Mohler: Preach the Word, not sex
Feb 7, 2014
By GREGORY TOMLIN

AL MOHLER
Photo by Joni B. Hannigan
JACKSONVILLE (FBW)—When it comes to preaching topical sermons on sex, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler has a word of advice for pastors—don’t do it.  

“Don’t preach on sex,” Mohler said at the Jacksonville Pastors’ Conference Jan. 24. “By that, I don’t mean, ‘do not preach when sex is addressed in Scripture and when sexual issues are found in Scripture.’” 

Mohler said topical preaching on the subject of sex should be avoided because “topical preaching is wrong if it is only about a topic.” 

Scripture, Mohler said, should be preached verse-by-verse in a way that is biblically faithful, God-honoring, compassionate and true. Preachers will then address sexual relationships proportionately and in their proper contexts, extracting from Scripture what God intends his people to know about sex in a post-Christian age. 

Pastors will also more easily avoid gimmicks intended to draw large crowds, such as beds on top of church­es, if topical preaching is shunned in favor of exposition. Mohler said some pastors have traded sensitive and careful exegesis for such sensationalism.

“Only in an age of tremendous confusion—and let’s admit that is our age—do you have to split out all of these issues in terms of preaching on x, preaching on y, preaching on a, or preaching on b. Here’s the promise. If you preach the Word in season and out of season, you’re going to preach on everything God intends you to preach on,” Mohler said.

Mohler said preachers should remember seven words when approaching the issue of sex in the Bible—truth, candor, compassion, character, understanding, relevance and care. He parsed each of the words, telling pastors the truth of Scripture is offered from a unique prerogative—the unmatched authority of the living God speaking through his Word. 

“We may learn something from all the secular fields of knowledge as they are addressed to an issue of such complexity as human sexuality,” Mohler said, “but at the end of the day we have one and only final authority, one undiluted source of truth, and that is God’s Word. We do not look elsewhere to gain our bearings.”

Candor, Mohler said, is also a “necessary word” because preachers can get “dangerously close to being clear about sex.” What preachers say about sex in sermons may not be wrong, but it may be more obscure than it has to be.

“Scripture is incredibly candid,” Mohler said. “Where Scripture says it, say it.”

Mohler acknowledged that addressing sex in the Bible is a complicated and difficult task because the church oftentimes sees sexual sin as a problem unique to outsiders living in a culture which longer shares the “moral memory” of previous generations.

“We’re leaving behind a culture that had operated even such that when people weren’t Christians they felt obligated to a Christian morality, or to at least to what they understood as a basic outline of Christian morality,” Mohler said. “That is now passing.”

But Mohler said this new post-Christian landscape is also affecting the church, where a tremendous generational change is taking place. Young people in the church, he said, learn the truth of Scripture and then face daunting obstacles to their faith and sexual purity once they leave the protection of their homes and churches.

“We are living in an age where you don’t gain social capital by holding to biblical morality. You spend it. You lose it,” Mohler said. “It’s going to take an entirely different mode of ministry, it’s going to take an entirely different level of faithfulness in preaching to prepare a generation ready to pay and lose social capital in order to say what not only we know to be true, but redemptively true.”

Mohler provided several examples of where sexual relationships could be addressed when preaching through Scripture, including Genesis 2-3, I Corinthians 5-6, and, perhaps surprisingly, Revelation 21. 

In those passages, he said Scripture teaches that the sexual relationship between male and female is part of God’s goodness in creation, that marriage—the first “pre-political institution” established by God—reflects the intimacy of the relationship between Christ and his church, and that the “pathology of sin” emerging in Scripture affects each and every human being sexually—even Christians.

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