Posted On January 24, 2012

Sex, Speaking the Truth in Love and the Gospel

by | Jan 24, 2012 | Contemporary Culture

Introduction

          Recently there has been a buzz in the Christian blogosphere about how Christians should think and talk about biblical sexuality. While much of the conversation has been helpful, even clarifying, and I’ve benefited from some of it, I haven’t seen anyone thus far take on the topic head on.

My main concern and the thrust of this article is to explore the relationship between Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 5:29 by exploring to what degree contemporary preaching and teaching on sex violates those passages and conclude by suggesting ways in which Christians can speak to one another about sex without being a hindrance to fellow believers, while faithfully communicating God’s Truth to a post-modern culture.

Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29

            Notice the word-play: passing judgment. Paul urges the weak to stop criticizing the strong, and the strong to cease finding fault with the weak. Both parties should decide not to place any hindrance in the way of their brothers. On the contrary—for the negative implies the positive—each group should help the other to become a more effective witness for Christ.

In view of the fact that both parties love the Lord, repose their trust in him, and wish to walk in his way, it would be wrong to hour tone another’s feelings by insisting that there be absolute unanimity with respect to every aspect of the practice of religion.

If an important religious principle is at stake, you are not going to be silent about your convictions, but in all circumstances you will observe the rule: “In all things essential unity; in doubtful (or indifferent) liberty; in all things charity”. The substance of this exhortation is certainly entirely in line with, and may even have been induced by, the teaching of Christ (Matt. 18:1-9; Mark 9:42-48; Luke 17:1-2).

Ephesians 4:29,  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

From a warning against the improper attitude toward material things Paul proceeds to an admonition against the improper use of the tongue, also in this case setting the positive over against the negative in the spirit of Romans 12:21, “Overcome evil with good.” Corrupt speech is that which is putrid, rotten; hence also corrupt, defiling, injurious (Matthew 15:18). We may well assume that for many years these rather recent converts to the Christian faith had been living in an impure environment, where foul conversation, at feasts and other social gatherings and parties, had been the stock in trade of everyone present. The change from this toxic environment to the pure and wholesome atmosphere of Christian fellowship must have been nothing short of revolutionary.

Even believers who are well advanced in sanctification have at times complained about the fact that it was difficult for them to cleanse their minds entirely from the words and melody of this or that curious drinking song. They hated it, fought against it, were sure at last that they had expelled it forever from their thoughts, and then suddenly there it was again, ready to plague and torture them by means of its reappearance. Thus also certain vile phrases or catch-words, sometimes even profanity, all too common in the pre-conversion period of life, have the habit in unguarded moments to barge right in and to befoul the atmosphere. Think of Simon Peter who, although a disciple of the Lord, “began to curse and to swear” when he thought that his life was in danger (Matt. 26:74).

Here, too, the only remedy, in addition to prayer, is to fill mind and heart with that which is pure and holy, in the spirit of Gal. 5:22 and Phil. 4:8-9. Accordingly, Paul continues: “but only such speech as is good for edification” that is for the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), as fits the need (literally, “edification of the necessity,” meaning: edification required by a concrete or specific need), that it may impart grace to the listeners, that is, that it may spiritually benefit them. This recalls Col. 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each individual.”

We notice an interesting parallel between verses 25, 28, and 29. In each case the apostle urges the addressed to be a blessing for those with whom they have daily contact. Merely refraining from falsehood, stealing and corrupt speech will never do. Christianity is not a mere “don’t” religion, and believers must not be content to be mere zeros. Instead, they should copy the example of their Master, whose words were so filled with grace that the multitudes were amazed (Luke 4:22). “A word in due season, how good it is!” (Prov. 15:23).

Contemporary preaching and teaching on sexuality

            Given that Paul in Romans 14:13 is concerned with Christians never putting a “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13) and Ephesians 4:29 is with letting “no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29) it’s worth asking the question in light of the above exegesis of Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29 is contemporary preaching and teaching on sexuality helpful or unbiblical?

Whether it’s a pastor performing a “sexperiment” on top of his church’s building and then streaming it live or pastors describing specific sex acts their congregants can perform, the contemporary evangelical obsession with sex seems to me to be unhelpful and unbalanced. Rather than being discreet about sex many preachers are flaunting what “acts” Christians can perform. By doing this the preacher has overstepped his bounds and moved from preacher to sex-therapist.

Whenever I bring this up this topic with friends I am almost immediately asked, “Why do you think such preaching is unhelpful and unbalanced?” I believe that Preachers should preach on sex and more conversation should be had on what the Bible has to say about sex within the confines of the marriage relationship. My concern is that contemporary preaching on sex is unhelpful because it often is far too graphic and leaves nothing to the imagination. This kind of preaching, teaching and writing does not follow Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:29 to let “no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Furthermore this kind of preaching does place a “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13).

