等一等,保羅說人不能透過守律法而得拯救,而只有透過相信耶穌基督在各各他所成就的十字架救恩;那麼舊約時代的信徒得救嗎?」回答這問題,保羅引用舊約期間最偉大的英雄 – 亞伯拉罕作為例子,他並不是因為守律法而得救(那時還未有律法),而是透過信(信那要來的彌賽亞)。

希伯來書的作者使用完全相同的進路。他引用亞伯拉罕的同時,還擴闊了他的論證,把所有舊約聖徒包括在內。不單亞伯拉罕的得救是在守律法以外,他因著信而得拯救;就是每個舊約聖徒都是「因著信」而得救,「因著信」過著英雄式的生活、常常是「因著信」,而不是靠善行。

觀察四:死亡是希伯來書第11一個十分突出的主題。希伯來書第11章有超過20次和死相關的經文,這些經文用了十分直接的字詞(死、死了、臨終、滅、滅亡);除了這些字詞外,還有和死亡相關的事件。作者希望讀者明白,信除去對死亡的恐懼;並且因著神應許11的實現,信超越死亡。

觀察信並非以受苦和死亡彈」silver bullet或「靈丹妙藥」的式呈現。在這段經文中,我們被告知亞伯因著信而死,而以諾卻因著信並不至於見死。這章經文稍後的地方,我們讀到因著信而得拯救的例子(10:32-35a);同時亦有因著信而受極大的苦、甚而死亡的例子。(10:35b-38)。那些「兜售成功神學的牧師」,他們承諾只要有足夠的信心,便得醫治、受歡迎和成功(還有很多別的);我從未聽過他們用希伯來書證道。

「信」的發展式定義和描述 – 第1-6節

第11章第1節為「信」作了一個基礎、概括的定義來作開始:

11:1 信就是對所望之事的肯定,是對未見之事的確認。(希伯來書11:1).

作者在第十一章的開端,給我們為信下了一個由兩部份組成的定義,而這兩部份卻又是互相關連的。信包含我們希望和我們看不到的東西。這定義極其寬闊,足以把世俗的信和基督教的信也包含在內。一位未得救的同工,他信他的訓練或工作技能,他自信升職將會成真;賭徒也有某些被扭曲了的「信」、那些相信假宗教的也有他們所信奉的。令人遺憾的,是他們信仰的根基並不穩固。

基督徒相信在將來會得到神所應許的,基督徒熱切地期望這些應許。這「有福的盼望」12是主再來並且成就一切;這盼望是死人復活13;這盼望是成為神的兒女,我們的身體得贖14。向信徒述說我們在基督裡的盼望的經文眾多15,下面是其中兩篇:

8:22 我們知道一切受造之物一同歎息勞苦,直到如今。8:23 不但如此,就是我們這有聖靈初結的果子的,也是內裏歎息,等候得着兒子的名分,就是我們的身體得贖。8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:22-25)

1:3 願頌讚歸與 神、我們主耶穌基督的父!他照自己的大憐憫,藉着耶穌基督死裏的復活,使我們重生在活的盼望裏,1:4 就是那不能朽壞、不能玷污、不能衰殘、為你們存留在天上的基業。1:5 你們這因信蒙 神能力保護的人,必能得着所預備到末世要顯現的救恩,1:6 這為你們帶來大喜樂,雖然如今你們也許暫時在百般的試煉中受苦。1:7 這些試煉顯出你們信心的真實,比那經得起火的試驗、最後仍要衰殘的金子更為寶貴,必能在耶穌基督顯現的時候,得着稱讚、榮耀和尊貴。1:8 你們雖然沒有見過他,卻是愛他;你們現在雖不見他,卻是信他,因此你們有無法形容、榮耀的大喜樂,1:9 因為你們達到了信心的目標,就是靈魂的救恩。(彼得前書1:3-9)

信讓我們對神的應許有信心,因我們所盼望的是將來的和屬靈的事物,這些事物我們不能用我們的眼睛去看。

8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:24-25)

信是對看不見的事有信心,相信他們是存在的、或在將來會成真。一個人甚至能肯定聖經所述那看不見的才是那終極的存有:

4:17 我們這至暫至輕的苦楚,要為我們成就極重無比、永遠的榮耀。4:18 原來我們不是定睛所能見的,乃是定睛所不能見的;因為所能見的是暫時的,所不能見的是永遠的。(哥林多後書4:17-18)

5:6 所以我們時常坦然無懼,並且曉得我們住在地上就不能在主那裏;5:7 因我們行事為人,是憑着信心,不是憑着眼見。5:8 因此我們坦然無懼,是更願意離開身體,回家與主同住。(哥林多後書5:6-8)

在希伯來書11:2,作者認為堅定的信是一個人和神的關係中不能或缺的部份,信是這關係的基礎。

11:2 古人因着信得了 神的稱讚。 (希伯來書11:2).

對神的信是一個人得到神的認可和讚揚的基礎。

第6節是這強而有力的述說的一個跟進:

11:6人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人。(希伯來書11:6)

3:3 我們從前也是愚笨、悖逆、偏行、被各樣情慾所困、以惡毒、嫉妒、懷怨,又是彼此相恨的活着。3:4 但到了 神我們救主的恩慈,和他向人所施的慈愛顯明的時候,3:5 他便救了我們,並不是因我們自己作的義行,而是以他的憐憫為基礎,藉著新生的洗,和聖靈的更新。3:6 聖靈就是 神藉著耶穌基督我們救主,厚厚澆灌在我們身上的。3:7 因此,我們既已從他的恩得稱為義,就成為後嗣,有把握的期待永生。(提多書3:3-7)16

雖然提多書並非這篇信息的中心經文,不過我卻想指出作者在接著的章節中會繼續發展這信的定義,另一個重要的開展在第13-16節。

信心的例子

對創造的信

11:3 我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉 神命令生序;以致所看見的是出自所看不見的。(希伯來書11:3

希伯來書第十一章使用「憑著信」來述說的第一個信心的例子,超出我的意料之外。在這章裡別的例子都是舊約的聖徒,但這個例子卻將讀這書卷的讀者包含在內。「我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉神命令生序……」;而其它的例子卻是所述的人物,在特定的環境中表達他們的信,而我們卻不會經歷一模一樣的處境。然而每個信徒卻被呼召運用他們的信,信宇宙萬物是神手所造的。聖經並沒有給我們別的選擇:

1:1 太初神創造諸天和地。(創世記1:1)

1:1 太初有道,道與 神同在,道就是 神。1:2 這道在太初就與 神同在。1:3 萬物都是藉着他造的;凡被造的,沒有一樣不是藉着他造的。(約翰福音1:1-3)

1:16 因為天上和地上的萬有都是他造的,無論是能看見的或不能看見的,有位的或主治的,執政的或掌權的,一概都是藉著他造的,又是為他造的。1:17 他在萬有之先,萬有也靠他維繫。(歌羅西書1:16-17)

1:1 神在古時藉着眾先知多次多方1的曉諭列祖後,1:2 在這末世,藉着他兒子3曉諭我們,又早已立他為承受萬有的,也曾藉着他創造了世界。(希伯來書1:1-2)17

我們很容易看到相信萬物的創造是神手所作的工,十分附合第一節為信所立的定義。因著信,我們對所看見的創造確是由那看不見的而來有把握。那就是宇宙萬物是那看不見的神所造的。如果我們的世界是從無有創造而成,那我們現在所能看見的,他們的根源是從那看不見的而來。

為甚麼我們信宇宙萬物是神的創造是那麼重要呢?讓我建議最少兩個原因。首先,聖經告訴我們的第一件事情就是神創造這世界(參創世記1:1)。信神透過相信祂的話語,因此信始於創世記1:1,並且繼續相信聖經直至啟示錄22:21;其次,福音始於創造的時期。使徒無須強調神創造天堂和地球,因為猶太人相信神創造世界,所以福音多從神給亞伯拉罕立約的應許和先知預言彌賽亞的來臨作開始;但當福音傳給外邦人時,就需要從聖經一開始就記載的創造開始。因此,我們讀到:

17:24 創造宇宙和其中萬物的 神,既是天地的主,就不住人手所造的殿,17:25 也不用人手服事,好像缺少甚麼;自己倒將生命、氣息、萬物,賜給萬人。17:26 他從一人造出萬族的人,遍住全地,並且預先定準他們的年限和所住的疆界;17:27 要叫他們尋求 神,或者可以摸索而得,其實他離我們各人不遠;17:28 因為我們生活、行動、存在,都在乎他;就如你們的詩人說:『我們也是他的後裔。』17:29 我們既是 神的後裔,就不當以為 神的神性能用手藝和心思所雕刻的金、銀、石來形容。17:30 因此世人蒙昧無知的時候, 神當作不看見,如今卻吩咐所有的人都要悔改。17:31 因為他已經定了一日,要藉着他所設立的人,按公義審判天下;他也曾叫他從死裏復活,給萬人作憑據。」(使徒行傳17:24-31)

在這裡我們沒有時間探討創造對信的影響,我建議讀者們思考這課題。然而這真理對護教學和傳福音都極之重要。我們必須明瞭論點是一個個疊起來的,假如創造論是信心課題,那麼我們若不信,就不能感染失喪的人。因信是從神而來的禮物,我們要仰望神賜人相信宇宙萬物是神創造的。我們不再和別人爭拗,使他們相信創造論,而把人贏進神的國度。因信是神的工作,我們可以透過禱告,求祂打開人的心來信靠祂,並相信聖經有關祂的述說。

亞伯的信

11:4 亞伯因着信獻祭與 神,比該隱所獻的更大,因此便得了為義的稱讚,就是神以他禮物作的稱讚。他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。(希伯來書11:4 )

12:24 有新約的中保耶穌,並有所灑的血;這血所說的,比亞伯的血所說的更美。(希伯來書12:24)

4:1 那時,那人和他妻子夏娃同房,夏娃就懷孕,生了該隱。她便說:「我創造了一個男子,正如耶和華所做的。」4:2 她又生了該隱的兄弟亞伯。亞伯是牧羊的,該隱是種地的。4:3 到了指定的時候,該隱拿地裡的出產為供物獻給耶和華,4:4 但亞伯將他羊羣中頭生的,甚至最肥壯的獻上。耶和華喜悅亞伯和他的供物,4:5 卻不喜悅該隱和他的供物。該隱就大大的發怒,變了臉色。4:6 耶和華對該隱說:「你為甚麼發怒呢?你為甚麼變了臉色呢?4:7 你若做得對,豈不是很好?你若做得不對,罪就蹲伏在門前;它想轄制你,你必要制伏它。」4:8 該隱對他兄弟亞伯說:「讓我們到田裡去。」二人正在田間,該隱襲擊他兄弟亞伯,把他殺了。(創世記4:1-8)

23:35 叫世上義人所流的血都歸到你們身上,從義人亞伯的血起,直到你們在殿和壇之間所殺的巴拉加的兒子撒迦利亞的血為止。23:36 我實在告訴你們,這世代要負責這一切的事了。(馬太福音23:35)

對我而言,我們必須明瞭聖經無須將神對舊約聖徒啟示的一切都記錄下來。18 當我們讀到約翰福音第八章,我們就明白到神對亞伯拉罕的啟示,必須多於聖經的記載:

8:56 你們的父亞伯拉罕歡歡喜喜的仰望我的日子,既看見了,就歡喜快樂。」(約翰福音8:56

我們從經文得悉有關該隱和亞伯的獻祭,該隱拿「地裡的出產」為祭獻給神;亞伯獻的是血祭,他將羊群中頭生的獻給神。神悅納亞伯和他的祭,但卻不喜悅該隱和他的祭。反過來說,這並非單純是祭牲,而是獻祭者的問題。如同神簡潔地讓亞伯知道神悅納他和他的祭牲,祂也簡潔地讓該隱知道祂不喜悅他和他的祭牲。該隱對神的不悅感到憤怒,神找該隱告訴他如他「做得對」就會很好。換句話說,我們並不知到該隱和他的祭到底在那裡出錯(我們或許會有些概念),但該隱是清楚知道他在那裡出錯並且拒絕按著神的指示作,取而代之,他騙他的兄弟往某處將他殺害。希伯來書的作者並不想我們忽略了亞伯蒙神悅納是因著信。

我最感興趣的,是作者有關亞伯最後的話:「他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。」(第4節)第十一章的重點教導是對神有信心的人,死亡並非生命的終結。我們將在第13-16節讀到就是已死的舊約聖徒,也會得著神對他們的應許。這對死後有永生的肯定,在族長死亡時的行動進一步得到強化(第17-22節)。

當作者宣告亞伯仍舊向我們說話時,他還有更多的含意。亞伯被神接納,是聖經記載的事實,這例子在他死後很多年以後被引用,是要讀者留意憑信而活對他人的巨大影響力 – 就是那些在我們死了很多年後才活著的人,仍受影響。試用少許時間來想一想,想想希伯來書第11章裡的所有例子怎樣啟迪我們過信心的生活。想想那些在舊約時期完結後的人、教會歷史中給我們激勵的男女信徒;這些人仍輔助我們。這些讓我記起保羅在羅馬書第15的話:

15:4 從前所寫的聖經,都是為教導我們寫的,叫我們因聖經所生的忍耐和鼓勵,可以得着盼望。(羅馬書15:4)

那些持之以恆的敬虔男女,他們所得的鼓勵來自信。

以諾的信

11:5 以諾因着信被接去,不至於見死;人也找不着他,因為 神已經把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已經得了 討神喜悅的稱讚。11:6 人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人。(希伯來書11:5-6)

5:18 雅列活到一百六十二歲,生了以諾。5:21 以諾活到六十五歲,生了瑪土撒拉。5:22 以諾生瑪土撒拉之後,與 神同行三百年,並且生兒養女。5:23 以諾共活了三百六十五歲。5:24 以諾與 神同行, 神將他取去,他就不在世了。(創世記5:18, 21-24)

1:14 亞當的七世孫以諾曾預言這些人說:「看哪!主帶着他的千萬聖者降臨,1:15要在眾人身上行審判,判決每一個不敬虔的人所行的一切不敬虔的事,又判決不敬虔之罪人所說頂撞他的剛愎話。」(猶大書14-15)

以諾是活在黑暗、導致洪水滅世的時代,那時代要以洪水清洗大地;假如我們能夠回想這些背景,能夠幫助我們更明白這段經文。假如我沒有弄錯,挪亞是以諾的曾孫19。創世記第6章最初的幾節經文,描述了人的罪行,解釋了為何全球必須受到審判,也解釋了為何只有挪亞和他一家幸免於難。

我們必須留意亞伯因他的信死了,而以諾因他的信卻不見死。雖然在前面我以經提及,在這裡我再重覆一遍(因為有部份傳道者否定這點):信並不保證我們不會受苦;信卻保證神宣告我們為義,保證我們擁有神給那擁有永生的人的應許。在希伯來書11:32-38中,我們看到有些人因著信被拯救或經歷神在地上的祝福;但有些卻受極大的苦楚。不過,所有因著信而活的人,都會得到神的接納和神賜予的永恆福份(11:13-16, 39-40)。

我們必須加以留意希伯來書的作者記述以諾時,強調以諾因著信「被神接去」天堂,他並沒有提及或要讀者加以注意以諾作了甚麼才使以諾被神稱為義;在以諾被神接去以先,作者只簡單地宣告他討神喜悅和稱讚。從創世記第五章,我們知道「以諾與神同行」,故此神「將他取去」(創世記5:24)。縱使以諾生活於一個很快便被剷除的墮落、腐化和邪惡的文化裡,他的信是透過他恆常敬虔的生活被見證出來。以諾被神接去,很明顯是一個很例外的例子,這例子成了所有信徒將來進天堂的預示:

4:15 我們現在以主的道告訴你們,我們這活着還存留到主降臨的人,斷不能比那已經睡了的人先去。4:16 因為主必親自從天降臨,那時有發令的聲音,有天使長的聲音,又有 神的號吹響,那些在基督裏死了的人必先復活。4:17 以後我們這活着還存留的人,必一時之間和他們一同被提到雲裏,在空中與主相見。從此,我們就要和主永遠同在。4:18 所以你們當用這些話彼此鼓勵。(帖撒羅尼迦前書4:15-18)

結語

希伯來書第11章為我們給「信」下了一個極佳的定義和列出無數的例子作支持。透過經文,我們得悉:透過信來肯定神所應許的,但那是人不能用肉眼看見的;這可能是因他們是屬靈和看不見20,或要到將來才成就;又或許他們超出人的想像,在人的角度看來並不可能發生。21對於基督徒來說,我們深深盼望神的應許22,但那些事我們卻又需要等待他們的來臨23。我們十分肯定我們肉眼所看見的被那看不見的光明取代了,這些看不見的會成為真實,並且成為生活的基礎。

信和希望並不相同,但兩者之間卻緊密連在一起:

如今常存的有信,有望,有愛。這三樣,其中最大的是愛。(哥林多前書13:13)

8:23 不但如此,就是我們這有聖靈初結的果子的,也是內裏歎息,等候得着兒子的名分,就是我們的身體得贖。8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:24-25)

基督徒的盼望是渴望和期待神的應許,而信是對我們所盼望的有信心,相信所希望的能夠實現。

雖然有些人發出嘲弄,但我卻相信任何人都活在某些信念中。當人登上一架飛機時,他們希望能安全到達目的地。他們信那架飛機、相信機上的飛機司、地上的飛機維修人員(雖然沒有看到他們);對於一些人,就是沒有超出墳塋的存在物他們也信。問題並不是「你有信心嗎?」而是「你的信建基在甚麼上呢?」世上並沒有比神的話語和神信守祂的承諾更好的信心基礎。在希伯來書首十章描繪了人的墮落和基督是神所安排至高無上的大祭司。我們可以信靠祂和祂灑寶血所立的新約。這是我們罪得赦免的唯一途徑,以致我們能親近祂,並且能夠肯定直到永恆都如是。你是否已把信放在耶穌基督在各各他為人的罪代贖而死之上呢?

