One of the objections to pastors and churches putting much emphasis on sexual sin is the concern that we are being too political, straying off topic, away from the centrality of the gospel. Sure, sexuality needs to be addressed from time to time, but the central thing is the gospel. And regularly preaching on sexual identity, sexual sin, or marriage seems to make those issues gospel issues. But the gospel — we have been reminded from time to time — is not heterosexual.
Ok, I’ll bite. Actually, the gospel is heterosexual. The gospel is thoroughly, gloriously, wonderfully heterosexual. Now there are various ways to misunderstand this claim, but those potential misunderstandings are inherent in the nature of the gospel rightly preached. It means you’re preaching the gospel right. Paul preached grace like a fire hose unleashed because God’s grace really is like that to the small-minded wisdom of man and inherent in that right preaching of the gospel, is the need to address antinomians — “shall we sin so that grace may abound?”
God forbid. Same thing goes for preaching true regeneration of the heart. One is not a Christian merely outwardly by baptism. A true Christian is one whose heart has been washed clean by the blood of Christ. And when you preach that gospel, the question will come, “well, what good is baptism then? what good is the covenant?” And with Paul, we reply, much in every way! (Rom. 3:2). So too, if we preach the gospel faithfully in this sexually disturbed era, we will provoke various questions, and we will need to patiently, carefully answer them. And perhaps I will work through some of those at some point, but for now let’s establish the main point.
So, how is the gospel at stake in all the debates raging over sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual sin? While it’s true that there are some trigger-happy heresy hunters out there who think the gospel is at stake when the women’s fellowship decides to serve brownies instead of ice cream, on the whole, we in the evangelical Reformed world are not in danger of being too careful.
If the last 70 years should teach us anything is that we have not been nearly careful enough. We have made compromise after compromise, surrendering almost everything along the way, such that we now have so-called “conservatives” debating whether or not it is biblical for a man to adopt a “queer identity” so long as he promises not to actually engage in sodomy.
Sexual sin is a gospel issue because the Bible teaches that unrepentant sexual sinners will go to Hell. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
And at the end of Revelation: “For without [the gates of the city] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15). To preach the gospel into the darkness of sexual sin is to deliver sexual sinners from Hell. Now, I certainly grant that a preacher must be careful not to ignore the other sins on these lists, but it is simply not true that preaching on sexual sin is not a gospel issue. If the gospel does not address the actual chains that bind us, the gospel is not likely to set anyone free.
But I said that the gospel is heterosexual. How so?
First, the gospel is the means by which God is bringing a new creation into being in this dark world. In the beginning, God spoke and said, Let there be light. In the new creation, God has determined to re-make this world once again through His word, but this time, His Word became flesh and dwelt among us. His Word was born in a stable in Bethlehem. His Word walked in this world healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead. His Word then went willingly to the Cross for the sins of the world.
He willingly took upon Himself all the shame, all the guilt, all the darkness of this fallen world and in His death, He crushed its head, fully satisfying God’s justice. And this Word rose from the dead on the third day in order to make all things new. And this new creation has been coming into existence ever since through the proclamation of this gospel word: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). And this is why “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This is the gospel we preach. We preach Christ crucified for sin in order that all things might become new. And yes, we preach this into the darkest corners of this world. We preach this light into the darkness of queer identity, into the darkness of pedophilia, into the darkness of porn addiction. And if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold all things become new.
Leave your grave clothes behind. And this is the point: the new creation is not an obliteration of the old creation. It is a renewal and glorification of the old creation. And so this includes the biological sex God gave you at conception, embedded in your DNA. This new creation means the renewal of your assigned sexual identity and orientation — which for every human being is heterosexual.
The basic binary structure of the world — male and female — runs through everything and does so by God’s good and glorious design. We are sexed creatures, and we therefore walk in this world in holiness and godliness by embracing and submitting to this two-different-sexes structure. The gospel proclaims this renewal, this new creation, which is indeed heterosexual.
And finally, the gospel is heterosexual because Jesus is our Savior and the Church is His Bride: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
We are the profane, the filthy, the spotted, the wrinkled, and He is the hero, our Savior, our Lord.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).