Question 27: It appears that the church is being drawn out publicly regarding the issue of gay rights, and while many might be reluctant to make a stand, the topic is being discussed from the pulpit. Regarding marriage breakdown, the church, in general, appears less motivated to speak out in public about God’s design and decree. And on the issue of abortion, the church is even quieter still. You have stated that we do not have the right to tell others how they should live but should be prepared to state our views when asked. What about the rights of the unborn?

Answer:  You are quite correct: The church today has become fearful of speaking out publicly on the issues of gay rights, the breakdown of marriage, abortion, and other biblical issues. That is a shame for the church, but it is part of the mark of apostasy in the church today.

Your letter states, “You have stated that we do not have the right to tell others how they should live but should be prepared to state our views when asked.” That is not exactly what I said, nor is that my position. We should clearly and publicly state what the Bible teaches about God’s rule of life for believers today. Furthermore, we should clearly and publicly state what sin is, and we should clearly state publicly that abortion is murder and that the practice of homosexuality is a very grievous sexual sin. The violation of the marriage vow is also a grievous sin. These are all issues the Bible clearly speaks about, and therefore, the church must address them.

However, the church is not a government that can issue laws. We can teach what the rule of life is for those who are members of the body of Messiah, but we cannot force those laws upon the unbelieving world. The only way we can deal with the unbelieving world is to give the gospel, because until they receive the gospel, they have no spiritual authority or power to deal with these sin issues. While we cannot force church law on society, we can and should enforce biblical law with the members of our congregations and churches. When these are violated, the church must follow the rules of church discipline clearly spelled out in Scripture. But again, the rule of church discipline can only be applied to believers who are members of the church and not those in the unbelieving world outside the church.

There are issues to which the Bible does not speak. About these issues, we can hold our own convictions, but we do not have the right to force them on another body of believers. This would include topics such as partaking of wine, dancing, etc. Biblically, these are neutral issues. One is free to practice total abstention and one is free to practice partaking of wine in moderation. Each believer needs to make up his or her own mind.

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Arnold Answers is a bi-weekly Q & A with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.