這經文強調那些因著信而活的人,不論是男是女,都帶來極大的貢獻,給我們立了一個遵從的好榜樣。在第11章到目前為止,我們看到亞伯和以諾信心的例子僅僅是個開始,接下來還有很多其他例子。敬虔的例子,不只適用於舊約聖徒,對今天敬虔的男女信徒同樣真確。當我回想我們教會的歷史,我能說出好些男女信徒的名字作為我們追隨基督的好榜樣。讓我們不要輕看我們生命對別人的影響力,不論善行或惡行的影響力:

73:13 我定論說:「我實在徒然守着純正的動機,徒然持守純潔的生活。73:14 我終日遭災難,每早晨受懲治。」73:15 我若公開這些思想,就是出賣了跟從你的人。(詩篇73:13-15)

無怪乎我們的作者會這樣寫:

13:7 從前引導你們、傳 神之道給你們的人,你們要記念他們,效法他們的信心,留心看他們為人的結局。(希伯來書13:7)

這經文提醒我們,在面對危機時所表達的信心是不間斷地憑著信而活的結果。當我讀那些好像但以理的人怎樣處理他們所面對的危機時,我明白到當危機臨到他們時,他們只是堅持做正確的事的原因是因為他們恆常地憑信而活。例如,大利烏王被騙而簽署了一份禁止向王以外的其他神祈禱的命令;讓我們來看但以理的反應:

6:7 國中的總長、知事、總督、謀士和巡撫彼此認為,求王立禁令並雷厲執行,三十日內不拘何人,若在王以外,向神或向人祈求,就要扔在獅子坑中。6:8 王啊,現在求你書寫這禁令,照瑪代和波斯人的例,不得更改。」6:9 於是大利烏王立這禁令,加蓋玉璽。6:10 但以理知道這禁令蓋了玉璽,就到自己家裏(他樓上的窗戶開向耶路撒冷)。他一日三次雙膝跪在他 神面前,禱告感謝,與素常一樣。(但以理書6:7-10)

那些每天都憑著信生活的,就是面對災難性的危機時,是最大機會仍憑著信而活的一群。

那憑著信而活的,從那對神欠缺合乎聖經的信的群體突顯出來。我們曾經過著舒適的生活、失業率很低,而有優厚的薪金(特別是和第三世界國家的薪金作比較),很多美國人享有醫療和生活保障,甚至退休保障,很多人認為他們並不需要神。雖然在911事件發生後,很多人從倚靠財富轉向宗教信仰,但這情況很快便消失了。我們發現我們正處於全球經濟衰退,失業率以高速上升,職位消失,退休人仕考慮再工作來彌補他們在股票市場的損失。恐懼正蔓延,抓住很多人;這正正也是憑著信而活的人突顯出來的時候,這也是我們向別人解釋我們為何有盼望的時候24。這是基督徒展示彼此相愛和關懷有需要的人的時候。也許這相對我一生中的其他時間,讓我操練信心與及和別人分享信心的來由。讓我們好好抓著這機遇。

3:14 即使你們為義受苦,也是有福的。不要怕人,也不要驚慌3:15 只要心裏尊基督為主。有人問你們心中的盼望,就要常準備好答案,禮貌尊重的回答。(彼得前書3:14-15)

福音書都是關乎信。如果我們相信自己、自己的好、自己的善行、自己的努力來取悅神,我們便完全弄錯了。耶穌基督的福音首要告訴我們:我們是失喪的罪人,與神為敵,不論我們靠守舊約的律法或是其它方法,都無法取得神的喜悅:

3:19 我們曉得律法所說的話,都是對律法以下之人說的,好塞住各人的口,叫普世的人都要向 神交代。3:20 沒有一個人因律法的功效能在 神面前稱義,因律法是叫人知道甚麼是罪。(羅馬書3:19-20)

我們必須承認我們是罪人,只配得神永恆的忿怒;我們必須放棄相信自己和自己的善行,而去相信那唯一的犧牲,使我們的罪得永久的赦免,與神和好的那位。

3:21 但如今神的義在律法以外已經顯露出來(有律法和先知為證),3:22就是 神的義,因信耶穌基督,加給一切相信的人。其中沒有區分,3:23 因為世人都犯了罪,夠不上 神的榮耀。3:24 如今卻蒙 神的恩典,藉着基督耶穌的救贖,就白白的稱義。3:25 神定意展示耶穌的死77為施恩的寶座,使凡信的都可以近前;這就顯明了神的義,因為 神用忍耐的心,寬容人以前所犯的罪;3:26 也在今時顯明他的義,使人知道他是稱義者,叫人因耶穌的信實得以活着。(羅馬書3:21-26)

3:3 我們從前也是愚笨、悖逆、偏行、被各樣情慾所困、以惡毒、嫉妒、懷怨,又是彼此相恨的活着。3:4 但到了 神我們救主的恩慈,和他向人所施的慈愛顯明的時候,3:5 他便救了我們,並不是因我們自己作的義行,而是以他的憐憫為基礎,藉著新生的洗,和聖靈的更新。3:6 聖靈就是 神藉著耶穌基督我們救主,厚厚澆灌在我們身上的。3:7 因此,我們既已從他的恩得稱為義,就成為後嗣,有把握的期待永生。(提多書3:3-7)

當我們信靠耶穌基督,我們便得到救恩。這是神所提供赦罪和永生確據的唯一途徑。故此,我們是藉著信耶穌基督而得救,並不是出於我們自己的努力:

2:1 雖然你們從前死在過犯罪惡之中,2:2 那時,你們行事為人隨從今世的風俗,順服空中掌權者的首領,就是現今在悖逆之子心中運行活躍的邪靈。2:3 我們從前也都在他們中間,放縱肉體的私慾,隨着肉體和心中所喜好的去行,本性是可怒之子,和別人一樣。2:4 然而 神有豐富的憐憫,因他愛我們的大愛,2:5 當我們死在過犯中的時候,叫我們與基督一同活過來──你們得救是本乎恩──2:6 他又叫我們與基督耶穌一同復活,一同坐在天上,2:7 要將他極豐富的恩典,就是他在基督耶穌裏向我們所施的恩慈,證明給後來的世代看。2:8 你們得救是本乎恩,藉着信;這不是出於自己,乃是 神所賜的;2:9 也不是出於行為,免得有人自誇。2:10 我們原是他的工作,在基督耶穌裏造成的,為要叫我們作善工,就是 神所預備叫我們行的。(以弗所書2:1-10)

我們無需懷疑我是否已透過對耶穌基督的信成為神的兒女。在這經文中,作者已清楚地說神見證亞伯25和以諾26;神也為每一個真正的神的兒女見證,他或她已藉相信耶穌基督而得到神的恩典,永遠得救:

8:14 因為凡被 神的靈引導的都是神的兒子,(羅馬書8:14)

8:16 聖靈向我們的靈見證我們是 神的兒女8:17 既是兒女,便是後嗣(就是 神的後嗣,又和基督同作後嗣),如果我們和他一同受苦,也必和他一同得榮耀。(羅馬書8:16-17)

5:13 我將這些話寫給你們相信 神兒子之名的人,要叫你們知道自己有永生。5:14 我們在他面前的確信就是:我們若照他的旨意求甚麼,他就聽我們。5:15 既然知道他聽我們一切所求的,就知道我們所求於他的無不得着。(約翰壹書5:13-15)

希伯來書第11章的重點在於信的表現,它比別的重要。在這章經文中,我們看到信的樣貌和行為表現;然而我們不要因此為信的來源帶來疑惑。神是我們信的來源,祂把祂的律法寫在人的心板(希伯來書8:10)。耶穌基督是我們信的對象,我們必須相信祂的超越和祂在各各他的犧牲已然足夠。這正是希伯來書的作者在下一章要說的:

12:1 我們既有這許多的見證人,如同雲彩圍着我們,就當放下各樣的負擔,脫去緊緊纏住我們的罪,存心忍耐,奔那為我們預備的賽程,12:2 仰望我們信心創始成終者耶穌。他因那為他預備的喜樂,就不顧羞辱,忍受了十字架的苦難,便坐在 神寶座的右邊。(希伯來書12:1-2)

人的信應當如聖經所啟示基於耶穌基督和祂的工作。信並非我們想像出來的神秘體,神的話語是信仰的基礎。

10:8 他到底說甚麼呢?他說:「這道離你不遠,正在你口裏,在你心裏。」(就是我們所傳信主的道。)10:17 可見信是從聽來的,聽是從所傳基督的話來的。(羅馬書10:8, 17)

在這教會,我們承擔傳揚神話語的義務,因為神的話語告訴我們有關神的兒子,我們透過祂而得救。在這教會,我們每星期都領聖餐。因為基督的超越和祂的犧牲已然充足,是我們信的基礎,我們又怎能偶爾慶祝、怎能用其他的活動來代替記念基督的祭司工作呢!我們當反省,初期教會是每日或每星期記念主的死27,我們當然不應比他們少啊。

希伯來書第11章對你適切嗎?那絕對可以肯定的。這是為信下定義的文本,那是所有人都需要的 –人的信和基督的工作。在這文章中,亦描述了信在人面對困境時如何工作。願神將這內容鑲嵌在我們心裡,並且幫助我們在生活中活出這信,為我們帶來永遠的好處,也為神帶來榮耀。


1版權屬於 Robert L. Deffinbaugh。這是Robert L. Deffinbaugh在2009年2月的著作,希伯來書研讀《貼近神的心》系列(Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews)第25課編輯出來的稿件。任何人可以自由使用這課的內容作教育用途,是否列明出處均可。

2原文同一個辭彙「hypostasis」亦在1:3和3:14使用。

3參哥林多後書 4:18; 5:7。

4參創世記第一章,詩篇33:6, 9。

5創世記4:1-8; 馬太福音23:35; 路加福音11:51; 希伯來書12:24。

6除特別標示之處外,中文經文選用 CNET譯本。在世界任何地方、任何人都可以在網絡免費連接、使用和印刷這譯本作個人閱讀。若任何人有意和別人分享聖經,可以自行打印和免費贈閱。以下是這譯本的連結:(加入)。

7這是一本我多年前所看的書。這書和這位作者不經意在我的腦海裡出現。

8參希伯來書 11:4。

9參希伯來書 12:2。

10比較10:32-34。

11參希伯來書2:14-16; 11:13-16作為例子。

12提多書2:13

13哥林多前書15(特別是第19節):帖撒羅尼迦前書 4:13-18(特別是第13節)。

14羅馬書8:18-25。

15以下是新約更多關於「希望」的經文。參羅馬書4:18; 5:1-5; 8:20-25; 12:12; 15:4, 12-13; 哥林多前書13:7, 13; 15:19; 哥林多後書1:7, 10; 3:12; 加拉太書5:5; 以弗所書1:12, 18; 4:4; 腓立比書 1:20; 歌羅西書1:5, 27; 帖撒羅尼迦前書 1:3; 2:19; 4:13; 5:8; 帖撒羅尼迦後書 2:6; 提摩太前書1:1; 4:10; 5:5; 6:17; 提多書1:2; 2:13; 3:7;希伯來書3:6; 6:11, 18-19; 7:19; 10:23; 彼得前書1:3, 13, 21; 3:15;約翰壹書3:3。

16保羅在接著的那節(提多書3:8)明確地表明信心會帶來善行,但這些善行對我們的救恩帶來甚麼幫助,他們是我們的救恩所帶來的成果。

17許多其他和創造相關的文本,參詩篇19:1; 以賽亞書40:26; 42:5-9; 45:12; 馬太福音19:4; 馬可福音13:19; 使徒行傳17:22-29; 啟示錄4:11。

18值得我們留意的是給以色列人的舊約律法,有些在律法給以色列人以前,已經長期實行。例如在創世記38:1-11「娶寡嫂」,在摩西律法作出規定很久以前已經存在。在創世記中,那是頒佈律法以前很久的時間,我們亦能從中得到一些對安息日的認識;分別「潔淨」和「不潔」亦然。在創世記7:1-3,神吩咐挪亞帶七對潔淨的動物,但不潔的只帶一對。我相信神給該穩和亞伯有關獻祭的指示,要比記載在創世記的經文要詳細多了。

19參創世記5:21-31。

20參哥林多後書4:18。

21參哥林多前書2:6-10。

22參羅馬書8:18-25。

23參羅馬書8:18-25; 希伯來書11:13-16, 39-40。

24參彼得前書3:15。

25參希伯來書11:4。

26參希伯來書11:5。

27參使徒行傳2:46; 20:7; 哥林多前書11:17-34。

Related Topics: Faith

O Homossexualismo na Visão Bíblico-Cristã

Related Media

I. Introdução

O homossexualismo é um assunto polêmico em muitas sociedades. Para alguns, é uma questão de direitos iguais para que o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo seja legalizado. Para muitos é também uma questão moral e religiosa, pois é tratada na Bíblia. Debates, discussões, altercações e, infelizmente, até violência tem ocorrido por causa desse assunto.

Para algumas pessoas, a perspectiva bíblica sobre a questão da homossexualidade é apenas de interesse acadêmico. Estas pessoas talvez não sejam nem cristãs, nem homossexuais. O problema pode não afetá-las pessoalmente, mas já que está na moda, deve ser interessante. Para outras, a questão é muito pessoal. Talvez estas se identifiquem como cristãs, homossexuais ou cristãs homossexuais. Seja como for, este estudo tem a intenção de ser um recurso gracioso, terno e confiável para todos. Sendo assim, o artigo vai expor em detalhes a visão bíblico-cristã sobre o homossexualismo1.

O leitor logo irá perceber que o rumo tomado pelo estudo o levará à conclusão de que homossexualismo é pecado. Por isso, duas coisas precisam ficar claras, a fim de se evitar qualquer mal-entendido:

1. Este autor, todos os cristãos e todos os não cristãos pecaram e são pecadores. Infelizmente, esta é uma situação na qual todos estão igualmente envolvidos. Não é um caso particular.

2. O artigo apresenta conclusões lógicas sobre como os cristãos devem reagir ao ensino bíblico a respeito da homossexualidade. Embora não trate de todos os casos, o estudo mostra a atitude e o sentimento dos quais devem emergir todas as respostas: graça e amor. Não há espaço para qualquer tipo de violência, insulto ou agressão por parte de cristãos a outras pessoas. A matéria foi escrita com verdadeiro amor e carinho por todos os seres humanos.

Desta forma, vamos examinar a questão do homossexualismo no Antigo e no Novo Testamento, e o ensino de Jesus sobre sexualidade, antes de concluir com algumas observações pessoais. Cada tópico terá sua própria conclusão. Uma seção adicional de perguntas e respostas pode ser encontrada no final do texto principal. Além disso, na parte final também são fornecidas outras fontes para pesquisa. Use o índice abaixo para ir rapidamente a uma seção específica.

I. Introdução

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade – Meu Passado

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

VII. Fontes

VIII. Índice Detalhado

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

Há quatro passagens do Antigo Testamento onde o homossexualismo é discutido mais explicitamente. Duas delas são proibições da lei contra a prática homossexual. As outras duas são registros históricos: Sodoma e Gomorra e Gibeá. Não vamos tentar responder a todas as perguntas que possam surgir sobre cada texto. Isso já foi feito em várias das fontes que iremos citar. No entanto, vamos gastar algum tempo estabelecendo claramente o ponto de vista bíblico e, assim, a opinião que deve ser defendida pelos cristãos. Em nossa argumentação, começaremos examinando o tratamento dispensado pela lei à prática homossexual. Em seguida, veremos as duas narrativas.

A. Levítico 18:22, A Proibição da Lei

Lv. 18:22 – Com homem não te deitarás, como se fosse mulher; é abominação.

Esta lei proíbe diretamente o ato homossexual. Ela não faz distinção se o ato é, ou não, consensual. A ordenança vem no meio de uma seção de leis relativas a relações sexuais. Em cada verso, nenhuma lei tem consequência individual, mas todas elas se referem a coisas que não deveriam ser feitas. Todos os itens da lista são apresentados como “contaminação” (Lv. 18:24) e são chamados de “abominação” (Lv. 18: 27, 30). Todos eles têm o mesmo peso e o homossexualismo não é destacado dos demais pecados sexuais (os quais por si só se distinguem), mas está entre eles. E, da mesma forma, quem quebrasse qualquer uma dessas leis deveria ser “eliminado do seu povo” (Lv. 18:29). Estas atividades sexuais são as mesmas que trouxeram o julgamento de Deus sobre os antigos habitantes da terra (Lv. 18:24). Portanto, na lei, o homossexualismo era uma ofensa contra Deus. Esse pecado, junto com os outros pecados sexuais, não deveria, de forma alguma, existir em Israel.

B. Levítico 20:13, A Pena da Lei

Lv. 20:13 – Se também um homem se deitar com outro homem, como se fosse mulher, ambos praticaram coisa abominável; serão mortos; o seu sangue cairá sobre eles.

Esta lei mostra claramente as consequências para os atos homossexuais praticados sob o governo teocrático de Israel. Ela vem no meio de uma lista detalhada de crimes e castigos. A seção em particular trata das ofensas sexuais e suas punições. A pena para o ato homossexual deveria ser a morte de ambos os participantes. Parece que isso esclarece o significado de ser “eliminado do seu povo” no tópico anterior sobre os pecados sexuais de Levítico 18. Portanto, na lei, o homossexualismo era um pecado contra Deus que devia ser punido com a pena capital2.

C. Gênesis 19:1-11, Sodoma e Gomorra

Em Gênesis 18:20-21, Deus disse que iria destruir Sodoma e Gomorra, porque o “clamor ... e o seu pecado se tem agravado muito”. Quando dois anjos foram ver “se eles eram tão perversos quanto o clamor sugeria”, ambos foram tratados com total falta de hospitalidade pelos habitantes do lugar, à exceção de Ló. Na realidade, todos os homens da cidade tentaram desesperadamente abusar deles. Muitos esforços têm sido feitos no sentido de ver o pecado daqueles homens apenas como uma questão de falta de hospitalidade ou de relação antinatural com anjos. No entanto, o texto não mostra em lugar algum que alguém na cidade soubesse que se tratava de anjos – muito pelo contrário, ambos são chamados de “homens” tanto pelo povo quanto por Ló (Gn. 19:5 e 19:8, respectivamente). Da mesma forma, a leitura ao pé da letra de que o pecado de Sodoma e Gomorra inclui não só a falta de hospitalidade como também a atividade homossexual é a melhor interpretação da passagem3. Isso é corroborado pelo texto de Judas 1:7:

Judas 1:7 – como Sodoma, e Gomorra, e as cidades circunvizinhas, que, havendo-se entregado à prostituição como aqueles, seguindo após outra carne, são postas para exemplo do fogo eterno, sofrendo punição.

