Ephesians 5:31-33 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
In yesterday's blog I made this statement regarding God's marriage standard: Every generation of God's people is called to define and declare once again God's standard of marriage from His Word. We considered yesterday the definition of Biblical marriage along three lines: biologically, practically and doctrinally. Biologically marriage is between one man and one woman. Period. Practically marriage is when a man and woman make a marital covenant between themselves a before God in accordance to the pattern set in Genesis 2:22-25. Doctrinally or theologically, marriage pictures the relationship between God and His people and more specifically communicates the Gospel that explains how God went about in the sending of His Son to pay the purchase price for His bride - the church.
We know that 1 Timothy 4:3 predicts the following about how marriage will be regarded prior to Christ's return: "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth."1 In today's blog I want us to consider ways in which we can declare God's marriage standard in light of the increasing pressure by the secular world (and sadly, in increasing measure by the church world) to promote same-sex unions. We will be working from the standpoint of the three-fold Biblical definition of marriage we explored in yesterday's post.
Declaring God's Marriage Standard
Declaring God's marriage standard entails explain what marriage is and what marriage is not. To explain what something is not is to explain it negatively and to explain what something is is to explain it positively. The Bible's description of marriage is both described positively (husband and wife are one flesh = Matthew 19:5) and negatively (no longer two, but one flesh = Matthew 19:6). At issue specifically in our culture is the subject of what is called "same-sex marriage". We have seen in recent years Christian denominations soften their stances against same-sex unions and in some cases, heartily endorse such unions or even advocate people in leadership positions who are engaging in such activity. My question is - can one be biblical and at the same time endorse same-sex unions as a viable option for people? What do we tell people about what the Bible says?
God's Marriage standard defined negatively - God's marriage standard has no room for same-sex unions
If we take the Bible's three-fold way of defining marriage: biological, practical and doctrinal, we will discover that homosexual and lesbian unions do not fit in God's master plan of marriage.
1. Same-sex unions are not biologically viable options for people
Author and Pastor Timothy Keller makes this powerful point: "The Bible says sex is for a man and a woman inside marriage to nurture and maintain a long-term, permanent relationship of marriage, which means polygamy, which means sex outside marriage and homosexuality are considered violations of God's will and are violations and violations of our own design. So the Bible is saying that you are missing out when you do those things. The Bible's teaching on homosexuality would be then that you are going against your own design and are missing out on the best that God has for you."2 Same sex unions make no sense biologically because they offer no way in which to advance the human species and thus proof that homosexuality and lesbianism are choices people make rather than those people being "born" with such orientations. God has defined marriage biologically in passages such as Genesis 1:26-28; 2:22-25 and Jesus remarks in Matthew 19:5-7.
2. Same-sex unions are not Biblical practical options for people
Whenever you look at all of the practical instructions given about marriage in the Bible (from relating to parents, to in-laws and children), not one time do you see instructions that include same-sex unions. We use the term "unions" rather than marriage because Biblically speaking, same-sex marriage has no meaning and thus is not a practically useful concept. If anything, same-sex unions in the Bible are always viewed negatively, rather than positively in scripture. (compare Genesis 19:1-38; Leviticus 19:9-37; 20:10-21; Romans 1:18-31)
3. Same-sex unions are not Biblically theological options for people
As we have seen already, biologically and practically speaking, homosexuality and lebianism has no place in the Biblical concept of marriage. What then it the realm of doctrine. Can a same-sex union communicate the Gospel? No. Why? Ephesians 4:31-33 most clearly spells out what human relationship alone pictures Christ redeeming His church - namely one man, one woman in marriage. Any other arrangement does not communicate the Gospel and thus the reason why Scripturally speaking, same-sex unions are immoral and in conflict with the central tenets of the Christian faith.
God's Marriage standard declare positively - God's Christian marriage standard endorses God's will for human relationships and proclaims the Gospel to all types of people
We have already spent some time explaining what marriage is by the three-fold biological, practical and doctrinal definitions. What can we do to declare God's marriage standard positively in such a way that will tell same-sex advocates and non-same sex advocates alike that Jesus died for their sins and that they need to repent, believe and be saved from God's wrath to come?
1. The same redemption to all sinners is available to homosexuals.
The SBC position statement on homosexuality is the best statement I have found that can guide us on this point: "We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a "valid alternative lifestyle." The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ." 3 Marriage, as we have labored to show, pictures Christ having come to provide redemption and coming again to rescue His bride - the church. The Gospel message ought to be central in our dealings with same-sex advocates - being that in affirming the Gospel, we are affirming marriage.
2. Focus specifically on declaring what marriage is
A portion of Article 18 (XVIII) in The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 states the following about marriage: "Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race."4
3. Live the standard, promote your own Christian marriage as an example of why God's marriage standard is the only standard
The best and most effective way to drive home the point about God's marriage standard is to simply live out what the Bible teaches. We must of course never cease in declaring what that standard is. However if Christian married couples in our churches don't make an effort to prove to the world that the Gospel makes a difference in life and marriage, then what can we expect when people increase cynicism about marriage? If we can demonstrate marriage to be what God designed it to be, all other arrangements will be shown to be inadequate and sinful imitations of God's only and original design for life-long love, trust and nurture - namely marriage.
1. Quite literally in the original language, those who "forbid" marriage will try to "stand in the away or make it difficult" for those who want to get married or who advocate such. In Paul's letter to Timothy, the church of which he was pastoring was located in a city where all sorts of practices and relationships were being promoted. Temple prostitution was the norm and the Roman and Greek practices of polygamy or having mistresses would had been accepted in that culture. What Paul is saying is that such opposition to God's marriage standard of one man/one woman in marital covenant will grow worse and more pronounced as the time for Christ's return approaches.
2. Timothy Keller. The Reason for God - Conversations on Faith and Life. Zondervan. 2010. DVD series: session three - what gives God the right to tell me how to live my life?