Thursday, 5 September 2019

God’s Values Don’t Change with the Times

I was chatting recently to someone who would claim to be a Christian.  The topic of conversation was our new prime minister, Boris Johnson.

As many will know, the official residence of the British prime minister is 10 Downing Street.  Apparently Mr Johnson is the first prime minister to live there with a woman he is not married to.  In fact, at the time of writing he is still legally married to someone else.

In my conversation, I commented on how bad it was for Mr Johnson to do this.  Clearly disagreeing with me, the person I was talking to replied, “Times change.”  As he went on to explain, he thought that my moral values were old fashioned and out of date.  In his view, there is not a lot wrong today with a person having a sexual relationship with someone they are not married to, even when they are still legally married to another person.

God doesn’t change

It is certainly true that not many people in the UK today would agree with my beliefs on sexual morality.  And it is true too that some decades or centuries ago many more people would have believed as I do on this issue.

However, that is not the point.  The crucial thing we need to understand is that God doesn’t change.  Just because most people today say that something is OK in no way means that it really is. 

Fashions in morals come and go

It should be clear that fashions in moral values come and go.  Most of the time in any given culture, some trends are in line with the will of God and other trends are against His will.

As an example of something that has got better in the last century, take racism.  It would surely be right to say that 100 years ago in the UK, and in most ethnically similar countries, most white people looked down on black people as a bit inferior.  However, today it is uncommon for white people in these countries to have this attitude.  Instead, anyone who says that black people are inferior is strongly (and rightly, of course) criticised.

If someone tries to justify racist attitudes of 100 years ago simply by saying “Well, that’s what people believed back then,” that is a very poor excuse.  Similarly, if fashions on racism change in the future so that racist attitudes become widely accepted again, and people try to justify this by saying, “Times change,” that won’t be a valid excuse.

A large majority of modern Westerners would agree with the points I have just made about racism.  Yet exactly the same principle applies to sexual morality.  Just because it is out of fashion to insist that God has designed sexual relations only for marriage, that in no way means that this claim is incorrect.

God doesn’t revise His moral values

The Bible makes it clear that only a relatively small proportion of people will be saved (Matt 7:13-14).

Scripture also contains striking examples of where only a tiny number of people avoid God’s judgment. 

One example is Noah and his family.  We are told that moral values in Noah’s day were very poor (Gen 6:11-12).  So what happened?  Did God lower His standards to accommodate this?  Not at all.  Instead, He carried out His judgment by drowning all but eight people (Gen 7:11-23; 2 Pet 2:5)!

Or take the example of Sodom and Gomorrah.  God didn’t adjust His values to accommodate the evil of those who lived there.  Instead, He destroyed these towns, while making sure to rescue Lot (Gen 19:1-29; 2 Pet 2:6-7).

To think that today God is somehow revising His moral values to fit in with the views of Western society is a big mistake.  In reality, all that is happening in sexual and some other matters is that people commit more sins than they used to.

What the Bible says about sexual sin

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 the apostle Paul tells the Christians in Corinth:

Or don’t you know that those who are immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Don’t be deceived.  Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who sleep with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor those who are verbally abusive, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul says here, among other things, that those who are sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God in this verse refers to final, eternal salvation.  And according to the Bible, sexual relations should only happen within marriage (Gen 2:24; 1 Cor 7:9; Heb 13:4). 

In other words, one of the things Paul is saying in this passage is that those who unrepentantly have sex outside marriage are on track for hell. 

Of course, we are not saved by doing good deeds or by avoiding committing sins.  Paul doesn’t mean that those who avoid sexual immorality, and the other sins he mentions, will thereby earn their salvation.  Instead, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

However, crucially, according to Scripture, where there is genuine, saving faith, it is always accompanied by good deeds.  As James 2:26 says:

“Faith without deeds is dead.” 

One sign of those who have saving faith is that they fight hard to live in a good way. 

So if someone unrepentantly has sexual relations with a person they are not married to, that is a sign that they don’t really have saving faith.  And if they don’t have saving faith, they are not on track for final salvation.

We mustn’t be deceived

The Bible describes Satan as a snake who deceives the whole world (Rev 12:9).  One of his big lies at the present time in Western countries is that various sins are not really sins at all.  Another of his lies is that when the moral values of society change, we can expect God to accommodate Himself to that by reducing His demands.

As Christians we mustn’t allow ourselves to be deceived about these things.  And we must stand firm regardless of how many other people do. 

In biblical times and throughout church history God’s people have often had to swim against the tide of popular opinion in various ways.  Christians have frequently had to stand up for what is right even though they have been in a tiny minority.  When we need to do the same, let us not fail the Lord.

See also: