In October, the congregation of First Baptist Church adopted a statement required of each of our members. It is called The First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality. Here is what it says:
As a member of First Baptist Church, I believe that God creates people in his image as either male or female, and that this creation is a fixed matter of human biology, not individual choice. I believe marriage is instituted by God, not government, is between one man and one woman, and is the only context for sexual desire and expression.
Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
This statement is a very straightforward and biblical statement. Without singling out any one specific sin, it summarizes God’s design for gender, marriage, and sexuality. This positive statement equally forbids the range of human sinful sexual expression, including fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, transgenderism, and others.
Since our congregation voted to approve and require this statement, we have received a windfall of support from our own congregation as well as religious leaders around the country. There is great enthusiasm for this clear stand, and leaders in the religious and legal world have asked permission to use the statement in their own context.
In spite of all the support, some have had questions. Even when they agree with the statement, they wonder why a church would require something like this for all of its members.
I want to persuade Christians that there are at least three reasons why Christians need a statement like this, including unity, clarity, and love.
Let me explain each one.
In the confused culture in which we are all living, we cannot take for granted that even professing Christians have a consistent view regarding the crucial matters of gender, marriage, and sexuality. The time has passed when Christians could take for granted that we were united on these matters.
Because these matters are so basic and because they are so debated, we must take a clear stand on the matter. These are not matters that Christians in the same church can debate for long without tearing apart the body. They are not matters that will be debated at First Baptist Church. These are matters where we must have unity, so our church now requires our individual members to express their agreement with this statement.
This unity will help to ensure peace in our congregation and will also help ensure our congregation is protected. Every day we make decisions about hiring, preaching, member care, and who can use what bathrooms. No one would have predicted it ten years ago, but today those decisions are considered controversial and can land churches and other religious organizations in legal trouble. We have received legal counsel that has assured us that, should we ever wind up in court on these matters, it will be crucial to show that everyone in our congregation is united in believing the matters addressed in our statement are a core biblical conviction.
One of the roles of God’s people is to speak into the confusion of a corrupt culture with the Word of God.
One of the hallmarks of our cultural confusion is the rejection of basic truths regarding who is a man, who is a woman, what is marriage, and what is sex. Throughout Scripture, God requires his faithful followers to speak into sinful culture as a demonstration of prophetic responsibility. We are nearing a point where the only people who know the truth about these matters are God’s faithful people.
For anyone who wants to honor God, it is simply not sufficient to know truth that you refuse to share. This is particularly the case when God’s people know truth that corrects a central cultural confusion. If our culture is deeply confused on the issues of gender, marriage, and sexuality, then basic conviction requires us to confront that confusion even—especially—when such a confrontation is controversial.
Throughout the history of redemption, God’s people have always faced issues that have tested their faithfulness. In our culture, one of those issues is our massive sexual confusion. We cannot be silent where our culture is most confused.
Of course, there is a way for Christians to be united and clearly articulate their views while being hateful to others. Christians are not allowed to do this. We follow a God who is the very definition of love (1 John 4:8, 16), and Jesus himself says that the way people will know we are Christians is by our love (John 13:35). That means, even if The First Baptist Statement on Biblical Sexuality is true, it is out of bounds for Christians if it is unloving.
But our statement is only unloving if you define love apart from the Bible.
In the Bible, there is no such thing as love without truth (Ephesians 4:15). There is a kind of cultural “niceness” that is pleasant, accepting, warm, and tolerant. This kind of niceness actually morphs into hate if we refuse to tell lost people the truth because we want to be perceived as nice.
Jesus makes a shocking claim when he says in Luke 13:5, “If you don’t repent, you will perish.” Because Jesus is infinitely loving, he gives a command that sounds harsh to wicked ears. The command is to repent. Repentance is a truthful message that everyone must hear if they are to be saved. Our sins separate us from God and hang a death sentence around our neck. The only way to avoid perishing and be saved is to name that sin and trust in Christ as the only one who can pay for it through his death on the cross.
Christians are the only ones who know what sin is and are the only ones who know the solution to that sin is found in Christ alone. That means a culture that is drowning in sexual sin will only hear about it and can only know that they must repent if they hear about it from us. It is the ultimate demonstration of hatefulness for Christians to know about sin, to know that sin will separate sinners from God forever, and yet refuse to call sinners to repentance. On the other hand, it is the love of Christ to point out sin and call people to faith in Jesus.
Because our church loves Jesus, because we love lost people, because, with all our hearts, we want unsaved people to find Christ and live and serve with us, we must share loving truth that might be hard to hear but is necessary for eternal life.
Our loving expressions for lost people won’t count for much if we remain silent and allow them to believe and behave in ways that will bring about eternal death.
At First Baptist, we want to be a united church, a clear church, and we want to be a church that shares the love of Jesus with lost people. Those are just a few of the reasons for our statement on biblical sexuality.