Author archives: Jaelyn Morgan

What is the “Gospel”? A Deeper Look at the Historical and Literary Context Behind the Good News

by Jaelyn Morgan

September 24, 2021

When Jesus began His ministry, He proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). As Christians, our goal is to follow Christ completely. To obey Him, we must understand what He meant by the “gospel” and how it relates to the kingdom of God.

The Gospel Is Good News

The English word “gospel” comes from an Old English word godspel (god meaning “good” and spel meaning “story” or “message”). This was an English translation of the Latin bona annuntiatio, which in turn was a translation of the Greek word euangelion (“good tidings”). In ancient times, an euangelion was a royal proclamation of military victory or ascension to a throne. If a kingdom had military victory over their enemies in battle, a messenger would run back to the capital and proclaim the euangelion to the people waiting inside in the city’s walls. Essentially, the word “gospel” means “good news” and has historical connotations of a royal, victorious proclamation of one kingdom overtaking another.

The Gospel Announces God’s Kingdom

Having learned what euangelion meant in Jesus’ historical context, we must now consider the biblical, or literary, context of “good news.” In Isaiah 52:7 and 10 (emphasis mine), we read:

How beautiful upon the mountains

    are the feet of him who brings good news,

who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

    who publishes salvation,

    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

…The Lord has bared his holy arm

    before the eyes of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth shall see

    the salvation of our God.

This prophetic passage foretold that the good news—or the gospel—would be a proclamation of happiness announcing the reign of Zion’s God and an international salvation that would reach “all the ends of the earth.” As Jesus later explained, His kingdom, the kingdom of God, “is not of this world” (John 18:36). By calling Himself the “Son of Man,” He connected His Kingdom to Daniel’s prophecy about the Son of Man’s kingdom, which would neither pass away nor be destroyed (Dan. 7:14). This new kingdom would be unlike any kingdom people have seen before. Not only would it be multiethnic, multi-national, multilingual, and everlasting (Isa. 56:8, Dan. 7:13, Rev. 7:9); it would transform the whole world under a King who would reign for eternity (Rev. 11:15).

Every kingdom needs a king. The Bible declares that the king whom God has appointed over His kingdom is Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning death, God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…And he put all things under his feet…” (Eph. 1:20-22). When Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” He was heralding the incoming of God’s long-awaited kingdom as its King!

The Gospel Invites Us to Join God’s Kingdom

The proclamation of God’s kingdom and its king, Jesus, is good news for everyone because all are invited to partake in its glory. Just as every kingdom has a king, every kingdom has citizens. Citizens of God’s kingdom need to receive eternal life because God’s kingdom is everlasting (Ps. 145:13, Dan. 7:14). God has given us everything we need to become part of His kingdom. In fact, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son [Jesus]” (1 John 5:11). When we believe in Jesus, we receive eternal life and our citizenship is in heaven (John 3:36, Phil. 3:20). Jesus proclaimed, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) to tell us that, by these actions, we can become citizens of the kingdom of God!

So, what does the Bible mean by “repent”? The original Greek word translated as “repent” is metanoeo, meaning “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent.” The immediate context of Mark’s gospel reveals that repentance is changing one’s mind about something in order to act in faith (Mark 1:4, 15; 6:12). Hence, it is a new mindset that results in new action. The rest of Scripture affirms this understanding of repentance. Thus, in Jesus’s call to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), “to repent” means more than just changing one’s mind; it means accepting the gospel message, turning away from sin, and turning toward King Jesus for a new way of life.

Shortly after Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven, the apostle Peter addressed a crowd in Jerusalem, proclaiming the euangelion and the need to repent:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when [the crowd] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:36-42).

The Gospel Freely Justifies Us

The gospel is not only good news about the victorious kingdom of God but also the personal good news that sinful men and women can become members of God’s kingdom and be reconciled to a holy God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ! Each of us is personally invited to become citizens of God’s kingdom. We can become part of God’s kingdom when we accept Jesus as the king that He already is and trust in Him for a right standing before God. Jesus purifies anyone who believes in Him so they can have a right standing before God and be part of God’s people (1 John 3:3, Titus 2:14).

Justification (i.e., right standing before God) is given to us by God through Jesus Christ for free. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 3:21-26, justification from God is a gift:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

As sinners, we did not have a hope in the world. But then God sent Jesus, who willingly died on the cross, for our sins, in our place. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This is amazing news! When there was no way, God made a way. When our sin prevented us from having a right relationship with Him, God sent Jesus. Because of God’s graciousness toward us, we are invited to “repent and believe in the gospel” and become part of God’s eternal kingdom, His people, and His family.

The Gospel Gives Us an Urgent Choice

The biblical gospel gives us an ultimatum. We can continue in our sinful state, trying (and failing) to get into heaven by our own merit, or we can accept the good news. If we repent of our old ways and place our faith in Jesus Christ as our new Savior and King, we are saved from God’s wrath against sin and saved into God’s eternal kingdom!

