Glenn Stanton will present at SHIFT, the annual Mission Leaders Conference in Orlando September 27–29, on how to navigate sexuality issues confronting the church and culture. Register to join him at MissioNexus.org/shift.
By Glenn T. Stanton
Theological revisionists on the issues of sexuality and gender – those trying to bring confusion through false teaching into the church on these issues – have introduced the question into contemporary Christianity on whether these are primary or secondary issues for Christianity.
Essentially, they are asking whether sexual ethics and the actual meaning of male and female are worth making a big deal about in Christianity. Or are they merely unfortunate distractions from the gospel?
Let us be clear: These are not honest questions.
They are intended to cloud the issue to facilitate their revisionist work. A nothing-to-see-here-folks shell game. No Christians should fall for this trick. Not if they understand the story God is telling us through Scripture from the first page to the last.
Sex and Gender Are Indeed Gospel Issues
Sexuality and gender issues are undeniably very much gospel issues because of what God says about himself and where his divine story is going. Let us start with God’s very image in creation.
Genesis 1:26–27 tells us plainly that human male and female, and only human male and female, are the image of God in the world. Dismiss or attack the human truth of male and female and you are assaulting the very image of God. Full stop.
Our bodies are gospel issues because they, and they alone, are the image and likeness of God in creation. Pervert this truth and you pervert the foundation of the gospel itself.
What about sexuality?
God’s first directive to humanity as male and female is to engage one another sexually, fruitfully, and start a family. In Genesis 1:28, it is written,
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’” (ESV)
So the command God gives first is undeniably primary in God’s story. It predates every other part of human experience and culture. Even the church. Sexuality is certainly not a secondary issue. And God gives it a clear and exclusive context: between husband and wife in marriage.
What IS the Gospel, After All?
The gospel itself is a marriage proposal. It is what God’s whole story is moving toward.
As we read through the rest of the Old and New Testament, God and his Son are conveyed to us as a Bridegroom who have an infamously unfaithful bride. And they do not give up pursuing her. Ever. This truth is primary all through the Prophets and Gospels.
And finally, what is the very relationship between Christ, his church and heaven itself?
The creation of Adam and Eve as husband and wife at the beginning of Scripture is mysteriously and powerfully linked in the New Testament to what the whole gospel story is about: The redemption of Christ’s bride. Paul famously tells us as much in Ephesians 5:31–33.
And just as Scripture begins in Genesis with life-giving marriage, it ends the same way in Revelation. But with a different, ultimate life-giving marriage which is the culmination of the Gospel itself.
In Revelation 19:6–9, we are told what heaven is…
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready; …
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (ESV)
This good news of invitation, a wedding invitation is the gospel. So yes, gender and sexuality are indeed primary, gospel issues.
No one can read God’s full story with honesty and come to any other conclusion.
This is why defending gender and sexuality against the vicious and even demonic attacks they are facing today cannot be written off as secondary. They are not distractions from the main thing. God himself irrefutably tells us how crucially integral they are to the main thing, God’s own story.
Satan knows this all too well. So must Christ’s church.