Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homosexuality in the Bible


Introduction

At the outset, as a Christian, I do not bother entertaining the objections to any passage of Scripture on this or any other issue. It matters not one iota who was the human writer of any passage of Scripture with regard to its authority. Unbelievers may disregard Scripture, and do so at their eternal peril, but any who profess to be Christian must believe the Holy Scriptures to be God’s Word or their profession is empty, since thereby they deny Jesus Christ who is the One who speaks in the Scriptures. Nor does it matter at all that much of the church world today denies many parts of Scripture, and does not obey God’s Word. In doing so, they only show that they are not truly churches at all. Nor is it my intention to deal with all the perverse interpretations of Scripture which ignorant unbelievers attempt to use to claim that it is absurd or otherwise. Anyone honestly interested in the truth may easily look up the relevant passages of Scripture for himself, and see the perversity of the reasoning of unbelievers such as Richard Dawkins who are literally hell-bent on opposing faith in the living God as He is revealed by the Word.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” – Luke 21:33.
It should be said that the issue of homosexuality is an ethical issue. Every single ethical or moral issue is important because of the spiritual truth about God and His work of salvation. It must be said however that the reason ethical issues ought to concern Christians is not because true Christians seek to stroke their egos by keeping difficult rules, nor is it because we are trying to earn some kind of ticket into heaven by keeping certain laws. True Christians ought to be concerned with doing the will of God (that is, obeying His commandments or laws) out of love for Him, in gratitude for our salvation which has already been accomplished by Christ for everyone who believes in Him. And that is how we know that Christ has died and risen again for our sins: we believe on Him, only by a miracle of grace. This is because Christ purchased at the cross the gift of faith for all those and only those given to Him by the Father. If you believe, you will certainly be saved everlastingly. And as a result, you will be very concerned with moral issues, in order to show your gratitude to God and honour Him. So it should be obvious now that to the unbeliever, homosexuality is not an issue that is cared much about, except that the unbeliever would very much like everyone to approve him, especially because in his conscience he still knows that God does not approve him.

Why One Man and One Woman?

What then is the key spiritual truth which determines our view of homosexuality? Some have claimed it is creation, and that would not be entirely wrong, but there is a far deeper truth behind this. Why did God create humans male and female? It was not, as some have claimed, simply to populate the earth. If this was God’s purpose He could have created humans to be hermaphrodites like earthworms and snails (by the way, there is a significant reason that this behaviour is only natural for these kinds of unpleasant slimy creatures). But even a surface reading of Genesis 2 demonstrates that when God revealed that it was not appropriate for man to be alone, He did not create another man to be with him, but deliberately took flesh and bone from the man’s side and formed it into a woman, specifically to be a companion fitting for man. This tells us that men cannot take the place of a woman in relation to a man. Men can be very good close friends, and love one another very much, as much, or even sometimes more than men can love women or vice versa. But this passage proves that there is a definite role which no man can or may attempt to have in relation to another man. This includes sexual activity. And all sexual activity, according to the Bible, is only appropriate within the bond of marriage.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” – Genesis 2:18-24.
The fundamental truth that ought to govern our view of homosexuality is the spiritual reality of Christ and the church as presented in Ephesians 5. Not the church building or the institute of the church, but the church itself. The church in this context is the people of God, true Christians redeemed from every tongue, tribe, and nation, gathered throughout all history. This passage teaches us that mystery of marriage is revealed as Christ and the church.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:22-32.
The passage teaches unmistakeably that marriage is a bond between one man and one woman so that they are one flesh. Marriage is this way precisely because of the spiritual reality of Christ and the church. Christ is united to the church by a holy bond, so that we are of his flesh and of his bones. As in earthly marriage, this heavenly marriage is composed of one husband and one wife. The husband is Jesus Christ who is the head and loves the church and gave Himself for the church on the cross. The wife is the church who is the body and is called to submit to Jesus Christ. This is the spiritual reality that all earthly marriages ought to display a picture of. Therefore there can be no “homosexual marriages”. Anything other than one man and one woman in marriage could not and would not be a picture of Christ and the church. In fact the idea of a “homosexual marriage” is therefore a perversion of this picture.

In the Old Testament there are admittedly various examples of men who married either multiple wives or had additional concubines. However, the Scriptures never ever approve of these situations. In fact, the first polygamy is found in the wicked line of Cain’s descendents. Abraham was very obviously chastised for his taking of Hagar as a concubine, and Jacob’s life was made miserable by his folly in taking a second wife. David and Solomon both brought great trouble on themselves by their wives/concubines. Furthermore, the conclusive word on the issue is the principle taught by our Lord. This instructs us on what Jesus Himself taught about homosexuality in His earthly ministry. It is not true that He never spoke on the issue. That which was in the beginning is the unalterable pattern for marriage: one man and one woman until death.
“… but from the beginning it was not so.” – Matthew 19:8b.

