Homosexuality and samesex marriages is one of the biggest issues debated today in secular society and among evangelicals. As prominent world leaders and Christian leaders endorse homosexuality and same-sex unions, it is causing uncertainty among Christians what the Bible teach about these issues. Many Christians are struggling to reconcile the clear teaching of Scripture with a desire to be in step with the culture. Just a few centuries ago, homosexuality was a criminal offence in many countries, but today, people who oppose homosexuality and make a stand on the Bible’s teaching are often characterised as homophobic or fundamentalists.
Throughout the history of the evangelical church, it was always understood that the Bible clearly teach sexual relations outside of marriage between one woman and one man, as an abomination in the sight of God. In the last few decades, the church, under the influence of liberalism, has seen many liberal theologians teaching that Scripture does not address homosexuality and same-sex marriages per se as sin. In other words a stable loving relationship between people of the same sex can be viewed as a Biblical relationship as long as they remain in union like heterosexual relationships. It is also argued that in ancient Biblical times the Jews did not know the word or concept homosexuality, so the Bible could not have spoken about homosexuality as we know it today. It is therefore argued that the meaning we give to the words used in Old Testament and New Testament could not mean homosexuality.
There are then a variety of explanations what the Bible really mean when it speaks of homosexuality and same sex-marriage. Many of these arguments are very cleverly put together. Because we live in an era where human rights and equality is emphasized, many Christians become uncertain. Many arguments are based on the fact that the Biblical writers was influenced by culture and because humanity has moved on, it cannot mean the same today. This implies that the Bible is a book written by humans from their own perspective as they were influenced by the culture of their time. This undermines what the Bible declares about itself; as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. The authority of Scripture and the interpretation thereof plays a big role in many ethical issues of today.
Purpose of the study
In this study, we will examine what the Bible says about marriage, the fall, homosexuality, and the authority of Scripture. I will endeavour to answer the following questions. What does the Bible define as a marriage? Where does homosexual desires come from? Does the Bible condemn homosexuality as sin? What was God’s purpose in creating marriage?
Homosexual advocates claim that people who have homosexual desires are born like that. They are people who God created and their desires for people of the same sex is given by Him. They claim it is thus not sin to have a stable loving relationship with someone of the same sexual orientation as long as it is kept in union with one partner in the same way as heterosexual relationships. They claim marriage is the union between two people of any sexual orientation and not necessarily between one man and one woman.
The Authority of Scripture and homosexuality
How will evangelicals respond to the challenge of the homosexual movement? How will the evangelical church respond to those persons struggling with homosexuality? Our only authority for addressing this issue is that God has revealed His truth in Scripture. We can only speak because we are confident that the one and only Sovereign God has revealed Himself and His will in His inerrant and authoritative Word, the Bible. Those who argue for the acceptance of homosexual behaviour and relationships have to deal with the fact that the Bible straightforward condemns homosexual behaviour. In light of this, some attempt to undermine the authority of Scripture by arguing that these texts have actually been horribly misunderstood for over two thousand years. Others argue that these texts were written within a specific culture and is not relevant to our culture. Some even argue that the texts dealing with homosexuality is later additions to Scripture.
The affirmation of biblical authority is thus central to this debate. If the Bible is not word for word God’s Word, we cannot base our arguments on specific words, because they are human words. Moreover, they might be wrong or influenced by the authors background and culture at the time of writing and not breathed out by the Holy Spirit as the Bible claims. It is thus important to make a point right at the beginning of our study what the Bible is and that it has the final authority in all matters for all time, because it is the Word of God.
The Bible is relevant within all cultures and over all times of the history of the world. The Bible is the Word of God in written form, inerrant and infallible, inspired by the Holy Spirit “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). God gave His Word through human agents under the power and control of the Holy Spirit. Culture and background did not determine what they wrote. God chose specific people and their background and personality was Sovereignly used by Him to say exactly what He wants to reveal. They would not have written anything else if they had exposure to any other cultural background. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired them to write word for word what God intended. “Scripture did not come from someone’s own interpretation” neither was it “produced by the will of man.” “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21). The end result of what they wrote was: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). What they wrote was God breathing out His own words. Therefore we can conclude that the Bible is word for word God’s word and every word matter. The purpose was that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). Not some, but every aspect of our lives.
Albert Mohler (2009) said that “only in recent years have some biblical scholars come forward to claim that the Bible presents a mixed message – or a very different message – on homosexuality.” Christians who reject the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, will eventually succumb to cultural pressure and accommodate their understanding of homosexuality to the spirit of the age. The homosexual agenda is pushed by activists who are totally committed to the cause of homosexuality as a recognized form of sexual orientation and a legitimate family relationship. Scripture stands as the most formidable obstacle in the way of progress to this agenda. Those Christians who affirm, confess and acknowledge the authority of the Bible have no choice in this matter. We must speak a word of truth in love and compassion (Ephesians 4:15). We must proclaim the Biblical gospel as a message of hope and deliverance from the slavery of sin of homosexuality.
Marriage is God ordained and purposefully created
The most effective way in addressing any error is by teaching the truth. Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The light of Scripture will dispel the lie of darkness. The Word is alive and active, penetrating our hearts and revealing the intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth of Scripture and compels us to obedience to Christ. Therefore, one of the most effective ways of addressing homosexuality is by explaining what Scripture teach about the purpose and beauty of marriage. That will stand as a monument of truth against the deception of homosexuality.
The foundation of marriage and sexuality is found in Genesis chapter 1 and 2. When Jesus was questioned about marriage, He referred to these two chapters (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12). Homosexual advocates often claims Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Jesus said a lot about sexuality. Jesus was teaching what marriage and purity was, which stands as a monument against impurity. Jesus taught that marriage is regarded as a holy institution by God. That it is even sin to separate a man and a woman who God has joined together as one flesh (Matthew 19:6). Genesis teaches us that God created humans “male and female” to complement each other emotionally, physically and spiritually (Genesis 1:27). Genesis also teaches that God instituted and designed marriage between a man and a woman, not between people of the same sexes (Genesis 2:18-25). The definition about marriage from the Bible is: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). A man would be united to a woman to form the unity of marriage. This sexual, emotional and psychological unity will be so close that it is called one flesh. Jesus confirmed this unity between a man and a woman by quoting the Genesis text (Matthew 19:6). There is a number of reasons why God did this.
Firstly, the human body was created to complement each other for the normal male and female relationship. The clear design of the human biology supports heterosexuality and contradicts homosexuality. Secondly, the combination of male and female enables man to procreate as commanded by God (Genesis 1:28). This command is repeated to Noah after the flood (Genesis 8:15-17). This is not the only reason God created man as male and female. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is good for emotional bonding, pleasure and procreation. Thirdly, God gave man and woman complementary roles in order to strengthen the family unit. Woman was to be the helper that man needed (Genesis 2:18). Woman’s role was not inferior but a godly woman who feared God was someone to be admired (Proverbs 31:10-31).
The New Testament gives a further exposition on God’s purpose with marriage. Marriage had a prophetic message about Christ and His bride the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Paul use the same phrase as in Genesis. “Man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Ephesians 5:31). Then he said there is a deep mystery in this unity between husband and wife. The mystery is that marriage is a picture of the love between Christ and His bride the Church. Marriage was created by God right from the beginning with doxological purposes to reflect Christ and His bride. It was a picture of redemption. The sacrificing love of a husband for his wife is an image of Christ’s sacrifice for His bride. The submission of the wife to the love of her husband is a picture of the submission of the Christ’s bride to His love. Indeed, Paul was correct, this mystery is profound (Ephesians 5:32). Therefore, marriages was designed and created by God right from the beginning with this prophetic message. The fall destroyed the marriage between husband and wife. All impure desires only originated after the fall (Genesis 6:5-6). The man and woman became aware they are naked and they were ashamed of each other. Before the fall they were not aware of this and the male and female sexuality was not an object of shame (Genesis 3:7). The fall marred marriage and human sexuality like everything else, and polygamy, divorce, prostitution and homosexuality entered the world (Bates & Cosner, 2013:9). After the fall, the Bible is littered with all sorts of sexual impurity, including homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-38; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Judges 19:22). This was not God’s design. Christ came and restored marriage through His redemption to the wonderful and beautiful prophetic picture of Him and His bride the Church .
