"Gay Christianity"? Responding to Those who Reject the Sinfulness of Homosexuality
Well good morning to all of you, and thank you for being here. The name of our seminar this morning is "'Gay Christianity'? Responding to those who reject the sinfulness of homosexuality." This is a seminar that aims to equip faithful, Bible-believing Christians to engage in discussion with your family, friends, and acquaintances—who might also profess to be Christians—but who believe that homosexuality is reconcilable with Christianity—that it's biblically permissible to engage in same-sex relationships and sexual behavior.
Now, the place of homosexuality in American society and in the church is, has been, and will continue to be the subject of frequent, sensitive, and often heated discussion. As the homosexualist agenda of the political left continues to rage on, the biblical-Christian worldview concerning sexuality is going to become less and less tolerated, and more and more scorned and ostracized as hatred and bigotry. And soon, the biblical definitions of marriage and sexuality will be outlawed, and the freedom of conscience concerning these matters will no longer be a protected right for Christians.
And we must remember that institutionalized sexual immorality and homosexuality is not merely that which provokes God's judgment upon our nation. Institutionalized homosexuality is itself the judgment of God upon our nation. Romans 1 is clear about that, as Pastor John has said multiple times. When God pours his wrath out upon a nation, he abandons them to their own wickedness. In such a society, there is first a surge of sexual immorality, then a surge of homosexuality, and finally the dominance of a reprobate mind, in which a society loses its collective ability to think and reason properly. And there is no question: the United States of America is there. One has only to look at the two presumptive nominees for President of both major political parties for evidence that our nation has lost its ability to think and reason clearly.
But it is into that depraved and divinely-judged society that you and I—the Church of Jesus Christ—have been sent to preach the Gospel. Pastor John has also said that if our society is experiencing the judgment of Romans 1, then we must follow the prescription found in Romans 1: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." We must unashamedly, and unrelentingly, proclaim the Good News of salvation from sin and destruction through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus alone. As faithful ambassadors of our King, we must not retreat from this hostile and depraved society, but march right into this hostile and depraved society, and authoritatively and unapologetically declare that (a) the wrath of God is kindled against His enemies who do not keep His law, that (b) that each of us has sinned and falls short of His glorious standard of righteousness, and yet that (c) there is mercy and forgiveness to be found through repentance and faith in the righteous, crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
And when we take that Gospel to our society, and when we identify sin and testify to the world that its deeds are evil, we must be prepared for the reaction of the sinful flesh that wants to reign in depraved men and women and avoid indictment. Some of the people you will speak to might even agree with you that sinners must repent and trust in Christ for salvation. But it's becoming increasingly less common for people to believe that homosexuality is a sin for which a man or woman needs to repent. And so the challenges come. "But it's just not our business to tell people who they can love. Jesus never condemned homosexuality, and we need to follow Him by loving and affirming all people."
And at that point, dear friends, we must be equipped to engage our society with the truth. We must be equipped to respond to the arguments that unbelievers and even liberal professing Christians make for why homosexuality is not mutually exclusive with Christianity. And this seminar aims to equip us to do that. This morning I'm going to outline five popular arguments that the world gives for why homosexuality is reconcilable with Christianity, and I'm going to respond to those five arguments biblically, so that you can be equipped to engage in these discussions with your friends and family for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of our neighbors.
I. Why Should You Care about Who Marries Whom?
And the first argument I want to address is usually advanced in the form of a question: "Why do Christians even care about who marries whom? If two consenting adults want to make a commitment to each other for life, why shouldn't they have the right to do that? They're not bothering you. The sanctity of your marriage isn't affected at all. Why should you care about the definition of marriage?"
There are a number of legitimate answers to that question, and I want to explore three of them. The first two are what you might call necessary but not sufficient. You need to give these first two answers, but without the third one, they don't do the work you need them to do.
A. Not Just Because Homosexuality is a Sin
The first answer you might be ready to give is that we Christians are against the legalization of homosexual "marriage" because the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is sinful. Since the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God and our sole authority for all matters of life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3–4), we must accept its word as binding. And it's clear that Scripture condemns homosexuality as sinful. Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 says that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, and homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. Romans 1:25–27 describes homosexuality as a degrading passion, unnatural, and indecent. And so like all other sins, its wages is death (Rom. 6:23), and those who persist in their sin will have "their part . . . in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev 21:8).