Embora alguns aspectos deste versículo (desejos antinaturais semelhantes aos dos anjos) possam levantar algumas questões, o texto definitivamente vai da conduta pecaminosa da falta de hospitalidade à imoralidade sexual4. E a única imoralidade sexual conhecida de Sodoma e Gomorra é a tentativa de abuso homossexual contra os anjos (na realidade, os homens daquela cidade escarneceram da tentativa de Ló, de acalmá-los com a oferta de imoralidade heterossexual – Gn. 19:9).

Portanto, antes da promulgação da lei, Deus considerou esta tentativa de abuso homossexual – que continuou mesmo depois dos homens terem ficado cegos – como parte da grande perversidade que resultou na destruição total das duas cidades.

D. Juízes 19:22 e ss, Gibeá

Em Juízes 19 temos outro exemplo de falta de hospitalidade e tentativa de abuso homossexual. Neste caso, não foram todos os homens da cidade que estiveram envolvidos, só “os filhos de Belial”. Aqui, no entanto, eles foram apaziguados com a concubina do viajante que foi enviada em seu lugar. Ela morreu, depois do que eles lhe fizeram.

Estes acontecimentos levaram à primeira guerra civil da história de Israel, e quase à extinção da tribo de Benjamim. A guerra foi sancionada pela aprovação de Deus, após Gibeá ter recusado entregar os ofensores para julgamento (Juízes 20:18; 20:23; 20:28; 20:35).

Como muitos problemas reais da vida atual, o pecado que resultou nessa confusão toda parece ter sido uma série de ações. Primeiramente, aqueles homens tentaram fazer “mal” ao viajante e “conhecê-lo” sexualmente (19:22-23a)5. Segundo, somado a isso, houve a tentativa contra uma pessoa que estava sob o teto de outra – uma “loucura” (Juízes 19:23b). Terceiro, eles estupraram e abusaram da concubina do homem a noite toda e causaram sua morte (Juízes 19:25-30). Quarto, o restante da tribo de Benjamim se recusou a entregar aqueles homens para serem punidos (Juízes 20:13).

A breve recapitulação da história para as tribos (Juízes 20:5) não menciona o lado sexual do atentado contra o viajante, como faz o relato original (Juízes 19:22-24). A segunda narrativa parece se concentrar mais nas verdadeiras ofensas do que nas intenções. No entanto, o atentado é incluído no registro mais longo dos acontecimentos e é claramente indicado como algo errado. Logo, é bastante apropriado ver o atentado homossexual como parte dos acontecimentos que estão sendo julgados. Para uma análise mais aprofundada do assunto, ver o estudo de Bob Deffinbaugh sobre esta passagem6.

Portanto, depois da promulgação da lei, a tentativa de abuso homossexual foi parte do pecado que resultou na guerra civil sancionada por Deus.

O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento ― Conclusão

Tanto antes como depois da promulgação da lei, o homossexualismo era considerado como pecado por israelitas e não israelitas. O mesmo valia para casos consensuais e não consensuais. A homossexualidade resultava no julgamento de Deus e na morte.

No entanto, antes da lei, este não foi o único caso de conduta pecaminosa julgado diretamente por Deus em grande escala (um caso muito maior foi o do dilúvio de Gênesis 6 – o qual, por acaso, não menciona a prática homossexual). Do mesmo modo, depois da lei, os julgamentos de Deus ocorreram devido a outros pecados (como, por exemplo, pecados relacionados à idolatria de Israel em 2 Reis 17, dos assírios em 2 Reis 19, e de Judá em 2 Reis 24 e 25).

Longe de minimizar (ou maximizar) qualquer pecado em particular, isso mostra que Deus não só declara muitas coisas como pecado, mas também pune a todas elas. Não há injustiça da parte de Deus. Seu juízo não se restringe a determinado pecado, e muitos outros exemplos do Antigo Testamento podem ser citados para mostrar como Deus trata dessa questão. A ênfase no julgamento da idolatria, da homossexualidade e de outros pecados não deveria nos surpreender, já que o propósito da lei era revelar o pecado como pecado e o padrão de justiça de Deus como fator determinante (Rm. 7:7-14). É possível, no entanto, que os diversos tipos de pecados sexuais, e sua subsequente ligação com idolatria, possam ter sido punidos com maior rigor e houvesse mais advertências contra eles (cf. Lv. 18:24-30 e os julgamentos acima relacionados).

Entretanto, a história no Antigo Testamento não termina aqui. Muitos exemplos podem ser igualmente citados sobre a graça de Deus: Noé e sua família, Ló e sua família, Abraão, Isaque, Jacó, José, Moisés e Arão, Davi (um excelente exemplo da graça derramada sobre alguém cujos pecados, de acordo com a lei, mereciam a morte), os remanescentes de Israel e Judá, a instituição do sistema sacrificial, Jonas e Nínive, etc. Embora o padrão de justiça de Deus seja rigoroso, Sua graciosa providência é contínua.

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

No Novo Testamento, muitos textos, de modo geral, proíbem a “imoralidade sexual” (cf. Atos 15:20; 15:29; 1 Ts. 4:3; Hb. 13:4; Ap. 21:8; 22:15). Esses mandamentos incluem o homossexualismo. No entanto, a questão é discutida com mais clareza em três passagens. Na primeira delas, é discutida em detalhes; nas outras duas, numa lista de pecados. Assim como nas passagens do Antigo Testamento, esta seção também não tentará analisar cada problema que possa emergir dos textos. O objetivo será expressar a visão bíblico-cristã sobre o assunto ensinada nesses versículos. Como anteriormente, outras fontes serão citadas para quem desejar se aprofundar na matéria.

A. Romanos 1:20-32

Rm. 1:20-25 – Porque os atributos invisíveis de Deus, assim o seu eterno poder, como também a sua própria divindade, claramente se reconhecem, desde o princípio do mundo, sendo percebidos por meio das coisas que foram criadas. Tais homens são, por isso, indesculpáveis; 1.21 porquanto, tendo conhecimento de Deus, não o glorificaram como Deus, nem lhe deram graças; antes, se tornaram nulos em seus próprios raciocínios, obscurecendo-se-lhes o coração insensato. 1.22 Inculcando-se por sábios, tornaram-se loucos 1.23 e mudaram a glória do Deus incorruptível em semelhança da imagem de homem corruptível, bem como de aves, quadrúpedes e répteis. 1.24 Por isso, Deus entregou tais homens à imundícia, pelas concupiscências de seu próprio coração, para desonrarem o seu corpo entre si; 1.25 pois eles mudaram a verdade de Deus em mentira, adorando e servindo a criatura em lugar do Criador, o qual é bendito eternamente. Amém!

1.26 Por causa disso, os entregou Deus a paixões infames; porque até as mulheres mudaram o modo natural de suas relações íntimas por outro, contrário à natureza; 1.27 semelhantemente, os homens também, deixando o contato natural da mulher, se inflamaram mutuamente em sua sensualidade, cometendo torpeza, homens com homens, e recebendo, em si mesmos, a merecida punição do seu erro. 1.28 E, por haverem desprezado o conhecimento de Deus, o próprio Deus os entregou a uma disposição mental reprovável, para praticarem coisas inconvenientes, 1.29 cheios de toda injustiça, malícia, avareza e maldade; possuídos de inveja, homicídio, contenda, dolo e malignidade; sendo difamadores, 1.30 caluniadores, aborrecidos de Deus, insolentes, soberbos, presunçosos, inventores de males, desobedientes aos pais, 1.31 insensatos, pérfidos, sem afeição natural e sem misericórdia. 1.32 Ora, conhecendo eles a sentença de Deus, de que são passíveis de morte os que tais coisas praticam, não somente as fazem, mas também aprovam os que assim procedem.

Este texto, mais do que qualquer outro do Novo Testamento, fala extensivamente sobre a homossexualidade. No entanto, não é este o tema principal da passagem. O que Paulo deseja, é explicar claramente o evangelho. Mas, para isso, é preciso mostrar que todas as pessoas estão debaixo do juízo e da condenação de Deus – e, portanto, carecem do evangelho. Ele começa dizendo que, sendo o testemunho de Deus visível na própria natureza, todas as pessoas são indesculpáveis por se rebelarem contra Ele. A justa ira de Deus está sobre toda a impiedade (Rm. 1). A seguir, ele mostra que, quando julgamos o pecado dos outros, na verdade, estamos condenando a nós mesmos (Rm. 2). Desta forma, até mesmo o povo judeu, com a lei, ainda estava inteiramente debaixo da condenação de Deus devido aos seus pecados. Além do mais, eles não podiam remediar a própria situação (Rm. 2 e 3). Portanto, não importa se alguém está sem lei ou sob a lei. Todos, sem distinção, estão condenados. Isso abre o caminho para explicar a graça de Deus em Jesus – que é a boa nova do evangelho. Há, de fato, um jeito de resolver o problema.

Assim sendo, este trecho sobre homossexualismo faz parte da passagem que mostra a razão da ira de Deus estar sobre os homens, e como todos os seres humanos são indesculpáveis diante dEle. Antes de passar para o lado negativo do assunto, Paulo começa pelo lado positivo, ou seja, as boas novas que pretende compartilhar. A justiça de Deus é revelada no evangelho que é recebido pela fé (Rm. 1:17). Em contrapartida, a ira de Deus se revela do céu contra toda a impiedade e perversidade dos homens (Rm. 1:18). Onde a impiedade e a perversidade podem ser vistas? Onde a supressão da verdade pode ser vista? Na indesculpável idolatria do ser humano. Os atributos invisíveis de Deus, assim como Seu eterno poder e Sua natureza divina, claramente podem ser vistos por todas as pessoas na Sua Criação (Rm. 1:19-20). No entanto, ao invés de adorar o verdadeiro Criador, a humanidade se voltou para a idolatria e passou a adorar as coisas criadas (Rm. 1:23-25). A própria existência da natureza requer um Arquiteto. Esta verdade é suprimida e transformada em adoração de si mesmo ou de alguma outra coisa criada. Um dos julgamentos de Deus para esse tipo de coisa é entregar a humanidade aos seus próprios desejos pecaminosos (Rm. 1:24). Isso inclui especialmente o homossexualismo (Rm. 1:26-28). Inclui também toda uma lista de outros pecados, os quais são mencionados brevemente (Rm. 1:29-32).

Algumas pessoas levantam objeções contra a discussão deste texto, dizendo que ele se refere somente a heterossexuais que cometem atos homossexuais (ou “abuso” da homossexualidade) e não se aplica se for um desejo “natural” por uma pessoa do mesmo sexo e feito dentro de uma relação monogâmica (ou algum tipo de “casamento”). Não há sustentação para esse tipo de argumento quando examinamos o texto. Paulo não está falando sobre o que é ou se tornou um desejo “natural”. Ele está falando sobre função. Deus fez o homem e a mulher com funções distintas. De acordo com a passagem, essas funções se rebelam por meio de atos homossexuais7.

Pelo texto, então, vemos que o homossexualismo é um exemplo de como Deus entrega as pessoas às consequências da sua rebelião contra Ele. Este não é o único pecado listado, mas é o mais enfatizado. Parece que o exemplo é dado porque a homossexualidade é diametralmente oposta ao claro desígnio de Deus. Deus nos fez à Sua imagem (Gn. 1:27), com uma constituição que se completa na união do homem com a mulher (Gn. 2:22-25). Agir em clara oposição ao plano de Deus no nível natural declara, de forma inconfundível, a realidade da rebelião. Declara ainda que o próprio plano e propósito de Deus estão errados e são inadequados. Conforme o texto, o homossexualismo e os demais pecados relacionados são parte do julgamento imediato (mas não final) de Deus. O próprio pecado em si mesmo já é um julgamento – no sentido de se colher o que se planta8. Ademais, a deliberada mudança da verdade de Deus em mentira tem como consequência Deus entregar as pessoas a uma mente depravada. A capacidade de raciocínio ou de ver as coisas pela perspectiva moral correta pode ser gravemente prejudicada (Rm. 1:28).

No entanto, para que ninguém se vanglorie em si mesmo, Paulo imediatamente prossegue, mostrando que todos estão condenados sob o pecado. De fato, quando alguém julga o pecado do outro, a si mesmo se condena (Rm. 2:1-5). A única razão pela qual Paulo pode compartilhar estas coisas de forma digna é porque ele não confia na sua própria justiça. Ele confia na justiça de Deus. Esta justiça lhe foi imputada em Cristo Jesus, pela graça de Deus. O próprio Paulo foi perdoado. A questão não era condenar os outros para justificar a si mesmo. A questão era deixar clara a existência do pecado de cada um, a fim de que a graça de Deus que o havia resgatado fosse compartilhada com os outros seres humanos carentes de libertação, assim como ele fora um dia.

A mesma ênfase e o mesmo objetivo de Paulo na carta aos Romanos devem ser compartilhados pelos cristãos atuais. Todos nós somos pecadores. Todos estamos debaixo da imensurável ira de Deus. Eu também sou um pecador condenado por estas verdades. Pela graça de Deus, podemos ser perdoados. No entanto, mesmo debaixo dessa graça, em nós mesmos, não somos melhores do que os outros. Não temos nada do que nos vangloriar. Isso demonstra o quão maravilhosa é graça de Deus. O fato de Ele nos ter amado enquanto ainda éramos Seus inimigos, em profunda rebelião contra Ele, é quase incompreensível. Essa mesma graça que mudou, e ainda muda a nossa vida, e que nos dará a vida eterna com Deus numa existência perfeita, está disponível a todo mundo. Ninguém está excluído desta oferta, seja qual for seu sexo, raça, nacionalidade, etnia, classe ou qualquer outra classificação. Esta é graça que os cristãos devem oferecer, pois é a verdadeira graça de Deus.

B. 1 Coríntios 6:9-11, Herdando o Reino de Deus

1 Co. 6:9-11 – Ou não sabeis que os injustos não herdarão o reino de Deus? Não vos enganeis: nem impuros, nem idólatras, nem adúlteros, nem efeminados, nem sodomitas, nem ladrões, nem avarentos, nem bêbados, nem maldizentes, nem roubadores herdarão o reino de Deus. Tais fostes alguns de vós; mas vós vos lavastes, mas fostes santificados, mas fostes justificados em o nome do Senhor Jesus Cristo e no Espírito do nosso Deus.

Algumas pessoas levantam dúvidas quanto às duas palavras gregas usadas para a atividade homossexual neste texto. Elas as interpretam como se referindo apenas a fraqueza moral (μαλακος) e prostituição masculina (αρσενοκοιτης). No entanto, esse tipo de tradução está em desacordo com o principal Léxico de Grego Bíblico (BDAG)9. Além do mais, está em desacordo, principalmente, com a maioria dos outros dicionários de inglês padrão (se não com todos) e não é uma boa tradução para as palavras deste texto10. Portanto, dentro do contexto, essas palavras se referem a dois papéis diferentes na relação homossexual.

Assim, sem qualquer equívoco, a afirmação de Paulo é muito forte e definitiva a respeito do pecado e suas consequências, bem como sobre a única forma de ser resgatado disso. Nesse contexto, ele relembra com grande ênfase à igreja de Corinto que tais práticas não são compatíveis com o reino de Deus. Nesta parte da carta, ele está tratando de uma série de problemas éticos e comportamentais que assolavam aquela igreja. As práticas antigas estavam influenciando a nova vida daquelas pessoas de maneira totalmente errada. Aparentemente, as coisas estavam tão ruins que Paulo até os desafia, na carta seguinte, a examinarem a si mesmos para ver se realmente tinham se tornado crentes (2 Co. 13:5).

Os pecados mencionados por Paulo, em si mesmos, não eram algo que pudesse afastar os coríntios de realmente aceitar a graça de Deus e se tornar Seus filhos. No entanto, continuar vivendo daquele modo11 seria uma indicação de que eles não eram verdadeiros crentes e não herdariam o reino de Deus (cf. 1 João 3). Essa afirmação explícita de que alguns coríntios tinham se tornado crentes sem mudar seu comportamento é muito útil para nós. Isso nos leva a pelo menos duas conclusões:

1. Como outros pecados, a prática homossexual pode ser perdoada. A graça de Deus não se restringe a este ou àquele pecado. Como está escrito em Romanos 5:20-21:

Sobreveio a lei para que avultasse a ofensa; mas onde abundou o pecado, superabundou a graça, a fim de que, como o pecado reinou pela morte, assim também reinasse a graça pela justiça para a vida eterna, mediante Jesus Cristo, nosso Senhor. (ARA)

2. Uma vez livres do pecado, os cristãos devem ser os mais desejosos de compartilhar o amor de Deus com outras pessoas. Como está em 2 Coríntios 5:17-21:

E, assim, se alguém está em Cristo, é nova criatura; as coisas antigas já passaram; eis que se fizeram novas. 5.18 Ora, tudo provém de Deus, que nos reconciliou consigo mesmo por meio de Cristo e nos deu o ministério da reconciliação, 5.19 a saber, que Deus estava em Cristo reconciliando consigo o mundo, não imputando aos homens as suas transgressões, e nos confiou a palavra da reconciliação. 5.20 De sorte que somos embaixadores em nome de Cristo, como se Deus exortasse por nosso intermédio. Em nome de Cristo, pois, rogamos que vos reconcilieis com Deus. 5.21 Aquele que não conheceu pecado, ele o fez pecado por nós; para que, nele, fôssemos feitos justiça de Deus. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada).

C. 1 Timóteo 1:8-15, O Principal Pecador — Paulo

1 Tim. 1:8-15 – Sabemos, porém, que a lei é boa, se alguém dela se utiliza de modo legítimo, 1.9 tendo em vista que não se promulga lei para quem é justo, mas para transgressores e rebeldes, irreverentes e pecadores, ímpios e profanos, parricidas e matricidas, homicidas, 1.10 impuros, sodomitas, raptores de homens, mentirosos, perjuros e para tudo quanto se opõe à sã doutrina,

1.11 segundo o evangelho da glória do Deus bendito, do qual fui encarregado. 1.12 Sou grato para com aquele que me fortaleceu, Cristo Jesus, nosso Senhor, que me considerou fiel, designando-me para o ministério, 1.13 a mim, que, noutro tempo, era blasfemo, e perseguidor, e insolente. Mas obtive misericórdia, pois o fiz na ignorância, na incredulidade. 1.14 Transbordou, porém, a graça de nosso Senhor com a fé e o amor que há em Cristo Jesus. 1.15 Fiel é a palavra e digna de toda aceitação: que Cristo Jesus veio ao mundo para salvar os pecadores, dos quais eu sou o principal.