How does a male-male or woman-woman relationship ever reflect this unique union, designed by God, to reflect the relationship between Christ and His bride. There is no place for impurity in this wonderful institution of God. The message is unequivocal. Man is to be united to woman because she came from man. Man did not come from man and is not to be united to man; woman did not come from woman and is not to be united to woman. Therefore, male is to be united to female. Heterosexual marriage, then, is a creation ordinance. (Statham, 2014).
What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?
As with all other issues, when we address homosexuality, it should be from the foundation of what Scripture says about it. We can trace the origins of marriage and human sexuality back to the Garden of Eden, and the positive teaching of God’s will for marriage is itself a strong condemnation of all other non-normative arrangements, both heterosexual and homosexual, that deviate from and fall short of that standard (Bates & Cosner, 2013: 10). But there are specific condemnations of homosexual behaviour.
Noah and Ham – Genesis 9:20-27: In this passage the story is told of an incident between Noah and his sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. Was Canaan cursed because his grandfather Ham saw his grandfather Noah’s nakedness? According to Botha (2014:38), the language of uncovering and seeing the nakedness of corresponds with similar phrases of sexual intercourse. In Leviticus these phrases is used to denote incest (Leviticus 18:6-18; 20:11, 17-21). According to Leviticus 18:24-30; 20:22-26, incest and homosexuality were the reasons why God decided to curse the Canaanites. Botha (2014:39) noted that Gagnon summarises the situation as follows when he says: “The Canaanites deserve to be dispossessed of the land and made slaves because they are, and always have been, avid practitioners of immoral activity. In the new post-diluvian world, it was their ancestor who committed the most heinous act imaginable – not rape but incest; not just incestuous rape, but rape of one’s own father, to whom supreme honour and obedience is owed.”
Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 19:4-11: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” The term to know someone was used in the Bible in reference to sexual intercourse. Advocates of homosexuality says this passage speaks only on inhospitality and rape. The passage, according to this interpretation, condemns rape and not relationships of mutual consent (Botha, 2014:39). There is no doubt that the Sodomites wanted sex with the visitors. The immediate context presuppose a sexual interpretation, because a few verses later Lot offers his daughters to the men of Sodom. The perversion of homosexuality appears to be an integral part of the story. According to Botha (2014:39), that is why the name Sodom became a byword for inhumanity to visiting outsiders in later Jewish and Christian context. Sodomise is to partake in homosexual activity.
The Levite’s concubine – Judges 19:22-25: “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” Again the term “to know” in reference to sexual intercourse is used. In this story the Levite’s concubine closely correlates with the incident at Sodom and Gomorrah. There are a few things in this passage which are immoral in intention and action, like the intended homosexual rape of the man, the rape of the woman and the inhospitably and wickedness of the men at Gibeah. The vile nature of the possible homosexual rape has motivated the old man to give up his daughter and concubine to the mob. The author of Judges describe the evil acts of homosexual and heterosexual rape as violations of God’s standards for human sexual expression.
Homosexual cult prostitution – Deuteronomy 23:17-18: Homosexual cult prostitution existed in the period of the divided kingdom of Israel. Many passages relate to the existence of male temple prostitutes (Deut.23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kings .23:7; Job.36:14). The command of God against this detestable practise clearly reveals God’s hate against the sin of homosexuality. “The Lord your God detest them both.” There are other passages that show the rejection of male prostitutes (Job 36:14). The reforms of Josiah was a direct result of finding the book of the law in the temple (2 Kings 23:7). According to Botha (2014:41), this might be a direct result of Deut. 23:17-18. When the Bible was rejecting homosexual cult prostitution, it was rejecting the whole phenomenon of homosexual practise.
