Homosexuality is a much broader issue than many people acknowledge. They hear the term “gay” and immediately think “sex”. But, come on… How much of heterosexuality surrounds sex? Even in our hyper-sexualized culture, romantic love still triumphs over empty, animal passions. One mustn’t subscribe to Christian values to acknowledge and pursue the emotional attachments that sex complements, but can never supplement. Indeed, homosexuality is every bit as complicated and involved as heterosexuality. We do the subject great injustice when we reduce it to a discussion of sex.
All that being said, a discussion on the other aspects of homosexuality will have to wait for another time because in this particular study, we’re talking sex, baby!
When I first began to look into the biblical witness regarding sex and marriage in detail, I was stunned to see how bluntly Scripture dealt with the subject. It was a stark contrast to the taboo we’ve regrettably allowed sex to become in the modern Church. I hope in this study to approach the subject as openly and unabashedly as Scripture does.
Although the Bible doesn’t deal with the subject of gay marriage (and understandably so, as such a notion would be as foreign to the biblical writers as satellite television), it would be a mistake to, by default, support or oppose it solely on the basis of its absence from Scripture. While there is a case to be made on both sides of the issue on such a basis alone (absence of mention), it’s a very subjective approach to Scripture, and is completely powerless to move the discussion forward in any meaningful way—as each person would interpret such an absence in a manner consistent with his/her existing beliefs.
So then, we are left with one course of action. We’ll first examine the biblical testimony on marital sex in general, and then we’ll apply the principles we uncover to the issue of gay marriage. Ultimately, this will be a philosophical study, built upon a theological framework. In the end, we will have a firm grasp of what the biblical testimony of sex in marriage has to add to the greater issue of homosexuality, and to the sequitur of gay marriage.
Let’s begin by examining one of the most profound biblical teachings on the subject, offered by the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian church.
“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  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.”
Paul teaches here that although singlehood is preferable, avoiding fornication is just cause for getting married. To that end, neither spouse should deprive the other of sexual gratification, except during an agreed upon period of time for spiritual reasons. Sounds reasonable, but let’s consider the implications of what Paul is saying here.
If we consider verses 1 and 2 in conjunction with one another, Paul actually makes a very important point. Although it’s good for a person to remain single, it’s better for him/her to avoid fornication. He makes this point even plainer in verses 8-9.
“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.”
Paul says that although it’s good for people to remain single (and, by implication, celibate), it’s better for them to marry than to burn in lust. He basically emphasized the point he made in verses 1-2. Although singlehood is good, avoiding lust and/or fornication is better.
From this admonition, we can derive an important principle. Marriage was intended to, among other things, serve as an outlet for sexual expression. Simply getting married does nothing to curb fornication or lust. So, the implication of the passage is that because of marriage, sex becomes permissible; and it’s sex that serves to curb fornication and lust—terms that describe sexual activity or thoughts engaged in outside of the God-ordained outlet of marriage.
Now, it’s better to marry than to burn in lust, even though one is giving up the “good” state of singlehood. The question is: Why is singlehood preferable if a person can contain themselves sexually? Why shouldn’t everyone seek to get married, even if they are gifted in the area of celibacy (v.7)?
The way Christians act these days, marriage is the pinnacle of the Christian experience, and everyone should seek it. If you’re not married, church folk are trying to get you married. Many aspects of church culture are centered around “the family”. So, why does Scripture, contrary to modern church culture, call singlehood a preferable state? The answer is found later in the chapter.
“But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:  But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.  There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
When people are single, they have no one who requires personal and special attention. Therefore, they’re free to serve the Lord without distraction. Married individuals, on the other hand, look after ways to please their spouses (and rightly so). Therefore, being single and “without care” (as Paul puts it) allows people to give more focused attention to the things of the Lord. That’s why the state of singlehood (with the implication of celibacy) is a better state than marriage.
It’s not that marriage is a bad thing. In fact, Hebrews 13:4 says that marriage is honorable. So then, what we have here are two good things—singlehood and marriage. But among those good things, being single is better, provided that the individual is able to contain his sexual drive. If not, then for that particular individual, it becomes “better” to get married.
It would appear that God has a more realistic perspective on the strength of human sexuality than many modern Christians. He understands that we have legitimate sexual needs; and according to Him, it’s not good for a person not especially gifted with celibacy to remain single, subjecting himself to the heightened temptations that accompany unreleased sexual energies.
It’s not only interesting to consider what God said in this passage, but also what He didn’t say. He didn’t say, “If you cannot contain, go to the altar and ask for special prayer.” He didn’t say, “Go on a spiritual retreat and fast and pray for 30 days.” He didn’t tell us that our sexual drive was a curse of the flesh that indicated a lack of spiritual maturity. To the contrary, He acknowledged the realities of our sexual drive and provided sex through marriage to facilitate it.