Nesta lista, Paulo mostra a finalidade da lei em comparação com a visão daqueles que faziam mau uso dela (1 Tm. 1:6-7). A lei revela o pecado e a necessidade de “salvação”. Assim, nos exemplos fornecidos por ele, a homossexualidade está nitidamente incluída como injustiça12. Quanto ao suposto “justo” do verso 9, é preciso observar que Jesus foi o único verdadeiramente justo (Hb. 4:15; Rm. 3:10-24).

Algumas pessoas tentam parecer justas. No entanto, isso não pode ser confundido com ser verdadeiramente justo. Tais pessoas receberão o julgamento divino, pois o cordel de medir é o padrão de santidade de Deus. A única coisa que elas conseguirão com seus esforços será afastar mentalmente a Sua oferta de graça. Como a graça pode ser aplicada a alguém que não reconhece a própria necessidade?

Esta lista de práticas pecaminosas inclui o homossexualismo e muitos pecados que as pessoas podem considerar os “piores” de todos: parricídio, imoralidade sexual, rapto, blasfêmia e oposição à lei. O mais interesse é Paulo dizer, no final da lista, que a coisa mais importante é Jesus ter vindo ao mundo para salvar pecadores, dos quais ele (Paulo) é o principal. Pelo que sabemos por outras passagens das Escrituras, Paulo era irrepreensível quanto à justiça que havia na lei (Fp. 3:6)13. Talvez ele não tenha cometido certos pecados, os quais, para outras pessoas e para a dureza da lei, seriam abomináveis. No entanto, ele sabia que, diante de Deus, seus pecados eram ainda mais odiosos. Sem dúvida, também sou o pior dos pecadores. Mas graças a Deus que, por meio do Senhor Jesus, nEle não tenho mais nenhuma condenação. Nem você precisa ter.

O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento — Conclusão

O homossexualismo é realmente pecado. Ele não é bom. Não é moral. E, junto com todos os outros pecados, colhe o juízo de Deus. As Escrituras confirmam isso. Contudo, não pára por aí. Não devemos discutir a visão bíblica sobre a homossexualidade. A Bíblia diz que o homossexualismo é errado, mas a graça de Deus — assim como fez conosco — oferece a liberdade do pecado a todas as pessoas. A graça de Deus pode dar uma nova vida e ajudar em cada passo do caminho. Como Jesus disse quando veio à terra:

João 3:16-21 – Porque Deus amou ao mundo de tal maneira que deu o seu Filho unigênito, para que todo o que nele crê não pereça, mas tenha a vida eterna. 3.17 Porquanto Deus enviou o seu Filho ao mundo, não para que julgasse o mundo, mas para que o mundo fosse salvo por ele. 3.18 Quem nele crê não é julgado; o que não crê já está julgado, porquanto não crê no nome do unigênito Filho de Deus. 3.19 O julgamento é este: que a luz veio ao mundo, e os homens amaram mais as trevas do que a luz; porque as suas obras eram más. 3.20 Pois todo aquele que pratica o mal aborrece a luz e não se chega para a luz, a fim de não serem argüidas as suas obras. 3.21 Quem pratica a verdade aproxima-se da luz, a fim de que as suas obras sejam manifestas, porque feitas em Deus. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada)

Tão logo compreendi o poder do pecado na minha vida, quando vejo as Escrituras dizendo que alguma coisa é pecado ou abominação, ou que as pessoas que fazem certas coisas não herdarão o reino de Deus, imediatamente faço a relação. Meu pecado também é uma abominação para Deus:

Provérbios 6:16-19 – Seis coisas o SENHOR aborrece, e a sétima a sua alma abomina: 6.17 olhos altivos, língua mentirosa, mãos que derramam sangue inocente, 6.18 coração que trama projetos iníquos, pés que se apressam a correr para o mal, 6.19 testemunha falsa que profere mentiras e o que semeia contendas entre irmãos. (ARA, ênfase acrescentada)

Lembro-me da dor, da angústia, do vazio e do desespero que eu sentia14. Não posso deixar de desejar que todas as pessoas nas mesmas circunstâncias conheçam a graça e o amor de Deus que mudaram tanto a minha vida. Desejo essa liberdade a você também.

Jesus passou pelas lutas desta vida. Ele pode realmente Se compadecer das nossas fraquezas — em tudo Ele foi tentado, à nossa semelhança, mas sem pecado (Hb. 4:15). Só Ele tem o poder de vencer o pecado e andar junto conosco. Embora, é claro, eu não tenha passado por todo tipo de situação, tenho visto o suficiente do pecado em minha própria vida para desejar três coisas:

  1. Que ninguém mais sinta a dor e as consequências do pecado que já senti.
  2. Que todas as pessoas experimentem a graça, o amor e o perdão de Jesus, pelos quais recebemos uma nova vida, e eterna.
  3. Que eu continue a crescer na semelhança com Jesus pela Sua capacitação. Só isso me fará expressar a Sua verdade em amor — tanto em palavras como em ações.

Quer me acompanhar nesta caminhada?

E, se você já recebeu essa graça, vai falar dela com amor e vivê-la?

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

Quando discussões sobre Jesus e o homossexualismo ou LGBT15 vêm à tona, muitas pessoas tentam afirmar que Ele nunca tratou deste assunto. No entanto, não é exatamente assim. Jesus, como Deus, foi um professor único. Ele sempre tratava com autoridade dos princípios que estavam por trás não só de uma única ação, mas de uma série de possibilidades. Ele julgava o coração e a intenção das pessoas, e expunha tanto o coração pecaminoso quanto o Seu padrão de santidade. Os dois exemplos a seguir mostram claramente como todos nós estamos destituídos da graça de Deus e carecemos dela.

A. Mateus 5:27-28, A Definição Máxima de Pecado

Mat. 5:27-28 – Ouvistes que foi dito: Não adulterarás. Eu, porém, vos digo: qualquer que olhar para uma mulher com intenção impura, no coração, já adulterou com ela.

Jesus deixou claro que o padrão de Deus para certo e errado não é só deixar de fazer alguma coisa, mas inclui também pensar e sentir. Até mesmo ter fantasias imorais é errado16.

Este texto trata mais diretamente das pessoas casadas e do pecado de adultério, tanto físico como mental. No entanto, as coisas vão mais além quando se compreende o princípio ensinado por Jesus. Ele estava mostrando aos líderes religiosos e à sociedade que o pecado era bem maior do que apenas fazer aquilo que eles se permitam pensar e imaginar. Na passagem imediatamente anterior a esta (Mt. 5:21-26), quando fala sobre assassinato, Jesus mostra que ficar irado com um irmão ou insultá-lo também traz o juízo de Deus — não só o ato de matar. O padrão estabelecido por Deus é muito mais abrangente do que simples ações, e claramente (ao contrário da visão hipócrita daqueles líderes religiosos) impossível de ser mantido. Este é um dos objetivos principais da lei: revelar o nosso pecado — para, então, nos levar à fé em Deus e à providência da Sua graça.

Os pecados sexuais extrapolam o adultério ou ato físico. A ira e os relacionamentos rompidos são muito maiores que uma simples ofensa entre irmãos. Estes são exemplos e casos específicos em que o pecado vai além da mera “letra da lei.” As pessoas podem tentar restringir a aplicabilidade da lei para se passar por santas e justas. Não obstante, Deus não Se deixa enganar. Seja a minimização da mentira, do engano, do roubo, da inveja, da cobiça, do adultério, da feitiçaria, da pornografia, da fraude, da embriaguez, do homossexualismo ou de qualquer outra injustiça, Jesus mostra propositalmente que Ele não concorda com esse tipo de manipulação da Palavra de Deus. Na verdade, Sua definição desses pecados é muito mais abrangente do que gostamos de pensar. Portanto, a ética de Jesus também se aplicava claramente ao homossexualismo como parte da lei (Lv. 18:22, 20:13), a qual não podia ser anulada (Lucas 16:17).

B. Mateus 19:3-9, A Definição Específica de Casamento

Mat. 19.3 – Vieram a ele alguns fariseus e o experimentavam, perguntando: É lícito ao marido repudiar a sua mulher por qualquer motivo? 19.4 Então, respondeu ele: Não tendes lido que o Criador, desde o princípio, os fez homem e mulher 19.5 e que disse: Por esta causa deixará o homem pai e mãe e se unirá a sua mulher, tornando-se os dois uma só carne? 19.6 De modo que já não são mais dois, porém uma só carne. Portanto, o que Deus ajuntou não o separe o homem. 19.7 Replicaram-lhe: Por que mandou, então, Moisés dar carta de divórcio e repudiar? 19.8 Respondeu-lhes Jesus: Por causa da dureza do vosso coração é que Moisés vos permitiu repudiar vossa mulher; entretanto, não foi assim desde o princípio. 19.9 Eu, porém, vos digo: quem repudiar sua mulher, não sendo por causa de relações sexuais ilícitas, e casar com outra comete adultério [e o que casar com a repudiada comete adultério].

Neste ponto, Jesus é bastante específico quanto ao propósito de Deus para homens e mulheres e o casamento. O fundamento da Sua resposta sobre a questão dos relacionamentos volta ao plano original de Deus. Esse plano foi desvirtuado e distorcido de todas as formas possíveis pelo nosso pecado e pela dureza do nosso coração. Neste caso específico, a questão é o divórcio, a imoralidade e o adultério. No entanto, todos os outros desvios do intento original de Deus são igualmente contra o Seu plano — o qual é reiterado por Jesus nesta passagem. Ratificando o propósito original de Deus, Jesus está destruindo, invalidando e rejeitando qualquer ato contrário a ele. A exceção feita ao divórcio parece estar à luz da suspensão da punição teocrática de morte para os adúlteros (o que deixaria livre a parte inocente)17. A imoralidade, como o divórcio, declara que a providência e o desígnio de Deus são insuficientes. O mesmo ocorre com o homossexualismo.

Na maioria das sociedades, o padrão de certo e errado tem mais a ver (em números absolutos) com pessoas envolvidas com imoralidade em geral, concubinato, sexo casual, adultério, divórcio, abuso de menores, pornografia, etc, do que com pessoas da comunidade LGBT. Contudo, os padrões de Deus e Sua Palavra para nós não podem ser comparados com o comportamento de outras pessoas. Todas essas coisas são erradas diante de Deus. Na verdade, todos esses casos precisam ser tratados com cuidado e amor. Todos são contrários ao plano original designado por Deus. Todos merecem o Seu julgamento. Todos nós deixamos de manter o padrão de Deus. Todos falhamos, seja em pensamento, seja em ação. O bom dessa declaração de Jesus é que posso reconhecer, como já fiz (e continuo fazendo), que sou vil, estou desesperado, sou incapaz de resolver minha situação e estou perdido. Portanto, devemos deixar que a nossa incapacidade nos leve à maravilhosa graça de Deus, ao amor, perdão e poder transformador de Jesus Cristo. Só pela fé na Sua obra, que carregou na cruz a nossa culpa, pode haver nova vida (João 10:9-11).

Jesus e a Sexualidade — Conclusão

Pelas palavras de Jesus, vemos que nenhum de nós escapa ao Seu ensino sobre os padrões de Deus de sexualidade e casamento. O próprio Jesus ensinou uma ética sexual e conjugal que ressalta e enfatiza o plano original de Deus para uma relação heterossexual pura e monogâmica. Nada mais tem valor — nem mesmo pensamentos lascivos em qualquer direção.

Para quem tem qualquer tipo de relacionamento hetero ou homossexual fora do casamento homem/mulher, estas verdades têm implicações muito abrangentes. A declaração de Jesus é que tais relações não têm valor e são pecado.

Mesmo para quem não está mais envolvido em tais práticas, essas verdades ainda têm muitas implicações. O fato é que você e eu, de uma forma ou de outra, ainda lutamos contra elas dentro de nós e, provavelmente, lutaremos até a nossa morte. Tenho tido conversas bastante reveladoras com pessoas lúcidas na casa dos 90 anos para saber que algumas coisas não mudam enquanto ainda estamos nestes corpos corrompidos pelo pecado. Se nós, como cristãos, dependemos da graça de Deus todos os dias, então vamos tentar fala dela para outras pessoas. Se não dependemos da graça de Deus, logo, estamos vivendo uma mentira, e estamos fingindo ser mais santos do que realmente somos. A única santidade que possuímos é aquela recebida de Jesus Cristo, a qual Ele opera dentro de nós. Não dá para ter orgulho ou se gabar disso.

Não importa se o nosso pecado é externo ou interno, se é hetero ou homossexual por natureza, se pode ou não ser visto. Se persistirmos na sua prática, o resultado é que, lenta, mas seguramente, ele destruirá a nossa vida. Não podemos viver à altura do padrão e do plano de Deus com tais hábitos. A graça de Deus em Jesus Cristo é a única solução (Atos 4:12, Tito 3:3-7).

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade — Meu Passado

A Bíblia é realista quanto à natureza humana. Ela nos diz que não podemos atingir o padrão de justiça estabelecido por Deus e, por isso, ninguém é justo diante dEle (Romanos 3:10-23). Todas as outras religiões, de alguma forma, dão esperança de que o céu pode ser alcançado por esforço próprio. A Bíblia, não. Pelo contrário, a Bíblia nos dá um padrão humanamente impossível de ser alcançado.

Eu18, pessoalmente, acho esses padrões impossíveis de serem seguidos, por isso, acabei tendo o pior período da minha vida. Eu estava no início da adolescência e tinha crescido ouvindo os ensinamentos bíblicos. Já tinha pedido a Jesus para me livrar dos meus pecados por Sua obra substitutiva na cruz. Contudo, à medida que ficava mais velho, deixei o orgulho e a autossuficiência tomarem conta de mim. Comecei a lutar intensamente contra um determinado pecado. Eu sabia que era errado. Eu conhecia o que a Bíblia diz. Meu trabalho na escola começou a ser afetado. Eu sabia não haver nada mais importante do que meu relacionamento com meu Criador. No entanto, meu coração estava frio demais para qualquer coisa além de orações vazias. Conforme o tempo passava, a única razão para eu não ter me suicidado foi por saber que isso também era pecado. O vazio e o desespero dessa época foram a pior experiência da minha vida. O pecado tomou controle de mim. Eu sabia que estava vazio e destrutivo. Sabia que havia algo melhor. Mas não conseguia dar um jeito nos meus pensamentos. Não conseguia parar de pecar. Durante algum tempo, tentei ignorar o problema, mas os pensamentos e a realidade viviam me perseguindo. A verdade era que eu não mantinha os padrões de Deus. Eu não era santo. Eu não merecia nada, só o juízo de Deus.

Mas, então, Deus interveio. Embora fosse impossível para mim eu resolver o problema, não era impossível para Deus. Ele usou a combinação da Sua Palavra e as mensagens que eu ouvia pelo rádio para abrir os meus olhos a toda verdade.

Os registros do meu diário nessa época vão dos contínuos fracassos diários, do meu coração tão endurecido contra Deus, da luta angustiante, da realidade do meu pecado, do conhecimento da necessidade de arrependimento apesar da frieza do meu coração — ao repentino e entusiástico agradecimento a Deus por Seu amor maravilhoso.

O que aconteceu? Com o tempo, percebi a terrível realidade autodestrutiva do meu pecado. Compreendi minha total incapacidade. Eu não podia me endireitar sozinho. Não podia alcançar o amor, a aprovação e o perdão de Deus. Em meu orgulho e autossuficiência, precisei ver a realidade da minha situação antes de poder me humilhar o suficiente para me lançar inteiramente sobre a graça de Deus. No entanto, quando compreendi essa realidade e me rendi a Ele, Ele abriu os meus olhos para realmente conhecer o Seu amor e a Sua graça.

A graça, a misericórdia e o auxílio de Deus se estenderam para além da simples experiência infantil à realidade diária na vida de um jovem. Somente pela capacitação e pela graça de Deus eu pude ser salvo do meu pecado de uma vez para sempre. Da mesma forma, só pelo contínuo andar nessa graça eu pude viver dia após dia da maneira desejada por Deus. Essa é a natureza radical do poder transformador da obra de Deus. Só ela pôde transformar o mal, o orgulho, a vida de pecado que havia em mim em algo que pudesse refletir cada vez mais o modo de vida “impossível” de Jesus.

Desde aquela época tenho sentido um forte desejo de compartilhar minha história com outras pessoas. Não quero que ninguém mais passe pelo que passei naqueles dias tortuosos de angústia e desespero, quando andava na escravidão do pecado. Não “fiz” nada para merecer ou receber o amor de Deus. Não tenho nenhuma fórmula mágica. De alguma forma, Ele me ajudou a ver o meu pecado como ele realmente era; de alguma forma, eu realmente admiti isso diante dEle; e, de alguma forma, recebi o Seu amor, a Sua graça e o Seu perdão irresistíveis, e o Seu auxílio para vencer o pecado. Eu já conhecia o problema. Mas, nessa época, Deus o trouxe à realidade no meu coração e na minha vida. Eu abandonei o pecado e, pela fé sincera, confiei minha vida ao Senhor. Assim como Jesus venceu o pecado na Sua morte e ressurreição, Ele venceu o meu pecado. Daquele momento em diante eu soube que havia vitória para mim. Eu ficaria bem. Ele seria comigo e me ajudaria nas minhas lutas diárias. Enquanto eu continuasse a depender dEle, Ele seria fiel. E foi.

E o que isso tem a ver com a visão bíblica ou cristã sobre homossexualismo? Assim como meu pecado inicialmente me afastou do reino de Deus, e assim como meu pecado e orgulho me escravizaram e quase destruíram minha vida quando continuamente eu voltava a ele, todo e qualquer pecado fará o mesmo com você.

Desde o início da minha luta, pelas Escrituras, eu conhecia o meu pecado. Talvez este não seja o seu caso. Talvez ainda haja dúvidas na sua mente. As fontes mencionadas nas notas de rodapé e no final deste artigo podem ser muito úteis para sua reflexão.

