By Elizabeth Prata
This article from Ed Shaw at The Gospel Coalition Australia is causing a stir. It claims that Jesus “struggled” with sexuality, His gender, and temptation to same-sex sin.
Shaw said in his interview:
TGCA: Tell us about your plans for the youth night on Friday night? Do you see youth as a particularly vulnerable age for confusion on matters of sexuality?
Shaw: I’m wanting the young people who come to this event to know that Jesus is the one person that they can fully trust with their sexualities, identities and gender because he is both their Creator God and a human being who knows what it is like to grapple with a sexuality, identity and gender.
Jesus struggled with same-sex temptations? Thoughts? Lusts? No.
Their basis for saying this, wrongly, comes from a misunderstanding (or a deliberate twisting) of the verses in Hebrews that say Jesus was tempted in every way.
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18).
Nor we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15).
The homosexual lobby is separating the temptation from the sin itself and claiming that the temptation itself isn’t a sin, just the act is sin, so it is OK that Jesus ‘struggled’ with it. And the temptation not being a sin, it isn’t necessary to repent from. That’s a generalization but it’s essentially the issue that is leading to this problem and confusion.
Dr. Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Southern Seminary and their undergraduate institution, Boyce College, and author of the book, What is the Meaning of Sex as well as the forthcoming book, Transforming Homosexuality: Living Faithfully with Same Sex Attraction, was interviewed at BiblicalCounseling.com, to discuss the question, Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?
His partial response (and the interview is good to read the transcript of or listen to) –
The issue is – and this is one of the things that distinguishes Jesus’ experience from ours – is that Jesus was sinless; that’s what Hebrews 4:15 says, He was “…without sin.” This doesn’t characterize our experience because the Bible says that we have been brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin. We have a sinful nature. James 1 teaches us that oftentimes our temptations emerge from within and that we have temptations that emerge from our own evil desires. James 1:14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (emphasis added). We face temptations arising from our own lusts which Jesus never faced. So, what does that mean? It means that sometimes there are dispositions, attractions, desires, which emerge from our own heart that are themselves sinful because we are sinners by nature. Jesus never faced those kinds of temptations so we find ourselves having to repent of our own desires that sometimes come quite naturally to us as sinners.
Associate Pastor of Faith Ref. Presbyterian Church Steven Wedgeworth wrote on Twitter, explaining the issue this way–
Whatever the pastoral intent, the argument invokes Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 in order to claim that Jesus “struggled with” sin and that He was may have “struggled with His sexuality.” This is not an ordinary vanilla way of reading those passages.
The classic definition of Christ’s sinlessness is that He was free from original sin and all of its affects on His will. He suffered from certain effects of internal sin (decay, certain kinds of sickness), but he did not have total depravity as we do.
Jesus did not have disordered desires. He did not have concupiscence (still a relevant term!). He did not consider that sinning might be the right course of action. He didn’t go back and forth about whether to do it. He was perfect and always lived to do the Father’s will.
When it comes to temptation, Jesus was subject to external temptations. But He did not possess internal ones, for those would require a will disposed towards the sin. See the attached Owen quote for one explanation.
Now, what is it to be tempted? It is to have that proposed to a man’s consideration which, if he close withal, it is evil, it is sin unto him. This is sin’s trade: Epithumei—’It lusteth.’ It is raising up in the heart, and proposing unto the mind and affections, that which is evil; trying, as it were, whether the soul will close with its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, though it do not wholly prevail (p. 194). ~John Owen
So we can’t say that Jesus “grappled with” or “struggled with” sexual temptations. He always had appropriately ordered desires and affections. He was always chaste.
Also, we shouldn’t press “tempted in every respect” to mean that Jesus experienced every possible temptation. This gets ridiculous fast. Was he tempted to mass murder? To enslave children? No.
And terms like “wrestle with,” “struggle with,” “grapple with” are too imprecise for these kinds of conversations. The speaker *may* have some nuance in his mind, but most people just hear those words as saying “an internal battle.” Indeed, they are metaphors involving violence.
I don’t know what sort of connection TGC Australia has with the main TGC, but you would think they would be very upset with that statement from the editors and would look into the matter with some urgency.
We can and should want to have the most-charitable dispositions towards Christians trying to battle against all kinds of sexual temptations. However, we can’t rewrite our systematic theologies to make this an easier task.
I found those explanations to be most helpful. But before we get too far into definitions, explanations and John Owen and the Greek words, here is the simplest and in my opinion the best way to look at it-
Matthew 4. He was led by the Spirit, and He was tempted by the devil. Now you say, “Wait a minute. If God tempts no man” – as we noted, James chapter 1 – “then how in the world can the Holy Spirit drive the Son of God into a conflict with the devil?” Oh because, you see, from God’s viewpoint it was a test to prove His righteousness. It was only a temptation from Satan’s viewpoint. ~John MacArthur, The Crisis of Temptation part 1
See end for a post script.
Let’s finish with a verse from Apostle John,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever, (1 John 2:15-17).