Struggling With Lust

I should think that it ought not to be necessary to also demonstrate that any sexual activity outside marriage (homosexual or otherwise) is sinful. Perhaps this is na├»ve. At any rate, it ought to be sufficient to say that even sexual lusts hidden in the heart are sinful outside of marriage. As always, Christ does not deny the slightest part of the law but emphasizes even more strongly that the moral law is first of all spiritual. It is not primarily concerned with outward behaviour. True obedience to God’s must always begin in the heart, or else it is nothing but hypocrisy. And if it begins in the heart, then it will necessarily affect the outward behaviour also. This means that not only is homosexual practice sinful but also all homosexual lust is sinful. It should also be understood however that not even the godliest saint can keep the law of God perfectly, he only has a small beginning of true obedience, and that not by his own strength, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore a Christian who struggles with lust, whether homosexual or otherwise, ought not despair, but be encouraged that there is a struggle (since those not born again are completely dead in sins), and continue to fight by the power of the Spirit of Christ, in the confident knowledge of their forgiveness, and eventual deliverance and victory.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28.
That there is deliverance from these sins in Jesus Christ is evident from one of the few passages in the New Testament which directly refers to homosexuality. Some of the members of the Corinthian church had been involved in homosexual practices, but by God’s grace they were converted by the power of the Gospel, and repented of their sins, so that Paul could say concerning them, that they had been cleansed of this.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – I Corinthians 6:9-11.
This does not mean that they never struggled with this temptation again however. Each person has different trials and temptations. Sometimes our particular weaknesses are due to our birth, others due to events in God’s providence, but we cannot use this as a reason to blame God. God certainly determines all things, and His perfect wisdom is unsearchable. Consider the case of the man who was born blind in John 9. God made him blind from birth – but Christ explained why. It was so that God’s glory would be displayed in him when he received his sight and more importantly salvation through faith in Christ, so that he became a bold witness for Christ and the grace of God before the Pharisees, suffered for Christ, and worshipped Him at His feet.
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” – John 9:1-3.
Nevertheless, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God may lead us from temptation. Since we pray that, it would be hypocrisy not to avail ourselves of whatever means God provides for us to avoid temptation. This is a godly, humble thing to do. It is not cowardly or defeatist. It is wise. To refuse means of avoiding temptation is the pride which comes before a fall. For those who struggle to contain their sexual desire, the Bible recommends marriage. Marriage is also a glorious picture of Christ and the church, but God has also given it for this purpose. Some people can live a single life, and that is recommended also as a good choice, especially as doesn’t carry as many earthly cares, but only if continence is not a problem. Seeking marriage means actively, prudently, carefully, wisely seeking a godly spouse who will be a companion for life, trusting that God will provide.
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” – I Cor. 7:2-9.

Sodom: An Example

We have already noted that it is not true that Christ never taught anything about the issue of homosexuality. There is another more obvious reference when Christ speaks about Sodom. Sodom was destroyed with fire and brimstone from heaven because of its proud wickedness, especially characterised by rampant homosexuality from which we have the word “sodomy”. Needless to say, such destruction was unusual. In fact in all history it stands out as one of the most dramatic outpourings of God’s wrath in judgment, next only to the global Flood which destroyed billions of lives. Even the plagues of Egypt were not so severe. It stands out as a fiery testimony for all ages of God’s attitude towards this sin. The example given in Genesis 19 is that of all the men, young and old, gathering to gang-rape Lot’s two male visitors (actually angels). When Lot desperately and disgracefully attempts to protect his guest by offering his daughters instead, they even refuse, and finally attempt to assault Lot before the angels rescue him.

The timing of it is very significant. It occurred long before the Law was given through Moses. Homosexuals today often claim that the Bible’s only teaching on homosexuality is in Leviticus, which they ridicule and disregard on account of many things they do not understand. But Sodom was destroyed before the Law was given through Moses. Irrespective of one’s view of Leviticus then, it is abundantly clear just from the example of Sodom, what God’s opinion of homosexuality is. Sodom is exactly that, an example – for all time. It is referred to repeatedly throughout Scripture as an example, in the Old Testament prophets and also in the New Testament letters.  Once God makes an example like this to reveal something about Himself and His holy judgment, He does not do so again. When God speaks in such a manner, we do not ask Him to repeat Himself, we do not need to.

When the Benjamite city of Gibeah had descended to a similarly wicked state (only worse because this was in the church!), God didn’t send down fire and brimstone. However, there was civil war in Israel as a result, and it marked the darkest occasion since entering the promised land, and the tribe of Benjamin was nearly utterly wiped out because of it. The outrage at Gibeah represented the lowest state of moral bankruptcy in Israel, which illustrates how terribly base and vile a sin homosexuality is.

