President's Fall 2013 Convocation

Ministry in the New Marriage Culture

Jeff Iorg, President’s Convocation – August 29, 2013

“Events of this past summer mandate a message in response to the most significant change in American society since abortion on demand was legalized in 1973,” announced Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. “As you know, the United States Supreme Court ruling this summer have effectively legalized gay marriage in many states,” he added. “The result – the battle over gay marriage is over.”

Speaking to a near capacity crowd at the President’s Convocation on August 29, 2013, Dr. Iorg said “Legalizing gay marriage is an alarming affirmation of the final step of rejecting God’s design for human sexuality and traditional marriage as the foundation of a stable society,” he said.

Referring to Romans 1:32, Iorg noted that Paul’s description of first-century Rome is sobering and applicable to our situation today. “Sexual sins are not the final step on this downward spiral,” Iorg said. “The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people ‘applaud’ or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices. We have reached that point in America.”

This hearty approval is why the Supreme Court’s decisions and cultural celebrations of gay marriage are so troubling, explained Iorg. “Sexual immorality – of all types – has been part of the human experience throughout recorded history. The troubling issue today isn’t so much the rise of immorality – that cycle ebbs and flows with changing generations. The troubling issue is the applause – from kissing in the streets to White House ceremonies celebrated through every media possible.” He added that political, cultural, and educational leaders are effusively congratulating themselves on their so-called progress. The final act of an unraveling society isn’t immoral behavior; it’s canonizing immoral behavior as a ‘new normal’ and celebrating it as a ‘moral victory.’

“Our new normal now includes the legitimatization of homosexual behavior, including gay marriage,” said the president. “These changes will produce many new ministry dilemmas. An exposition of 1 Peter 4:1-11 will help us answer some of the questions ministry leaders will soon face.”

The first principle in this passage about ministry in the new marriage culture is that Christians must continue to affirm distinct moral standards, explained Iorg. Recounting Paul’s list of unbelievers’ behavior, he explained that “Paul contrasts how believers formerly lived and how they are expected to live now. The clear implication is believers once behaved like unbelievers – and the time for such behavior is now past.” So, Christians must also restrain immoral impulses – not because it’s easy, Iorg said, “but because we are trying to live up to a biblical moral standard.”

“As a Christian, you have different moral standards than those in the culture around you,” Iorg pointed out. “As a Christian leader or leader in training, you are expected to model even higher standards. While this seems obvious to many of us, it’s getting harder to maintain distinctive Christian morality.”

The second major principle in the text is that Christian moral standards will be aggressively opposed. Iorg described how “unbelievers are surprised when we claim different moral standards and refuse to celebrate their choices. As a result of your unwillingness to affirm their choices, unbelievers will slander you. I predict that today’s slander is a precursor to more serious social, legal, and physical opposition coming in the next few years.”

First Peter 4:1-11 outlines that opposition to our moral standards requires a Christian response. The president said, “We know that unbelievers who reject biblical morality are at risk of judgment, and this motivates us to tell people about deliverance available through Jesus Christ.”

Peter outlines several action steps for us to counter opposition to our moral standards. Iorg noted that the first step is to preach the gospel. “Your most significant message to people in a culture marked by moral decay and immoral living is the gospel.

“We must not become preoccupied with opposing immoral behavior – no matter its form. Moral choices emerge from a person’s spiritual condition,” Iorg observed. “Unbelievers act like unbelievers. While we uphold our moral convictions, expecting unbelievers to model Christian behavior is a misplaced hope. Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness, and live the gospel. The greatest need of every person in the world – lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator, or straight-laced puritan is still the gospel.”

Sharing the gospel with the LGBT community – including those who are in gay marriages – means you should welcome them to your worship services, invite them to your homes, and befriend them at work and in social settings. Iorg emphasized that “While holding to your moral convictions, you must keep your focus on the greatest need of every person – no matter their behavior - which is responding to the gospel.”

An additional strategy is “above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Iorg noted that the focus in these verses is on believers showing love to one another. “When attacked, we need each other to withstand the pressure, and become more unified with other believers. Yet there is also ample biblical mandate to love unbelievers. Tell the truth about immoral behavior, while treating people with respect.”

Iorg concluded by affirming those distinct moral standards described in the Bible and held for centuries by orthodox Christians. “We expect opposition to those standards and will respond appropriately by communicating the gospel to all people by every available means. We will love each other – standing stronger when we stand together. We will love unbelievers – loving them enough to tell them the truth about God and the gospel. These foundations will serve us well as we fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world.” He also urged his listeners, “Toward that end, let us commit ourselves this morning to doing our part to fulfill the remarkable mission God has given our seminary.”

Click to watch the recorded convocation.