And since—according to Genesis 9:6–7 and Romans 13:3–4—the purpose of the civil government is to promote the general good and well-being of society and to restrain the evil therein to the best of its ability, we believe the government should not sanction and incentivize that which the Lord of the Universe expressly forbids. Violating God's Word is never the best thing for any society, as long as Jesus is Lord. But having said that, I'm saying don't give just that answer.
B. Not Just Because God Himself Defines Marriage as Heterosexual
Another answer you might be ready to give is that we Christians are concerned with the legalization of homosexual "marriage" because God Himself is the One who created marriage, the One according to Genesis 2:18 who performed the first marriage. And the designer of marriage defines it as being between only one man and one woman. And as God is the Lord of the Universe, we must accept His Word. Here's what He says, Genesis 2:18: "Then Yahweh God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" Verse 24: "So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man."
When it became apparent that there was no fitting match among the creatures of the earth, God purposed to make a companion suitable—complementary to Adam. And so he put him to sleep, took one of Adam's ribs, and fashioned it into a woman. Then He presented the man with his bride. God did not make another man from Adam's rib; He made a woman. In God's mind, only a woman was "a helper suitable for him."
So in Matthew 19 when a Pharisee asks Jesus about divorce, it's not an accident that the Son of God prefaces His response by underscoring that God made humanity as "male and female." God did not make us only male, or only female. He intentionally designed that a man shall leave his family and be joined to his wife, and that these two—this man and wife—should become one flesh. Jesus doesn't speak of a man leaving his parents to be joined to his husband, but his wife.
And so the very definition of marriage from the Creator of marriage—and thus, the authority on marriage—is that it is between one man and one woman. When you consider that as citizens of this nation we have been blessed with the right to participate in a representative democracy, to sit by, idle and quiet, while our government, in rebellious, treasonous fashion, seeks to redefine God's given definition of marriage—that would itself be an act of treason against our King. And so we cannot be silent. And yet having said all that, I'm saying don't give just that answer.
C. Because It's a Matter of the Clarity of the Gospel
If we're going to speak into this situation with any sort of prophetic voice, we need to give the reasons why homosexuality is a sin, and why God has defined marriage between one man and one woman.
You see, marriage is a glorious institution. But the truth is that marriage is not glorious in and of itself. God has designed marriage to be a symbol, or a picture, or a parable that points to something greater than itself. And it is only so glorious because of what it points to: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is an institution set up by God with a specific purpose: to glorify Him—to display and make much of Him—by magnifying the relationship of covenant-keeping grace that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
The Apostle Paul substantiates this in Ephesians 5, with the most breathtaking instruction on marriage in all of Scripture. He quotes Genesis 2:24, just like Jesus did in Matthew 19. And the very next thing he says is: "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." Let that sink in. He is speaking about marriage with reference to Christ and the church. Keep that in mind as we consider the rest of Ephesians 5:22–33.
In that passage, Paul gives instruction on marriage, and lays out God's master plan of loving headship on the husband's part (vv. 25–30) and respectful submission on the wife's part (vv. 22–24). And what's absolutely astounding are the reasons he gives for why a husband must lovingly serve his wife and why a wife must respectfully submit to her husband. In verses 22 and 23, he says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body." Verse 24: "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Verse 25: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
The basis for every one of Paul's commands concerning marriage is the work of Christ in His relationship with the Church. This is substantiating what I said before: marriage exists to be a picture, or a parable, of Christ and the Church. Marriage exists to illustrate the way that Christ keeps the covenant commitment that He made to His Bride. The Good News is that Jesus has saved His people from sin, from God's wrath, from just punishment, from fruitlessness, and from a wasted life! He has taken our sin out of the way so that we can enjoy fellowship with our Creator and Redeemer forever! And marriage is purposely designed to display the glory of that Good News!
Thisis why Christians should be opposed to the state's sanctioning of homosexual "marriage": because it mars the picture of that precious Gospel that marriage is designed to be. If marriage is given to us in order to point us to the truth concerning Christ's covenant-keeping grace with His people, and if the husband pictures Christ and the wife pictures the Church, then any tampering with those participants confuses and obfuscates the Gospel.
Christ is the Savior of the body.A "marriage" between two men would communicate about the Gospel that Christ lovingly serves and leads only Himself. And yet that is not Good News, because in that case the Church would be left to herself to deal with her sin. And a "marriage" between two women would communicate about the Gospel that the Church should follow and submit to only herself. There's no Gospel there either, because that's just self-willed autonomy. It doesn't illustrate loving dependence upon a sufficient Savior, but only self-trust and self-righteousness. Marriage, as a parable of the Gospel, only makes sense when the husband's servant leadership pictures Christ's loving headship over His people, and when the wife's respectful submission pictures the Church's joyful submission to her Lord.