But Christ pronounces heavier condemnation on Capernaum than Sodom. What was the sin of Capernaum? Christ had preached the Gospel there, but the people had refused to repent and believe. Rejecting the preaching of the Gospel brings greater condemnation than sodomy. It is a much worse sin. That must never be forgotten in all the discussion about the seriousness of the sin of homosexuality. Rejection of Christ in the preaching of the Gospel carries a less tolerable judgment of God.

“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” – Matthew 11:23-24.

Homosexuality as Judgment

With such a dramatic example we should not be surprised if the rest of the Scriptures take little time to make a point of directly condemning homosexuality. Nevertheless, they do in many cases. Some have been mentioned already. Romans 1 is one such passage. Here Scripture presents homosexuality as a punishment from God for sin, specifically the sin of idolatry. After asserting that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against unrighteous men, it goes on to explain why all are without excuse. This is because all know from what is plainly manifest in them, that God is almighty, divine, and must be worshipped. Since the ungodly in their generations refused to worship God as they knew they should, God gave them over to run after worse sins. It specifies lesbianism, and likewise, sodomy and adds what is probably a reference to the harmful effects of these practices. It also declares that these things are “against nature”. Furthermore, the passage adds that despite their knowledge of the severe judgment of God against these things, they have pleasure in all who practice these things.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. … Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” – Romans 1:26-27.
That in itself speaks volumes about why the Bible does not bother to repeatedly address the subject of homosexuality at length. Not only is it obviously “against nature”, but those who do these things know what God’s judgment is concerning them. In fact their homosexuality is a judgment of God already against them. Remember the Christians in Corinth though; even of these, some are saved.


Homosexuality in the Law


Finally it is necessary to insist that the Bible’s teaching concerning homosexuality in Leviticus cannot and must not be ignored. Of the Old Testament Scriptures, Christ said, “Scripture cannot be broken”, and “If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they listen though one should rise from the dead”. The reason it is ridiculed by unbelievers is because they don’t know the first thing about the Bible, and how it is to be interpreted. The first rule of Bible interpretation is always that Scripture alone must interpret Scripture, and probably second is that the New Testament Scriptures interpret the Old Testament. The New Testament therefore teaches us how to understand Leviticus correctly and therefore what to make of its teaching concerning homosexuality.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:17-19.
Christ is very clear in this passage that we ought not teach anyone to disregard even one of the least of the commandments of the Old Testament. How are we to understand this? Does this mean that we all have to go and live in Canaan, and rebuild an earthly temple to offer sacrifices? Simply, no. Christ teaches us that the law is spiritual (Romans 7:12, 14a). The Old Testament laws may be divided into three categories. One category concerns the ceremonial laws about the priesthood, the temple, the sacrifices and so on. These things were only ever pictures of what was to come. Christ has fulfilled the ceremonial laws by His perfect sacrifice once for all time for us. He is our High Priest and we now need no other ever. The letter to the Hebrews explains all this very well.

Another category is judicial or civil laws. These were laws particular to the Jewish nation and the land in an earthly kingdom including all manner of punishments such as the death penalty. Likewise, these things were pictures of a greater reality to come. Christ is our King, and His kingdom is spiritual in the hearts of His people. The land was only ever a picture of heaven. Furthermore everything that pertained only to the Jews has been discarded because both Jew and Gentile are saved in Christ. This means for example, no more circumcision or food laws (Peter was even explicitly given a vision to demonstrate this). What then of the moral law? Everywhere it is reinforced in the New Testament as the rule of gratitude. As Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Romans 13:8-10.
That Paul reiterates these commandments demonstrates that Christians remain bound by the law which is summarised as love for God and for our neighbour. We are not under the law, in the sense of its condemnation. In that sense we are free from it by grace, since Christ has fulfilled the law perfectly for us. But out of love and gratitude for God whose perfect moral character and holy righteousness does not change, we must obey His commandments. What of the command in Leviticus concerning homosexuality then?
“Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.” – Leviticus 18:20-25.
A clearer context could not be found. Here we find the commandment couched in between commandments against adultery, infanticide, and bestiality. Who will claim that these things are now justifiable? Furthermore, and this is the end of controversy, it was for these things that God cast out the ungodly nations that inhabited Canaan. These were not Jews, nor had they received the law – they were not bound by any peculiar Jewish customs, yet God destroyed them for these things. Even more, He says that on account of these things, not only the people, but the very land was defiled, vomiting out these wicked inhabitants. This is the sense in which it describes homosexuality as an “abomination”, a detestable thing in the eyes of God. May God deliver us from this defilement. May He cleanse all His elect from it, gather us together, and present us holy and chaste to Christ.

No comments: