This is seen most clearly from four passages where these truths are woven together.
1. Genesis 1:27-28
Genesis 1:27-28: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
2. Genesis 2:23-24
And then God linked his design in manhood and womanhood with marriage in Genesis 2:23-24. When the woman is created from his side, the man exclaims: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
In other words, God created man male and female so that there might be a one-flesh sexual union and covenantal cleaving, with a view to multiplying the human race, and displaying God’s covenant with his people, and eventually Christ’s covenant with his church.
3. Matthew 19:4-6
Remarkably Jesus picked up on this link between creation and marriage and life-long covenant, weaving together these very two texts from Genesis. Matthew 19:4-6:
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female [Genesis 1:27], 5 and said [quoting Genesis 2:24], “Therefore [linking creation and marriage] a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
And in our cultural setting, the words, “Let not man separate the male and female that God has joined together,” has vastly greater significance than anyone ever thought it would.
4. Ephesians 5:24-32
One more text on the meaning of marriage makes the distinction between male and female - husband and wife, covenantally significant as a portrayal of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:24-32:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. . . . 31 “Therefore [quoting Genesis 2:24] a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
In other words, from the beginning there has been a mysterious and profound meaning to marriage. And Paul is now opening that mystery. And it is this: God made man male and female with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church.
Which means that the basic roles of wife and husband are not interchangeable. The husband displays the sacrificial love of Christ’s headship, and the wife displays the submissive role of Christ’s body. The mystery of marriage is that God had this double (of wife and husband) display in mind when he created man as male and female. Therefore, the profoundest reality in the universe underlies marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman.
2. There is no such thing as so-called same-sex marriage, and it would be wise not to call it that.
The point here is not only that so-called same-sex marriage shouldn’t exist, but that it doesn’t and it can’t. Those who believe that God has spoken to us truthfully in the Bible should not concede that the committed, life-long partnership and sexual relations of two men or two women is marriage. It isn’t. God has created and defined marriage. And what he has joined together in that creation and that definition, cannot be separated, and still called marriage in God’s eyes.
3. Same-sex desires and same-sex orientation are part of our broken and disordered sexuality, owing to God’s subjection of the created order to futility because of man’s sin.
In Genesis 3 we read about the catastrophic moment when the first man and woman rebelled against God. The effects on them and on the world are described in chapters 3 and 4, and then illustrated in the sin-soaked and death-ridden history of the Old Testament - indeed the history of the world.
The apostle Paul sums it up like this in Romans 8:20-21:
The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
And we know from verse 23 that part of the creation that was subjected to death and futility was our own bodies - and he stresses, yes, the bodies of the redeemed. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).
I am arguing that same-sex desires and same-sex orientation are in that category of groaning - waiting for the redemption of our bodies. Which means they are in the same broad category with all kinds of disordered bodies and minds and emotions. If we tried to make a list of the kinds of emotional and mental and physical brokenness of the human family the list would be unending. And all of us are broken and disordered in different ways. All of you are bent to desire things in different degrees that you should not want. We are all disordered in our emotions, or minds, our bodies.
This is a call for careful distinctions lest you hurt people - or yourself - unnecessarily. All our disorders - all our brokenness - is rooted in sin - original sin and our sinful nature. It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders.
4. Therefore, same-sex intercourse, not same-sex desire is the focus of Paul’s condemnation when he threatens exclusion from the kingdom of God.
The clearest statement is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The words, “men who practice homosexuality” is a translation of two Greek words which refer to the passive and active partners in homosexual intercourse. See Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001], 306-331). The focus is not on same-sex desire, but on same-sex practice. And notice that homosexual practice is not singled out but included with other ways of sinning: idolatry, adultery, stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, etc.
The point is not that one act of homosexual or heterosexual experimentation condemns you, but that returning to this life permanently and without repentance will condemn you. “Men who practice - who give themselves over to this life, and do not repent - will not enter the kingdom of God.” They will perish.
5. Therefore, it would contradict love and contradict the gospel of Jesus to approve homosexual practice, whether by silence, or by endorsing so-called same-sex marriage, or by affirming the Christian ordination of practicing homosexuals.
We must not be intimidated here. The world is going to say the opposite of what is true here. They are going to say that warning people who practice homosexuality about final judgment is hateful. It is not hateful. Hate does not want people to be saved. Hate does not want people to join the family. Hate wants to destroy. And sin does destroy. If homosexual practice (and greed and idolatry and reviling and drunkenness) leads to exclusion from the kingdom of God - as the word of God says it does - then love warns. Love pleads. Love comes alongside and does all it can to help a person live - forever.
6. The good news of Jesus is that God saves heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners who trust Jesus, by counting them righteous because of Christ, and by helping them through his Spirit to live lives pleasing to him in their disordered brokenness.
After warning the Corinthians not to fall back into lives of sinful practice Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And 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.”
This is the heart of biblical Christianity. “Such were some of you.” There are Christians in the church at Corinth who were fornicators and adulterers and thieves and drunkards and “men who practiced homosexuality.” They were not driven away. They were folded in.
And the way they were folded in was that they were “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is, they put their trust in Jesus, they turned from their practice, they renounced sinful pursuit of their desires, and God justified them - he imputed to them the righteousness of Christ, and counted them as acceptable in his sight, and adopted them into his family - our family.
They were washed. That is, God took away all their guilt and shame. “Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). So when they trusted Christ, all that he did counted for them, their sins were washed away.
And then they were “sanctified” - God set them apart for himself and gave them his Spirit and was working in them a power for holiness that would swallow up their disordered desires in something greater and more beautiful and more desirable so that they could walk in a way pleasing to God, even in their brokenness.
The heart of Christianity is that God saves sinners through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The best news in all the world is that Jesus Christ died and rose again so that the most bizarre sexual predator - homosexual or heterosexual - can be rescued from his path of destruction, washed, justified, sanctified and given a place in God’s all-satisfying presence, by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the heart of our message.
Rev Iana Aitau,
Cook Islands Christian Church