There are those who believe that sex does not require marriage in order to be approved in the eyes of God. While this study is not intended to deal with that particular question in detail, it should be understood that biblically, marriage is the only state in which sexual activity is not sinful. While a case can certainly be made that this wasn’t the case during Old Testament times, the fact is that under our new covenant, marriage is the only outlet for undefiled sexual expression. If this were not the case, the 7th chapter of 1Corinthians would make little to no sense—for why is it better to marry than to burn in lust, if all one has to do is love someone in order to have God-approved sex with him/her, thereby facilitating the need for sexual gratification?
“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
Consider this… The Bible is not a commentary on social structures. That’s why it doesn’t major on things like women’s rights, slavery, and other social issues. It’s not even a treatise on marriage, which is why only select passages deal with it specifically (in a theological sense). The Bible is nothing more than a book about God and man, about His plan and purpose to reconcile us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. All 66 books serve to paint a fuller picture to this end. Every other notion or doctrine expressed in Scripture, while 100% right and good, is only a consequence of that ultimate purpose.
This reveals how serious and encompassing our relationship with God is. All that the Scriptures deal with are ultimately intended to help strengthen that relationship, so there’s really nothing more important than that—being reconciled to God, and made faithful servants of His majesty. The notion that He would be willing to share our attention with another human being under any circumstances is nothing short of amazing. It goes without saying, then, that lust and fornication (or sexual sin in general) must be exceedingly bad things, considering that their avoidance is so important to God that He considers it “better to marry than to burn.”
Apparently, lust is more a bad thing than dedicated godly service is a good thing.
Now that, my friend, is a WOW notion! Amazingly, it’s a principle expressed within the first few pages of the Bible.
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.”
There are two very important things to consider in reading this verse…
This verse records God’s perspective before the Great Fall, when He’d already looked upon everything He’d created and pronounced it “good”. In a “good” creation where Adam had no outlet for his sex drive, it was not good for him to be alone.
Some claim that what was “not good” had less to do with sexuality than with companionship. I beg to differ, however. God and Adam enjoyed an intimate fellowship, so in that respect, Adam was not alone. Yet, God was not satisfying the physical need Adam had.
Walking with God is great… absolutely great. But, we still have physical needs in these earthen vessels. It doesn’t matter how spiritual you are. You still need to eat and drink. You can speak in tongues until the cows come home, but you still need to sleep. God recognized that despite the fact that He and Adam enjoyed an intimate fellowship (to the comfort of Adam’s spirit), Adam also needed physical intimacy (to the comfort of Adam’s physical person).
This means that our sexual drive is not a result of the Fall. We were created by God as, among other things, sexual creatures. Even prior to the Fall, physical needs were still present, and that flies in the face of so much of what the traditional Church makes us feel about sex. It’s not a nasty, sinful excursion into pursuits of fleshly gratification. It’s a legitimate need that we were created with.
The fact that it takes a gift from God to be able to go without sex is really saying something. For those without that gift, He assists us in avoiding the consequential temptations of lust and fornication by providing marriage as an outlet for sexual expression.
When it came time to give Adam a helper, God determined to give Him something suitable for him (for Adam). Traditionalists interpret this to indicate a divine pronouncement of marital suitability for all humankind, meaning that what was suitable for Adam (a woman) is suitable for all men. This interpretation, however, is full of logical problems, including:
- the fact that the number of people permitted in marriage was not set by the Adam/Eve model (for God Himself gave multiple wives to David—2Sa. 12:7b-8). If the number of people within a marriage was not set by God’s creation of one woman for Adam, why would the biological sex of the person created indicate a divine pronouncement?
- the fact that although it was not good for Adam to be alone, singlehood was commended elsewhere in Scripture (as we have already seen in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian Church). If we can’t derive a universal pronouncement from the fact that God said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, how can we derive one from the fact that He gave Adam a woman to satisfy his needs?
- the fact that God allowed Adam to determine what was suitable for himself. Woman was not a divine prescription for man; rather, Eve was the prescription for Adam (for that one individual man). Otherwise, why did God bring all the animals in creation before Adam, allowing him to find something suitable (Gen. 2:18-22)? Note that it was only after Adam found nothing suitable for himself that God went back to the drawing-board and created Eve.
NOTE: Because God presented the animals before Adam in allowing him to select a suitable help, a case for bestiality finds a small degree of biblical backing. However, such a notion is quickly shot down in that bestiality is expressly condemned in Scripture in a universal sense (not just in relation to idolatrous worship or sexual exploitation, as is the case with condemnations of same-sex sexual activity).
So then, even in the earliest narrative in the Bible, God was concerned about humanity having access to an outlet for sexual gratification. Unlike “spiritual” Christians treat the subject today, sex is not the bad guy. It simply needs to be enjoyed within God’s provided framework.
Let’s revisit Paul’s teaching in 1Corinthians. It’s important to get a good understanding of all that marriage should provide in terms of human sexuality.