Para quem conhece as verdades do ensino bíblico sobre este e outros pecados, talvez a melhor coisa a fazer seja ler os evangelhos (a carta aos Romanos também pode ser útil para uma orientação mais detalhada). Lá você verá o que Cristo fez para nos libertar do pecado. Que o amor de Deus, que mudou a minha vida, mude a sua também.

Para quem acha que a homossexualidade é apenas uma discussão acadêmica sobre o que diz a Bíblia, lembre-se: o pecado escraviza e o torna digno da justa condenação de Deus, assim como fez comigo. Não há pecado socialmente aceitável diante de Deus. Há, no entanto, perdão, redenção e libertação em Jesus Cristo.

Seja qual for a sua situação, gostaria de lhe dizer: Jesus Cristo lhe oferece a mesma liberdade que não pude conquistar e que fui orgulhoso demais para, durante muito tempo, aceitar. Por favor, não se torture como eu me torturei. Por favor, não espere até ser tarde demais. Se Deus pôde ressuscitar Jesus de entre os mortos, perdoar o meu pecado, vencer a minha luta, e se Ele me ajuda todos os dias, Ele também pode libertá-lo. Nele, a nossa condenação por causa do pecado foi removida (Romanos 8).

Finalmente, para quem é crente em Jesus Cristo, gostaria de lhe dizer para pensar neste assunto com os olhos da Palavra de Deus. Então, siga o Mestre todos os dias, deixando que Ele trate do seu pecado e transforme a sua vida. Fazendo isso, estaremos preparados para andar com nosso Senhor e alcançar outras pessoas que estão sofrendo com a mesma situação de pecado. Para mais informações sobre este assunto, consulte o artigo: “https://bible.org/article/homosexuality-and-church (A Homossexualidade e a Igreja).

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

P1. O que é homossexualismo?

Homossexualismo é a expressão da sexualidade dirigida a uma pessoa do mesmo sexo.

P2. Como se determina se a prática homossexual é certa ou errada?

Para se determinar se uma coisa é certa ou errada é preciso ter um padrão pelo qual o ato controverso seja avaliado. A única pessoa com plena autoridade para estabelecer tal padrão é o soberano criador de todas as coisas. Uma vez que Deus deu à humanidade a Sua Palavra por meio da Bíblia, esta é a fonte para se determinar se alguma coisa, inclusive a homossexualidade, é moralmente certa ou errada. As preferências pessoais e culturais variam, mas o padrão do Criador de todas as coisas, não.

P3. O que, explicitamente, a Bíblia ensina sobre a homossexualidade?

A Bíblia ensina de modo explícito que o homossexualismo é pecado, tanto no Antigo quanto no Novo Testamento. Ela também ensina claramente que Deus oferece a Sua graça para redimir e reconciliar qualquer pecador Consigo mesmo, às Suas próprias custas, por meio da morte e ressurreição de Jesus Cristo. A conclusão da seção sobre o ensino do Novo Testamento afirma, de forma sucinta: “A visão bíblica e cristã sobre a homossexualidade é que essa prática é errada, mas que a graça de Deus, assim como fez conosco, oferece a todas as pessoas a libertação do pecado” (ver a seção em questão para mais detalhes).

P4. É verdade que todas as vezes que o homossexualismo é citado na Bíblia, ele está ligado a falsa adoração, estupro, prostituição ou abuso? E essa combinação é que era o problema/pecado diante de Deus?

É verdade que as principais referências ao homossexualismo na Bíblia realmente fazem menção a outros pecados em seu contexto imediato (ler as passagens já discutidas tornará isso facilmente perceptível). No entanto, quanto ao restante da afirmação de que a prática homossexual misturada com outras atividades pecaminosas é que a torna um pecado, isso não tem qualquer fundamento. Pela simples leitura das passagens que falam a respeito do homossexualismo, pode-se perceber claramente que essa prática específica é descrita como sendo errada. Por exemplo, em Romanos 1, as “relações naturais” são mudadas e abandonadas (Rm 1:26-27). “Atos vergonhosos” são cometidos (Rm 1:27). O homossexualismo é contrário à concepção criadora de Deus. Uma vez que todo pecado é idolatria e rebelião contra Deus, não deve ser nenhuma surpresa que tais elementos sejam vistos nesse contexto. Veja as fontes citadas nas notas de rodapé da seção sobre Romanos 1 deste artigo para uma discussão mais aprofundada do assunto. Veja especialmente o artigo de Guenther Haas, intitulado “Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice” (Questões Hermenêuticas no Uso da Bíblia para Justificar a Aceitação da Prática Homossexual), Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php.

P5. Praticar o ato homossexual, automaticamente, manda alguém para o inferno?

Não. Jesus suportou sobre Si o castigo pelos nossos pecados e oferece perdão a todo aquele que crê na Sua obra salvífica. Quem realmente crê em Jesus Cristo não vai para o inferno. Desta forma, o homossexualismo é um pecado como outro qualquer: pode ser perdoado. Por outro lado, como qualquer outro pecado, ele precisa ser perdoado e precisa também ser vencido pela graça de Deus. Veja a discussão bíblica acima para maiores detalhes.

P6. Na Bíblia, os atos homossexuais são piores que os outros pecados?

As Escrituras não fazem uma “classificação” clara de pecados. Por isso, a questão não é fácil de ser respondida. Por um lado, Jesus disse que se os milagres feitos em Cafarnaum tivessem sido feitos em Sodoma, esta teria permanecido até hoje (a cidade não teria sido julgada porque teria se arrependido). Além disso, Ele disse que, no dia do juízo, haveria menos rigor para Sodoma do que para Cafarnaum (Mateus 11:23-24). Isso parece indicar que a severidade do julgamento de Deus vai variar dependendo do conhecimento e do testemunho a Seu respeito: quem O conhece “melhor” será julgado com maior rigor. Por outro lado, Romanos 1 aponta especificamente para a homossexualidade como exemplo de rebelião contumaz contra Deus e exemplo do Seu julgamento. O mais interessante nessa passagem é que parece haver um conhecimento muito forte dessas pessoas sobre a pecaminosidade dos seus atos. A despeito do seu conhecimento e do juízo de Deus, elas continuam fazendo a mesma coisa e ainda incentivam os outros a fazer o mesmo. Por esses exemplos, podemos perceber que as Escrituras não respondem diretamente à questão. No entanto, isso parece indicar que, quanto mais deliberado é o pecado, pior será o julgamento de Deus — sem levar em consideração qual é esse pecado. Ainda mais claro que isso, porém, e mais importante, é que as Escrituras respondem uma outra pergunta sobre o homossexualismo. A pergunta é se a graça de Deus é, ou não, suficiente para resgatar e livrar alguém desse pecado. A resposta é sim, ela é suficiente.

P7. Como explicar as cerimônias de casamento onde duas pessoas do mesmo sexo são unidas por um religioso ou por um juiz de paz?

Governantes de uma porção de lugares já legalizaram essa prática e oficialmente reconhecem tais uniões como casamento. Isso dá a elas autoridade legal e, para muitos, dá também aparência de sanção moral. No entanto, só Deus pode dar a verdadeira aprovação moral. Ele já declarou o homossexualismo como pecado. Os cristãos devem reagir a isso como devem reagir a todos os outros pecados: com verdade e amor. Alguns religiosos e algumas denominações que se dizem cristãs permitem o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo. Seus atos não têm sanção da Bíblia ou de Deus. Isso pode ser facilmente percebido pelas contradições entre o que fazem e a verdade das Escrituras vistas neste artigo.

P8. Por que duas pessoas que se amam sinceramente não podem se casar só porque são do mesmo sexo?

Em muitos círculos atuais, tanto políticos quanto religiosos, a resposta a esta pergunta é polêmica. A resposta sucinta parece se resumir à própria definição de amor, casamento e visão moral de uma pessoa. O verdadeiro amor faz aquilo que é melhor para o outro, sem levar em consideração o custo para si mesmo. De acordo com o propósito de Deus para a humanidade, o casamento devia ser entre um homem e uma mulher (Gn. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). A mulher foi a companheira dada por Deus que era adequada ao homem. Os padrões morais são determinados por Deus e aquilo que Ele estabelece como certo e errado. Por tais definições, então, não seria a coisa mais amorosa se casar com alguém quando isso viola os padrões morais de Deus, quando o casamento não é o que deveria ser e quando a pessoa não é o tipo mais apropriado de parceiro.

Como a maioria dos não crentes não reconhece os padrões morais de Deus ou Seus desígnios, este ponto de vista para eles é totalmente irrelevante. Para os cristãos, no entanto, questões de “dever” e de moral são prescritas por Aquele que determina o certo e o errado. Na verdade, não só pelos cristãos, mas por todos aqueles que falam sobre “direitos”, isso deve ser levado em conta. “Direitos” só existem se os padrões morais atribuídos pelo Criador na criação são reconhecidos. Um sistema naturalista não tem lugar para direitos19.

Politicamente, nos Estados Unidos da América, outros sistemas de crenças com um criador podem ter um código diferente de moralidade que poderia ser seguido como base para redefinir o conceito de casamento para além da sua definição tradicional. No entanto, buscar um sistema religioso incomum ou inovador com base nesse critério parece um exemplo de inversão de valores e não de verdadeira convicção moral.

Tentar definir casamento pelo termo vago “amor”, usado frequentemente, não é uma forma segura de ampliar sua definição20. De fato, as pessoas “amam” todo tipo de coisa. Isso não significa que esse amor seja necessário ou correto para todos os tipos de conduta. Nem significa que os governantes devam incentivar todo tipo de comportamento. Da mesma forma, uma vez que o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo é realmente diferente do casamento entre pessoas de sexo oposto, o problema não é uma questão de igualdade21.

P9. A homossexualidade é genética? Se é genética ou “natural”, isso não a torna moralmente aceitável?

Esta é uma pergunta interessante. Devido a natureza variável dos estudos científicos e a complexidade do tema, este estudo logo ficaria desatualizado se a discussão fosse entrar em maiores detalhes. Para quem estiver interessado, até 2013, nenhum DNA ou vínculo genético com a homossexualidade foi encontrado22. No entanto, é preciso ressaltar que, seja ou não genético, não significa que este é um fator decisivo para ser ou não moral. Teoricamente, uma pessoa pode ter predisposição para o uso de drogas, para o alcoolismo, para a mentira23 ou para a cleptomania. Essa predisposição não muda a moralidade desses problemas.

Dois artigos de Greg Koukl são muitos úteis na discussão da questão sobre se aquilo que é “natural” é também, necessariamente, moral. O primeiro aborda o problema do ponto de vista lógico e filosófico: Homosexuality Is Unnatural: The Is-Ought Fallacy? (Homossexualismo é Antinatural: A Falácia do É-Deve ser?) http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy O segundo aborda a questão mais diretamente, examinando o ensino das Escrituras: Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality (Paulo, Romanos e o Homossexualismo), http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality. Se alguma coisa é ou não genética, não implica que seja natural (indicação de propósito). Da mesma forma, mesmo se alguma coisa é natural não implica que seja, necessariamente, moral (A falácia do é/deve ser de David Hume).

P10. Existem fatores que contribuem para a homossexualidade, pelos quais um homossexual possa não ser responsável?

Todos temos fatores que contribuem para as diferentes atividades em que estamos envolvidos. Esses fatores, com certeza, tornam mais fácil perceber como alguém poderá agir de determinada forma. No entanto, precisamos ser responsáveis por nossos atos. Podemos não ser responsáveis pelas coisas que fazem a nós, mas somos responsáveis pelas nossas escolhas.

Todos nós temos propensão ou queda para alguns pecados específicos. A pergunta para todos é: o que faremos com eles?24 Durante muito tempo também tive meus problemas quanto a isso. Para ser totalmente honesto, todos os dias ainda sou tentado a voltar aos velhos hábitos. Às vezes, novos pecados afloram. Isso é, e sempre será, um aprendizado da nova identidade em Cristo: crescer resistindo às tentações e andando na verdade. Não posso vencer meu pecado. A fé em Jesus é que vence o pecado e o mundo (1 João 3:2-3; 5:4). Com lutas tão intensas não dá para menosprezar a luta dos outros. Com a universalidade do pecado não dá para olhar o outro com desprezo.

Há uma sensação de urgência para “acabar logo com isso” em que precisamos reconhecer o pecado como pecado e começar a fazer o que é certo pela graça e providência de Deus. No entanto, este é apenas o começo. Precisamos manter a nossa caminhada diária uns com os outros e nos ajudar mutuamente para colocar em prática a nova identidade em Cristo. Então, a questão é “continuar na graça”. Portanto, vamos “resolver isso” pela graça de Deus, e então “continuar” na Sua graça! Sem a graça de Deus, nada vai acontecer.

P11. Como os cristãos devem tratar as pessoas que se relacionam com pessoas do mesmo sexo?

Devemos tratá-las com o mesmo amor e graça demonstrados por Deus a nós. Todos somos pecadores. Nossos pecados podem variar, mas todos são rebelião contra Deus. Fomos e somos resgatados do pecado. Isso deve permitir que nós, entre todas as pessoas, sejamos capazes de nos relacionar com compaixão e cuidado verdadeiro. O amor de Jesus não abandonou as pessoas onde elas estavam, mas foi ao encontro delas.

Os cristãos não devem esperar que quem não crê em Jesus viva como se fosse Seu seguidor (1 Co. 5:9-11). Embora não possamos fechar os olhos para o pecado ou nos envolver com ele (seja ou não sexual), devemos nos relacionar com todas as pessoas como Cristo se relacionou. Não há lugar para parcialidade, desdém, desrespeito ou grosseria. Mas há lugar de sobra para demonstrar a mesma graça que recebemos de Deus.

Devemos ajudar os crentes a viver como seguidores de Cristo. Crescimento é um processo que dura a vida toda. Os problemas com os quais os crentes têm de lidar variam de pessoa para pessoa e surgem em diferentes épocas da vida. Além disso, devemos estar sempre disponíveis para ajudar, discipular, incentivar, aconselhar, desafiar e repreender quando necessário. Isso deve acontecer durante toda a nossa vida e no envolvimento de uns com os outros. Para quem se diz cristão, mas ainda persiste em viver em pecado, deve ser aplicado o processo normal de disciplina eclesiástica (Mateus 18:15-22). Nesse sentido, o homossexualismo não é diferente de qualquer outro pecado renitente. Em tudo, no entanto, devemos agir com humildade e amor (Gálatas 6:1).

Aqueles que lutam com o mesmo pecado devem ter cautela em qualquer relacionamento. A bondade e a graça de Deus sempre devem ser demonstradas. No entanto, eles precisam tomar cuidado para não se envolver, eles próprios, no pecado.

P12. Como podemos ajudar os cristãos que se envolveram na prática homossexual? Ou que se tornaram cristãos e ainda têm esse tipo de experiência? Ou, ainda, que sentem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo?

Os vícios reprogramam o cérebro, seja pornografia, álcool ou fumo. As pessoas adquirem padrões e hábitos difíceis de quebrar, que causam um abalo profundo e permanente. As atividades sexuais têm impacto duradouro sobre quem nós somos. A graça de Deus perdoa e purifica. No entanto, ser discípulo de Jesus é uma busca contínua. Todos viemos de mundos diferentes e temos lutas diferentes. Sejam quais forem essas lutas, os cristãos devem se comprometer com um ministério mútuo durante toda a vida.

Ser fiel mental e moralmente ao cônjuge é uma batalha deliberada e constante para os heterossexuais. As questões sexuais são profundas, pois vão ao cerne do ser humano. Por que, então, esperar que as coisas sejam diferentes para quem tem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo? Algumas pessoas conseguem vitória imediata sobre o problema. Mas a maioria, provavelmente, é como você e eu. Conseguem vencer as tentações dia após dia pela graça de Deus. A vitória vem à medida que crescemos na compreensão da nossa identidade em Cristo. Não é só uma questão de tentar administrar o pecado, mas uma caminhada no conhecimento e na semelhança de Cristo.

