On 12th of July, Dr Donald J. Wilton – Senior Pastor of First Baptist Spartanburg in South Carolina and pastor of Dr Billy Graham – came to teach about the Christian worldview and response to same-sex marriage, in Kuala Lumpur Baptist Church (KLBC) led by Senior Pastor Rev John Kok.
Dr Wilton has served as a Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg for 19 years. He also serves as a president of The Encouraging Word television ministry that reaches thousands of homes through regional CBS-affiliate, WSPA-TV, and millions of homes both nationally and globally.
Relating to the Christian worldview for same-sex marriage, Dr Wilton shared that firstly, the world is the world. This world comprises people of different ethnicities, all of whom Christ died for. Nevertheless, although we live in the same world, believers of Christ perceive this world differently from nonbelievers. Although we are in the world, we are called to be not of the world (John 17:14-15).
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:14-15)
In fact, the Bible says that we should not love the world (1 John 2:15-17). In other words, although we are part of this fallen world, we as believers must not accept what this fallen world demands from us because the blood of the Lamb has redeemed us (Eph 1:7).
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Because the world is the world, we should not be surprise when laws are written based on worldly views instead of God’s laws. And this is due to absence of consulting the Bible.
Secondly, the church is the church. As the Senior Pastor of his local Baptist church, Dr Wilton has become a part of the Baptist denomination and a part of an ecclesiological Baptist government that governs the Baptist church operation. In other words, there are rules and laws already in place to govern a church operation and beliefs.
And as members of the church, a believer naturally becomes part of what the church believes in, which is the Bible. Nevertheless, Dr Wilton shared that as believers, we need to be wise in determining how we are going to live as believers within the context of our church government, and altogether under the laws that govern our nation.
Thirdly, the Bible is the Bible or the Word of God is the Word of God. Dr Wilton holds that every word in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation as true. Not only he believes that the Bible contains the Word of God, it is the Word of God that carries God’s power through His Spirit. Hence, Dr Wilton’s authority of living is in the Bible, instead of in the constitution of the country he lives in. This is because when he dies and stands before God, his life is judged according to the Righteousness of God presented in His Word, and not the country’s constitution.
Fourthly, God is God. In other words, God does not change. The Bible says that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8). The ordinances of God do not change over these 2000 years because God does not alter His Word.
Fifthly, men are men. All of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The only difference between the best behaving Christ believer and the worst behaving nonbeliever is the grace of God. Hence, the recent approval of same-sex marriage did not come as a surprise, due to the increasing ideology of relativism, postmodernism, and individualism in the world. The world is increasingly centred in the human spirit, than the spirit of the Living God.
What stands as a bigger concern beyond the issue of same-sex marriage is the infringement of freedom in practicing one’s religious belief. Declining to hold a same-sex marriage in church or preaching of God’s Word relating to homosexuality, will be held as a basis for personal attack instead of a right to uphold and practice one’s religious belief.
Hence, the Supreme Court has an important job to uphold the law in the country and the right of every citizen. The church should also have the right to uphold their religious ordinances according to the church’s constitution, under the ecclesiological government of the church denomination. And as for individual believers in Christ, we are called to live out the life of what God tells us to live, through His Authority in His Word.
Hence, based on these five foundational truths for our Christian worldview, how should we respond as believers in Christ to same-sex marriage?
Firstly, we need to reaffirm the word of God in the Bible relating to how God designed marriage to be. Believers who would struggle in responding to same-sex marriage would be believers who have not decided that God’s Word is the authority. With a wishy-washy attitude, they make no stand on the issue of homosexuality although God’s Word evidently point out that homosexuality defies God’s order for creation (Gen 1:27-28, Matthew 19:4-6). No matter the degree of love professed by same-gender partners, it is wrong in the eyes of God (Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28). Also, the danger of legalization of same-sex marriage is that it could start a slippery slope to legalization of other sexual sins such as bestiality and polygamy.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:26-28)
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1:27-28)
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Secondly, we need to renew our marriage vows to strengthen and to display the picture of a covenantal God-designed marriage to the world. We need to stand strongly on the picture of marriage according to the Word of God, especially in the light of increasing divorces even amongst believers in the church today.
Thirdly, we need to revive the church. When same-sex marriage is legalized in the United States, believers in Christ need to soberly ask themselves, “If we are going to be in the world but not of the world, what do we look like?” All across the world, there are many churches that increasingly behave like the world, yet we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16) and set ourselves apart from the sinful practices of the world (Romans 12:2).
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
As believers in Christ, we are not called to do whatever we want but to be the disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Being a disciple means that we repent from our sins, and we turn away from ourselves towards God. Being a disciple also means that when we accept Christ, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:20). So, when we are in this world, we live as Christ-followers in the context of this world with deep sensitivity to the laws of the country.
Fourthly, we need to realign our allegiance. Unlike a playground or a social club, a church is a living organism where Christ dwells with worshipers like us, having fellowship and serving together. Also, first and foremost, we must pledge our allegiance to our God first. Our citizenship belongs in Heaven first, and then only our citizenship on earth. We belong to Jesus Christ, and because we belong to Him, we live according to His Word.
Fifthly, we need to redesign our witness. Instead of being lukewarm for Christ, we need to live out as witnesses for Christ today, by out-loving, out-praying, and out-giving to the nonbelievers in the world today. The Bible does not define us by our temptations but the Bible defines us by our Righteousness in the light of God’s Word.
As a pastor, Dr Wilton shared two main practices in his job, comprising of teaching the Word of God without apology and loving people without strings attached. The latter means that we are to treat individuals engaging in homosexual activity as no different from other individuals in the church. However, we cannot accept homosexuality as not a sin anymore than we can accept the sin of adultery, sin of fornication, sin of hate, sin of jealousy, sin of anger, sin of strife, and sin of heresy, because God in His Word does not accept all these sins as acceptable and right.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Finally, Dr Wilton shared the Word of God from Psalm 119:136 that say, “Stream of tears flow from my eyes, for our law is not obeyed.” As believers, we need to ask ourselves for the issues that demean God’s laws, how much are we bothered by them? Dr Wilton is greatly saddened by the same-sex marriage constitution. But he decided to pray for the government, the church, the homosexuals, God’s people, and God to give him the strength and courage to stand up in God’s Truth in love.
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