That's why we care. Not tax breaks. Not nomenclature. Not social agendas. The Gospel. Make sure the people you're speaking with leave knowing the difference. And if they don't know why the Gospel is so precious to us, why it's such a treasure, why it's to be so rigorously defended and protected—tell them.
II. Shellfish, Pork, and Mixed Fabrics: Picking and Choosing
A second argument employed by those aiming to reconcile homosexuality with Christianity is what I call the Picking and Choosing argument. And it basically boils down to this: "Listen, you fundamentalist hater, there are plenty other commands in the Bible that Christians don't follow today, like the prohibition against mixing fabrics in Leviticus 19:19, or eating shellfish and pork in Leviticus 11. So why are you insisting upon obedience to the prohibitions against homosexuality? You're just picking and choosing the sins you don't like."
Now first, I just want to observe that this kind of reasoning is patently unbiblical. The argument concedes that the Bible does indeed condemn homosexuality. We're not getting an argument from these folks on that. They're just giving a reason for why we should ignore more of what the Bible clearly says. They're basically saying, "We disobey God's Word all over the place. Why should disobeying His commands against homosexuality be any different?"
If you find yourself thinking this way, I just want to plead with you to realize that this is just not the way a Christian thinks about God's Word. Someone who loves God in the Person of Jesus Christ does not look for ways to legitimize their disobedience or to free themselves from what He's actually said. The one who loves God loves His Word. The Word of God is the delight of the child of God (cf. Jer 15:16). If God's Word is something you feel you have to get around or escape, it's likely you're not truly a Christian at all.
The Purpose of the Law
But aside from the fact that a Christian simply doesn't reason this way, this objection fails to understand the purposes of the Mosaic Law, and how the Christian under the New Covenant is to relate to the Law given under the Sinaitic Covenant. This isn't an easy theological issue, and so to some degree I understand the confusion. But Scripture does give a clear answer, so stick with me.
(1) To Set God's People Apart
For one thing, the ceremonial regulations functioned to set Israel apart from all the other nations. No other nation cared about eating animals that didn't chew cud or wearing clothes woven with two different fabrics. No other nation let a perfectly good day of work (and profits) slip through their fingers by resting on Saturday. In all these restrictions, God's design was for His people to be different than all the nations, because He was different than the gods of the nations.
But in the present age, God's people are no longer confined to a particular nation. Ephesians 2 teaches that they are no longer bound by physical, national, or even cultural boundaries. The Church is not a civil government or a theocracy, but a spiritual building. Because of that, we're not set apart by obeying laws about fabrics, foods, lengths of beards, and days of rest, but we're set apart by our moral purity and holiness of life. We are to come out from all moral impurity and uncleanness, and are to be separate, as 2 Corinthians 6 says, for the Holy God walks in our midst.
(2) To Point God's People to the Savior
So, one function of the Mosaic Law was to set apart God's people—the nation of Israel—in tangible, physical ways in order to show His own uniqueness. But the Law was also given to Israel for another purpose: (a) to illustrate God's standard of righteousness, (b) to show how far short of that standard His people fall, and (c) ultimately to point them to a Savior to provide that righteousness.
Under the Mosaic Covenant, a right relationship with God depended on compliance with all of what He had said. If someone broke God's Law, that was sin, and sin demanded a punishment. God made a provision to punish His people's sin in a substitute, and so the sacrificial system was instituted. The consistent bloody exercise of animal sacrifice was designed to make clear to Israel that God was infinitely holy and that He took sin seriously. Day after day, year after year, all of Israel would offer sacrifices for their sins. And one thing they were supposed to come away with after doing that was that they could not live the way God required. God was holy. And they were hopelessly unholy.
Because of this, in Galatians 3 Paul calls the Law a tutor or a schoolmaster: "But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Gal 3:22–24).
So the Law was designed to teach Israel that they could never meet God's standard of holiness themselves, and that they needed to look outside of themselves—to Him—for the gracious provision of that righteousness. And God provided that righteousness in the Person of Christ. The Law was designed to point to Him!