VII. Fontes

(livres, salvo disposição em contrário)

A. Fontes em Áudio

Seminário Teológico de Dallas (áudio + vídeo)

Homosexuality in the Context of Christian Sexual Ethics, Podcast, http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/discussing-homosexuality-sexuality-together/

Controversial Same-Sex Texts In The Bible, Podcast, http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/queen-james-passages-old-testament/

Greg Koukl (áudio para aquisição)

Setting the Record Straight: The Bible and Homosexuality https://secure2.convio.net/str/site/Ecommerce/1202380276?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=3981&store_id=1161

John MacArthur (áudio + textos)

Answering Key Questions About Homosexuality, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/GTY89/answering-key-questions-about-homosexuality

Homosexuality and the Bible (Selected Scriptures, 2 messages), http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/12

God’s Plan for the Gay Agenda, http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A170/Gods-Plan-for-the-Gay-Agenda

John Piper (áudio + textos + alguns vídeos)

Why is Homosexuality Wrong?, (Some gracious thoughts on the brokenness of us all) http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-is-homosexuality-wrong

Discerning the Will of God Concerning Homosexuality and Marriage (Romans 12:1-2), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/discerning-the-will-of-god-concerning-homosexuality-and-marriage

The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 1 (Romans 1:24-28), (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-1

The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 2 (Romans 1:24-28), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-2

Bethlehem’s Position on Homosexuality (a sample of a church’s attempt to practically live out a Biblical view of homosexuality), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/bethlehems-position-on-homosexuality

Frank Turek
March 16th podcast from his radio show dealing with same sex marriage issues, equality, and reason: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/feelings-or-reason-march-16/id337782458?i=136358756&mt=2

B. Artigos

Wayne Grudem, The Bible and Homosexuality, reprinted in World Magazine with permission from Crossway. Original article is from the ESV Study Bible. http://www.worldmag.com/2013/04/the_bible_and_homosexuality

Stanton Jones, Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality. Text version: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/Hot-Topics PDF Download: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/CACE-Print-Resources/Articles

Artigos da Bible.org:

Sue Bohlin, Homosexuality: Questions and Answers, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-questions-and-answers

Can Homosexuals Change?, http://bible.org/article/can-homosexuals-change

Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth, Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth, https://bible.org/article/answers-questions-most-asked-gay-identifying-youth

When Someone in Your Congregation Says “I’m Gay”, http://bible.org/article/when-someone-your-congregation-says-im-gay
Keys to Recovery from Same-Sex Attractions, http://bible.org/article/keys-recovery-same-sex-attractions

Bob Deffinbaugh, Israel’s Sodom and Gomorrah (Judges 19-21) http://bible.org/seriespage/israel%E2%80%99s-sodom-and-gomorrah-judges-19-21

Daniel Wallace, Review of Mel White’s ‘What the Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say—about Homosexuality’ (deals with Romans 1:26-27), http://bible.org/article/review-mel-white%E2%80%99s-what-bible-says%E2%80%94and-doesn%E2%80%99t-say%E2%80%94about-homosexuality

Artigos do Christian Apologetics Research Ministry: http://carm.org/homosexuality

Matt Slick, On “There is nothing wrong with two homosexuals getting married if they love each other”, http://carm.org/love-homosexual-marriage

Artigos da Stand To Reason: http://www.str.org

Greg Koukl, Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality, http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality

Homosexuality Is Unnatural: An Is-Ought Fallacy?, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy

Homosexuality: Giving Your Point of View, http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5302

Alen Shlemon, Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak it with Compassion, http://www.str.org/site/News2?id=8779

Artigos da Cross Examined: www.crossexamined.org

Frank Turek (Articles + Radio show podcast)

The Case Against “Equality” Part 1 and 2 (Deals with the political issue of marriage and the claim of inequality in its not being applied to homosexual relationships.) http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/02/28/the-case-against-equality-n1521881/page/full/ and http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/

C. Revistas Teológicas (Todas podem ser acessadas mediante pagamento de uma taxa mensal ou adquiridas na Biblioteca de Revistas Teológicas http://www.galaxie.com//)

Gary R. Gromacki

Why Be Concerned about Same-Sex Marriage? Journal of Ministry and Theology, 09:2 (Fall/05)

Guenther Haas

Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php

David E. Malick

The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Bibliotheca Sacra, 150:600 (10/93)

Mark McGinniss

The Church’s Response To The Homosexual, Journal of Ministry and Theology, 14:2 (Fall/10)

P. Michael Ukleja

Homosexuality and the Old Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83)

The Bible and Homosexuality Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:560 (10/83)

D. Blogs

Darrell Bock

http://blogs.bible.org/search/apachesolr_search/homosexuality?filters=tid%3A2789

Tim Challies

http://www.challies.com/search/google?cx=006311167884800022839%3Ajcs6rz6z3lw&cof=FORID%3A11&query=homosexuality&op=Search&form_build_id=form-acb816b66500dbffbe20717127db5612&form_id=google_cse_searchbox_form

Michael Patton

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/03/is-limiting-marriage-to-unions-of-a-man-and-a-woman-discrimination/

E. Ministérios

Living Hope Ministries http://livehope.org/

Outpost Ministries http://www.outpostministries.org/home.htm

VIII. Índice Detalhado

I. Introdução

II. O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento

A. Levítico 18:22, A Proibição da Lei
B. Levítico 20:13, A Pena da Lei
C. Gênesis 19:1-11, Sodoma e Gomorra
D. Juízes 19:22 e ss, Gibeá
O Homossexualismo no Antigo Testamento ― Conclusão

III. O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento

A. Romanos 1:20-32
B. 1 Coríntios 6:9-11, Herdando o Reino de Deus
C. 1 Timóteo 1:8-15, O Principal Pecador — Paulo
O Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento — Conclusão

IV. Jesus e a Sexualidade

A. Mateus 5:27-28, A Definição Máxima de Pecado
B. Mateus 19:3-9, A Definição Específica de Casamento
Jesus e a Sexualidade — Conclusão

V. Conclusão: Amar de Verdade — Meu Passado

VI. Perguntas e Respostas

P1. O que é homossexualismo?
P2. Como se determina se a prática homossexual é certa ou errada?
P3. O que, explicitamente, a Bíblia ensina sobre a homossexualidade?
P4. É verdade que todas as vezes que o homossexualismo é citado na Bíblia, ele está ligado a falsa adoração, estupro, prostituição ou abuso? E essa combinação é que era o problema/pecado diante de Deus?
P5. Praticar o ato homossexual, automaticamente, manda alguém para o inferno?
P6. Na Bíblia, os atos homossexuais são piores que os outros pecados?
P7. Como explicar as cerimônias de casamento onde duas pessoas do mesmo sexo são unidas por um religioso ou por um juiz de paz?
P8. Por que duas pessoas que se amam sinceramente não podem se casar só porque são do mesmo sexo?
P9. A homossexualidade é genética? Se é genética ou “natural”, isso não a torna moralmente aceitável?
P10. Existem fatores que contribuem para a homossexualidade, pelos quais um homossexual possa não ser responsável?
P11. Como os cristãos devem tratar as pessoas que se relacionam com pessoas do mesmo sexo?
P12. Como podemos ajudar os cristãos que se envolveram na prática homossexual? Ou que se tornaram cristãos e ainda têm esse tipo de experiência? Ou, ainda, que sentem atração por pessoas do mesmo sexo?

VII. Fontes

A. Fontes em Áudio
B. Artigos
C. Revistas Teológicas
D. Blogs
E. Ministérios

VIII. Índice Detalhado


1 O artigo tem três objetivos:

1. Mostrar, com amor, o ensino bíblico das Escrituras a respeito da homossexualidade;

2. Edificar a igreja: a) mostrando claramente a graça de Deus; b) incentivando os cristãos a amar sinceramente quem se identifica como LGBT (lésbicas, gays, bissexuais e transexuais); e, c) eliminando os conceitos errados sobre a Bíblia, Jesus e a Igreja.

3. Oferecer recursos para outros estudos: a) sobre textos das Escrituras a respeito de homossexualismo; e também, b) sobre como os cristãos podem expressar melhor a verdade, com amor, na medida em que tentam realmente viver como Cristo viveu.

2 Para discussão destes textos da lei como proibições morais, não só como questões religiosas (que podem ser desconsideradas), ver P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83).  Esse artigo também termina com uma discussão muito útil sobre a relevância da lei para os cristãos atuais.

3 ver P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83)

4 Ver as notas da NET Bible sobre Judas 1:7, assim como o artigo citado na primeira nota de rodapé, para outros esclarecimentos sobre todos os aspectos da interpretação desse versículo, e sua relação com o relato de Gênesis.

5 Para maiores esclarecimentos sobre o termo “conhecer” e seu significado nesta passagem, ver a seção de discussão em P. Michael Ukleja, O Homossexualismo e o Antigo Testamento, Biblioteca Sacra, 140:559 (07/83).  Note também que, pelo contexto, eles não queriam só se familiarizar com o homem. O dono da casa sabia disso (Juízes 19:23). E a forma como eles tratam a concubina do viajante é um indicador muito claro de suas intenções. Portanto, conclui-se que as intenções sexuais deles era de homem com homem.

6 Bob Deffinbaugh, Sodoma e Gomorra de Israel (Juízes 19-21) http://bible.org/seriespage/israel%E2%80%99s-sodom-and-gomorrah-judges-19-21.

7 Para uma discussão mais detalhada sobre este assunto e sua falta de sustentabilidade, ver Greg Koukl, Paul, Romans, and Homosexuality, http://bible.org/article/paul-romans-and-homosexuality, and Homosexuality Is Unnatural: An Is-Ought Fallacy?, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy.

De uma perspectiva mais hermenêutica, ver Guenther Haas, Hermeneutical Issues In The Use Of The Bible To Justify The Acceptance Of Homosexual Practice, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol 1, No. 2 (2/99), http://phc.edu/gj_haas_hermen.php e P. Michael Ukleja, The Bible and Homosexuality Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament, Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:560 (10/83).

E para uma perspectiva mais expositiva do texto, ver John Piper, The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 1 (Romans 1:24-28) (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-1 and The Other Dark Exchange: Homosexuality, Part 2 (Romans 1:24-28), http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-other-dark-exchange-homosexuality-part-2.

8Isso nem sempre é reconhecido, mas é apontado com muita perspicácia por Bob Deffinbaugh na série de estudos: Romanos: A Justiça de Deus. http://bible.org/seriespage/present-wrath-god-romans-115-32

9 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 135, and 613.

10 P. Michael Ukleja, A Bíblia e o Homossexualismo - Parte 2: Homossexualismo no Novo Testamento. Biblioteca Sacra, 140.560 (10/83). Para uma discussão maior dessas palavras, e outros assuntos, como pederastia, ver David E. Malick, A Condenação do Homossexualismo em 1 Coríntios 6:9, Biblioteca Sacra, 150.600 (10/93). As notas da NET Bible sobre 1 Coríntios 6:9 também são de grande ajuda. Elas podem ser acessadas livremente no endereço: https://net.bible.org/#!bible/1+Corinthians+6

11 Aqui não estamos falando da nossa luta diária — a qual todo mundo tem por viver num mundo e num corpo pecaminoso. Nessa luta podemos ser vencedores pela fé e por meio de Cristo (1 João 5:3-5).

12 Para discussão da palavra específica utilizada aqui, veja as fontes citadas em referência a 1 Coríntios 6:9-11. A mesma palavra, αρσενοκοιτης, é usada tanto no texto de 1 Coríntios quanto em 1 Timóteo 1:10.

13 Com o que Paulo diz nesta passagem, mais os ensinos de Jesus que veremos mais abaixo neste artigo, ele deve ter reconhecido sua enorme culpabilidade diante de Deus (cf. o que ele diz de si mesmo em Romanos 7:7-25).

14 Ver a conclusão sobre a minha própria experiência.

15 Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Transgêneros

16 Para uma discussão melhor deste texto ver Bob Deffinbaugh: http://bible.org/seriespage/avoiding-sin-adultery-matthew-527-30

17 Para outras discussões sobre este texto e os demais pontos salientados, ver os argumentos de William F. Luck, Sr. sobre o livro em Bible.org: http://bible.org/series/divorce-and-re-marriage-recovering-biblical-view

18 O autor trabalha para a Bible.org e possui Mestrado em Teologia pelo Seminário Teológico de Dallas. Ele pode ser contatado pelo site.

19 Ver Greg Khoul, http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-unnatural-ought-fallacy (Homossexualidade-antinatural-dever-engano), para uma discussão melhor sobre o que é dever-engano e a relação dos argumentos teleológicos aos direitos. Ver também o 2º ponto da coluna de Fred Turek, http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/ e http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2013/03/01/the-case-against-equality-part-2-n1523048/page/full/. Essas colunas tratam de questões políticas sobre o casamento e da falsa alegação de sua desigualdade não ser aplicável aos relacionamentos homossexuais. Para  ouvir o arquivo em áudio, ver a gravação do programa do dia 16 de março, https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/feelings-or-reason-march-16/id337782458?i=136358756&mt=2.

20 Veja o artigo de Matt Slick sobre amor e casamento homossexual para uma breve discussão deste tópico em Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: http://carm.org/love-homosexual-marriage.

21 Veja as fontes citadas na nota 17 sobre o trabalho de Fred Turek. O livro do Dr. Turek sobre esse tópico, sem dúvida, também seria muito útil para quem deseja investigar o assunto mais a fundo: Correct, NOT Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone (Correto, NÃO Politicamente Correto: Como o casamento entre pessoas do mesmo sexo afeta todo mundo)

22 De acordo com artigo da Time online de dezembro de 2012, “apesar de exaustivas investigações”, até agora, os cientistas não conseguiram encontrar o “gene gay”. Um dos pesquisadores citados no artigo, diz enfaticamente: “A orientação sexual não é genética. Não há relação com DNA. Não é parte do DNA. É epigenética.” Sua afirmação faz parte de uma nova teoria desenvolvida por ele, que diz que a orientação sexual está ligada a marcadores epigenéticos relacionados aos hormônios no útero. Assim, até aqui, nada ainda foi cientificamente provado — a não ser que não se encontrou relação genética ou DNA ligados à orientação sexual. Teorias continuam surgindo. Esse artigo foi acessado em 5/4/13: http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/13/new-insight-into-the-epigenetic-roots-of-homosexuality/ Esses dados, é claro, ficarão desatualizados dentro de poucos anos; contudo, o mais importante é reiterar que, mesmo sendo genético, não se pode, logicamente, presumir que seja moral. Veja outros artigos citados no corpo principal dessa questão para uma discussão mais completa.

O Dr. Staton Jones também faz uma análise bastante útil sobre os últimos estudos científicos no artigo intitulado “Sexual Orientation and Reason: On the Implications of False Beliefs about Homosexuality” (Orientação Sexual e Razão: Implicações das Falsas Crenças Sobre a Homossexualidade). Versão texto:  http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/Hot-Topics PDF Download: http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/CACE-Print-Resources/Articles (acesso em 15/4/13).

23 Se há uma ligação genética para a mentira talvez não seja determinado, mas há realmente algumas diferenças no cérebro de mentirosos inveterados. Veja See http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/187/4/320.abstract (acesso em 16/4/2013).

24 Veja breve ensaio / vídeo de John Piper sobre “Por que homossexualidade é pecado?” Para um lembrete gentil dessas verdades. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-is-homosexuality-wrong

Related Topics: Cultural Issues, Discipleship, Ecclesiology (The Church), Engage, Equip, Ethics, Evangelism, Fellowship, Forgiveness, Grace, Hamartiology (Sin), Heaven, Hell, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Love, Marriage, Sanctification, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life, Temptation, Worldview

Lesson 51: The Light of the World in Action (John 9:1-12)

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April 6, 2014

I once heard comedian Bill Cosby tell how he was staying in the same hotel as the blind singer, Ray Charles. He decided to stop by Ray’s room and say hello. He knocked and then entered as Ray yelled, “Come in.” Cosby walked in the door and heard Ray shaving with an electric razor. There were no lights on and the room was pitch black. Without thinking, Cosby blurted out, “Hey, Ray! Why are you shaving in the dark?”

Then it hit him and Cosby thought, “Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!” Ray good-naturedly replied, “I do everything in the dark, brother!”

I heard that story decades ago and it has always stuck with me because I’m often like Bill Cosby on that occasion. I forget that unbelievers are spiritually blind and that they live every day in that dark world. And so I relate to them as if they can see.

As we’ve seen in our studies in this Gospel, John was fond of symbolism. He often uses the imagery of light and darkness. In 1:4-5, he refers to Jesus as “the Light of men” that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” In 3:19, he said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” Then in 8:12, in connection with the Jewish ceremony of lighting bright torches at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Now, in 9:5, as Jesus and the disciples encounter this man who had been born blind, He proclaims, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (See, also, 12:35, 36, 46.) Then the Light of the world proceeds to give sight to this man who has lived in total darkness all his life. But by way of contrast, at the end of the chapter the proud Pharisees, who thought that they could see, are left in their spiritual blindness.

A. W. Pink (Exposition of the Gospel of John, on monergism.com) points out a number of contrasts between John 8 & 9. In John 8, we see Christ as the Light exposing the darkness; but in John 9 He imparts sight (both physically and later spiritually) to one in darkness. In John 8, the Light is despised and rejected; in John 9, He is believed in and worshiped. In John 8, the Jews stoop to pick up stones to kill the Light; in John 9, the Light stoops to make clay to bring light to the eyes of the blind man. In John 8, Jesus hides Himself from the Jews; in John 9, He reveals Himself to the blind beggar. In John 8:37, Jesus’ word has no place in the Jews; in John 9:7, the blind man responds obediently to Jesus’ word. In John 8, Jesus is called a demoniac; in John 9, He is worshiped as Lord. In John 9:1-12, the message is:

Since Jesus is the almighty Savior who can open blind eyes for God’s glory, we should labor to point people to Him.

We see four things here: the great need; the great Savior; the great purpose; and, the great urgency.

1. The great need: The world is spiritually blind from birth.

This blind man is a picture of the condition of everyone since the fall: everyone is born spiritually blind. This man lacked the ability to see Jesus physically, just as unbelievers lack the ability to see Jesus spiritually. The apostle Paul put it this way (2 Cor. 4:3-6):

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Lost people don’t need just a little more information so that they can make an informed decision to get saved. Rather, they need the miracle of spiritual sight that only God can give.

The disciples viewed this man as an interesting theological case study (9:2): “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Since blind people usually have an acute sense of hearing, it was insensitive and cruel of the disciples to say this within earshot of this poor beggar. Behind their question was the common Jewish view that there was always a direct correlation between sin and suffering. That was the view of Job’s “comforters”: if Job was suffering, it must be because he had sinned. It’s true that all suffering in the world can be traced back to Adam and Eve’s original sin. And sometimes there is a direct correlation between sin and suffering (John 5:14; 1 John 5:16). But the Bible is clear that often even the righteous suffer apart from any specific wrong that they have done.

But the disciples bought into the popular view. Since this man had been born blind, either he or his parents must have sinned to result in this difficult trial. As to how they believed that the man could have sinned, there are a couple of possibilities. Based on the account of Jacob and Esau struggling in the womb, some rabbis taught that babies could sin in the womb. Also, many Jews bought into the ancient error that the soul preexists birth. Some even held to reincarnation, the view that we can come back in different lives (see Matt. 16:13-14). But Jesus replied that this man had not sinned as the direct cause of his blindness.

The Bible does teach that children can suffer on account of their parents’ sins (Exod. 34:7; Jer. 32:18). We see this principle all around us. Kids born to a drug-addicted or alcoholic mother, or to a mother with AIDS, suffer physical and mental impairment. Children whose parents are verbally, physically, or sexually abusive suffer terrible trauma. The examples are endless.

But in this case, Jesus said, this blind man was not suffering because of his own or his parents’ sins. But he was still very needy. He pictures all who are born in sin and spiritual darkness. We need to see all people who do not know Christ, even those who present an image of being successful and happy, as being spiritually blind and needy. For all such people, there is only one solution:

2. The great Savior: Jesus is the almighty Savior who can open blind eyes.

This blind beggar did not take the initiative to cry out to Jesus for healing (in contrast to Mark 10:47-48). Rather, Jesus saw Him, and although John does not say it, I’m sure that He saw him as He saw all hurting people, with compassion. Since He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), He reached out to this helpless man and granted him the gift of sight. Think of how this man must have felt: He began the day as he had begun every other day of his dark existence, making his way to a busy thoroughfare where he could beg for alms. We don’t know how the disciples knew that he had been born blind, but it’s likely that to garner sympathy the man cried out all day, “I was born blind; please help!” But he ended that day seeing for the first time in his life!