By sending Jesus to us, God showed that He loved us. Jesus, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10), can be our friend, savior, and king. What will you decide? As 2 Corinthians 6:2 reminds us, do not waste another day, for “now is the favorable time” and “behold, now is the day of salvation”!

NEXT STEPS

  1. How Can I Be Saved?
  2. I Am a Christian, Now What?
  3. What Is the Christian Life?
  4. Why Should I Go to Church?

Jaelyn Morgan interned for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

Does 1 Corinthians 6:9 Really Condemn Homosexual Sex?

by David Closson , Jaelyn Morgan

August 4, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

What if the word ‘homosexual’ was never meant to be in the Bible?” That is the question the new documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture is dedicated to answering.

The documentary explores the linguistic history of the word “homosexual” and its appearance in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, first published on February 11, 1946. In short, the film seeks to show that the RSV’s use of the term “homosexuals” instead of “sexual perverts” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai. (It is worth noting that although recent editions of the RSV have reverted to using “sexual perverts,” many other translations still translate it as “homosexuals.”) According to the documentary, homosexual sex is biblically permissible, and the RSV’s “mistranslation” has influenced subsequent English translations of the Bible, resulting in Western society believing that “sexual and gender minorities must choose between their faith and their identity.”

The filmmakers insist 1946 is “not an attack on Christianity or the Bible” but rather “a quest to discover biblical truth and honor God’s Word.” However well-intentioned the film might be, its ultimate claim does not stand up to linguistic and historical critique. 1946 undermines biblical sexual ethics under the guise of honest hermeneutics.

Evaluating the “Mistranslation” Allegation

Alan Shlemon from the Christian apologetics ministry Stand to Reason writes that, despite 1946’s captivating premise where power-hungry white men oppress “sexual minorities” through Bible translation, “Even if the film’s claims are true, it doesn’t matter. The entire documentary is a non sequitur.”

There are many reasons the film 1946 fails to be intellectually compelling, including:

  • subsequent Bible translators did not use the RSV’s English translation unchecked;
  • the prohibition of homosexual sex is found elsewhere in the Bible and is well-attested throughout church history, not just since 1946; and
  • one young seminary student, whom the film follows, would not have had the expertise to truly dispute the RSV translation committee.

Despite these realities, the documentary is often cited as proof that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that the church should re-examine its view on sexual ethics.  

To address the film’s claim that same-sex relations are not prohibited in the Bible, we will answer three questions:

  1. What do the allegedly mistranslated words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 mean?
  2. What is the biblical sexual ethic?
  3. Why is the biblical sexual ethic good news for everyone?

By answering these questions, Christians can refute the radical claim that the Bible permits homosexual sex with knowledge, clarity, grace, and love.

1. What Do the Allegedly Mistranslated Words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 Mean?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (ESV, emphasis added)

The contested phrase translated “men who practice homosexuality” comes from the Greek “ο¿τε μαλακο¿ ο¿τε ¿ρσενοκο¿ται,” transliterated as oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai. The phrase oute…oute means “neither…nor,” so the verse is saying “neither _____  nor _____ … will inherit the kingdom of God.” So, we must fill in the blanks. What do malakoi and arsenokoitai mean? 

In his book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon explains that the term malakoi can carry a variety of meanings depending on the author and context. Often it meant “soft” or “effeminate.” In ancient usage, malakos could range from those who had a penchant for “soft” or decadent living, to those averse to the rigor of a philosopher’s life, to the passive partner in homosexual intercourse. Thus, while at first glance it might seem challenging to know exactly how Paul is using the term in this passage, context is key. Based on the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9—a list of unrepentant sins displayed by those who will not inherit the kingdom of God—and Jewish understanding of the term at the time, Paul’s intent is clear. As Gagnon summarizes, “In 1 Cor. 6:9, malakoi should be understood as the passive partners in homosexual intercourse” (p. 312).

So, if Paul’s use of malakoi referred to the passive partner in homosexual sex, what about the active partner? To address this question, Paul uses the term arsenokoitai, a compound word formed by combining arsen (“male”) and koites (“bed”), the same words found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (passages which clearly prohibit homosexual relations). This word has a decidedly narrower meaning than malakoi. In fact, a survey of ancient literature shows arsenokoitai always refers to men having sexual intercourse with other males. As Gagnon points out, this is true of the earliest attestations of arsenokoitai after the New Testament, including the Sibylline Oracles (2.73), Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies (5.26.22-23), and Eusebius’ Preparation for the Gospel (6.10.25). According to Gagnon, Paul’s use of arsenokoites instead of paiderastes shows that he was not just discussing the practice of pederasty (a man having sexual intercourse with a boy), but also a man who was the active partner engaging in sexual intercourse with another adult male (p. 325). In summary, based on the historical and literary contexts of the terms and the literary context of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, malakoi and arsenokoitai clearly refer to passive and active partners in homosexual sex.