Commands against homosexuality – Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13: In Leviticus we do not find stories from which we can conclude that the Bible condemn homosexual practices, but we find clear commands. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22). “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them” (Lev. 20:13). Advocates of homosexuality says these prohibitions are not valid anymore, because the Gospel released believers from their part of the law. These prohibitions forbid incest (Lev. 18:6-18), adultery (Lev. 18:20), child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21) and bestiality (Lev. 18:23). These prohibitions continue to have validity in contemporary society. If one do away with homosexuality, why then keep the rest? On what basis is the one rejected and the rest universally applied? The command against homosexuality is unqualified and absolute. Homosexuality violates God’s established boundaries set against godlessness. Botha (2014:41) explained that all the other practices are collectively renounced as abominations (Lev. 18:24-30), but homosexuality is singled out in particular as an abomination in the list of specific commands. Also in Leviticus 20:13 the word abomination is specifically applied to sexual intercourse between males. Botha (2014:41) says in the whole Tetra teach the word abomination is only used in connection with homosexuality.
The relevance of these prohibitions for today is further established by being carried over into the New Testament. The same God who gave these prohibitions, continues to relegate conduct through His Spirit in believers. A substantial case must be made to do away with an Old Testament law, which was regarded with such revulsion and which was affirmed in the New Testament.
The New Testament and Leviticus – 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:9–10: “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality [arsenokoitai], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality [arsenokoitai], enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9–10).
Some argue the restrictions of Leviticus only relate to the purity rules of the Jewish ceremonial law and therefore do not apply to Christians. According to Statham (2014), this cannot be as the New Testament refers to these Levitical passages when it denounces homosexual practices. According to Statham (2014), the word “arsenokoitai” is derived from the Greek words used in the Septuagint translation of Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 (arsēn: male and koitē: lying). Paul have had Leviticus in mind when he wrote these passages. The New Testament uphold these prohibitions of homosexual practices.
Homosexual desires – Romans 1:18-32: Some people claim homosexual behaviour was only condemned because it was associated with idolatry (1 Kings 14:24). However, it was condemned apart from idolatry as well (Lev. 18:22). In the New Testament it is even described as an unnatural and immoral perversion. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable 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” (Rom. 1:18 – 27). In Romans 1, Paul teaches that homosexuality is God’s judgement upon those who have suppressed the truth how nature reveal His glory and power. They exchanged the truth for a lie and therefore God has given them over to their own perverted hearts. The end result is that they burn in homosexual lusts for each other. This shows that homosexual desires is a fruit of the sinful nature. Many homosexuals say they are born like that. They are in fact correct. We are all born naturally slaves to all kinds of sin. Homosexuality is just one of many.
The order of progression in Romans 1:19-27 highlight the root cause of homosexuality as rebellion against God from a sinful heart. Firstly, knowledge about God is revealed in nature. Secondly, they willingly reject this knowledge about God and exchange it for a lie that there is no Creator. Thirdly, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. Lastly, the end result is a person who is enslaved in homosexual lusts.
The Bible is the Word of God and came from Him. Human authors wrote under control of the Holy Spirit as they were carried along to write word for word what God wanted. They were not influenced by their culture, but rather wrote what God intended. Therefore, the Bible is the rule for life as God desires for His creatures. The Bible is completely against homosexual behaviour because the Bible is completely against all sorts of sin and everything that fall short of what God intends for His creatures. The entire Gospel is about how we are set free from the power of sin and made new through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It would therefore be totally inconsistent with the gospel for the Bible to allow any form of sin sexual sin.
The fall of Adam and Eve resulted in all forms of sinful desires including homosexuality. Marriage is a created institution by God with a prophetic and doxological purpose which was destroyed by the fall. Jesus Christ came to heal and restore what the first Adam destroyed by taking sin upon Himself and brought healing through His death and resurrection. In Him marriage and can be restored to God’s intended purpose. Marriage between a man and a woman is a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. Homosexual relationships do not do not have the same message.
Mohler, A. 2009. The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective. http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/07/16/the-compassion-of-truth-homosexuality-in-biblical-perspective-2/ Date of access: 27 October 2014.
Bates, G., & Cosner, L. 2013. Gay marriage: right or wrong? Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers.
Statham, D. 2014. Does the Bible really forbid homosexual relationships? Eight Mile Plains, Qld: Creation Ministries International. http://creation.com/bible-forbid-homosex Date of access: 27 October 2014.
Botha, P.H. 2014. The Bible and Homosex: Sexual truths for a modern society [kindle ed.]. Available: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00MDZ5V7C
De Bruyn, P.J. 2013. The Ten Commandments. Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom Theological Publications.