Why did Jesus heal the man in this unusual way, by spitting and making mud, applying it to the man’s eyes, and telling him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam? Why didn’t Jesus just speak the word, as He did with the man at the Pool of Bethesda or at Lazarus’ tomb? John doesn’t tell us, so we don’t know for sure. Some early church fathers speculated that the mention of clay made from the ground recalls Genesis 2:7, where God formed man out of the dust of the ground. Thus this miracle would illustrate John 1:3, that Jesus is the Creator (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], pp. 480-481). Other suggestions have been made.

It seems that John wants us to see some symbolic significance in the name of the pool, since he translates it for his Greek readers (9:7, “Sent”). As we’ve seen (e.g., 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42), John puts a big emphasis on the fact that Jesus was sent by the Father. As we’ve also seen, at the Feast of Tabernacles the priest would get water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out at the base of the altar in commemoration of God’s providing water from the rock when Israel was in the wilderness. That water also pictured the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the all-sufficiency of Christ (7:37-39). So this blind man had to wash in the Sent Pool to gain his sight. If the spiritually blind wash in the One sent by God, they will receive their sight.

The unique way that Jesus performed this miracle also teaches us that each person is an individual and therefore requires an individual approach with regard to how we deal with them spiritually (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:136-137). There’s nothing wrong with using means or methods in presenting the gospel. Jesus here used the clay and the pool as a means toward healing. But Jesus never used the same means or method twice. While it’s helpful to memorize a basic presentation of the gospel, be sensitive to tailor it to each person.

But there is another reason that Jesus performed this miracle in this manner. We read in 9:14, “Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” By doing this, Jesus deliberately violated several of the manmade additions to the Law of Moses that the Jews had invented (Morris, p. 480, note 17). Making clay was a breach of a prohibition of kneading on the Sabbath. Placing the clay on his eyes violated a regulation about prohibited anointings. Healing on the Sabbath was forbidden unless it was to save one’s life. So I think that Jesus made clay, anointed the man’s eyes, and instructed him to go and wash on the Sabbath deliberately to poke His finger in the eyes of the legalistic Pharisees. They cared more about keeping their rules than they did about this poor, blind beggar receiving his sight.

As we’ll see, they got into an argument about whether Jesus was sent from God or a sinner because He broke their Sabbath rules (9:16, 24)! They should have instantly recognized that opening the eyes of the blind was a Messianic activity.

In the Old Testament, there are no stories of sight being restored to the blind. But there are numerous verses that show that only the Lord can cause the blind to see and that the Messiah, who is the Lord, would do this. Psalm 146:8 proclaims, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” Isaiah 29:18 states, “On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” In Isaiah 35:5, after saying that God will come to save His people, the prophet says, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.”

When John the Baptist was languishing in prison, he began to wonder, “If Jesus is the Messiah, then why am I, His messenger, in this dungeon?” So he sent messengers to Jesus to ask (Matt. 11:3), “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered (11:4-5), “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Jesus was referring to Isaiah 35, which He fulfilled.

Also, in Isaiah 42:6-7, God is speaking to His Servant (42:1), the Messiah: “And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes ….” It’s interesting that of all the recorded miracles that Jesus performed, giving sight to the blind has more than any other category. The Jewish leaders, who knew the Old Testament, should have concluded, “Jesus is the promised Messiah.”

But the point is, it takes a great Savior to open blind eyes physically. But the great physical miracle points to the greater spiritual miracle. He opens spiritually blind eyes through the gospel as God shines “in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). If you get an opportunity to share the gospel with someone, keep the focus on Jesus. People will try to divert the conversation to all sorts of peripheral issues, like evolution or why God allows suffering or whatever. While you may need to respond briefly to those issues, steer things back to who Jesus is. He is the mighty Savior who can open their blind eyes. And, as you’re sharing, pray that He will do that with the person you’re talking to.

So this story shows us the great need: the world is born into spiritual blindness. But we also see the great Savior who can open blind eyes.

3. The great purpose: The primary aim of the gospel is to display the glory of God.

In response to the disciples’ theological question, Jesus answers (9:3), “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Some have a problem with the view that God would allow this man to be born blind and suffer all these years just so that his healing would display the works of God. But I think that those people have too big a view of man and too little a view of God. If our suffering can bring glory to God and display His infinite worth to others, then it takes on ultimate meaning and significance. Paul put it like this (2 Cor. 4:17), “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

Jonathan Edwards argued that God created the world for His own glory (“The End for Which God Created the World,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:94-121; see John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory [Crossway Books]). Since He is infinitely glorious, it would be wrong for Him not to seek His own glory. Also, as Edwards argues, there is no disparity between God’s seeking His own glory and at the same time seeking our ultimate happiness. As John Piper has pointed out, we glorify God the most when we are most satisfied in Him. God may be glorified in us through physical healing (as with this blind man) or through our experiencing the sufficiency of God’s grace through our suffering, as was the case with Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

But the healing of the blind man pictures what happens whenever God saves a soul through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6). He gets the glory and we get the blessing. Our happiness in what He has done for us contributes to His glory. But my point is, the gospel isn’t mainly about how Jesus can give you a happy life for your own sake. It’s about how He can give you a happy life so that you can proclaim His excellencies as you tell others how He called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

This blind man did that. He was obviously a changed man. In fact, some of his neighbors thought that he must be someone else who looked like the blind man (9:9). But he kept saying, “I am the one.” So then they wanted to know how it happened. He didn’t know much at this point. He refers to Jesus as “the man who is called Jesus.” Remember, he still hasn’t even seen Jesus and he doesn’t know where He’s at. He will argue with the Pharisees that Jesus is a prophet (9:17). Later, when he sees Jesus, he will believe in Him and worship Him as Lord (9:38). But his obviously changed life and his simple witness brought glory to God (9:24). So should our changed lives and our verbal witness. That leads to the last point:

4. The great urgency: We should labor to point people to Jesus for God’s glory while we still have time.

The best manuscripts of John 9:4 read, “We [not I] must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus includes the disciples among those who must work God’s works. That includes all of us who have put our trust in Christ. This is the harvest mindset that we saw Jesus emphasizing with the disciples back in chapter 4, when He was talking with the woman at the well. Their focus was on getting Jesus to eat His lunch so that they could get on the road. His focus was on doing the Father’s will and accomplishing His work (4:34). And that should be the focus of all who follow Him.

Note the little word “must” in 9:4. It’s a word of divine necessity. We saw it back in 4:4, where it says, “And He had to pass through Samaria.” “Had” is the same word in Greek: It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria so that He could give living water to the immoral woman and to her entire village. Here, although the Pharisees were threatening to kill Jesus and His death was just months ahead, He must work the works of the Father who sent Him.

Do you sense that necessity in your life? It’s not just that the Lord would like to use you to accomplish His works if you’ve got some spare time and don’t have anything better to do. Serving the Lord is not only for the super-dedicated. It’s a necessity for all who have been bought with the blood of the Lamb. If you belong to Jesus, you’re a member of His body and every part has a necessary function for the proper working of the whole body. And if you think, “Well, I’m not a very important part,” remember the parable of the talents. It was the guy who was given just one talent who buried it and didn’t use it for his master’s purposes. The master had some rather frightening things to say to him (Matt. 25:26-30)!

But note, also, the urgency of doing the Lord’s work: Jesus says (9:4), “Night is coming when no one can work.” He was referring to death. His “night” was coming soon, when He would be betrayed into the hands of sinners (13:30). But night is coming soon for all of us. None of us are guaranteed of even another day. But even if we live a long life, it goes by all too quickly. As James 4:14 says, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Paul says (Eph. 5:15-16), “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” “Making the most of your time” could be translated, “Buying up the opportunities.”

My parents had a familiar plaque on the wall when I was growing up: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Are you looking for and taking advantage of the opportunities that the Lord gives you to point people to Jesus and to help them grow in Him?

Conclusion

When he was twelve, Robert Louis Stevenson was looking out into the dark from his upstairs window, watching a man light the street lanterns. His governess came into the room and asked what he was doing. He replied, “I am watching a man cut holes in the darkness.”

That’s our task in this dark world. Point blind people to the Light of the world who can open their eyes for God’s glory. Tell them what Jesus has done for you. He can use you to do His works before night comes, when no one can work.

Application Questions

  1. Why is it important to understand that people are born spiritually blind? What practical implications does this have when you present the gospel?
  2. Some argue that salvation is a joint effort: God does His part, but sinners must do their part (repent and believe). While there is some truth in this, there is also a fallacy. What is it? Why is it important?
  3. Discuss: All Christians are in the ministry, but only some get their living from the ministry. How would viewing yourself as being in the ministry change your weekly schedule?
  4. How can we know whether it is God’s will to heal (physically) or to be glorified as we trust Him in our affliction?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christology, Glory, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Lesson 52: How Do You Know? (John 9:13-34)

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April 13, 2014

Every college philosophy major has to take epistemology, which deals with the questions, “How do you know what you know? How can we be sure about what we think we know?”

One day one of my philosophy professors pontificated, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” she was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” Or, perhaps you’ve heard a professor state, “We know, of course, that evolution is a fact.”

When anyone authoritatively states, “We know,” the obvious question is, “How do you know?” Often, when you examine the evidence, you discover that there are knowledgeable people on both sides of the issue. So the obvious question remains, “How do you know what you think you know?”

When it comes to spiritual truth, the common view today is that there is no such thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm, and so any spiritual views that you hold are just a matter of your subjective opinion or personal experience. But there isn’t universal, absolute spiritual truth. If you claim that you know the truth and that all other views are wrong, you’ll be labeled as a narrow-minded bigot. Tolerance and open-mindedness, especially on spiritual matters, are the prevailing values of our day.

In the story of Jesus’ healing the man born blind, there are a number of comments about what the various characters claimed to know or not know. When the Pharisees called in the man’s parents to try to discredit the account of his healing, they answer (9:20-21a), “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know.” John explains (9:22) that their evasive answer stemmed from their fear of the Jewish leaders, who had threatened to excommunicate anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ.

In 9:24, the Jewish leaders state, “We know that this man is a sinner.” The healed blind man dodges that issue for the moment and replies (9:25), “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” In 9:29, the leaders come back with, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” The former blind man retorts (9:31), “We know that God does not hear sinners….” He concludes (9:33), “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” At this point, the exasperated leaders have heard enough. They throw the man out of the temple.

But the dialogue raises the question, “How do you know what you know, especially in the spiritual realm?” We learn that…

True spiritual knowledge is founded on Jesus Christ opening our eyes, but sin hinders us from true spiritual knowledge.

When it comes to knowing God, there is only one sure basis, namely, His choosing to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is just speculation. For example, we could sit around and speculate on whether men from Mars have blue eyes. But we wouldn’t have any basis for knowing. We’re just stating our subjective opinions. But if a man from Mars came to earth and revealed himself to us, then we could say with some certainty, “I met a man from Mars and he had blue eyes.”

Jesus claimed (Luke 10:22), “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. In 1:18, John stated, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” In 14:9, Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. So true spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.

But sin hinders us from true spiritual knowledge. This is illustrated in this story both by the former blind man’s parents and by the Pharisees:

1. Those in spiritual darkness think that they know spiritual truth, but sin blinds them to the fact that they do not know God.

We sometimes hear, “If I could just see a miracle, I’d believe in Jesus!” But these Pharisees saw all sorts of miracles and yet hardened their hearts against Jesus. The blind man’s parents had just seen their prayers answered, in that their blind son had been miraculously healed. And yet they were afraid openly to confess Jesus as Lord. The Pharisees and the blind man’s parents reveal four factors, which are either sinful in themselves or they stem from sin, that keep unbelievers from true spiritual knowledge. These factors also can hinder growing in spiritual knowledge among us who do believe in Jesus.

A. The fear of men hinders true spiritual knowledge.

In the context, “they” (9:13) seems to refer to the man’s neighbors. We’re not told why they brought him to the Pharisees, but here’s my guess: In that culture, the religious leaders exercised control over the people through intimidation. We read (9:22), “For the Jews [the religious leaders] had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” In a culture of fear, people keep their distance from anything that would get them in trouble with the authorities. That’s how Communist regimes operate. If you know that your neighbor is criticizing the government and you don’t report him, the authorities will come after you. If you do report him, you’ll get extra credit for supporting the state. So the neighbors hear that Jesus, whom the religious leaders were trying to get rid of, has healed this beggar. They think, “We need to take him to the Pharisees so that we don’t get into trouble!”

The Pharisees ask him how he received his sight and he tells them how Jesus applied clay to his eyes, he washed, and he now sees (9:15). This sparks a debate among the Pharisees (which we’ll look at more in a moment), but in frustration they turn again to the blind man and ask for his opinion about this Sabbath-breaker, Jesus, hoping that he may have changed his mind or his story. But he ups the ante by replying (9:17), “He is a prophet.”

At this point, they wonder if this is a hoax. So they call the man’s parents and ask (9:19), “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” They reply (9:20-21), “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” Their answer was not truthful. It’s inconceivable that their son had not told them what he had told the neighbors, namely, that Jesus had healed him and how He had healed him. But John explains (9:22) that they replied as they did because they feared the Jews, who had threatened to put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed Jesus as the Christ.

There were different levels of excommunication, and we can’t be sure which level is indicated here (see Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans], 2:183-184). But being excommunicated at any level was a serious penalty in that tight-knit, religious community. Eventually it would have meant being cut off socially from your neighbors, who would also be kicked out of the synagogue if they associated with you or helped you in any way. You couldn’t buy or sell, because if your neighbors engaged in business with you, they would get into trouble. You couldn’t escape by moving to the next town, because the rabbis there would enforce the Sanhedrin’s ban. For a poor family, being excommunicated would result in social and financial devastation.

So while we can understand the intense pressure on the man’s parents, it’s too bad that they feared these spiritual bullies more than they feared God. They could have let the facts speak for themselves by saying, “Jesus opened the eyes of our son, who has been blind from birth.” But instead, they dodged the issue.

It’s a problem that has plagued many down to our day: People fear what others will think more than they fear what God thinks. Perhaps a family member has met Jesus and is obviously changed. But it embarrasses or threatens the other members of the family. They’d rather not talk about it. Or, if it comes up and Jesus is named as the cause of their loved one’s change, they downplay it by saying, “Yes, that seems to work for him!” Then they change the subject. They’ve received a powerful testimony of the power of Christ, but as long as they fear what others think, they will not experience Christ’s power in their own lives. The fear of men hinders true spiritual knowledge.

B. Wrong presuppositions based on religious rules hinder true spiritual knowledge.

Here we move from the parents to the religious leaders, whom John calls “the Jews.” John almost offhandedly mentions the crux of the problem (9:14), “Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” As I mentioned last time, this violated at least three rabbinic Sabbath regulations: (1) You could not knead on the Sabbath, but Jesus kneaded the saliva and dirt into clay; (2) there were rules against anointing on the Sabbath; (3) you could not heal on the Sabbath, unless it was to save a life. These rules were not in the Law of Moses, but had been added by the religious leaders.

Their wrong presupposition was: “Our rules are equal to God’s law.” The minor premise was, “Jesus violated our rules.” Their conclusion was, “Thus Jesus violated God’s law, and He is a sinner.” But their presupposition was faulty.

Some of the Pharisees disagreed with this reasoning, so a debate ensued among them (9:16). This may have been Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, both of whom were on the Council, but later took bold action to provide for Jesus’ burial. Earlier (3:2) Nicodemus had admitted to Jesus, “No one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” So, here they register disagreement by asking (9:16), “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” But their view did not prevail.

It’s easy to confuse religious traditions or rules with biblical mandates to the point where you assume that your traditions or rules are equal with Scripture. But you can end up denying a miracle, even if he’s standing right in front of you! Back in the hippie era, when most people dressed up in their nicest clothes to go to church, many older church members could not accept that a bearded, long-haired guy in tattered jeans, a T-shirt, and bare feet had really been converted. Why doesn’t he look like us and dress like us? But they never stopped to question what the Bible says about how a Christian should look and dress. Wrong presuppositions based on religious rules hinder true spiritual knowledge.

C. Always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have hinders true spiritual knowledge.

The Pharisees had the evidence of the neighbors, the parents, and the man himself that he had been born blind and that Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath. But they still wanted more evidence, or more truthfully, they wanted evidence that would refute the evidence that they had been given, which they didn’t like. So, they called the man a second time and said (9:24), “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.”

What they’re saying is, “Come on, your story must be wrong! Tell us the truth! We know for a fact that this man is a sinner!” (See Josh. 7:19 for the expression, “Give glory to God,” meaning, “Tell the truth.”) But John wants us to see that the man really is glorifying God by testifying to the truth about Jesus. He won’t change his story. So, they ask him again (9:26), “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” They aren’t looking for more evidence so that they can believe. Rather, they’re trying to find something to discredit the evidence that they have.

Now the man reveals both his sense of humor and his fortitude to stand up to these feared religious leaders. He says (9:27), “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” They revile him and take their stand as disciples of Moses. They state what they know (9:29): “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” Back in 7:27, they had written off Jesus by claiming that they did know where He was from, namely, from Nazareth. But here they’re discrediting Jesus as a religious upstart from who-knows-where. I love the former blind man’s reply (9:31-33):

We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

At this point, the Pharisees are so beside themselves that they put the man down and then put him out (9:34). They weren’t genuinely seeking evidence to clear up their doubts. Rather, they were just looking for ways to discredit the evidence that they already had been given. They would not come to know the truth. Always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have hinders true spiritual knowledge.

D. Pride hinders true spiritual knowledge.

The Pharisees put down this man’s testimony (9:34), “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” They held to the view that the disciples reflected (9:2), that either the man or his parents must have sinned for him to be born blind. But they prided themselves on their spiritual knowledge because they thought that they knew the Scriptures. So how could this former blind beggar, who was probably illiterate, teach them anything? Again, John is using irony: He couldn’t teach them anything and neither could Jesus, because of their spiritual pride.

In 9:40, these Pharisees challenge Jesus by asking, “We are not blind, too, are we?” Jesus replies (9:41), “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” He means, “If you would admit your spiritual blindness, I would forgive and heal you. But because you arrogantly insist that you can see, you remain in your sins.” Spiritual pride is one of the main reasons people do not come to Christ. They think that their good works will commend them to God, so they don’t see their need for the Savior. But the starting point for true spiritual knowledge is to admit that you’re a sinner and need Jesus to save you.

