Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality: Richard Beck, Part 3 (Rogers on Galatians)

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Beck continues to summarize Rogers’ argument —

But what Rogers argues is that what we are seeing in Gal. 3.28 is a fusion of natural kinds. More, we are seeing a fusion of the morally inferior with the morally superior. In the 1st Century slaves, women and Gentiles were all considered to be morally inferior to the highest natural kind: The male Jew. For example, each group was characterized by the sexual perversions we’ve seen Paul describe in Romans 1.

Really? It’s certainly true that male Jews looked down on women and Gentiles. But is it really true that female Jews were viewed as guilty of homosexual deviancy by virtue of their moral inferiority? I’ve not found that anywhere — not in the Talmud, not the OT, not any source on Second Temple Judaism. I don’t believe it.

So what we are witnessing in Gal. 3:28 is something really quite shocking. Galatians 3:28 isn’t about slavery or gender relations. It’s about morality and holiness. More, it’s about God’s fusion in Jesus Christ of natural kinds, kinds that were believed to represent either holiness or depravity.

Actually, the context in Galatians talks about slavery and gender relations (Gal 2:4; 3:28; 4:1, 7, 9, 22-25, 30-31; 5:1 regarding slavery; regarding women, Gal 4:4 and the entire inheritance theme that runs through chapters 2 and 3 as women generally did not inherit). Regarding morality, Paul isn’t saying that these disparate types are united despite the wickedness of some types, so that Jesus includes within his body both sinners and the righteous (or natural and unnatural).

In Gal (and Eph and elsewhere), Paul certainly sometimes characterizes Gentiles, pre-conversion as “sinners” —

(Gal 2:15-16 ESV)  15 We ourselves are Jews by birth [or by nature] and not Gentile sinners;  16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Paul’s point being that even Jews, who had the benefits of God’s special revelation in the Law of Moses, needed salvation by faith in Jesus just as much as Gentile “sinners.”  This is just Rom 1-3 highly abbreviated.

Rather,

(Gal 5:13-24 ESV) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Both Jews and Gentiles are called to live together under the moral guidance of the Spirit. And notice that among the forbidden “works of the flesh” is “sexual immorality,” which any Jew or Gentile God-fearer, male or female, would have considered to include homosexual practices.

I’m confident that “impurity” (akatharsia) or “filthiness” would also have been considered to include homosexual conduct, as shown by —

(Rom 1:24-25 ESV) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,  25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

(Rom 6:19 ESV) 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members [body parts] as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members [body parts] as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 

Yes, these anti-types are made one in Jesus, but they must live under the influence of a single Spirit, leaving behind certain well-understood, sinful behaviors — including sexual immorality.

So, yes, Paul celebrates the unity of what, in that culture, were anti-types: men and women, slaves and freemen, and Jews and Gentiles. And, yes, Gentiles, pre-conversion, were seen as sinful by Paul and Jews in general.

But Paul makes the point that the Jews — despite their holier than thou attitude — were saved by grace, not works of the Law. All come to God by the grace found in believing in Jesus — and all must repent of their former sins.

Among the former sins that must be left behind are “sexual immorality” and “impurity” — and both terms were well understood as including homosexual conduct.

So, no, I’m not persuaded.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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