I am not against all talk on sex, and my goal is not to “fan the flames” of the debate, but rather to redirect and re-orient the conversation upon this one question, “Is contemporary preaching, teaching and writing on sex biblical?”

My main concern is that many preachers are more interested in preaching on controversial topics than the Word of God. The Word of God does address the topic of sex but the Bible is not a manual of “do this and do that” in the marriage bed. When the Bible speaks of Christians it calls them “saints” for a reason because they are a separate people unto the Lord God. The people of God are to reflect the holiness of God to the world. When Pastors, preachers, writers, and teachers are more interested in building a platform, selling books all in the guise of “preaching what the Bible says about sex” I don’t question their motives or sincerity but I do question why they think it is necessary to cross the line and describe sex acts.

My main concerns with this approach to ministry are 1) I don’t see it in the Bible, 2) I believe it violates Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29), 3) I don’t believe it strengthens the Church, 4) pastoral, as, I believe it does a disservice to Christians and unbelievers many of whom are deeply confused about sex. Finally many of these Pastors, preachers, teachers and writers are men that I respect a great deal and have benefited from, but I am concerned that these men are more known for preaching on sex while declaring they are making much of Jesus.

The Bible has much to say about how we speak to one another. There is a reason why the Bible addresses our hearts and our words. Jesus taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). 1st Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”’

As Christians we do need to speak out against the injustices associated with pornography, but we do not need to describe the sex acts. Christians need to take great care with how we speak to one another and about our faith. Christians should speak only to edify and build up the Body of Christ. When we speak in any other way we are not reflecting the holiness of the God but rather reflecting our sin nature to the world.

Conclusion

Christians have been given the Gospel the most important message in the world and have been charged with transmitting that message to the ends of the world. Christians are to faithfully communicate God’s Word without compromise but I fear that today many are compromising the message by advocating a methodology of ministry that the Bible does not support. The Bible is not a book about sex but about the God-Man the Lord Jesus Christ who longs to seek and save the lost. Christians should speak on sex, but should do so as the Bible does not to sell books or to build a platform, but speak only, “for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter with “gentleness and respect” echoes the words of Jesus (“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), whose example the believer should adopt. When we sanctify Christ in our hearts, we should exercise gentleness and respect toward all men. In our behavior we exert ourselves to demonstrate gentles toward persons who are spiritually weak (Rom. 15:1-2). In our conduct we make every effort to show honor and respect toward God and toward those whom God has placed over us (2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). As Christians we should strive to e models of the example Christ has set. This means that how we speak about sex matters since one day Jesus will hold us accountable for every word that we have uttered.

Christians may our words, our behavior and our very lives reflect the holiness of Christ in a world that is confused about sex. May we as God’s people speak only to build up one another in the faith, and may we never be a stumbling block to each other so that the Gospel may advance with great speed on accord of our unity in the Gospel.

Related Posts

How Should Christians Respond to Current Events?

How Should Christians Respond to Current Events?

In light of recent developments, I feel compelled to write. I do not pretend that I have a major platform, a huge sphere of influence, or all the answers to every situation that our nation faces today. As a follower of Christ, I’m compelled to speak as it is our civic...

Who’s The Boss?

Who’s The Boss?

As I sat in the coffee house working away on my sermon for the upcoming weekend - as stereotypical as that may seem, it’s not the norm for me - I started getting hungry. I had been staring out of a glass door at a McAlister’s Deli all day. I finally decided it was...

SuNee: A Life Rescued From Sex Trafficking, Redeemed By Christ

SuNee: A Life Rescued From Sex Trafficking, Redeemed By Christ

What follows is the story of a young girl in Cambodia who was rescued from sex trafficking, a crime perpetrated with impunity against young girls there. I was given the opportunity to interview her only because, after nearly two years in aftercare, she was considered...

Sex Trafficking Numbers You Can Trust

Sex Trafficking Numbers You Can Trust

When it comes to sex trafficking, sound numbers of who, how many, and where are difficult to find. Most widely reported numbers are estimates. Many have been discredited. The 2014 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report included this cautionary statement when using its...

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    You mentioned two books and two authors at the start of the blog but then didn’t really tie them into the article and if you hadn’t heard the controversy over Driscoll’s book you wouldn’t know what this was about.  I wouldn’t buy Driscoll’s book as I already know what its largely about from many reviews.  Does Keller’s book include these same things that your blog is about?