So, the fear of men, wrong presuppositions based on religious tradition, always seeking more evidence while discrediting the evidence you already have, and spiritual pride, will hinder true spiritual knowledge.

2. The foundation for true spiritual knowledge is for Christ to open your eyes.

Unlike his parents and the Pharisees, who both begin by claiming certain knowledge, the man begins by admitting that there is much that he doesn’t know. He didn’t know where Jesus was when his neighbors asked him (9:12). He didn’t know much about Jesus at the point of his healing, although he soon came to surmise that He was a prophet. He didn’t know enough to comment on the theological debate about whether Jesus was a sinner or not because He had broken the Sabbath (9:25). But there was one thing he knew for certain, and it was a glorious fact (9:25): “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

In this, the man is a type of everyone who truly knows Jesus. A new believer doesn’t know much. He probably can’t state the biblical doctrine of the trinity. He won’t understand how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility tie together. He may not be able clearly to articulate the two natures of Christ. There are many theological controversies that he is clueless about. But one thing he knows truly: I was blind, but now I see!

To put it another way, when God causes you to be born again, He changes your heart and you know it. He changes your desires. Formerly, the Bible was both confusing and boring if you ever tried to read it. But now, it’s food for your soul. You long for it like a newborn baby longs for his mother’s milk (1 Pet. 2:2). Before, you shrugged off sin as no big deal. Many sins you didn’t even recognize as sin. “Everybody does that! Every guy looks at porn sometimes! Everyone loses his temper! Everyone uses swear words at times! Everyone cheats on his taxes!” Etc.

But after God opens your eyes and you begin to feed on the Word, the Holy Spirit begins to convict you of things that you formerly did without a twinge of conscience: “The way you just spoke to your wife was not loving. The way you looked at that woman was lustful. The way you covered your tracks was not truthful.” So you begin to call sin what it is and to walk in daily repentance. You begin to want to know Christ more deeply. The foundation for this new desire for spiritual knowledge is that Christ opened your eyes to your own sin, to God’s absolute holiness, and to the provision that Christ made for you at the cross.

3. From the foundation of Christ opening your eyes you grow in spiritual knowledge.

The man begins by only knowing Jesus as “the man who is called Jesus” (9:11). He progresses to calling Him a prophet (9:17). Later he acknowledges Him as one worthy of being followed (“disciples,” 9:27-28). He moves on to argue that Jesus had to come from God (9:33). And finally, when he sees Jesus for the first time, he believes in Him and worships Him as Lord (9:38).

The Bible pictures the Christian life as a growth process from birth (John 3:3) to infancy (1 Cor. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:2), childhood, young adulthood, to spiritual fatherhood (1 John 2:12-14). But time alone does not insure spiritual growth. We have to be actively engaged in the process. Daily we need a healthy diet of spiritual food from the Word. We need to talk with our Heavenly Father and take all our cares to Him in prayer (1 Pet. 5:7). We need to spend time with our brothers and sisters in the family of God, helping each other to grow. We need to be judging and turning from the sins that hinder spiritual growth.

When it comes to true spiritual knowledge, we still need to be careful. As Paul warned (1 Cor. 8:1, my translation), “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Or (1 Tim. 1:5), “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Conclusion

Billy Graham told the story of an English actor who was honored with a banquet. In the course of the evening, he was asked to give a reading, and he chose Psalm 23. He read it in a moving way that brought out the beauty of the Psalm. His friends applauded. Later in the evening, an aged pastor was asked to speak. He too quoted Psalm 23. His voice rang with assurance and was vibrant with love. When he concluded, there was no applause, but there were not many dry eyes in the room. The actor stepped over to the pastor, grasped his hand, and said, “Sir, I know the Psalm—but you know the Shepherd!”

So what do you know? I hope that you know the Shepherd and that He has opened your eyes to the truth of who He is. I also hope that you want to know Him more. Let’s press on to know our risen Savior (Phil. 3:8-14)!

Application Questions

  1. Of the four hindrances to spiritual knowledge mentioned in our text, which gives you the most trouble? How can you fight it?
  2. Give some modern examples of religious rules that often take on a status equal to Scripture. Are all such rules bad? Why/why not?
  3. What are some specific ways that we as evangelicals are prone to fall into spiritual pride?
  4. In what sense does God not hear sinners (John 9:31) when they pray and in what sense does He hear sinners (Rom. 10:13)? Cite other Scriptures on both sides of this matter.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Hamartiology (Sin), Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Easter [2014]: Good News for Everyone (John 20 and 21)

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April 20, 2014

Special Easter Message

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you’ve experienced a time when you wondered if the Christian faith is really true. Perhaps your struggle came after some huge disappointment or unanswered prayer. Things just didn’t go the way that you had hoped and prayed. Perhaps your doubts came after you heard or read an articulate atheist attack the faith. Or, maybe your Christian experience just didn’t measure up to the “abundant” life that others testify to, so you wondered why the abundant life didn’t seem to be true for you. You thought, “Maybe it isn’t true at all.”

We live in a time when the concept of “truth” has been squeezed into a relativistic framework. Thus Buddhism may be “true” for some people, Christianity is “true” for others, and Baha’i is “true” for yet others. Even though the teachings of these different faiths contradict each other, they can still all be “true” in a personal, experiential sense. For example, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote (Who Needs God [Simon & Schuster], p. 196):

If religious claims to truth were statements of fact, then when they differed, at most only one of them could be true…. But religious claims can be true at levels other than the factual one. Religious claims can be true the way a great novel is true. It teaches us something valid about the human condition, even though the characters in the novel never really existed and the events never took place….

As an example, Kushner used Jesus’ resurrection (p. 197): “If believing in the resurrection makes my Christian neighbor a better person, more loving and generous, better able to cope with misfortune and disappointment, then that is a true belief, whether historically true or not.”

I agree that believing in Jesus’ resurrection should make us better people. But, does it matter whether it was historically true or not? The apostles would loudly reply, “Yes! It matters greatly! Everything about the Christian faith depends on the historical fact that Jesus died for our sins and was raised bodily on the third day.” The apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15:14, 17), “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” He concluded (15:19), “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

The apostle John would agree. He brings his Gospel to a climax by showing multiple evidences of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, along with some practical ways that the truth of His resurrection should impact our lives. Since we’re in the midst of working our way through John’s Gospel, I thought it would be helpful to jump ahead and look at how John treats this watershed fact of all history. We can sum it up:

Because Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of history, there is good news for everyone.

In the middle of John’s treatment of Jesus’ resurrection, he breaks in with his purpose for writing the entire Gospel (John 20:30-31): “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” For John, everything depends on who Jesus is. John wants us to join him in affirming that Jesus is the promised Messiah (the Christ) and the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh (1:1-18). He came as the Lamb of God to die for the sins of all who will believe in Him (1:29; 3:16). But if Jesus did not actually rise from the dead, then He would not be the Christ, the eternal Son of God. That would mean that believing in Him would be to believe in a nice myth. For John that was unthinkable! Thus he labors to show:

1. Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of history.

We can see at least five lines of evidence that John sets forth:

A. The stone rolled away and the empty tomb are evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

John begins his account (20:1) with Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early, while it was still dark, where she saw that the stone had been taken away. This was a large stone that was rolled in front of the tomb to secure it from grave robbers. Matthew (27:63-66) reports how the Jewish leaders feared that someone would come and steal Jesus’ body and claim that He was risen. So they went to Pilate and got a Roman guard to secure the tomb. They set a seal on the stone and were there guarding the tomb when an angel came and rolled away the stone (Matt. 28:1-4). The Jewish leaders later gave the guards a large sum of money and told them to tell anyone who asked that the disciples came at night and stole Jesus’ body while the guards slept (Matt. 28:11-15).

The problem with that story is that all the disciples were too depressed and fearful to pull off a grave robbery under the noses of a squad of Roman soldiers. And even if they had succeeded, they wouldn’t have then endured persecution, hardship, and eventual martyrdom to promote what they knew to be a hoax.

In addition to the stone being rolled away, there was the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene was not expecting the resurrection, but when she saw that the tomb was empty, she assumed that somebody had taken Jesus’ body. She immediately ran to the disciples to report (John 20:2), “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Her report caused Peter and John to run to the tomb and see for themselves. They both went into the tomb and confirmed that Jesus’ body was not there. If any of Jesus’ enemies had taken His body, they would have produced it the instant that the apostles began proclaiming the resurrection. So the stone rolled away and the empty tomb both bear witness to Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.

B. The presence and arrangement of the linen wrappings are evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

When Peter and John ran to the tomb, John got there first, stood at the entrance, and saw the linen wrappings, but he did not go in. Peter, in his usual blustery manner, went right in and saw (20:6, Greek = “to gaze upon”) the grave clothes. Then John entered, saw (Greek = “to see with understanding”) the same thing, and believed (20:8).

The presence of the linen wrappings proves that the body was not stolen. In their haste, grave robbers would have taken the body, grave clothes and all. If for some reason they had wanted to strip the body, they would have left the clothes strewn all over the tomb. But Peter and John saw them left in an orderly fashion, as if Jesus had passed right through them. Remember, these weren’t men who wished so much for a resurrection that they perhaps saw what they wanted to see. These were men who did not understand or believe at first (20:9). The evidence convinced them, and their testimony of the evidence should convince us.

C. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are evidence for the resurrection.

John cites four post-resurrection appearances of Jesus: To Mary Magdalene (20:11-18); to the disciples except Thomas (20:19-23); to the disciples, including Thomas (20:24-31); and, to seven of the disciples, by the Sea of Galilee (21:1-25). Paul mentions several other appearances, including one to over 500 people at one time (1 Cor. 15:6-8). The varied circumstances of the appearances and the different personalities of the witnesses militate against hallucinations or visions. Even Thomas, who at first was skeptical, became convinced when he saw the risen Lord (John 20:27). Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are a strong evidence of His resurrection.

D. The changed lives of the doubting disciples is evidence for the resurrection.

John shows that none of the witnesses was expecting a resurrection. Mary Magdalene thought that someone had taken Jesus’ body (20:2, 15). Neither John nor Peter at first understood the Scripture that Jesus must rise again from the dead (20:9). All the disciples were fearful and confused. Thomas was depressed and doubting. But all were transformed into the bold witnesses of the Book of Acts because they became convinced that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. They were so convinced that the resurrection was true that many of them went on to die as martyrs.

E. The unique person of Jesus Christ is evidence for His resurrection.

Study the Gospel accounts of who Jesus was, what He taught, His astounding claims, the miracles He performed, and the prophecies He fulfilled. On more than one occasion He predicted His own death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21; Luke 9:22; John 2:19-22; 16:16-20, 28). His encounter with doubting Thomas shows that His purpose was to bring Thomas into a place of full faith in His deity (20:27). When Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus did not rebuke or correct him for overstating things. Rather, Jesus commended Thomas’ correct perception and faith (20:28-29). A merely good teacher, especially a devout Jewish rabbi, would never accept such worship from a follower.

Everything in the Gospel accounts about Jesus’ person and teaching militates against His being a charlatan or lunatic. The only sensible option is that He is who He claimed to be: the eternal Son of God in human flesh, the Messiah of Israel. He offered Himself for our sins and God raised Him bodily from the dead. He wants those of us who have not seen Him to believe in Him (20:29).

I realize that it is impossible to prove any historical event in an absolute sense. But the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection is strong: (1) The stone rolled away and the empty tomb; (2) the linen wrappings; (3) Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances; (4) the changed lives of the witnesses; and (5) the unique person of Jesus Christ, including His many astounding claims. All these evidences support the historical truth of the resurrection.

Oxford history Professor and author Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) wrote (cited in Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict [Campus Crusade for Christ], 1:198):

The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be, and often has been, shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece, as carefully as every judge summing up on a most important cause. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.

J. Gresham Machen (Christianity and Liberalism [Eerdmans], pp. 28-29) wrote, “The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened. It was the message, ‘He is risen.’”

So I want to counter Rabbi Kushner’s contention that the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t matter, as long as it affects how we live. It matters greatly because it establishes who Jesus is. He is not a fictional character or just a great man whose legend was embellished by His followers. He is the Christ, the Son of God. You should believe in Him even if so doing results in suffering and martyrdom. But, John’s Gospel also shows that the historical resurrection of Jesus does affect how we live:

2. Jesus’ resurrection provides good news for everyone.

A. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for women.

While women generally had a place of honor and respect in Old Testament Israel (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life [Eerdmans, pp. 139-160), in Jesus’ time some Jewish leaders belittled women. They taught that it was at best a waste of time to talk with a woman, even with your own wife, and at worst a diversion from the study of the Torah that could possibly lead one to hell (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 227)! They thought that it was better to burn the words of the law than to give them to women (William Barclay, The Gospel of John [Westminster], rev. ed., 1:162). To speak with a woman in public, even with your own wife, could lead to gossip and should be avoided. And, the Jews disregarded the testimony of a woman in court.

But Jesus affirmed and elevated women, both during His ministry and by the fact that they were the first witnesses of His resurrection. John (20:11-18) contains the encounter of Jesus with Mary Magdalene in the Garden after His resurrection. She was the first to see the risen Lord and to tell the disciples of her encounter. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that Mary had been an immoral woman prior to her conversion. Scripture states that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her and she apparently had sufficient means to help contribute to the support of Jesus and the disciples (Luke 8:2). But the point is, Jesus chose her as the first witness of His resurrection. Her experience shows that the Lord welcomes women as His followers and He uses them greatly.

B. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those lacking or weak in faith.

The disciples did not yet understand that Jesus must rise from the dead (20:9), in spite of Jesus’ repeatedly telling them this before His death. They just didn’t get it at first. As I said, this is actually an evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, because they had to be convinced against their fears and doubts. But the Lord graciously worked with them to build their faith.

John is the only Gospel to mention Thomas’ doubts before he saw the risen Lord. John uses that incident as the climax of his Gospel. When Jesus invited Thomas to touch the scars on Jesus’ hands and side, Thomas exclaimed (20:28), “My Lord and my God!” Rather than rebuking Thomas for calling Him “Lord and God,” Jesus affirmed his testimony by replying (20:29), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed.” Then John gives us his purpose for writing: he wants each of us to join Thomas in believing in Jesus as “my Lord and my God.”

The point is, Jesus wants you to move from no faith or weak faith to strong faith. But, note how He did this with Thomas: He appeared to the disciples when He knew that Thomas was absent. For a week, Thomas had to struggle with missing that crucial appearance. Think of how you would have felt! “Everyone else saw the risen Lord, but I missed it!” He probably thought that it was grossly unfair that Jesus appeared to them when he wasn’t there. But when Jesus did meet with the disciples again with Thomas present and showed His omniscience by repeating back to Thomas the doubts that he had expressed earlier, Thomas gave a much deeper confession than he would have a week earlier. The lesson is that the risen Lord doesn’t reject us or cast us off when we’re lacking or weak in faith. Rather, He takes each of us through different trials and difficulties tailored to our doubts to help us grow in faith.

C. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those who feel aimless or inadequate.

This is one lesson from Jesus’ appearance to the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee. They had gone fishing, worked all night, but caught nothing. From the shore, Jesus called to them, pointed out their lack of fish, and directed them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, they instantly caught a large haul of fish. Then, when they got to the shore, Jesus already had a fire going with fish on it, along with bread. The incident would have reminded them of the miraculous catch of fish early in their relationship with Jesus, when He told them that they would be catching men (Luke 5:1-11). So this incident would have re-focused them on their calling as Jesus’ ambassadors.

And, the bread and fish would have reminded them of the feeding of the 5,000, when the Lord used them to distribute the food to the hungry multitude. The lesson there was that when they yielded their insufficient resources to the Lord, they became sufficient in His hands to meet overwhelming needs. Now, as the risen Lord, He could and would do the same as they took the good news to the world’s spiritually hungry multitudes.

The same lessons apply to us. If you know Christ, you’re His ambassador to lost people in your world. And if you feel inadequate for the task, that’s exactly the kind of people He uses: inadequate people who yield everything they have to Him to bless and use as He pleases! That breakfast on the shore also pictures the fellowship that our Lord wants to have with us. Our daily fellowship with the risen Lord is the foundation for serving Him. The conversation that took place around that breakfast meeting provides a final lesson:

D. Jesus’ resurrection is good news for those who have failed.

The final section of John’s Gospel shows how the Lord restored Peter to ministry after his three denials of Jesus on the night He was betrayed. Three times Jesus asked Peter whether he loved Him. Three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Each time, Jesus replied, “Tend My lambs…. Shepherd My sheep…. Tend My sheep.” The Lord was letting both Peter and the other disciples know that even though Peter had failed miserably, the Lord still had a ministry for him to fulfill.

The final exchange in John’s Gospel (21:20-24) mentions the different futures that the Lord had for Peter and for John. It shows that He is the sovereign Lord who has a unique plan for each of our futures as we serve Him. My focus needs to be on doing what He has called me to do, not on what He may have called others to do. But the good news is, if you love the Lord, no matter how badly you may have failed Him in the past, He is gracious to restore you and use you in His service. Keep your love for Jesus burning brightly. He loved you enough to die for your sins so that you can spend eternity with Him in the glory of heaven. His resurrection is good news for all who have failed.

Conclusion

After Thomas’ confession of Jesus as his Lord and God, Jesus replied (20:29), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Does that include you? Jesus promises to bless you if you will believe in Him as your Lord and God, who died for your sins and was raised from the dead. His resurrection from the dead is historically true, whether you believe it or not. But it’s through believing in Him as the crucified and risen Lord that He blesses you.

His blessing does not mean that you will be spared from struggles and trials. History indicates that almost all of the disciples were persecuted and finally suffered martyrs’ deaths. But when they died, they were welcomed into the eternal joy of their Master in heaven. Because His resurrection is historically true, He offers the same good news to all who will believe in Him.

Application Questions

  1. Rabbi Kushner argues that the factual truth of the resurrection doesn’t matter if it teaches us to be better people. Why is this both inadequate and fallacious?
  2. Can a person believe that Jesus is risen and yet not be born again? What is the difference? Why does it matter?
  3. What was the difference between Judas’ betrayal of Christ and Peter’s denials of Christ? Why was Peter restored while Judas was lost?
  4. Do certain sins (e.g., sexual sins) disqualify a man from leadership in the church? Support your answer with Scripture.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Easter, Resurrection, Soteriology (Salvation)

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