Posted in theology

Did Jesus struggle with his gender and his sexuality? Was he tempted to same-sex attraction?

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).

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the original PS compared
Ed Shaw’s PS at the end of his article at TGC AU, both the original and edited, side by side. 
My article here was to present proper interpretation of Heb 2:18 & 4:15,
as Shaw’s PS recommended.
Posted in theology

Is Temptation a Sin?

By Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday at my personal blog I’d posted an essay explaining Why I Will Never Watch ABC’s ‘The Good Doctor’ Again.

In the November 26th episode called “Empathy” a character who had constant thoughts and sexual desires for children was featured. He hated his own desires and sought to rid himself of them, via medicines, mutilations, and therapies. He prided himself on never having acted on his desires, because he knew they were depraved. The build-up in the show, apparently, was to develop empathy for the ‘in thoughts only’ pedophile because of the extreme lengths he went to in order for him to make sure his desires remained unfulfilled.

This is called the “virtuous pedophile.” The title is an actual title, based on a growing internet support group of people who acknowledge their depraved desires but do not act on them. Their restraint is supposed to be virtuous.

Someone commented in reply to my essay that “To be tempted to something is not a sin. I have no desire to normalize or justify pedophilia if that is what the show is doing, but if it deals with an individual tempted but resisting that temptation I’m not sure that would be wrong.”

Let’s explore that a bit here on this blog. I appreciated the nuance and grace in the comment. I thought about it for a while. In the end, I’d replied that temptation itself is not a sin, else Jesus, when he was tempted in the desert, would be sinning just for having experienced a temptation. So, I agree temptation is not a sin. What is a sin is how we respond to it. Responding to temptation is not solely the act, but also the entertainment of those thoughts. In His temptation, Jesus resisted sin by refusing even to entertain the thought and refuted satan by immediately referring to His Father’s word.  More here.

That said, the show I’d reviewed was not about temptation. It was about the normalizing pedophilia by calling those who have the desires but who don’t act on them, virtuous. It was about the manipulative forcing of an empathetic reaction to someone who has admitted many desires for children in the sexual sense. The show made a great deal about how much the man was consumed by lust for children. It, apparently did not make much if his efforts to rid himself of the thoughts, only restraining himself from the action.

John MacArthur puts the issue to a concise point when he says (of homosexuality)

No matter how much you desire to be compassionate to the homosexual, your first sympathies belong to the Lord and to the exaltation of His righteousness.

So how should we respond to various desires we have in the flesh? And remember, not all desires are equal. Heterosexual desire is normal, but when it turns to lust for another woman it’s a sin. Yet, homosexual desire is always depraved, because it is expressly forbidden in scripture. As noted in the GotQuestions essay above and as I’d said in my essay,

Lust, for example, is sin even though it may never be acted upon (Matthew 5:28). Covetousness, pride, greed, and envy are all sins of the heart; even though they may not be apparent to anyone else, they are still sin (Romans 1:29; Mark 7:21-22). When we give in to the temptation to entertain such thoughts, they take root in our hearts and defile us (Matthew 15:18–19). emphasis mine

Romans 1:26 calls homosexual desire a “degrading passion.” Ergo pedophilia too. JMac again-

It is a lust that destroys the physical body, ruins relationships, and brings perpetual suffering to the soul—and its ultimate end is death (Romans 7:5).

The Good Doctor did get one thing right. In the end, the character committed suicide. Degrading passions lead to death. The Gospel is the only way to overcome degrading passions, including pedophilia. Striving to live a righteous life, denying our biblically forbidden passions and lusts, this is what is pleasing to God.

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Further resources

Is Same-Sex Attraction a Sin? Answers in Genesis

The gospel offers more than sin management; it offers present transformation of our desires and eternal joy (Philippians 2:13). God welcomes strugglers who regard His glory over their own lust, and He arms them to fight joyfully against enslaving temptation inherited from Adam.

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Having trouble slaying sin? Being unduly tempted lately? Check out these resources

Slaying sin is the daily responsibility of the Christian, in submission to the Holy Spirit, Who is the mechanism for its effectual execution.

John MacArthur said that if you are comfortable with your spiritual growth, that is a very dangerous place to be. Dear Sister, if you’ve grown lax or complacent, as I tend to be from time to time, here are some resources for you to help you revive the urgency in our daily endeavor to kill the sin within us and to resist the temptations that come with it. And as Dr Barnhouse reminded us, when you flee sin, make sure that you’re running toward Christ.

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How To Slay Sin (Part 3) Essay by John MacArthur

Let’s take a look at step three in slaying sin: Fill your mind with Scripture.

John Bunyan, author of the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote in the cover of his Bible, “Either this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Bunyan understood what many in the war against sin don’t—the Word of God is the weapon you simply cannot neglect.

Have you ever considered some of the symbols the Bible uses to describe itself? Scripture is called a light, hammer, fire, rock, mirror, milk, seed and water. Each highlights a unique characteristic of God’s Word, but by far the most memorable metaphor of the Bible is a sword (Ephesians 6:17). Any idea why?

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Temptation and How to Meet It, Sermon by Dr Donald Grey Barnhouse. In this teaching, Dr Barnhouse gives three ways to defeat temptation. The Youtube review of the sermon states,

At the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship conference in Urbana 1957. Brilliantly useful teaching of a caliber seldom found in modern sermons.

You can listen to the full sermon below, or read it as a summary at Christianity.com

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Spurgeon on slaying sin, from his sermon The Old Man Crucified, #882:

if you will not have death to sin, you shall have sin to death. There is no alternative, if you do not die to sin you shall die for sin; and if you do not slay sin, sin will slay you.

More here:
The Old Man Crucified, extended quote from Spurgeon’s sermon #882

Even more here:
Full sermon The Old Man Crucified, Spurgeon #882

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JC Ryle’s book titled Holiness is generally acknowledged to be one of the faith’s top books on the subject. Buy it from this excellent publisher, Banner of Truth.

‘…this book is simply the best of Ryle the Puritan-type pastor. Real Christians will find it a gold mine, a feast, a spur and a heart-warmer, food, drink, medicine, and a course of vitamins, all in one.’ — J.I. PACKER

BOOK DESCRIPTION-
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots is perhaps J. C. Ryle’s best-known and, arguably, best-loved book. Although many things have changed since 1877, when this book was first published, one thing remains the same: ‘real practical holiness does not receive the attention it deserves.’ It was to remedy this attention deficit, and to counter false teaching on this most important subject, that Ryle took up his pen.

The sword is only good if your hand wields it, and we don’t wield it with accuracy and precision if we are not studying it first.