The SBC, Phinehas, and the Glory of God

It’s difficult to put into words everything surrounding the recent news about the Southern Baptist Convention and the Guidepost findings. It will sound strange, but I feel a mixture of sadness, anger, and a tinge of apathy. I feel sadness for all the victims of sexual abuse, both for being abused at all but then to be stonewalled, ignored, and/or bullied after the fact. I feel angry about ministers–some of whom I once admired and trusted–betrayed so many. Telling us little people how to live the Christian life, all the while dismissing some foundational issues of the Christian faith (namely, love, purity, and faithfulness). Furthermore, the way in which the behaviors have tarnished the reputation of God and so many wonderful men, women, and teenagers who truly do honor Christ. And as for apathy, some are concerned about the future of the SBC. Understand, there was a time when I was proud of this denomination (ask my wife). But over the years, repeatedly I saw church and national politics enter and muddy the, what should have been, pure waters. But I make no bones about it, the SBC is not what died for my sins or saved my soul. Only Jesus has done these. But over the last several years, a lot of sinful junk has crept in and divided this denomination from nearly all sides. Whatever happens to the SBC, even if it comes to ruins and is forgotten, Christianity will continue on, and so will Jesus Christ and His gospel.

One of the areas which Christians must not ignore is that of sexual purity. Yet, this very area is being neglected in many churches (as well as in other denominations), whether the liberal churches defending homosexuality and transgenderism (the Bible clearly condemns both, regardless of anyone’s opinions on the matters), or conservative churches with persons secretly watching pornography or getting involved in illicit conduct (and let us be clear, so-called “consensual” is not going to fly in the presence of God–especially when violating someone through manipulation and fear). Understand, I’m not speaking as one who is somehow above anyone else. We are created as sexual creatures. Nevertheless, like any other emotion or make-up of our beings, we are still responsible for what we do with these. Some will argue, “Well, God gave me these passions!” Well, He gave us the emotion of anger, too, but we are not given any authority to go out and injure persons verbally, psychologically, physically, etc. We are still responsible to reel these in.

There are a few passages in the Bible I think the church needs to recapture and hold tightly to. First, consider what the apostle Paul says to one of the churches: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as proper among saints,” (Ephesians 5:3, emphasis added). We’re not to let immorality or impurity of any kind to tarnish us.

Paul tells the young minister, Timothy, to treat older men “as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2, emphasis added). If we, as followers of Christ, would truly learn to look at others in the body of Christ in a pure and respectful manner, we would be rid of so many problems of immorality and impropriety.

Finally, in regard to God’s specific will for all His people, we are told: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles [unbelievers] who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, emphases added).

I can give you verse after verse, from both the Old and New Testaments, concerning the seriousness God places on sexual purity and faithfulness. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, must recapture the high standard of sexual purity and morality.

I’m now going to shift gears and mention a godly man many are probably not even aware of. His name is Phinehas, and he is mentioned in the book of Numbers. To give the context, the people of Israel began entangling themselves with the people of Moab, their idolatry, and sexual immorality. The wrath of God was enflamed, and He had the chiefs of the people, who yoked themselves with Baal, taken out and hanged. Needless to say, there was a lot of grieving taking place. Nevertheless, an utter godless and defiant individual we are told of, in the sight of his family, of Moses, and of the weeping multitude, brought a Midianite woman to his quarters to have sex with her. This was no less than giving God and the grieving people the middle finger. Ah, but then comes the hero of the passage. Phinehas “rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them … the plague of the Israel was stopped” (Numbers 25:7-8).

Why do I mention this event? No, we are not called to impale persons. The reason I mention Phinehas is because here was a man who was in tune with what was going on around him (the judgment of God, the loss and grieving of the people, the sheer defiance and ungodliness of this man and woman, and the glory of God). What mattered to Phinehas was the glory of God, the peace of God, and God’s mercy for his people). Where are the Phinehas’ today? Where are the men and women who are not concerned about culture’s opinions, or even their own personal desires? Rather, their hearts are consumed with God being honored and magnified, and to be at peace with Him? Where are the men and women who truly understand so much of what we are seeing today–including the Guidepost reports–are expressions of the judgment of God?

Those who stand as pastors and teachers, those who claim to be called to be shepherds of God’s people (and let us be clear, these are God’s people–they don’t belong to any pastor or teacher), are representatives of God. This is not trivial. In fact, Jesus warns, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). This warning is just as much for SBC pastors with ”Dr.” in front of their names as it is for any of us. Oh church! Where are the men and women who are consumed with a passion for God’s glory? How have we become a people who seem more concerned with our little empires of crap rather than the sheep and little lambs of His pasture? How have we become more concerned about our reputations rather than God’s?

God have mercy on us and revive us. Oh God, please have mercy. Grant healing for those who have been wounded by those who were to nurture and protect them. Grant repentance throughout the church body. Please forgive us for dishonoring Your great name. Please bring healing and restoration. Not for us, but to Your name be all the glory. Amen.