This is a long one – grab a drink & a snack and settle in 😉
Last week a pro-LGBTQ activist somehow came across a tweet I had sent out over a month earlier about the Jen Hatmaker mess. She re-tweeted it, along with some rather derogatory remarks, and her army of followers took off.
I ignored them all (did you know you can mute conversations on Twitter? Fantastic little feature!). I don’t think that Twitter is the proper place for evangelism, at all, and trying to argue worldview in 140 characters was not something I was interested in while there were multiple things at home requiring my attention.
However, the twitter-ites drummed out the same old arguments about homosexual sin and why I, as a practicing Christian, am also going to hell, if I take a stance against sexual sin while wearing mixed fabric and eating shrimp. I figure if I’m hearing these arguments – again – then you might be, too, and maybe you could use some easy Bible teaching to add to your arsenal.
I rarely post a “caveat” of any sort. However, in this day and age, especially when discussing sexual sin and Scripture…
You can’t argue sexual sin with unbelievers. You just can’t. Their problem isn’t their sexual sin – it’s their unbelief. Go listen to Rosaria Butterfield or Emily Thomes and their testimonies about coming out of unbelieving homosexual lifestyles. The article I’m writing today isn’t meant to sway an unbeliever to Christ; it isn’t evangelistic in nature.
Besides…all sexual sin is forgivable. All of it. Christ’s blood will forgive any and all sexual sin, because there is no sexual sin that is not forgivable.
But if you are having conversations with someone claiming Christ and persisting in sin? This might help you. If you are curious how Old Testament Scriptures are used to justify sin, this might open your eyes a little, and give you a way to answer back.
Misuse of sexuality is a sin. Period.
One of the most common arguments that the LGBTQ community and queer theologians (yes, for real, I’m not being mean) will use is that conservative Christians single out homosexual sin above all other sexual sin. While this is true is some cases, it is not true in all cases.
I know plenty of churches that will not allow heterosexual couples who are cohabitating to serve, to lead, or to get married until they sign a commitment to stop sinning sexually and live apart until after the marital ceremony. Sadly, however, I know of plenty of churches that also turn a blind eye to heterosexual sin, not preaching at all against adultery, premarital sex, or dealing with the escalating issues of sex in our schools.
However. Any sex outside of the confines of marriage between one man and one woman is a sin, according to Scripture. So what my church says or does, and what the church down the road says or does, and what the government decrees, is irrelevant. God says, from the beginning of creation, that man is made for woman, woman is made for man, and sex – the uniting of the two into one, is reserved for the exclusivity of marriage.
Romans 13:13 “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.”
I Thessalonians 4:3-7 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God, and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
I Corinthians 6:17-20 “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
All sexual sin is sin in the eyes of God. Period, end of discussion. If you want even more of an idea of how seriously God takes it, read Leviticus 18-20, where God lays out for the people exactly who can and cannot have sex. You cannot have sex with your mother, your step-mother, you sister, your aunt, your daughter-in-law, your brother’s wife, or animals. In fact, God was so serious about adultery in the Old Testament, everyone who participated in it was to be put to death: both the man and the woman.
Frequently people argue, “Well your God thinks homosexuality is a sin? He also thinks women should be killed for adultery!” Actually, He thought men should be killed for it, too. (Leviticus 20:10 & following). But adultery falls into a certain category of laws that Jesus deals with, which I will address shortly.
Bottom line: sexual sin is a big deal. Are churches treating it as such? No. But that doesn’t excuse Christians from ignoring it.
Jesus did address sexual sin.
Another common argument is “Well, if Jesus thought homosexual sin was such a big deal, He would have said something. But since He never addressed it, I can do whatever I want.”
Actually, here is what Jesus said about this: John 12:44-50 (ESV) “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me’.”
John 15:18-24 (Jesus speaking at the Last Supper) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.”
John 10:30 (Jesus speaking) “I and the Father are one.”
So, you see, while Jesus may not have specifically said, “Thou shall not…” in a red letter edition of the New Testament, Jesus is God. Jesus and the Father are one. If you know and love Jesus, you know and love the Father. “But Jesus never said” is not an excuse for any sin, period.
Jesus and God are the same. Their commands are the same, which means the moral commands found in both testaments are the same.
Which leads me to the law in the Old Testament.
The shrimp fallacy.
The other argument I hear all the time goes like this:
“Oh! So you think homosexuality is a sin because of the Old Testament? Well then you better not be eating shrimp (or wearing clothing made out of two fabrics), because your God outlawed that in the Old Testament too!”
Here’s a quick lesson on law in the Old Testament and how it relates to the New Testament (or, old and new covenants, if you prefer):
There are three types of laws in the Old Testament: moral, civil, and ceremonial.
Moral laws are just like they sound: laws handed down by God to direct the moral behavior of people. The most prime example of these would be the Ten Commandments.
