A HIGH VIEW OF MARRIAGE: PT. 2
Our Belief Regarding Gender and Human Sexuality
Marriage was created by God. Genesis 1-2 clarifies this truth by laying for us a foundation for marriage, family, sexuality, and gender. In these two chapters, there are four foundational ideas on which we build our understanding of marriage. First, there is distinction. God created both genders, male and female, as distinct creations. Second, there is complement. God created woman uniquely and specifically as the perfect complement for man. Third, there is union. Because of their distinct and complementary nature, God called the man to leave his father and mother, to cling to his wife in marriage, and for the two to become one flesh. Finally, there is procreation. God created man and woman as distinct yet complementary creations, so that they might be joined together and be fruitful and multiply. Therefore, God defines marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman. Because marriage was created by God, only God can define it; anything that goes outside of God’s parameters is a perversion of his perfect design. Marriage was created by God.
Everything God creates, He creates for a purpose. The ultimate purpose for all things, including marriage is to bring God glory. Marriage, and the distinctness of the man and woman coming together in one flesh union, uniquely brings God glory by reflecting the Trinity and the relationship of Christ and the Church. Unfortunately, sin has marred the marriage relationship. When we fail to submit to God’s perfect plan and walk in Spirit-empowered obedience to Him, we fail to accomplish God’s purpose for sexuality and gender. Homosexuality, infidelity, polygamy, fornication, and divorce are all the result of sinful rebellion against the King of the universe and are contrary to God’s original will for the marriage relationship. Sin has also marred the distinctiveness of maleness and femaleness, which is crucial for the reflection of God’s triune nature and of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
We believe that God has spoken on the issues of homosexuality, transgender ideology, and all forms of sexual sin. Sexual relationships outside the union of one man and one woman for life, as well as rejection of one’s God-given and biologically-corroborated gender, are not in line with God’s will as revealed in the Bible and are therefore a rebellion against His design.
THE CONTEMPORARY TERMS
In order to engage contemporary ideas regarding gender and human sexuality, we must first understand how certain terms are used. We discuss these terms in this section, not to affirm or defend how our culture uses them, but to clarify what people mean when they use these key words and phrases.
The term “sex” refers to the biological differentiation between male and female, whereas “gender” refers to a behavioral framework that corresponds to one’s sex. Many today argue that behavioral expectations that derive from a person’s sex are only culturally developed and have no universality. In other words, the idea that men must behave a particular way and women a different way is entirely subjective and depends entirely upon the culture where one lives (so it is argued).
“Gender identity” refers to one’s own sense of being male or female. It is believed that individuals have the freedom to identify as either male or female, regardless of their sex. Where one’s gender identity and sex do not align, transsexual identity and behavior are sometimes adopted. So, even though one has male genitalia (his sex), he might identify as a female (his gender identity). The term “gender expression” refers to the outward enacting of the individual’s “gender identity” through dress, behavior, etc. Even though someone might identify as “male” (i.e. gender identity) they may choose to express themselves through dress and speech in a feminine way (i.e. gender expression).
“Sexual Orientation” refers to the sex, gender, and gender expression of those to whom the individual is sexually attracted.
OUR BELIEF ABOUT GENDER
We believe gender is defined by God, rather than being socially constructed or self-determined. We believe gender distinctions are rooted in creation and manifested in biological differences, transcending social customs and cultural stereotypes. We believe being created as a woman or as a man is an essential aspect of our identity (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6). We believe that each individual is responsible to their Creator for engaging in gender expression that corresponds with their gender as God has defined it and assigned it to their sex. There are many biblical passages that support the idea of gender being God-determined and corroborated by biological differences. Some of these passages are discussed below.
- Genesis 1-2 teaches that gender distinctions were created by God and play an important role in reflecting the image of God (Gen. 1:27). God is also the one who determines gender assignments. One being male or female is determined by God rather than the individual or society.
- Before sexual reassignment surgery existed, attempting to look like the other gender was condemned. Deuteronomy 22:5 warned of the sinfulness of men seeking to appear feminine and vice versa. Proper gender expression is united to a biological sex, and gender is implied as corresponding with biological sex.
