With the overturning of Proposition 8 in California last August and New York becoming the sixth state to legalize homosexual “marriage” at the end of last month, the need is made increasingly apparent for Christians to continue to lovingly and resolutely declare God’s design for marriage. That need only grows greater as this week President Obama publicly endorsed the “Respect for Marriage Act.” This bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, “which instructs states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and…prohibits the federal government from recognizing legally performed same-sex marriages.”
Now, I’m not at all talking about politicking, putting our hope in government, or going all chicken-little about the moral failure of our country. God is sovereign, and our hope is in Christ alone. But I am talking about speaking God’s Word into the situations He places you in. It’s likely that as you seek to be a good steward of the Truth of God that has been entrusted to you, and a witness of it amongst your unbelieving friends, you’ll enter into the discussion of why the issue even matters to Christians anyway. Why do we care? What’s all the fuss about? I mean, why can’t we grant the same rights to two consenting adults who want to make a commitment to each other for life?
Not Just Because Homosexuality is a Sin
One answer you might be ready to give is that we Christians care about preventing 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 (2Pet 1:3-4), we must accept its word as binding.
It’s hardly worth arguing that the Bible doesn’t forbid homosexuality. Proponents of that argument simply don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s clear that Scripture condemns homosexuality as sinful (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:25-27; 1Cor 6:9-10), and just as all other sins it is worthy of death (Rom 6:23). It is a mark of rebellion, and those who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God, but along with the rest of those who persist in their sin “their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).
And since 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 (Gen 9:6-7; Rom 13:3-4), we believe the government shouldn’t sanction 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 all that, I’m saying don’t give that answer. At least, don’t give just that answer.
Not Just Because God Himself Defines Marriage as Heterosexual
Another answer you might be ready to give is that we Christians care about preventing the legalization of homosexual “marriage” because God Himself is the One who created marriage, who performed the first marriage (Gen 2:18, 21-22), and He Himself defines marriage 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:
Then Yahweh God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” … 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.
God purposed to make a companion suitable to Adam when it became apparent that there was no fitting match among the creatures of the earth. And He sovereignly caused Adam to sleep deeply, Himself took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned it into a woman, and then presented the man with his bride. God did not make another man from Adam’s rib, but made a woman. In God’s mind, only a woman was a “helper suitable for him.”
So when a Pharisee asks Jesus about divorce, it’s not an accident that the Lord of the Universe prefaces His comment on divorce by underscoring that God made humanity as “male and female” (Matt 19:4). 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 (Matt 19:5). He does not 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 (and thus, the authority on) marriage is that it be between one man and one woman. To sit quietly by, then, while our government — which we have been blessed with the right to participate in as (at least what used to be) a democratic republic — in rebellious, treasonous fashion seeks to redefine that given definition would itself be an act of treason against our King.
And yet having said all that, I’m saying don’t give that answer. At least, don’t give just that answer.
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 (read: having a Biblical impact), we need to give the reasons why homosexuality is a sin, and why God has defined marriage between one man and one woman.
Marriage is a wonderful, beautiful, and glorious institution. But the truth is that marriage is not those things in and of itself. God has designed marriage to be a symbol, or a picture, that points to something greater than itself. And it is only so wonderful, beautiful, and glorious because of that something greater that it points to: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is, after man rebelled against God in the Garden by sinning against Him, their sin separated them from God and subjected them to spiritual death. Because no human being could ever atone for his sin, the Father lovingly sent His Son Jesus to live the life we should have lived and to die the death we should have died, so that everyone who trusts in Him alone for their righteousness before God should not suffer eternal punishment, but should be saved. And of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none. He will never forsake His bride, but will always live to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25).
Marriage is an institution set up by God with a specific purpose: to glorify Him (to make much of Him) by magnifying that relationship of covenant-keeping grace that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul gives us the most amazing, breathtaking instruction on marriage in all of Scripture. There, he quotes Genesis 2:24, just like Jesus did in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7-8: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then, 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 other things he’s said in the passage.
Earlier, Paul was giving the Ephesian church instruction on how to conduct themselves in their marriages. He basically lays out a plan of loving headship on the husband’s part (Eph 5:25-30) and respectful submission on the wife’s part (Eph 5:22-24). Now, what is absolutely astounding is the reasons he gives for why a husband must lovingly serve his wife and why a wife must respectfully submit to her husband.
- Ephesians 5:22-23 – 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.
- Ephesians 5:24 – But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
- Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.
- Ephesians 5:28-30 – He who loves his own wife loves himself;for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
This is absolutely staggering. Throughout Paul’s instruction on marriage, the basis for his commands is the work of Christ in His relationship with the Church. The Gospel is why husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands!
What is this all telling us? It’s substantiating the claim I made above: that marriage is a picture, or a parable, of Christ and the Church — of the Gospel of Christ’s covenant-keeping grace with a people to whom He has committed Himself, and who have committed themselves to Him. When Paul says that “This mystery is great,” and then tells us that he’s speaking about Christ and the Church, he’s establishing that marriage is designed to point us to the Gospel: that precious Good News that has saved us from sin, wrath, just punishment, fruitlessness, and a wasted life; that precious Good News that has gotten our sin out of the way so that we can enjoy fellowship with our Creator and Redeemer, “His face forever to behold” as He dwells among His people in love in the Paradise of the New Creation.
This is why Christians should be opposed to the legalizing 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 reality of 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. A “marriage” between two men would communicate 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. A “marriage” between two women would communicate 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 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.
And that’s what should get our dander up. Not tax breaks. Not nomenclature. Not social agendas. The Gospel. Make sure the people you’re having these conversations 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…