An Evangelical Response to Same-sex Marriage

     For those who do not know, an evangelical is one who holds to the essentials of the Christian faith. The first of those essentials is an adherence to the Bible as God’s inerrant, infallible and authoritative truth. The Bible is a revelation from God to man. It does not address every subject, but what it does reveal is absolutely true about God, history, science, mankind, spirituality and morals. 

God’s Word Defines Marriage

     God’s Word reveals marriage is a divine institution and not a human social construct. Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman and is intended to be for a lifetime (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:3-6). Marriage began with the first humans—male and female—at the beginning of time-space-history (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). Concerning marriage, Moses wrote “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Jesus Himself stated marriage began in the Garden of Eden and is between a man and a woman (Matt. 19:4-6). 

And He [Jesus] answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning [of time and space and history; see Genesis 1-2] made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? [Gen. 2:24] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)

     Two immediate observations come out of Jesus statement: 1) marriage is a divine institution that was given to mankind at the beginning of time-space-history and, 2) marriage is between one man and one woman. In Scripture, marriage is regarded as a holy institution. Marriage is illustrative of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel (Isa. 54:5), and Christ’s relationship with the church (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-33). To pervert the institution of marriage—by definition and practice—is an attack on the God who gave it. 

Homosexuality is a Sin

     The Bible tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). This is true. But is also tell us, “the LORD is righteous, [and] He loves righteousness” (Ps. 11:7). God’s love cannot be separated from His righteousness. Some claim they have “love” for each other, but any claim to love that is contrary to God and His righteousness as revealed in Scripture is ultimately a false love, a selfish love, a sinful love. Sin is any violation of God’s righteous commands. The Bible plainly declares homosexuality as sinful (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:8-10). As such, God does not honor that which is contrary to His righteous character.

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. (Lev. 18:22; cf. Lev. 20:13)

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching. (1 Tim. 1:8-10; cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10)

     Homosexuality is a sin like many other sins (adultery, murder, lying, perjury, gluttony, etc.). The internal propensity toward the homosexual lifestyle is born out of a person’s sin nature. Homosexual acts can be committed by both Christians and non-Christians. As a sin, it can be forgiven, and the Christian with homosexual tendencies can learn to live righteously as God intends. This is true for all Christians who struggle with strong sinful desires, whatever that may be, whether alcoholism, drug addiction, anger, violence, promiscuity, or anything else. 

God Loves Sinners but Hates Their Sin

     The Bible regards sin as any thought, word or action contrary to the holy character of God. The introduction of sin—both in human nature and behavior—corrupts all persons, making us totally depraved, such that sin permeates every aspect of our humanity (Rom. 3:10-18, 23; 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). The Bible teaches everyone is a sinner (Rom. 3:9). We are sinners because of our relationship to Adam (Rom. 5:12, 19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22), we are sinners by nature, born with a rebellious heart (Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:17), and we are sinners by choice every time we yield to temptation (Jam. 1:14-15). People given over to sin pervert God’s institutions as well as His plans for humanity.

     God loves us and desires our salvation and fellowship with Him. He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). And what is God’s saving truth? It is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).  The greatest expression of God’s love occurred nearly two thousand years ago when He sent His Son into the world to die for us that we might have forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life (John 3:16-19; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14). 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

     God is patient with us. Scripture reveals the Lord “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). This means God gives us time and opportunity to hear His gospel message and to respond to it. God is gracious toward us. “But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Ps. 86:15). God Himself shows grace and love toward everyone, including those who hate Him (Matt. 5:45; Rom. 5:6-10). Jesus stated, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). God loves us, no matter our spiritual depravity, and He has created an open door for us to come to Him through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. We come to God with the empty hands of faith, trusting in Christ alone as our Savior. 

     God is righteous and will judge those who reject and suppress His truth. There is a serious and dire warning that God gives in His Word about those who suppress His truth in unrighteousness. Paul writes, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). When a person continually rejects God’s revelation of Himself in nature and Scripture, then God eventually gives that person over to her/his sinful passions and degrading lusts (Rom. 1:24). 