2. What Is the Biblical Sexual Ethic?

The mere suggestion that Scripture might not prohibit homosexual sex is understandably tantalizing, for many reasons. At one point or another, we have all wished that one of the sinful behaviors prohibited by the Bible was permissible in our specific case. These activities, although condemned by the Bible, nonetheless appeal to our hearts.

Tragically, we have inherited our penchant for forbidden things from our first parents. When Adam and Eve attempted to “become like God” by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden, the consequences of their disobedience to God affected not only themselves but all their offspring (Gen. 2:17, 3:16-19). One consequence is that our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). Even if we feel in our hearts that something is right, that thing could very well be wrong. Proverbs 3:5-8 cautions us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,     
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,     
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;     
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh     
and refreshment to your bones. (Emphasis added)

Sadly, humanity’s struggle with God’s design and intention for sexual desire is yet another consequence of the fall.

The Bible’s sexual ethic is clear. From the beginning, God intended sexual desire to motivate men and women to enter into the sacred covenant relationship of marriage, which is reserved for one man and one woman and is intended to be for life (Gen. 1:27, 2:24). Jesus confirmed the creation design for marriage when He condemned divorce (Mark 10:6-9). According to Scripture, the proper context for sexual activity is within the marriage covenant. All sexual conduct outside of marriage is prohibited, including impurity (Gal. 5:19, Eph 5:3, Col. 3:5), illicit heterosexual relations (1 Cor 6:18, Col. 3:5, 1 Thess. 4:3-5, Heb. 13:4), and homosexual relations (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Jude 1:7).

As Family Research Council’s Biblical Principles for Human Sexuality explains, church history reveals one unified position about sexual ethics—that of strict condemnation of any type of sexual activity outside of marriage. It was only after the sexual revolution of the 1960s that some American churches—those that had previously embraced theological liberalism—changed their interpretation of the Bible and began to approve of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage.

3. Why Is the Biblical Sexual Ethic Good News for Everyone?

The Bible’s high standard for sexual ethics can seem unattainable, causing us to despair. But the Bible brings good news of redemption and promises salvation to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are given victory over sin and receive power from God to flee temptation. That is why Paul urges the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” later in the same passage of 1 Corinthians 6 (1 Cor. 6:18). He was urging them to walk in the freedom that Christ had already won for them!

When 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is read in context, we learn that it is a passage of hope, not condemnation. Paul writes:

[D]o you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11, emphasis added)

In the last sentence, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the new life they have received in Christ! Even though some of them had previously lived immoral lives, the blood of Christ’s sacrifice had washed them, sanctified them, and brought them into a right relationship with God. The Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics is good news because it reveals God’s design and plan for marriage, relationships, and sexuality. It is even better news for those of us who struggle with sexual sin because, through “participation in the spirit” (Phil. 2:1), we can “say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12 NIV).

In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (v. 28). Throughout the centuries, millions of us who follow Jesus have found comfort in this precious promise. For those who grapple most acutely with the burdens of living in a sexually broken world, Jesus’ promise of rest still stands. Amid life’s most trying struggles, trust Him with your hopes, desires, fears, and questions. Jesus is faithful, trustworthy, and true (1 Thess. 5:24, Rev. 19:11). He completely saves those who believe and empowers us to live the life our loving God designed us to live.

Authentic Justice is Biblical Justice

by Jaelyn Morgan

June 15, 2021

A Book Review of Voddie Baucham Jr.’s Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe

The call for social justice from woke activists is loud and overwhelming. With so many voices advocating for various political solutions to our society’s perceived injustices, many Americans feel overwhelmed and wonder, what is the solution? Anarchy? Rebellion? Reparations? Reconciliation? However, beyond the outward expressions of injustice and external solutions to real problems lies a spiritual battle between competing worldviews. In Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, theologian Voddie Baucham Jr. equips Christians to identify the worldview conflict underlying contemporary demands for social justice and exhorts them to pursue biblical social justice instead of the Critical Social Justice ideology which has captivated the Western world.

Summary

At the onset of Fault Lines, Baucham traces the thought line of Critical Social Justice (CSJ), including Karl Marx (Conflict Theory), Antonio Gramsci (Hegemony), the Frankfurt School (Critical Theory), Critical Race Theory (CRT), and Intersectionality (I). According to Baucham, biblical social justice and CSJ are currently separated by fault lines. However, he predicts that an earth-shattering catastrophe will soon reveal that both parties stand on opposing sides of a vast divide.

