086. Jesus and Sexuality and Marriage

We are often told today that Jesus would have approved of homosexual or same-sex marriage. Because He emphasised “love” in His teachings. So we need to see if that is really so.  In the previous article we saw that in the Old Testament, God is seen to be opposed to homosexual acts. It raised the question as to whether Jesus or the New Testament writers took a softer approach. We now look at how Jesus would have looked at the issue. In an earlier article I looked at the question “Would Jesus Be In Favour Of Gay Marriage? What Does The Bible Say?” The conclusion in the article was that Jesus would not have been in favour of gay or same-sex marriages. However it may help to look at the New Testament material in another form. We look first of all at the text in Matthew 19 to see more clearly what Jesus had to say about sex, marriage and divorce.

In the left hand column I have put the text outlining the events and how Jesus responded to questions. In the right hand column I have made comments on each passage.

What Jesus said The implications of His teaching
Matthew 19.  The Pharisees question Jesus regarding divorce (3)  And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  Jesus’ answer. (4)  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,(5)  and said, ‘Therefore 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.” Jesus went back to the Genesis creation story. God made two sexes, male and female.Marriage takes place when a man (a male) leaves his God-given pattern of family (a male father and a female mother) and holds fast to his wife (a female) and they become one flesh in a sexual union.  (The beginning of a new family with the possibility of reproduction).No other person is meant to enter into that relationship. So marriage is between a male and a female who become one flesh in an inseparable union.
The second question from the Pharisees.(7)  They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”  Jesus’ answer.(8)  He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.(9)  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Divorce was allowed because of the hardness of Israelite hearts. But Jesus again took his hearers back to the creation ordinance (from the beginning it was not so). The inseparable union of marriage could only be dissolved if the wife had committed adultery against her husband. She had severed the marriage relationship by involving another person. The husband could divorce his wife in that case. However to divorce his wife on any other grounds and to marry another woman would be seen to be adultery.
The question from the disciples about the benefit of marriage.(10)  The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”       Jesus’ answer.(11)  But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.(12)  For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” Jesus spelt out the possibilities for males.   i). There were eunuchs who were so from birth. They were not physically equipped to enter into a one flesh relationship in marriage.  ii). There were those who had been made eunuchs by men. They too were not equipped to enter into the one flesh relationship of marriage, possibly due to castration.   iii). The remainder had a choice whether to enter into a marriage relationship or not.Jesus recognised that there were going to be some men who would choose not to enter into a married relationship for some legitimate reason (such as wanting to serve God in helping advance the kingdom of God.) Such males would remain celibate unless they later chose to be married.

We can see by looking at the table above that there is no ground for saying that Jesus would have approved of homosexual relationships or homosexual activity. In fact it shows just the opposite.  We can see why that is so when we look at Jesus’ attitude to the Old Testament scriptures and especially to the Law.

 JESUS AND THE LAW OF GOD

Jesus didn’t abolish the commandments in the Law.  It is obvious from the above that Jesus had the highest regard for God’s revelation of Himself and His will through the Old Testament writings. His attitude is seen in Matthew 5 where He spoke about His own teaching as a fulfilment (not an abolition) of the Law and the Prophets, the two major parts of the Old Testament Scriptures. Mat 5:17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Jesus didn’t cancel any of the commandments or prohibitions in the Law.  Not only that but all the commandments, instructions and teaching in the Law are applicable until Jesus has fulfilled them. Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. That included all the laws and commandments and prohibitions. It included the prohibitions found in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 prohibiting males lying with males (or homosexual activity). These words were for eternity as they came from the eternal God’s revelation of Himself and His purposes in the Law or Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. He is the God who is unchanging and His values never change throughout the generations.

Jesus warned against encouraging others to relax the Law.  Jesus spoke of the danger of tampering with God’s revelation in the Law. The commands could not be watered down. The prohibitions could not be relaxed. Mat 5:19  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. There is in these verses mention of the danger of encouraging others to relax the laws, commandments and prohibitions God gave us.

Jesus linked the Two Great commandments He taught with the Law and Prophets.  Loving God with all one is and all one has, and loving one’s neighbour as oneself were not commandments Jesus just plucked out of the air. They were a summary of the Law and the Prophets, not a replacement or substitute for them.  Mat 22:37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment. 39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Loving one’s neighbour means not doing anything to a neighbour (or suggesting  to a neighbour) what would be contrary to what God has declared in His word.

Jesus lived by obedience to the Law.  Jesus’ teaching was largely based on the Law and the Prophets.  He accepted them as the word of God to His people.  He lived by them as we see in the temptation narratives in Matthew 4.  When he was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, He replied, (4)  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3). When He was tempted to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and to allow angels to catch Him, He replied, (7) , “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Quoted from Deut 6:16). When He was tempted to fall down and worship the devil, He replied, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”  (Quoted from Deut 6:16).

If Jesus patterned His life according to God’s revelation of Himself and His will in the Law and Prophets, it is most unlikely that He would ignore the declaration of God in His attitude to homosexual practice in the same Law in Leviticus chapters 18 and 20.

He also lived with the recognition He was fulfilling the words of the Prophets. For example His justification for cleansing the Temple was seen in His words from Isaiah 56:7 “… for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”  He saw what was happening in His ministry as more and more people came to Him, as a fulfilment of the Prophets, John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–. He saw His coming death as a fulfilment of the words of the prophets, The Son of Man goes as it is written of him Mat 26:24 , perhaps the Messiah passages in Isaiah 53. When He spoke to His disciples after His rising from the dead He pointed them to the Law and Prophets to have them understand the significance of His death and resurrection in fulfilment of the Law and Prophets, Luke 24:44, Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”(45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (46) and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. His disciples had to take seriously the Scriptures as he had done throughout His life.  Even as the Risen Christ He was still pointing His disciples to the authoritative Scriptures in the Law, the Prophets and the Writings =the Psalms).

Jesus was a “Bible man”. He accepted the authority of the Old Testament Law and Prophets  as determinative for His life and teaching.  He expected His followers to have the same commitment to His Father’s revealed will in the Scriptures. There was no way that Jesus would ever contradict what His Father had expressed about homosexual activity in Leviticus.

Thus to say as some have said that we need to accept to accept homosexual practice as an expression of loving one’s neighbour as oneself, is quite contrary to what the Law expressed and Jesus taught.  Christian love never acts contrary to the expressed will of God.

Putting all this together we have to say the following:-.

  • The Old Testament forbids homosexual activity.
  • Jesus by His teaching showed His reliance on the Old Testament scriptures as the word of God and saw marriage as the one flesh relationship between one male and one female according to the Creation ordinance.

Well how about the New Testament writers? Did they have the same attitude to homosexual behaviour as seen in Leviticus 18 and 20 and in Jesus’ teaching? Or did they see the need to relax the commandments and lessen the prohibitions to make their teaching more acceptable to those who did not have the same view of Scripture. Did they seen the necessity to adapt their teaching to fit in with the prevailing culture of the day?  We will look at that in future articles.

Blog No.086.   Jim Holbeck..  Posted on Friday 24th August 2012  

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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