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What Does Genesis 1:1 Have to Do with John 3:16?

What Does Genesis 1:1 Have to Do with John 3:16?

This article was updated with minor editorial changes on February 26th.


What Does Genesis 1:1 Have to Do with John 3:16?

In a word, everything. Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) is based on ontology (the nature of being). Salvation occurs in the context of creation. Redemption takes place in reality. This should be self-evident but in our post-modern world we are increasingly seeing reality being judged as simply social constructs or determined by the almighty self.

Let me explain. Ours is a day when the very idea that absolute truth exists is judged outmoded, offensive, and hateful. This, of course, means that moral relativism dominates the thinking of many people. You can have your truth and I can have my truth, and the two need not even approximate each other much less agree. What’s right for you may not be right for me. Ultimately, each person (the self) is the determiner of what is true and false, right and wrong, and good and bad.

Everything is relative—except, of course, the fact that everything is relative. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. If you doubt me, live by absolutes and see how quickly you are charged with hate speech, wrong-think, bigotry, or violence. Such heresy must be canceled. The guardians of the left will not tolerate any questioning of their orthodoxy that a person’s identity is precisely what [insert preferred pronoun] says it is. Biological sex has nothing to do with gender. Today when anxious friends ask brand new parents if their baby is a boy or girl, the only politically correct answer is, “We won’t know until they tell us.”

Ours is day when the very idea that absolute truth exists is judged outmoded, offensive, and hateful.

What is going on in the LGBTQIA+ revolution through which we are living is fundamentally a rejection of “Nature and Nature’s God.” This is the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 1:26-27 where he describes the end result of those who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (25). “For this reason,” Paul writes, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (26-27, emphasis added).

Paul is talking about female (v. 26) and male (v. 27) homosexuality. Neither are “natural.” The word translated “natural” is φυσικόςis (physikos) which means that which is self-evident about a thing; it’s “givenness.” “To call it ‘given’…is already to go beyond the sphere of naive description and implies a judgment on its actual constitution or true nature.”[1] In other words, male-male and female-female sexual relations are completely unnatural—against nature; against what is “a given.”

To put a biblically fine point on it, such relations are a denial of Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the creation account that follows in chapters 1 and 2. It is a denial of creation and, therefore, of the Creator.

Here is where the connection to John 3:16 comes in. The God who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” is the same God who created the world in the beginning. To be reconciled to that God a person must lay down the arms of rebellion against him. That is, a person cannot continue worshiping the creation rather than the Creator and at the same time experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who is the Creator’s Son.

To make sure I am being clear—there is no such thing as a “gay Christian” or an “LGBTQIA+ Christian” or any other reality-denying-hyphenated Christian. You cannot deny the Creator and his creation and have his salvation at the same time. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus took place in the real world. He is a real Savior for real sinners. The salvation he gives is a real salvation. It is impossible, therefore, to experience this salvation while denying reality and the real God who both created it and accomplished salvation in it.

You cannot have the God of salvation while continuing in rebellion against the God of creation. He is the same God.

What this means is that Tim Keller’s would-be aphorism is as spiritually dangerous as it is disingenuous. Said Keller, “I know homosexuality doesn’t send you to hell because heterosexuality doesn’t send you to heaven.” While progressives and homosexuals readily applaud Keller’s cleverness (and J.D. Greear and Ed Litton have parroted it), the Apostle Paul begs to differ. He wrote, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:5–6). Homosexuals are not excluded from the “sexually immoral.”

You cannot have the God of salvation while continuing in rebellion against the God of creation. He is the same God. You cannot have the real Jesus while you insist on living in unreality. An inevitable component of true repentance is the renouncing of every relation that is “contrary to nature.”

Soteriology is built on ontology. You cannot have the grace that saves while rebelling against the nature that is. We should never mislead anyone by suggesting they may savingly believe the gospel of Jesus Christ while living in the unreality of LGBTQIA+ identity or the contra-reality of homosexuality.

The good news is that those who are enslaved to such false ways of living are not beyond hope. The gospel really is the power of God to salvation for all who believe. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Corinthian church was a living testimony of this. In his list of the kinds of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul includes “the sexually immoral,” “adulterers,” and “men who practice homosexuality.” But then he reminds the church that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Jesus is a real Savior for real sinners.

By all means, let us proclaim the amazing grace that is announced in John 3:16. But let us never do so to the exclusion of the undeniable reality that is revealed in Genesis 1:1.


[1] Helmut Köster, “Φύσις, Φυσικός, Φυσικῶς,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 253.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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