That's why when Jesus shows up, He can declare that all foods are clean (Mark 7:19) and can work on the Sabbath (Luke 6:2). It's why God's people no longer have to offer sacrifices in a temple—why when Jesus was crucified the veil of the temple was torn in two (Matt 27:51): because in Jesus, something greater than the temple is here (Matt 12:8)! Access to God would no longer be mediated by the ceremonial regulations of the Mosaic Covenant, but by those of a New Covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Luke 22:20), whose mediator not a temple or a priest, but the Son of God Himself (Heb 9:15).
That's also why the Book of Hebrews declares that the Mosaic Covenant has been made "obsolete" (Heb 8:13): because the purpose for which that Covenant was given—namely, to set Israel apart and to point them to a need for a Savior—is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the point of the dietary laws. God's people are no longer set apart by not mixing fabrics, they are set apart by being united to Jesus by faith and following after Him in holiness.
No Longer Under a Tutor
So, the reason that Christians don't have a problem mixing fabrics or eating pork is not because we're picking and choosing which biblical commands we follow. Neither is it true to say that the Levitical commands were culturally conditioned. No, they were covenantally conditioned. It's actually because those commands, which belonged to the Mosaic Covenant, have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the Mediator of a new and better covenant. That's why Paul says in that same passage in Galatians 3: "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal 3:24–25).
We are no longer under the tutor of the Mosaic Law. So to attempt to keep the dietary laws and other aspects of ceremonial worship would actually be to deny that Jesus' righteous life and substitutionary death was sufficient to achieve righteousness on our behalf. So when Christians exercise their freedom to mix fabrics or to eat shellfish and pork, we are not breaking the Mosaic Law. Rather, we are living obediently in light of its fulfillment in Christ.
Why Homosexuality is Different
However, the commandments against homosexuality do not belong to the ceremonial or civil stipulations of an obsolete covenant from a bygone era. Yes, a prohibition of homosexuality is given in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. But that prohibition is repeated in the New Testament—God's revelation for those living under the New Covenant. Romans 1:26–27: 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. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Timothy 1:9–10: …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.
While the New Testament declares the fulfillment (and therefore the end) of the civil and ceremonial laws of the Mosaic Covenant, these New Covenant Scriptures only reaffirm the Old Testament prohibition against homosexuality. This shows us that the prohibition against homosexuality wasn't binding only upon national Israel, but rather is also binding upon the New Covenant people of God. And the reason for that is because the prohibition against homosexuality wasn't designed to teach a temporary lesson, like the food laws were. No, in all ages homosexuality tragically distorts the picture of the Gospel that marriage is designed to be. On the authority of God's own Word to His people, you cannot be in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ while living an unrepentant homosexual lifestyle.
You Can Be Washed
But you certainly can be restored to a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ by repenting from the sin of homosexuality. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that some in the Corinthian church were homosexuals. He says, "Such were some of you." "But," he goes on, "you were washed." They had been cleansed! Their sins were forgiven! Not by pretending it wasn't sin, but by owning it and confessing it as sin, and by turning from it—forsaking it as something that dishonors God—and by trusting in Christ's righteousness alone for acceptance with God. That is what we must preach to our society. That homosexuality is a sin, but that homosexuals along with the rest of us sinners can be washed by the blood of the Lamb shed for the forgiveness of sins.
III. Arsenokoites Doesn't Describe Contemporary Homosexuality
Well, we just saw the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality as clear as day, from passages like Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. However, there are people who argue that these clear passages have been mistranslated. And this is the third argument that we'll address this morning. These people say that the word translated "homosexuals" in these New Testament texts—namely the Greek word arsenokoites—doesn't refer to so-called "healthy," "monogamous," "committed same-sex relationships," but "abusive male-male" relationships such as pederasty—sexual activity between a man and a boy—as well as prostitution, especially cult-temple prostitution which was very common in the first-century Greco-Roman world. So when the New Testament condemns arsenokoites, it's not condemning homosexuality in general as sin, but only certain forms of homosexual behavior that are especially perverse.
Now before I begin responding to that, I want to say something just as a parenthesis. This is the level to which these discussions are approaching in our day. Are you prepared to give an answer to this? I'm not suggesting that you're not a faithful Christian if you're not a Greek scholar. But what I am suggesting is that, with the stakes so high, all Christians who hope to faithfully engage their neighbors in this discussion and demonstrate Scripture's and the Gospel's sufficiency to address this highly controversial topic, need to be equipped to respond to arguments like these in ways that are accurate, informed, and full of grace and truth. Closed parenthesis.