- Maleness and femaleness are part of the soul and not of the body only. In other words, the soul does not transcend the distinctiveness of being male or female. Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man are all still male after death (Luke 16:19-31). Elijah, also, is spoken of as male irrespective of his lack of a body (Luke 17: 1-12). In all cases, God-assigned gender was retained while the soul was separate from the body. Thus, the concept of being a man trapped in a woman’s body or vice versa is inconsistent with the Bible’s teaching regarding gender. One’s biological sex always corresponds to their gender, which is grounded in their soul.
- Maleness and femaleness exist in the new heavens and the new earth. The Bible teaches that God will give people glorified bodies in the resurrection. These bodies will show continuity with our bodies in this life (1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42). For example, Jesus was still male after He rose from the dead and was recognizable as his pre-crucifixion self. His resurrected body is a prototype of what our resurrected bodies will be like (Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, John 20:26-27). Therefore, it is implied that our biologically-corroborated genders will continue to be reflected in our eternal bodies. God will affirm His previous decisions regarding the gender He assigned to each individual person. This further shows that gender distinctions are a part of God’s eternal plan rather than the result of sin.
- In Titus 2:2-6 gender-based discipleship is the responsibility of older men and women in the church. The specific morality and behavior older men and women are to pass on to the younger generation is inherently tied to one’s gender in this passage. The discipling work of the church is informed by biological sex. In other words, the discipling work of the church is not gender neutral—merely developing Christian people—but is to some degree, gender specific. The church is developing men and women of God.
We believe that the Bible teaches that God created gender to be distinct (male and female) and to correspond to one’s biological sex. Since gender is assigned to individuals by God, resisting or denying the gender God has assigned you is a form of rebellion against God. Where social, environmental, emotional, or even neurochemical causes have contributed to a deeply felt disconnect with an individual’s biological sex, we seek to compassionately counsel and care for that individual, directing them to Christ as the source of their identity.
OUR BELIEF ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
God created man and woman, in their distinction, to reflect the unity and diversity of the Trinity. God also created marriage to display the relationship between Christ, as a self-sacrificial leader, and the Church, as a joyful helper. These images were the purpose of God creating gender distinctions in humankind. Marriage was created by God to unite one man and one woman for life.
Jesus Christ reaffirmed this view of marriage when He said, in Matthew 19:4-6, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 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’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (ESV).
Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 are three additional New Testament verses that explicitly condemn homosexuality. It has been argued by some that the English words used to translate these offences are incorrect. For instance, some argue that the word arsenokoites, “one who sleeps with males”, refers to something other than the modern notion of a mutually consenting homosexual pairing. Rather, it is argued that arsenokoites refers to male prostitution, to the Greek practice of pederasty (intercourse between adult men and boys), or some other variant of homosexual behavior.
This argument, that arsenokoites does not refer to homosexual acts as we know it today, fails for several reasons. For the sake of brevity we’ll only reference the Romans 1 passage specifically in this statement.
- The Old Testament also condemned homosexuality (Lev. 18:22, 20:13). There is no reason to assume that the New Testament is making a more nuanced prohibition without sufficient proof from the New Testament texts.
- The relations that are being condemned in Romans 1:27 are simply and broadly “[giving] up natural relations with women and being consumed with passion for one another.” The “natural relations” that the women gave up according to verse 26 are paralleled with the natural relations of men with women in verse 27, thereby implying heavily that male-female relations are those according with “nature” in both verses.
- Many who deny that these New Testament passages refer to homosexuality argue that the sin of pederasty is what is being condemned. Pederasty, however, would not be “men committing shameless acts with men.” Also the Greek word for pederasty is absent.
- The history of interpretation for this word heavily favors the general concept of homosexuality. Significant contextual evidence would be needed to go against the interpretation that has been accepted in the church for centuries. Rather than suggest an alternative interpretation, the context of Romans 1 affirms the traditional understanding of arsenokoites.
SAME-SEX ATTRACTION VERSUS HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR
We recognize that there is a difference between temptation and behavior, and while temptation is sometimes unavoidable, we are responsible for our behavior. Even though there has been no scientific evidence to prove that there exists a biological preconditioning toward same-sex attraction, even if such evidence were to be found, it would not imply that acting on the attraction is morally acceptable. An early origin of these feelings does not change the call of God to abstain from sexual sin.