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Rom. 1:26-28)

     To have a “depraved mind” means a person’s thinking is grossly perverted and that right judgment eludes her/him. The final result of those who reject God is a life forever separated from Him in the Lake of Fire. At death, all of life’s choices are fixed for eternity, and if we die without accepting God’s gracious gifts of forgiveness and eternal life (Eph. 1:7; John 10:28-30), then by our own choice we’ll spend eternity forever separated from Him (John 3:18; Rev. 20:11-15). 

What is the Christian Response?

     The Christian response is to speak and act with dignity. We are to be clear in speaking God’s truth to people who are made in His image (fallen as they are). We are to point them to Christ that they might turn to Him for salvation and be born again to a new spiritual life (1 Pet. 1:3, 23). We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), “with grace” (Col. 4:6), and “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). Scripture tells us:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26). 

     We know God is always present, working in the hearts of others (John 16:7-11), and will use us to speak truth and share Christ to those who will listen. We also realize most don’t want to hear God’s Word (John 3:19-20), and will not accept His message (Matt. 7:13-14), so we leave them to God’s judgment (Matt. 10:14-15; Rev. 20:11-15). Whatever the response of others, our role is to know God’s will and to walk with Him.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

  1. Essentials of the Christian Faith  
  2. Living by Grace  
  3. Marriage Vows and Ceremonies  
  4. Making a Biblical Marriage  
  5. Choose a Christian Spouse  
  6. What Does it Mean to Be a Man?
  7. The Gospel Message  
  8. Atonement for Sins  
  9. I am a Sinner  
  10. God’s Mercy Toward Sinners  

Making a Biblical Marriage

     Marriage Book CoverMarriage is a divine institution originally designed to permanently unite a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18-25).  It is not a human invention.  The first couple was created in God’s image to live under His provision and authority, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to fulfill the specific purpose of ruling over His creation (Gen. 1:26-28).  They were to complement each other.  All three members of the Trinity[1] were involved in the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-28).  “God created man in His own image [Heb. צֶלֶם tselem], in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27).  Adam and Eve were special, created with intelligence, volition, and purpose.  They were created for a relationship; first with God, then with each other, then the animals and world around them.  They were to fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).  Adam and Eve were created in a state of maturity as perfectly functioning adults and were gifted with brilliant minds that were able to correctly perceive their environment and to properly communicate with God and each other.  They possessed a clear sense of purpose under the authority of God.

     Genesis chapter one provides a snapshot of the creation of the first couple; however, in Genesis chapter two, we learn there was a short lapse of time between the creation of Adam and Eve (cf. 1 Tim. 2:13).  Adam, by himself, was placed in the Garden of Eden with the positive command “to cultivate it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).  Adam was free to work and enjoy the beauty and fruit of the Garden.  God blessed Adam and provided for him (Gen. 2:15-16), but also promised spiritual and physical death if he sinned (Gen. 2:17).  Later, both Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:1-8), but Adam’s sin alone would bring judgment upon himself and the world, for which he was responsible.  When Adam fell, the world under his care fell with him (Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 5:12-14; 8:22-23; 1 Tim. 2:13-14).

     Originally, Adam was created sinless, with the unhindered capacity to walk with God and serve Him.  Though he was sinless, Adam was not complete.  God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).  Before God created the first woman, He took time to educate Adam about his relational incompleteness.  God brought a multitude of animals before Adam (most likely in pairs of male and female), and after observing and naming them (Gen. 2:19), Adam realized “there was not found a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen 2:20).  God corrected what Adam could not.  The Lord caused Adam to fall asleep and “took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place” (Gen. 2:21).  God then “fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:22).  This was a divinely arranged marriage. 

