This is the second part of the text of the speech that Rev. Engelsma delivered at the RFPA Annual Meeting on September 29, 2016. Previous article can be found in the January 1, 2017 issue, p. 158.
The Fact of Our Witness
Earlier we examined where we are, where we have been, and where we are going with the sexual revolution. Now, what is our calling in light of these developments?
There is a calling that comes first and foremost to the instituted church, and that is to continue to preach and teach the Word of God with all boldness. No witness by the RFPA can replace the witness of the church if that goes lacking.
Understanding the role of the RFPA in support of the church and her witness, there is a calling also for the RFPA to continue to speak the truth in love.
In reading recently about the labors of Winston Churchill prior to World War II, I was struck by how this illustrates the calling we have. During the years between the two world wars, Hitler rose to power in Germany and started preparing his war machine. He soon began annexing countries around Germany, supposedly to provide more living space for the German people. While this was going on, world leaders, including those in England, were essentially silent. They ignored the armies he was amassing. They downplayed his power-hungry land-grabs. They overlooked the atrocities he was committing. They were so opposed to another war that they convinced themselves that Hitler was not a threat. Any suggestion that Britain re-arm for another war was laughed off. In the midst of this frightened silence, there was one, lonely voice that was willing to speak out, and that voice belonged to Churchill. He saw the threat of Hitler and a re-armed Germany. Although he was exiled politically, ostracized as a radical warmonger, he never ceased to warn the nation of this growing threat and call her to prepare for the inevitable conflict.
This is not an endorsement of Churchill; it serves simply to illustrate our calling in the face of the spiritual threat of the sexual revolution. We must be willing to speak the truth boldly, even when it becomes more and more unpopular. There is this growing threat today of the sexual revolution, a threat to the spiritual lives of our generations. There are many both in the world and in the church who either give their whole-hearted support to this revolution or are silent on the matter. But that must not be the case with us. Even if it means that we have to stand virtually alone, the one voice of opposition to this revolution, we must speak the truth boldly. We must continue to use our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and religious liberty to speak against the sexual revolution and promote the truth of God’s Word concerning sex and marriage. There will be a day, perhaps soon, when these things will be taken away from us and the attempt will be made to muzzle us. But while it is day, we are called to work, for the night cometh when no man can labor.
The Content of Our Witness
What does this involve specifically?
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding sex. Specifically, our witness must continue to be that sex is a good gift of God to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage. It is not something ugly, dirty, and shameful, but an important and beautiful aspect of marriage.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding the sin of fornication by the unmarried. For the young people and older singles, all sexual activity—including “sexting” via Snapchat and the like—is off-limits. They must be chaste and pure in single life.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding the sin of adultery by those who are married.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding the wickedness of unbiblical divorce and of remarriage. Recognizing the part that the divorce culture has played in the sexual revolution, we ought to be motivated even further not to open that door even a crack.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding pornography, whether it be by the married or unmarried, by men or women.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding the sin of homosexuality. Part of being “unashamed of the gospel of Christ” is being willing to call homosexual actions and desires “against nature” and “unseemly” (Rom. 1). To those who struggle with this sin there must be the continued call to repentance and daily conversion.
The church must continue to preach and the RFPA must continue to print the truth of God’s Word regarding the sin of transgenderism. Gender is not a social construction, but is ordained by God in His creation of humankind as male and female with their unique physical makeup. There may be no altering or mutilating of the body based on feeling, but rather an altering of our feelings so that they are in line with our anatomy.
The Manner of Our Witness
This requires boldness, the spiritual strength that enables and impels us to proclaim the Word of God faithfully in the face of threats and opposition. When we witness boldly, we speak without shame, without concealment, and without compromise. We have a fearless courage and confidence, so that we are able to speak with freedom the Word of God in order that the gospel is not compromised in the slightest.
Boldness demands openness. Because of the nature of these sexual issues, there has to be a certain degree of carefulness and sensitivity. But we must also be open to speak about these issues. The world is so bold and “in our face” trying to teach the lie; we must be just as bold to teach the truth. In generations past it may have been legitimate never to mention the word “sex” or to hide the fact that one was pregnant. But in the day and age in which we now live this is unacceptable. We must not shy away from hard topics like sex, birth control, homosexuality, and transgenderism.
Boldness requires that we are diligent in using the means which God has provided: through our beloved Standard Bearer, our books, and even the blog and social media.
Boldness is not at odds with wisdom and discretion. Boldness does not mean being inflammatory or abrasive and unnecessarily bringing upon ourselves scrutiny and persecution. Wisdom and love must guide our bold witness.
The Importance of Our Witness
The boldness with which the RFPA publishes the truth of God’s Word is a significant way in which we witness to the world and church world around us. Perhaps that witness will bring some to repentance and create in others a spiritual backbone to stand for the truth where before they were unwilling.
But the RFPA’s witness is also important as a means of encouraging and exhorting those within our own Protestant Reformed circles.
It is necessary to address these issues in order to help maintain strong marriages in the church and to encourage faithfulness in single life.
It is necessary to address these issues so that each one of us has a correct, biblically-informed understanding of them. We need to be equipped to speak knowledgably to others about homosexuality and transgenderism. Ignorance in these areas is inexcusable.
It is necessary to address these issues for the sake of our children and young people. They need to be taught these things, and parents need to be equipped to give that instruction. Our covenant youth are growing up in a much different world than their parents and grandparents did. They are facing difficult issues and need to know how to respond.
It is necessary to address these issues in order to help those in our own circles who are struggling in these areas. We must not assume that these are things only those outside our circles face. God’s people are struggling and will struggle with homosexual lusts and sinful natures that are prone to sins of that nature just as others are prone to heterosexual sin. Some may be struggling with transgenderism, perhaps because they were born with ambiguous body parts.1 We need to help them, and we need to equip others to help them in a biblical way.
We live in evil times. Wickedness abounds on every side. The love of many waxes cold. Rejoice in hope because this means that the Lord Jesus will return soon! As the church at the end of the New Testament, pray as the church at the dawn of the New Testament: “Lord, grant boldness! And, come quickly!”
1 R. Albert Mohler, Jr., We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015), 79. Mohler says that in about 1 out of 1500 births the birth gender is indeterminate (pp. 173-4). Owen Strachan says something similar: “Although rare, some people suffer from chromosomal issues, ambiguous body parts, etc., that do create legitimate confusion. In these cases, their efforts are not so much a ‘choice’ of ‘gender identity’ as an effort to identify what they truly are, or were meant to be. In such rare instances, the instruction of biblical counselors, church elders and leaders, and medical professionals will prove helpful” (https://answersingenesis.org/family/gender/transgender-identity-wishingaway-gods-design/ [accessed November 17, 2016]).