In chapter one, “A Black Man,” Baucham contextualizes his assessment of the issue, describing his upbringing in newly desegregated California with a strong mother and an emphasis on personal responsibility (19). In the second chapter, “A Black Christian,” Baucham shares his conversion testimony and assimilation into the Southern Baptist Convention, contrasting his welcoming experience into a white church with his unwelcoming experience in a formerly all-white school. He also notes that his introduction to racial reconciliation came from white, not black, Christians.

In chapter three, Baucham discusses the prevalence of false stories in the current narrative of social justice, specifically the false premise that “police are killing unarmed black men” (45).

In chapters four through six, Baucham demonstrates how “antiracism” has the “hallmarks of a cult” (66), including a new theology and a new glossary of terms that sound Christian but deviate significantly from the historical faith. Citing CSJ leaders, Baucham demonstrates that antiracism has its own cosmology, original sin, law, gospel, martyrs, priests, atonement, new birth, liturgy, canon, theologians, and catechism (67). Specifically, he describes the new priesthood and canon of antiracism, rooted in Ethnic Gnosticism and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility.

Baucham exposes fault lines in evangelicalism regarding social justice in chapter seven. Among evangelical churches and leaders, he documents their implicit acceptance despite explicit denial of CRT/I ideologies, the silencing of those who reject Critical Theory, and the political maneuvering within the Southern Baptist Convention to make CRT/I seem compatible with the Bible.

Further, Baucham describes, in chapter eight, the damage the CSJ movement has done to communities of color, including the black church, the family, and the unborn. In particular, he criticizes CSJ’s question-begging logic, opposition to facts, and warns about its political implications. For example, in the following chapter, Baucham uses the test case of abortion to demonstrate how the assumptions of CSJ dictate destructive policy, addressing the false narrative of single-issue voting, and the false premise that America’s two political parties merely represent different priorities rather than “a clear-cut distinction between competing worldviews” (185).

In chapter 10, Baucham assesses the key fault line underlying the current call for social justice in the “Black Lives Matter” movement. He urges Christians to understand that a primarily spiritual—not cultural or political—battle is occurring between the biblical worldview and CSJ/CRT/I worldview and their antecedent theories of Marxism, Conflict Theory, and Critical Theory (209).

Baucham concludes the final chapter by re-emphasizing his heart for the book, which is his love for God, the church, and a dismay that God’s people are being swayed by an ideology that is inherently unbiblical. The book ends with three appendices: The Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, the original version of Resolution 9 submitted at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention, and its revised and adopted version.

Analysis

Fault Lines is a winsome, socio-theological analysis of the political call to Critical Social Justice. With poignancy, grace, and persuasion, Baucham exposes the fault line of competing worldviews between biblical social justice and Critical Social Justice, exhorting believers to stand firm on God’s Word rather than capitulating to the human philosophies of the world.

One of Fault Lines greatest strengths is its persuasion based on a careful evaluation of primary sources. The book is an investigator’s dream. Each chapter contains footnotes, encouraging readers to understand the issues from the sources themselves and not take Baucham’s analysis out of context. Baucham carefully defines all the tenets of CSJ and its antecedent theories from the writings of CSJ’s leading advocates such as Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi, Peggy McIntosh, and others. Baucham also anticipates critiques and addresses objections which could be levied against him from those sympathetic to CSJ.

Another strength of Fault Lines is Baucham’s personal experience. His life, training, and ministry provide the reader with unique insights, including the debate among black evangelicals of whether the priority of black Christians ought to be in their blackness or their Christianity (21); the “Marxist thread which runs through all grievance studies,” including “whiteness studies” in CRT (93); and the CSJ worldview assertion that “Christianity is part of the oppressive hegemony” (207), meaning Christianity is not only wrong and oppressive but that it must be overthrown and made obsolete.

Finally, Fault Lines is theologically centered and redemptively driven. The author’s high view of Scripture is clear in his use of biblical passages and principles as the basis for defining biblical social justice and rejecting the CSJ worldview. After discussing biblical principles for social justice based on Scripture’s text, Baucham states, “here is the key: People are ignoring these principles because the standard of justice upon which their pleas are built does not come from the God of the Scriptures. While that may be fine for others, those of us who claim to know Christ are held to a different standard” (44, emphasis original).

Constructively, for those unfamiliar with the current debate surrounding the CSJ movement, the addition of summaries at the end of each chapter would be beneficial, allowing readers to trace Baucham’s successive line of argumentation more easily throughout the book.

Fault Lines is a must-read book for anyone who desires to understand the basis of today’s call for social justice and a biblical response. Baucham’s argument that the biblical social justice worldview radically differs from the Critical Social Justice worldview is relevant, perceptive, and necessary. Followers of Christ who rightly strive to live by God’s Word in every sphere of life will find encouragement, clarity, and hope from Baucham’s thoughtful work on social justice and the gospel.

Jaelyn Morgan is an intern for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

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