    Reply
    • Dave Jenkins

      Gary,

      This is not a review of Driscoll’s book not a commentary on anything related to it. I make that clear here, “To clarify this is not a review of Real Marriage”. Furthermore, this is not a review of either books nor my thoughts on them. The reason I didn’t tie the books into the blog is that is not my goal. I indicate that here in the opening paragraph, “While much of the conversation has been helpful, even clarifying, and I’ve benefited from some of it, I haven’t seen anyone thus far take on the topic itself outside of reviewing Pastor Mark’s book Real Marriage. To clarify, this is not a review of Real Marriage and I will not be addressing it specifically until I do a review of it here in the next few months.” I also mentioned my goal here, “I am not against all talk on sex, and my goal is not to “fan the flames” of the debate, but rather to redirect and re-orient the conversation upon this one question, “Is contemporary preaching, teaching and writing on sex biblical?” The focus of this article is explained here, “My main concern and the thrust of this article is to explore the relationship between Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 5:29 by exploring to what degree contemporary preaching and teaching on sex violates those passages and conclude by suggesting ways in which Christians can speak to one another about sex without being a hindrance to fellow believers, while faithfully communicating God’s Truth to a post-modern culture.”

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Thanks brother! I guess I’ll have to read Keller’s to find out!!

        Reply
        • Dave Jenkins

          Gary,

          Sorry I didn’t address your other question, “Does Keller’s book include these same things that your blog is about?”  The blog isn’t about either articles (as I’ve mentioned already). I’ve only read two chapters in Keller’s book so far. Chapter 8 of Keller’s book is titled “Sex and Marriage”. The two chapters of Keller’s book that I’ve read so far are thoroughly drenched in the Gospel. I hope that helps brother.

          Reply
          • Avatar

            Thanks Dave, I’m excited to read Keller’s book!

          • Dave Jenkins

            Your very welcome brother. Here in the next few months I’ll be reviewing the book. God bless you bro.

  2. Avatar

    I am curious (hoping to gain Biblical insight) as to what you believe about the possibility of speaking to specific sexual acts (my position would be more like stating, not describing, the ones that aren’t ok Biblically for whatever reason) in books verses from the pulpit, since you’re probably speaking directly to a public audience possibly of varying ages and genders from the pulpit, but not necessarily so from the book, and therefore, those who believe it will be helpful or good can read it, and those who don’t believe so or don’t need it don’t have to read the book. Does that make sense?

    Reply
    • Dave Jenkins

      Adam,

      I’m not speaking of any book in the article. Like you, I think it’s okay to state the issue even use statistics that is all fine. I am against as I mention in the article (and you indicated) giving descriptions of the sex acts. My specific issue as I indicate in the post above is the describing the sex acts. I have no problem with people speaking out against homosexuality or pornography, and I’ve done it here on Servants of Grace. As I said in the article and re-iterate I think the contemporary conversation on sex needs to be redirected towards what the Bible says and nothing more. This is what I was communicating when I wrote: 

      I am not against all talk on sex, and my goal is not to “fan the flames” of the debate, but rather to redirect and re-orient the conversation upon this one question, “Is contemporary preaching, teaching and writing on sex biblical?”
      My main concern is that many preachers are more interested in preaching on controversial topics than the Word of God. The Word of God does address the topic of sex but the Bible is not a manual of “do this and do that” in the marriage bed. When the Bible speaks of Christians it calls them “saints” for a reason because they are a separate people unto the Lord God. The people of God are to reflect the holiness of God to the world. When Pastors, preachers, writers, and teachers are more interested in building a platform, selling books all in the guise of “preaching what the Bible says about sex” I don’t question their motives or sincerity but I do question why they think it is necessary to cross the line and describe sex acts.
      My main concerns with this approach to ministry are 1) I don’t see it in the Bible, 2) I believe it violates Romans 14:13 and Ephesians 4:29), 3) I don’t believe it strengthens the Church, 4) pastoral, as, I believe it does a disservice to Christians and unbelievers many of whom are deeply confused about sex. Finally many of these Pastors, preachers, teachers and writers are men that I respect a great deal and have benefited from, but I am concerned that these men are more known for preaching on sex while declaring they are making much of Jesus.

      Hopefully this answers your question.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Yep, that answers my question, thank you. Btw, thank you for the excellent posts here on Servants of Grace, I started following y’all not too long ago and I have found it to be a good reason and an good place to find insight into God’s word, or just encouragement. God bless!

        Reply
        • Dave Jenkins

          Awesome glad it helped. Thanks for those kind words I’m thankful you find the material here to be helpful in your growth in the grace of God. If you have further questions or need further clarification don’t hesitate to ask. I notice your following me on google plus also so don’t hesitate to ask there also if you like.

          Reply
          • Avatar

            Will do. Thanks.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reddit
Share
Email
Buffer
Tweet