“…it is better to marry than to burn.” – 1Co. 7:9b
Sex within marriage is supposed to satisfy the sexual longing that we have as human beings. Okay, we know this… But, how does this apply to homosexuals? Traditionalists would say that a homosexual must either remain single and celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. But, would either of these states accomplish God’s will regarding human sexuality? Let’s examine…
A homosexual is just as human as Adam was, just as human as anyone else is. Homosexuals have every bit a need for emotional and physical companionship as any other person. Likewise, just as there are heterosexuals gifted with celibacy, there are homosexuals gifted with celibacy. For those with such a gift, I agree with Paul—it’s “good” for them to remain single and celibate; for then, they can commit themselves more fully to attending to the Lord. However, should a homosexual not be gifted with celibacy (and many homosexuals are not, just as many heterosexuals are not), the same spiritual principle would, of necessity, apply—it’s better to marry than to burn in lust.
Okay, so eternal singlehood and celibacy is out. It’s only a legitimate option for those who are gifted in that area, those who can contain themselves sexually (heterosexual and homosexual alike). That leaves only one option—marriage. But, does the traditionalist prescription of opposite-sex (heterosex) marriage facilitate the sexual needs that marriage is intended to facilitate?
A homosexual is, by definition, sexually attracted to people of the same sex, as opposed to people of the opposite sex. So, the pertinent question is: Does opposite-sex sexual intercourse satisfy the sexual needs that a homosexual has? If it does, then an opposite-sex marriage would definitely be an adequate answer to the problem homosexuals are faced with.
Unfortunately, anyone who would answer this question in the affirmative is almost certainly heterosexual, and is simply incapable of understanding the nature of sexual orientation. I would respond by asking, “Would having sex with someone of the same-sex satisfy your sexual needs?” One may try to avoid an answer by claiming that it’s not a legitimate question; but, in fact, there isn’t a more legitimate and relevant question to ask.
The nature of sexual orientation precludes the possibility of a person being sexually fulfilled from someone of the counter-orientational sex. There may be aspects of sexual fulfillment that would be served, like achieving ejaculation; but anyone who knows anything about love-making knows that there’s a heck of a lot more to sex than having an orgasm. It’s about the melding of body and soul. It’s a sexual need in conjunction with an emotional need. It’s what separates us from animals—love-making, rather than mindless, empty sex. Yet, this sexual bond is found wanting for people engaged in counter-orientational sex. If this isn’t the case with any single individual, I’d have to call their true orientation into question.
So then, opposite-sex intercourse within an opposite-sex marriage does not serve to facilitate the need for a homosexual that sex within marriage was intended to facilitate. So then, by traditionalist reasoning, a homosexual may as well remain unmarried, because opposite-sex intercourse will not help him/her avoid lust and fornication, which is one of the primary things sex in marriage was intended to accomplish.
This sends us back to Option #1—singlehood and celibacy. But, we already determined that that worked contrary to the realities of human sexuality, unless the individual was gifted by God with celibacy.
The traditionalist perspective of marriage presents a Catch-22 for homoesxuals. They’re damned if they get heterosexually married, and they’re damned if they remain single. Somebody tell me how God is glorified in either of these states, considering how pragmatic He was regarding human sexuality (in that He provided marriage as a sexual outlet in the first place), as well as how bad a thing lust and fornication is in His eyes.
There is but one answer for homosexuals—same-sex marriage: the only union that perfectly facilitates sexual needs for homosexuals in exactly the same way as opposite-sex marriage does for heterosexuals… in exactly the way originally intended by God! Considering that Scripture doesn’t condemn homosexual marriage or homosexual sex outside of textual contexts involving idolatrous worship (Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Ro. 1:26-27) or sexual exploitation (1Co. 6:9; 1Ti. 1:10), restricting homosexuals from engaging in marriage is wholly baseless, biblically speaking. It finds its real source in personal ideology, rather than Scripture.
Considering the realities surrounding human sexuality (realities that God Himself acknowledged and moved to facilitate), Christians should champion and celebrate sex within marriage (whether hetero- or homo-). It’s certainly the best and only way to walk out the Bible’s teaching regarding sex and marriage consistently.
Here’s the reality we’re faced with. Forbidding people to marry works contrary to God’s intentions for sex and marriage. It forces gay Christians (who love God the same as heterosexuals do) into the very position He desired to avoid—heightened susceptibility to temptations of lust and fornication because of the lack of sexual fulfillment. We can now understand why such teachings are considered “doctrines of devils” in Scripture…
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…”
Notice that it’s the Holy Spirit who expressly warns about Christians giving heed to “seducing spirits” that would, through false doctrines (theological teachings), forbid people to marry. Understanding how important it is to God that Christians avoid sexual sin, it makes perfect sense that such doctrines are “demonic” in origin, as stated by the holy Spirit of God.
God’s purposes for marriage must not be thwarted by bad theology. We must not withhold this gift from an entire class of people based on how we were raised, or what our preachers say behind the pulpits. The rightly-divided word of truth forbids neither gay marriage, nor gay sex within marriage. How can we, then, seeing that such a forbiddance is in stark opposition to God’s intentions for human sexuality, advocate such things?
“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled…”
Think about it…