Civil laws are laws given by God to show His people (who had been slaves for 400 years and had never lived in a civilization not ruled by a human godlike-king) how to run a society. Examples of these were things like how to deal with loans, what to do with poor people, what happens if your neighbor’s ox wanders into your field, and what to do if you came down with some sort of sickness (get out of camp before infecting a million other people), and what happened if you accidentally killed someone. These laws were gradually abandoned as the tribes were developed, cities grew, government was formed, and then, eventually, the demand for a king was answered.
The third type of laws were ceremonial laws. These are the laws you are going to most often encounter by people who think they know Scripture, but in reality they just know two or three “really great” verses to throw at you and run.
Ceremonial laws dealt with the priests, worship, and the fact that the Israelites were to be holy – set apart from the surrounding nations. Ceremonial laws covered things like what the priests wore; how, what, and when they sacrificed; what the Israelites could and couldn’t eat (like shrimp – which have a vein of poop in them; and dead animals they happen upon); not having tattoos and cutting themselves in honor of the dead (like the Philistines did); not wearing clothing of mixed fabrics (so just the sight of their clothing reminded them to remain pure), and how they were to approach God when it was time to worship Him. Even circumcision was a ceremonial law: it physically marked God’s chosen people.
These were very important laws God handed down to His people. Again – a group of people who had been slaves for 400 years of a human godlike-king, and they needed to know that they were different – chosen – redeemed. Ceremonial laws were all pointing to the promised Messiah who would complete their redemption and heal them.
And then the Messiah came, and fulfilled the law.
Jesus Christ and the Law
Jesus Himself said He came to fulfill the law.
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Ceremonial Laws: Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws. Do we offer sacrifices anymore? No. He was the ultimate Passover Lamb, fulfilling the need for sacrifices. We are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws. Even the food laws were fulfilled – Jesus said it’s what comes out of our mouths that make us unclean (Mark 7:17-23 & Acts 10:9-16). So we can eat bacon-wrapped shrimp if we want – we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws of the OT. We can also wear clothing of mixed fabric, because our very appearance is no longer what sets us apart as holy – it is our behavior as marked by fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Which leads to this:
Civil & Moral Laws: Now, I cannot make the blanket statement that Jesus “fulfilled” the civil and moral laws. What Jesus did was elevate these laws into a whole other spectrum. Read the entire Sermon on the Mount. Read the parables. Read all of the red words in a red letter edition of the New Testament.
Jesus took the civil and moral laws and moved the onus from a checklist that the government enforces to an internal growth marked by sanctification through the Holy Spirit.
Is murder still a sin? Yes, but now the first step toward it – anger – is also a sin.
Jesus fulfilled the laws by elevating the onus from external action to your internal self. James 1:14 “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Jesus moves the law from an outside physical marker to an inside behavior pattern.
So is adultery still a sin? Yes, but now the first step toward it – lust – is a sin.
Jesus elevated the sexual laws from Leviticus a step further: not only can you no longer commit adultery physically, you can’t even think about committing adultery now, as a Christian.
You are to stop even hinting around at or inching toward sin, in any capacity, at all, in your life.
So here’s the conclusion. Can you eat shrimp? Yes. Can you wear clothing of mixed fabric? Yes. Can you have sex with someone to whom you aren’t biblically married?
Period. End of discussion. Scripture is very clear on this.
Is sexual sin forgivable?
Yes. Absolutely. And yes, the church often treats it as if it isn’t. I believe that is because society is normalizing sin, so when the church says, “No, wait a minute, we still believe that Holy Scripture is accurate, and sin is sin,” we become very unpopular. So society screeches at us about how hateful and fearful we are, and we screech back, confirming fears.
Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you,” like I quoted above.
We should respond with love, but we must also always respond with Truth.
And Truth is named Jesus Christ.
8 thoughts on “Theology Thursday: Sex, Shrimp, and OT Law”
Thank you (a million times) for this post. I know many professing Christians who believe that we can not say homosexuality is a sin because of OT laws, and I also know many professing Christians who are very confused on this topic and believe that we must follow the laws on not eating shrimp/no mixed clothing and so on. I personally don’t eat pork or shrimp for health reasons, but not for reasons based on my faith. This is a wonderful guide, I hope that it helps clear things up for a lot of people!
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Thank you for your encouraging comment! It is a confusing topic, and I was hoping to make it less so. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I’m glad you addressed this. As you already know, unbelievers don’t care about understanding it correctly they just want a ‘gotcha’argument. But it is good for Christians to properly understand the difference between ceremonial, moral, and civil law so that they know what they believe and can answer coherently. Great job
Having worked in ex-gay ministry for 12 years during the 80s and 90s, I’ve read numerous articles and books on this matter. Yours offers one of the most concise and articulate presentations I’ve ever read!
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Thank you so much! I always appreciate your encouragement :). I’m glad this is concise and articulate; I felt like it was too long & wordy 😉