Now, the reality is: this argument that arsenokoites is mistranslated is simply false, and it's important to state that at the outset. In the first place, we need to look at the word itself. Arsenokoites is a compound word formed from two words: arsen, which is the word for "male," and koite, which is the word for "bed." Koite is a noun form related to the verb keimai, which means "to lie with," in the sense of sexual intercourse. And in fact, the Greek word koite is borrowed in Latin to make the term coitus, which we borrow in English as a technical biological term to describe sexual intercourse. So even from the basic etymology, arsenokoites speaks of "male-bedding"—that is, a man going to bed with a man. There's nothing in the word itself that suggests its meaning ought to be restricted to a particular kind of going to bed with a man; it speaks of homosexual sex in general.
Now, what's interesting about this word, arsenokoites, is that it doesn't exist in Greek literature prior to the New Testament, at all. You find it in secular Greek writing after the time of the New Testament epistles, but before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians it is absolutely nowhere to be found. Paul coined the term himself. So if we're trying to get at the proper intent Paul had when he used the term, we have to ask where he got the term from.
Well, the answer is: he got it from his Bible—the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. If you look at the Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13—the two passages in the Levitical Law that deal with homosexuality—you find the constituent parts of the term arsenokoites. Leviticus 18:22 says, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Here's the way that sounds in Greek, as Paul read it: "κα? μετ? ?ρσενος ο? κοιμηθ?σ?κο?την γυναικ?ς." Did you hear it? You have both arsenos and koiten. Leviticus 20:13 says, "If there isa man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death." Here that is in Greek: "κα? ?ς ?ν κοιμηθ? μετ? ?ρσενοςκο?την γυναικ?ς . . . ." It was really clear there; the two terms appear one right after another.
So when Paul coined the term arsenokoites and used it in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1, it's absolutely unmistakable that he meant to connect it—both etymologically and conceptually—with the Levitical prohibition against homosexuality. Whatever Moses meant when he wrote those commandments in the Torah, Paul meant in the New Testament epistles.
And there is simply no question that the Jews understood this prohibition to refer to homosexuality in its totality, for a number of reasons. First of all, the 15th-century BC Ancient Near East was not exactly a cultural parallel to first-century AD Greco-Romanism with respect to sexuality. More importantly, the rabbis used the original Hebrew expression found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13—which was mishkav zakûr, "lying with a male"—to speak of male-male intercourse in the broadest sense. For example, commenting on these passages, the Talmud explicitly says that the male with whom a man lays may be "an adult or minor" (b. Sanh. 54a). That rules out the notion that arsenokoites refers only to pederasty. Further, this was how first-century Greek-speakers understood the Mosaic prohibition. For example, Josephus explained to Gentiles that "the law [of Moses] recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman. . . . But it abhors the intercourse of males with males" (Against Apion, 2.199). Scholar Robert Gagnon comments, "There are no limitations placed on the prohibition as regards age, slave status, idolatrous context, or exchange of money. The only limitation is the sex of the participants."
And we could go on. Not only is it clear, (a), that Paul intended to reproduce the prohibition exactly as it was intended in the Old Testament, and (b), that the Old Testament intent was to speak of homosexuality indiscriminately, but further, if Paul wanted to communicate a more restricted kind of homosexuality, he wouldn't have had to coin a new term. If he intended to prohibit pederasty, there were Greek words for that, such as paiderastai, paidomanai, or paidophthoroi. But rather than employ those terms, he coined his own compound word from the Old Testament's prohibition of homosexuality in general. And still further, the historical sources tell us that Paul's coined-word caught on, and the term arsenokoites and cognates in post-New Testament writings—in several selections of Eusebius for example—are applied exclusively to male-male intercourse, not limited to pederasty or cult prostitution (see specifics in Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 317–23). Still further, when the New Testament was translated into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic, those translators all rendered arsenokoites in ways which are easily translated to "men lying with males."
And besides all of that, it would be ridiculous to interpret Paul's intent in using arsenokoites without taking into account his explicit indictment of both male and female homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26–27. Once again, in that passage he says, "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." Paul speaks in the broadest possible terms. He doesn't limit himself to non-abusive, unloving homosexual unions. He simply speaks of women burning in their desire for women and men committing indecent acts with men. To think he would condemn homosexuality in general in Romans 1, only to coin a technical term from the text of Leviticus to refer to a more specific subset of homosexual behavior, is nothing short of an exegetically and historically monstrous proposition.