We believe that we are all born sinners who will, because of our fallen nature, desire all kinds of things of which God does not approve. The fall of humankind affected humanity entirely, including our biological makeup. Being born with a desire to sin does not make the sin okay. If it did, there would be no guilt for any of our sins. That some are born with certain propensities toward certain sins (e.g. alcoholism; anger; etc.) does not mean that God “created them that way” with the intent for them to indulge those predispositions. It simply means that humanity is fallen. We are, from our birth, a broken people.
We will seek God to discern ways that we as a church can directly and indirectly minister God’s love to those who struggle with every kind of sin, including homosexuality. God loves those who engage in homosexual acts and so must the church. The church must strive to minister the love of Christ to those who engage in homosexuality and proclaim the redemption from the power of all sins that is available in Christ.
Those who struggle with same sex attraction, but seek, as we all must, to fight temptation and order their lives according to God’s revealed plan, are welcome to be members of our church and community groups. Struggling with same-sex attraction should be addressed in the same way as the struggle with any other types of lust: Confessing your struggles with brothers or sisters in your church family and receiving their encouragement, admonition, and accountability. This type of confession should be met with the same extravagant grace from the church that God extends to any who confess their struggles with sin. We will address these issues from a posture of grace, love, and humility.
As we have already stated, God defines marriage as a permanent union between one man and one woman. Because God created marriage, only God possesses the right to define it. Anything that goes outside of the parameters God has set for marriage is a perversion of His design. This truth applies to the issue of sexual purity.
Sexual relationships are to be enjoyed only in the union of marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:2 speaks to the temptation to sexual immorality and the help marriage provides to those struggling with sexual immorality. The point is not only to avoid adultery, but also to avoid any sex outside of marriage. Marriage is presented as the one proper place for acting upon sexual desire. Verse 9 in the same chapter likewise says that widows should remarry rather than be tempted to sin by engaging in sex outside of marriage.
The Bible describes “love” as a conscious decision a person makes to work sacrificially toward what is best for another person. Extra-marital sex involves rebellion against God as well as lifelong damage to those involved. Therefore, to engage in sex outside of marriage is the opposite of biblical love. It demonstrates that one’s selfish desire for sexual pleasure surpasses their desire for the wellbeing of the other person.
Furthermore, the common practice in contemporary culture of cohabitation or common-law marriage (living in the same residence with a romantic partner outside of marriage even if no sexual activity is present) is neither above reproach nor wise and is contrary to God’s design. Cohabitation reflects the values and ideals of our culture rather than the precepts of the Lord.
HOW WE MUST RESPOND
Our desire is to understand what the Bible says and to commit ourselves to its teachings. These teachings include that God created only two genders, each coordinated with a biological sex, and that there is only one proper sexual relationship: one man and one woman as long as they both shall live. We believe these truths because of our commitment to God’s word.
We also believe that the Bible’s teachings yield the greatest joy for humanity. Trusting God as one’s Savior and Lord and walking the path of righteousness results in ultimate satisfaction. His ways are not hateful, harsh, or burdensome but rather loving, kind, and satisfying. We do acknowledge the reality of sinful desires that are the result of our fallen humanity and seek to sympathize with the emotional and spiritual turmoil that comes with same-sex attraction and/or feeling disconnected from one’s God-assigned gender.
We must speak the truth in love. We do not love others by affirming sinful behaviors that will result in their emotional and spiritual harm. It is a matter of conscience, informed by God’s word, to call all who are walking in sexual sin to trust Christ and walk the way of righteousness. Further, it would be disobedient toward God to support any behavior that is rebellious toward Him or to be ambivalent about His glory (Romans 1: 26-32). This true concern for those in sin not only means we will tell the truth, but that we will do so in such a way that communicates our desire to spend eternity with that person, enjoying God’s presence forever. Our love for people is not only seen in the truth we speak, but in the way we speak that truth. We must minister the Gospel in a spirit of genuine compassion, humility, and graciousness, knowing that this is the spirit of the God we serve.
Recognizing that we all struggle with sin, MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church will strive to provide an environment that welcomes people who struggle with sexual sin. We will seek to love all people in Jesus’ name, pointing them toward Christ’s power to forgive and heal.
We will seek God to discern ways that we can directly and indirectly minister and share God’s love with those who struggle with every kind of sin. Those who struggle with sexual sin, but seek, as we all must, to fight temptation and order their lives according to God’s revealed plan, are welcome to be members of our church and Community Groups.