Woman was taken not from Adam’s head to dominate him, nor from his feet to be trodden down, but from under his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.[2]

     The wife was created to “help” her husband (Gen. 2:20).  The word helper (עֵזֶר.Heb ezer) is an exalted term that is sometimes employed of God who helps the needy (Gen. 49:25; Ex. 18:4; 1 Sam. 7:12; Isa. 41:10; Ps. 10:14; 33:20).  Just as God helps His people to do His will, so the wife is called to help her husband serve the Lord and bring Him glory.  The wife is also to respect her husband (Eph. 5:33), both in private and in public.

     Sin changed humanity and the world in which we live.  Satan (a fallen angel) attacked the first marriage and tempted the man and woman to disobey God (Gen. 3:1-7).  Adam and Eve listened to Satan and rejected God’s will (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-8), and sin was introduced into the human race and the whole world is now under a curse (Gen. 3:8-19; Rom. 5:12-19; 8:20-22).  Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam sinned with his eyes open (1 Tim. 2:14).

     christian_marriageThe institution of marriage continued after the historic fall of Adam and Eve and took on various ceremonies based on ever changing social customs.  The Bible directs believers to marry believers (1 Cor. 7:39; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-15), but does not prescribe a specific ceremony to follow, or vows to take, but leaves these matters for people to decide for themselves.  Marriage is divinely illustrative of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel (Isa. 54:5), and Christ’s relationship with the church (2 Cor. 11:2).  Marriage is to be holy, because God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).  Marriage is to be loving, because God is love (1 John 4:16-21).

     God designed the husband to be the loving leader to guide the relationship into His will, and the wife is to walk in harmony with him (Gen. 2:18; 21-23; cf. Eph. 5:25-33).  The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25).  Biblically, this is called agape love. 

Love [Grk. ἀγάπη agape] is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)

     Agape love brings God into every relationship, provides spiritual nourishment, conforms to God’s will, and seeks God’s glory.  It stands the test of time and survives in the furnace of affliction.  It is sacrificial (Eph. 5:25; cf. Matt. 20:28; John 13:34; 15:13; Rom. 5:8; 14:15; 15:3), understanding and honoring (1 Pet. 3:7), and greater than feelings (Col. 3:19).  It is, in fact, God’s love, born in the heart of the believer who walks with God and desires His closeness. 

     God’s love comes from God, and only those who know God and walk with Him will manifest His love (1 John 4:10-21).  There is a biblical love and there is a worldly love.  Biblical love has its source in God who always seeks our best.  Worldly love is deceptive, self-serving and destructive, just as Satan is deceptive, self-serving and destructive.  We cannot give what we do not have, and only those who know and walk with God can manifest His love.  Anyone who claims to love but does not know God or walk with Him is a deceiver, and this one leads others into sin.  A successful marriage is built on Scripture and displays God’s love. 

     Where there is constant spiritual development in the life of a Christian couple, there will be the gradual manifestation of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23a).  We manifest these qualities because we walk with God and desire to reflect His character.  Walking with God means we become more and more like Him, gradually manifesting His attributes, such as righteousness (Ps. 11:7; 119:137), justice (Ps. 9:7-8; 50:6), holiness (Ps. 99:9), truthfulness (2 Sam. 7:28; John 17:17; 1 John 5:20), love (Jer. 31:3; 1 John 4:7-12, 16),  faithfulness (Deut. 7:9; Lam. 3:23; 2 Tim. 2:13), mercy (Ps. 86:15; Luke 6:36; Tit. 3:5), and graciousness (Ps. 111:4; 116:5; 1 Pet. 5:10).  These attributes will strengthen the marriage, but they must be pursued intelligently and by choice. 

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

[This article is taken from my book: Making a Biblical Marriage]

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[1] The three persons of the Godhead include God the Father (Gal. 1:1; Phil. 2:11), God the Son (John 1:1, 14; 20:28), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).  God is one in essence (Deut. 6:4), and three in Person (Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:2). 

[2] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 35.