IV. Jesus Never Said Anything about Homosexuality
A fourth argument goes like this. "You know, Mike, you're talking an awful lot about the Apostle Paul, and Romans, and 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians, and the Old Testament, and Leviticus, and the Mosaic Law. But I'm a Christian. I follow Christ. And Jesus, in His entire three years on earth, said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. I'm going to stick with Jesus."
Those who make this argument seem willing to grant that the Old Testament and even Paul in the New Testament condemned homosexuality as sinful. But the sentiment behind this objection is that the Old Testament is outdated, and that Paul had corrupted the way of life and the ideology that Jesus came to propagate. Jesus would have been "loving" and "affirming" of homosexuals, not bigoted and intolerant like that homophobic, xenophobic Paul.
But is it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality? Actually, just like the other objections, there are at least five reasons why this argument simply does not hold up to biblical and logical scrutiny.
In the first place, this is an argument from silence, which is a logical fallacy, and therefore by definition it rests on a shaky rational foundation. Jesus also didn't say a word about pedophilia, bestiality, or rape. But it would be beyond absurd to seek to garner support for any of those abominable acts on the basis of such silence.
Secondly, this very objection rests upon a premise that the objectors reject—namely, that the Bible is God's infallible Word. What I mean is: the only source of knowledge for the claim that Jesus never said something about a particular topic is the Bible itself. The argument is: "Jesus never said anything [implied: as we see recorded in the Bible] about homosexuality." Yet it is the authority of this very Bible that these folks deny when they refuse to accept Paul's teaching on homosexuality as authoritative. So the argument itself is a case of special pleading, another logical fallacy. Those who employ it appeal to an authority that they elsewhere explicitly reject—namely, the Bible as God's Word.
Third, a great portion of Jesus' ministry related to Israel and those familiar with the Law of Moses. They were living in an age under the Mosaic Covenant, which, as we've seen, explicitly condemned homosexuality. Unless there was some precipitating issue that would force Jesus to comment on homosexuality, the only reasonable conclusion is that His view of homosexuality was the Old Testament's view of homosexuality. That's especially the case in light of the fact that Jesus viewed the Old Testament as the very Word of God (e.g., Matt 22:43), which He declared in John 10:35 could not be broken.
Fourth, when Jesus did speak about marriage, He affirmed it as an institution between a male and a female. In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked Him what He thought about divorce, hoping to trap Him into disagreeing with Moses and therefore finding reason for condemning Him. In His response about why divorce is a bad thing and a result of the hardness of human hearts, Jesus says, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning 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'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
Now, if Jesus wanted to simply and efficiently answer the Pharisees' question about divorce, He could have done it by skipping immediately to verse 5: "Have you not read that the two become one flesh?" That's really the answer to the question about divorce. God joins spouses together as one flesh, and man shouldn't separate what God has joined together.
So why does He start, in verse 4, by reminding the Pharisees that God made human beings male and female? For two reasons, at least. One, He goes out of His way to make this point in order to underscore that marriage, by its very nature, is a divinely-ordained institution—that the originator of marriage is the Creator Himself. Number two, He makes this point, which would otherwise seem superfluous, in order to make it clear that that divinely-ordained institution exists only between one man and one woman. That God created man as male and female, and then brought the man and the woman together to become one flesh as husband and wife, illustrates the complementarity and unity-in-diversity that characterizes God's own nature as one Being who eternally exists in three Persons.
But all four of those responses are really supplementary to this final one. It concerns the inspiration of the New Testament. While it's true that we have no record of Jesus speaking about homosexuality during His earthly sojourn, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said He would send to speak His words (John 16:12–14), superintended what Paul wrote, so that he wrote exactly what God desired to be written. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (ESV). And 2 Peter 1:21 says, "No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (ESV).
See, strictly speaking, Jesus did not stop speaking when Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John finished their Gospel accounts. While Jesus was still on earth, He told the disciples in John 16:12, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear themnow." But He promised that the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and would guide them into all truth, verse 13. This is a promise from Jesus Himself that the Word that the Holy Spirit would speak through the disciples would be Christ's own words. In this way, the Spirit would glorify Jesus, verse 14. And the Holy Spirit did just that. As the Church was being built, the Spirit spoke Jesus' words to the writers of the New Testament. All Scripture (which, according to 2 Peter 3:16, included Paul's writings) is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16)—that is, it is the very Word of God, His own breath.
