I have sometimes spoken with Christians who have said something like “we really ought to emphasize the love of God,” and we should not focus on the negative “by pointing out heresy.” All that is necessary is to declare the truth. Why engage with error? Why give it the time of day? The problem with this view is that it runs aground on Galatians, 1 John, 2 Peter, not to mention others, all of which were written to refute error.
There is a similar problem with those who want God’s authority over sex to be somehow backgrounded in our preaching and teaching. Peter Jones notes, rightly:
“Because the transgression of sexual boundaries is a common expression of human rebellion against God the Creator, the Bible, while never denigrating human sexuality, nonetheless regulates it in accord with the Creator’s design. God warns his people to seek bodily holiness and to avoid sexual license” (The God of Sex, p. 173).
So the issue here is emphasis. All conservative Christians acknowledge that sexual sin is sin. But how big a deal is it? The preponderance of New Testament texts warning against this sin gives us a clear answer. If your browser supports RefTagger, just run your cursor over these references (Matt. 15:19; Acts 15:29; 1 Cor. 5:9; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Cor. 6:13; 1 Cor. 6:15-16; 1 Cor. 6: 18; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Cor. 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; Eph. 5:3; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; 1 Thess. 7:7; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; Heb. 12:16; Heb. 13:4; Rev. 2:20; Rev. 21:8).
This is especially so when we consider the similarities between our day and the time of Rome — we live in the times of a resurgent pagan empire, just as the early Christians lived in the time of an established pagan empire. Both empires were pragmatic and very wealthy. Behind all of it, in both cases, we can identify a refusal to acknowledge the Creator/creature distinction — pagans necessarily reject the basic Christian dualism between that which is God and that which is not. And in a circumstance similar in a lot of ways to ours, the apostles spent a lot of time addressing sexual issues, insisting on sexual purity in the Church.
As Martin Luther put it:
“If I profess, with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle fields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Through their lies about sex and sexuality, the world and the devil are currently attacking the doctrine of the Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Glorification through their new world pomosexuality. When an orthodox Christian fails in his sexual integrity, as David did, the sin is a very great one. But it is a sexual sin, and not the sin of trying to remake the entire universe more to one’s liking. Sexual sin is one thing — high rebellion with sex as its instrument is quite another. In the contemporary culture wars swirling around sex, we are dealing with the latter and not with the former.
A man who sins sexually can come to his senses a half an hour later, and often does. But a man who refuses to come to his senses, who refuses to accept an authoritative law/word that governs all lovemaking . . . such a one is seriously attempting to be God at all times, instead of what the sexual sinner is doing, which is forgetting he is not God for half an hour. To blur these two things together as though they are both “just about sex” is fail the faithful profession of Christ in just the way described by Martin Luther above.