You say, "But, didn't men write Scripture?" Yes they did. But the Holy Spirit so superintended the minds and wills of the writers of Scripture such that the words they wrote under their own recognizance were precisely what God wanted to say to His people. That's what Peter means when he says they were "carried along" by the Holy Spirit. So the Book of Acts, the epistles of Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude, the letter to the Hebrews, and the Revelation given to the Apostle John are all the word of God Himself. And, since God exists eternally as Father, Son, and Spirit, and since Jesus is Himself God the Son, all of the New Testament is the Word of Christ. Even the words not appearing in red type are nevertheless the Lord of the Church speaking to His Church by means of the Holy Spirit through the agency of human writers.
So did Jesus address homosexuality? Yes, He did. He did so by sending His Spirit to superintend the writing of Paul such that what Paul wrote was precisely what Jesus intended, so much so that it could be said to be "God-breathed." Jesus condemned homosexuality by means of Paul's condemnation of homosexuality. And therefore, to deny that homosexuality is sinful is to deny Jesus Himself, and is irreconcilable with true, biblical Christianity.
V. Love Demands that We Affirm Homosexuals
Finally, I want to address what I think is the most widespread argument in the entire discussion. And I think this issue gets to the very heart of the disagreement between both sides. It goes deeper than just our views on homosexuality or the definition of marriage. It strikes at the very core of the worldview of contemporary wisdom. It has to do with the notion of love.
This argument goes something like this: "Mike, in the midst of all of your attention to the details of various Bible verses, you've lost the big picture. The cardinal virtue that Jesus taught His followers was love. If you value love, what's the problem with two consenting adults making a commitment to each other out of love? Love is love is love. To insist that homosexuality is sinful and to deny them the right to get married is simply not loving, and therefore not Christian."
So you see how the collective reasoning of the culture paints the Christian into a corner here. Any response which does not fully affirm homosexuality—no matter what the Bible explicitly says about the matter—is hatred, pure and simple. And Jesus calls us to love. And you claim to follow Jesus. So you're an un-American, un-Christian, hypocritical bigot.
Love as Unconditional Acceptance
But the argument simply doesn't hold water. And this is the reason: the wisdom of secular society has failed to define love biblically. To our self-indulgent, narcissistic, perennially adolescent, self-willed culture, "love" means nothing more than psychologist Carl Rogers' notion of unconditional positive regard. To "love" someone, according to our society, is to affirm every decision they make and to applaud them just for being them. Bruno Mars' 2010 song is the soundtrack to Western secularism's gospel of unconditional acceptance: "You're amazing, just the way you are."
And that kind of thing feels good, doesn't it? It feels really good to be affirmed without qualification—to be told that you're amazing, just the way you are. And because of that, people have confused the idea of being affirmed, accepted, flattered, and made much of with true love. Loving me means making me feel good by making much of me. And this ideology of love as unconditional acceptance is woven into the fabric of our cultural consciousness. To believe anything else is just, like, un-American.
And then, those who have imbibed that definition of love turn to the Bible. And all of a sudden they start reading and hearing about love. God is love, 1 John 4:8. For God so loved the world, John 3:16. The greatest commandment in the Law is that you love God and love others, Matthew 22:37–40. Love your neighbor as yourself, Galatians 5:14. By this everyone will know you're My disciples: if you love one another, John 13:35. All of these wonderfully biblical concepts come flooding into their minds!
But then something tragic happens. Rather than surrendering their own preconceptions to the authority of God's Word and seeking to understand how God defines love, they use their own distorted definition of love that they've imbibed from our society, and they foist that definition of love onto the Scriptures and onto their conception of God. So now, when they hear that "God is love," they think, "God doesn't ask people to change. God doesn't judge people. God accepts everyone just as they are. And so Christians must do the same."
Love Seeks the Objective Benefit
But that's just not true, because that is emphatically not how God defines love. "In this is love," says the Apostle John, "not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins," 1 John 4:10. "God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, HCSB). "But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5:8. All of these passages and dozens more teach us that love is acting, even laboring, to secure someone's greatest benefit.
These passages aren't teaching us that God just thought we were so wonderful, just the way we were, that He would deliver His Son to death just to show us how much He thought of us! No way! These passages teach us that God labors, at great cost to Himself, and even suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ, in order to secure the greatest benefit of His beloved. When we were dead in our sin, cut off from God, and without hope, what would have been our greatest benefit at that moment? Answer: a perfectly righteous, wrath-propitiating, sin-bearing Substitute. And that is exactly what God gives us. God demonstrates His own love by benefiting us with Himself in the person of His beloved Son.
Biblically, then, love does not mean to unconditionally accept someone, to affirm them without qualification, or to make them feel good by making much of them and making them feel great about who they are. Biblical love labors for the beloved's greatest benefit.
What is Our Greatest Benefit?
So that's the question, then, isn't it? If love labors to secure the beloved's benefit, what is someone's greatest benefit?
I'll tell you what it's not. Our greatest benefit is not to be made to feel good about ourselves! "Well hey, why not?" you ask. "That doesn't sound too bad." Here's why: If all I do in my effort to love you is try to make much ofyou—to work for your own self-exaltation and unconditional affirmation, I rob you of joy. I rob you of true and lasting satisfaction and happiness. "How in the world do you figure that, Mike?" Because your own glory and self-exaltation might feel good for a little while, but it will not satisfy the longings of your soul for eternity! You just haven't been designed that way! God did not design human beings to thrive on the glory of self! So the person who seeks to satisfy you by holding you up to yourself as an all-satisfying treasure does not love you! They lie to you, and lead you down a short, temporary road of naïve "happiness"—of ignorant bliss—to an eternity of misery!
But God did design you to thrive on the glory of Jesus. Just as a car is designed to run on gasoline, you were created to run on the glory of God! Isaiah 43:7: Bring My sons and daughters from afar, whom I have created for My glory! God designed your heart, your soul, your affections, your will—all of you—so that you would be most satisfied by Him. And He defines spiritual life as the ability to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:6). This means that love is helping someone to see and know and enjoy God in the person of His Son! That's what love is! That is the greatest benefit you can accomplish for anyone! The vision of your own glory and self-exaltation won't satisfy the desires of your heart. But the vision of His glory will!
So love is not making much of someone. Love is laboring, and often times even suffering—even being mocked, and called hateful and bigoted, and losing your job, and losing your tax deductible giving, even losing your friends and family—so that the beloved might find joy in making much of God forever, because making much of God is what will most truly and lastingly satisfy them.
Can you see why, then, the unconditional acceptance and affirmation that our culture calls love, is actually hate? Can you see why never warning someone that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, will not inherit the kingdom of God is the opposite of love? Because it is not in the best interest of sinners for Christians to affirm a lifestyle which, if unrepented of, will end in eternal destruction. It is not hate to warn people of danger. It is hate to fail to issue such warnings.
It's like watching a friend driving his car toward a cliff he has no idea is there. Even if he's having a great time in his car because, "Hey, driving is fun!" and he doesn't realize the danger he's in, it is not loving to make him feel affirmed and encouraged as he speeds to his destruction! It is loving to do everything you can to open his eyes to the cliff he's speeding towards and to steer him into safety! The person who says, "Hey man, who do you think you are to force your views on him? Can't you see how much he's enjoying himself? He's not hurting anybody. Just leave him alone and worry about yourself!" does not love that man in the car!
Dear friends, we do not love like Jesus loves if we unconditionally affirm someone in a choice that robs them of true, abiding satisfaction and leads them to ruin. We love like Jesus loves when we graciously and patiently proclaim a message that has the power to free people from the bondage of their suicidal love affair with themselves—the power to liberate them into the freedom and the joy of making much of the glory of God! We love like God loves when we point people away from worshiping themselves and their own desires, and when we steer them toward their greatest benefit: God Himself.
So do that! Steer people away from sin! Proclaim the message of forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ! And answer these objections when they are raised in response to the Gospel. See, the point of going through all this is not just to demonstrate intellectual superiority or to bury opponents under mountains of monologue. We don't care most about winning the argument, but winning the person. But the point is: if the enemies of the truth are willing to go to lengths such as these to argue for the legitimization of homosexuality, the church must be found faithful in answering these arguments in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel. The Gospel—alongside the integrity of Scripture—is worthy of our highest devotion, even the highest devotion of our minds. If we as Christians won't engage the discussion on these levels, I ask you: who will? Who will stand and offer sound, intelligent, reasoned, truthful answers to the objections advanced against Christ and Scripture? Who will preach the Gospel, and, when it's challenged, will give an answer for the hope that is in them?
It must be us. Especially in a time like ours, with our nation on fire the way it is. May we gird up the loins of our minds, and truly be always ready to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.